Financial Core Is Not Cool
by Rik Deskin
In the past 2 weeks, Financial Core (Fi-Core) has reared it’s ugly head with me on three occasions where I was in situations or discussions involving Actors. First as part of a Facebook thread started by a colleague who was wondering if she should join Screen Actors Guild (SAG). Towards the end of the very positive discussion, two Actors, one who boldly declares themself fi-core on their resume and another actor who resigned from at least one Union started advising my colleague why she should not join and accused me of having a vested interest in the Unions, so everything I say should be taken with a grain of salt. Next in the midst of casting a Union Member only workshop, wherein the Actor had listed SAG on their resume, I cast him and then he informed me that he was financial core, meaning he had resigned his membership, so I had to un-cast him due to liability, as for this workshop, it being a perk of membership, only SAG, American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), and Actors’ Equity Association (AEA) members are covered. Finally today at a callback for a SAG Commercial. An actress that claimed to have been a SAG President at one time (though I did not know her and I’ve been volunteering for SAG since 2004) was parroting the same bad info to another Actor that I keep hearing and have heard from misinformed Actors that heard it from a Casting Director (CD) or an Agent or fellow Non-Union Actors. Her defense was there is not a lot of Union work in Seattle, that most of the work was non-union and there were not many roles for women.
To be blunt, when I encounter an Actor that had the opportunity to be in one of the Performers Unions but threw it away because they think that they will work more doing non-union projects, it pisses me off. I began Acting in High School (1982) and then professionally in 1989. After many non-union projects and much training I booked my first Union job in 2002, and then joined SAG in 2003. It was the proudest moment of my professional Acting career. Then I joined AEA in 2005 and AFTRA in 2009. I worked hard to become a Professional Actor and continue to work hard. Being a Member in the Performer’s Unions is what you do to achieve success and meaningful work in Film, TV, Stage, Radio, Video Games and now the Internet. Why would an Actor seriously disable their career by alienating themselves from their fellow Acting peers? Even worse, why would an Actor seek to undermine Union contracts and protections that have been long fought for since AEA formed in 1913?
I’ve heard the excuse that there’s not a lot of Union work. Hmm. I wonder why that is? Perhaps because there are Actors willing to work for less, work against their fellow Union Actors, and unwilling to help organize projects for themselves and their fellow Actors? They are proliferating a bad situation. In my 9 years as a Union Actor, I have auditioned for a lot of work, been called back for some of that work and have booked some of that work. There is definitely more work in LA & NY, but I’ve managed to get a good amount of work personally. I’m not rolling in the cash mind you and I’m married with four kids, so I know how difficult it can be to make ends meet.
I’ve heard the excuse that there’s not a lot of roles for women. That’s funny because I’m looking at a SAG breakdown for a film that will be shooting in and around Seattle that has 3 roles for women and 2 roles for men. Tell that to the ladies that volunteer their time on behalf of SAG, AEA and AFTRA Members on Committees and as elected representatives. Tell that to the women that maintain their membership because they know the truth that casting is cyclical and while there may be less opportunities because there is a greater ratio of female to male actors, they know that when the opportunity arises, they would rather work as a Union Member and have access to the various benefits listed below and the local benefits that add value to membership.
I’ve heard the excuse that the Unions are hard to work with. Well, if you as a Producer are trying to take advantage of an Actor, of course the Unions are going to be hard. But the Unions are very flexible about working with producers to find a contract that fits the budget. But never at the expense of the Actor.
Look: these excuses are self-perpetuating myths spread by a handful of gatekeepers. We know who they are, I won’t name names. What it encourages are choices made against hard-working Actors like myself who are trying to support our families, and work that could be organized under Union contracts is being undercut inadvertently or not by fi-core and non-union Actors. Why would anyone want to do that to me? To all of the hard-working Union Actors in the Seattle area? It is self-serving and proliferates a paradigm where Producers know they can get talented Actors for less.
The thing for me, about being a Union Actor is that I know I’m not alone anymore. I have the full collective bargaining strength of SAG, AEA and AFTRA to protect me when I work and to negotiate fair wages and working conditions. That’s a beautiful thing. When I encounter Actors that were encouraged to go fi-core, it dissapoints me because they are missing out on the full experience that I get to enjoy as a Union Member. When someone in a position of authority encourages Actors to resign their membership, it does those Actors, those clients, those brothers and sisters a disservice. It harms them in a way that is incalculable. It has a profound negative effect on the Acting community and only serves those that have the money, the 1%. The so-called job creators.
On a larger scale, considering our Regional Film Industry, promoting, creating and maintaining Union jobs makes it a healthier, more robust Industry. It becomes sustainable.
And as I celebrate my 8th year of being a volunteer for SAG, currently as the Seattle Branch Vice-President, and having accomplished much work on behalf of and programming for SAG, AEA, AFTRA and even pre-Union Actors, it is a slap in my face when someone chooses to go fi-core. It seeks to undo what I have done to help Actors. It hurts me. It hurts you. It hurts your fellow Actors. Please don’t do that. I bear you no malice, why would you malign me? That is not cool. Not at all.
SAG, AEA, AFTRA
Below are the facts from SAG about this topic:
- Turning Fi-Core in SAG means you become a Fee Paying Non-Member (FPNM).
- Fi-Core/FPNM can NOT represent themselves as Screen Actors Guild members on headshots, résumés, electronic submissions or web sites.
- The presumption of Screen Actors Guild is that your resignation is a permanent decision.
- Fi-Core/FPNM are viewed as scabs or anti-union by SAG members, directors, and writers—most of whom also belong to entertainment unions.
- Fi-Core/FPNM cannot participate in iActor, the free SAG online casting program—or take advantage of other member benefits.
REMEMBER: If you are choosing financial core because you were asked to work on a non-union project, you’re missing out on an opportunity for the Guild to organize the project for you and all Guild members.
Call the Guild at (323) 549-6667 or email firstname.lastname@example.org so we can try to organize the project before making a decision that could significantly affect your career.
Surprised by any of what you’ve read? Need more information?
We are here to help. Contact: (323) 549-6667. We encourage you to call a Guild representative to get all the facts about financial core.
IT MAY BE YOUR RIGHT, BUT IS IT RIGHT FOR YOU? YOUR CAREER? YOUR FAMILY? YOUR FELLOW ACTORS?
THE BENEFITS OF MEMBERSHIP IN SCREEN ACTORS GUILD
BENEFITS OF MEMBERSHIP
What’s in it for Me?
- Okay, so I joined SAG. Now what?
- I understand the union thing. But I want to act and does SAG help me get work?
- I’ve been unable to get a union job, but there’s lots of non-union work.
- I need to be seen by casting directors.
- How do I know if a project is SAG or if I’m signing a SAG contract?
- I want a showcase for my talent and someone wants to cast me in a low budget/student film.
- I need to work on my acting skills. Can SAG help me with that?
WHAT DO I LOSE IF I AM WORKING ON A NON-UNION PRODUCTION?
SAG CONTRACTS — You lose the protection of SAG contracts and a voice in your workplace. Your agreement to perform non-union work is between you and the producer. If the producer fails to pay or abide by an agreement, the union’s legal staff cannot help you. For more information on contracts, click http://www.sag.org/production-center.
RESIDUALS — Non-union residuals are an oxymoron. Most non-union productions do not pay residuals. When you’re not working a SAG contract, SAG legal cannot represent you. Furthermore, when you are no longer represented by Screen Actors Guild, you are responsible for collecting your own money.
Only SAG members are able to check residual payments online at http://www.sag.org*.
SAG ~ PRODUCERS PENSION & HEALTH — Eligibility is earned only when you work under SAG contracts.
- I’d like to see more movies so I can observe the performances of my peers.
- Show me the money…I pay my dues. What does SAG membership get me if I’m not working?
- As a young performer, how do I make sure that I’m safe and protected on the set?
- I need to find a straight job to supplement my acting work, and I need flexibility to make my auditions.
- How do I know what’s going on in my Guild?
- I’d like to have a say in the decision making process at SAG.
- Can I vote for the SAG Awards?
Okay, so I joined SAG. Now what?
Attend a New Member Orientation. New Member Orientations are held regularly at SAG. Hear from working SAG members and SAG staff about how to get the most from your new Guild membership. Get your questions answered too!
I understand the union thing. But I want to act. Does SAG help me get work?
Load your headshot, resume, audio and video clips on iActor*, SAG’s free, members-only online casting directory. Success is where preparation and opportunity come together.
Click on Production Listings* at http://www.sag.org to see listings of current productions.
I’ve been unable to get a union job, but there’s lots of non-union work.
SAG members and staff can organize non-union productions and sign them to SAG contracts. Union begins with you! MOVE (Member Organizing Volunteer Efforts) is holding meetings and events. Even if a chapter has not been established in your area contact your branch executive to get one started.
I need to be seen by casting directors.
The SAG Foundation’s Casting Access Project offers Guild members (only) in Los Angeles, New York and Florida opportunities to meet casting directors through educational panels and seminars and cold reading workshops with top casting directors, and it’s free.
SAG also sends out invitations to cold readings and scene showcases with working casting directors.
Did we mention iActor?
How do I know if a project is SAG or if I’m signing a SAG contract?
Use SAG’s convenient online signatory database to check the signatory status of any project at any time. Verify this information with a call to our TV/Theatrical Contracts department at (323)549-6828. Verifying this information makes it easier for members to comply with Global Rule One.
I want a showcase for my talent and someone wants to cast me in a low budget/student film.
SAG members can audition for non-union projects, but they may not agree to or render services for a producer who is not signatory to the appropriate SAG agreement. If you are approached about appearing in a non-union student film, low-budget, ultra low-budget, or short film there is a SAG contract to cover it. Check out SAGIndie.
iActor* is the place where the industry clears the pros to work you can add video and audio clips of your best performances. Registration on iActor is reserved for members only.
I need to work on my acting skills. Can SAG help me with that?
In Hollywood, membership in the Conservatory gives you the opportunity to be cast in American Film Institute (AFI) student films. While not a formal training program, the SAG Conservatory, offers a variety of workshops taught by industry pros.
In New York, the Alice Mary Riley Conservatory Studio is designed to expand the business knowledge of the professional performer through participation in seminars, audio/video Workshops, Friday groups, and special events.
The SAG Foundation’s LifeRaft program offers seminars to educate actors, including Commercials 101, agent panels, how to prepare an actor’s taxes, developing your own project, parenting young performers, set etiquette and many others.
I’d like to see more movies so I can observe the performances of my peers.
The SAG Film Society offers members and a guest to regularly view the latest releases at a great discount off theatre prices (program available in certain areas.) Also, members can purchase discounted movie tickets to various public theatres.
Show me the money… I pay my dues. What does it get me if I’m not working?
SAG members are eligible for outstanding Deals & Discounts* on entertainment, car rentals, insurance, medical visits, prescriptions, real estate, legal services and more. Also visit Union Plus to see other discounts and benefits available to you as a member of Screen Actors Guild.
As a young performer, how do I make sure that I’m safe and protected on the set?
SAG offers Young Performers orientation meetings; a handbook containing detailed information to help young performers; an online database consisting of laws pertaining to young performers across the country, and many more resources for young actors and their parents.
I need to find a straight job to supplement my acting work, and I need flexibility to make my auditions.
The following programs are available to SAG members and their families who want to explore new or industry related career paths: Career Transition for Dancers, The Actors Fund–Actors Work Program, The Motion Picture Player Welfare Fund. All of these are non-profit organizations that offer free services to SAG members.
How do I know what’s going on in my Guild?
Read Screen Actor Magazine, SAG’s quarterly members-only publication filled with useful information for members. Also, make sure SAG has your email address, and look out for regular branch newsletters and eblasts. We want to help you stay informed about career workshops and other events in your area.
I’d like to have a say in the decision-making process at SAG.
SAG is a representative democracy run by members for the benefit of members. We encourage members to actively participate in SAG governance by voting on referenda, joining committees in their area or serving on the National or Division Board of Directors or Branch Council.
If I choose to apply for financial core, can I still vote for the SAG Awards™?
No. Only active, paid-up Guild members are given the opportunity to vote for the recipients of the Screen Actors Guild Awards® coveted bronze Actor statuette. Also, “For Your Consideration” and nomination screenings are only available to active, paid-up Screen Actors Guild members.
CLICK http://www.sag.org/branches for your LOCAL BRANCH BENEFITS Please call: (323) 549-6667 or write
email@example.com to learn more about your rights
MEMBERSHIP IN SCREEN ACTORS GUILD MEANS THAT YOU ARE A PROFESSIONAL ACTOR
Virtually every actor whose work you admire is a SAG member in good standing. Professional actors require standards of employment in order to have their talents seen in the best light and to receive adequate compensation for the use of their performances. Screen Actors Guild cannot find you work, but we are committed to helping dedicated and talented professionals create their own opportunities, hone their craft, provide access to casting professionals, and help them more fully understand the entertainment business.
Before you consider giving up your SAG membership for a non-union job, CLICK http://www.sag.org/getthefacts/ficore3.html to make sure you have taken full advantage of the many ways your union membership can help you develop your career and give you a professional edge over the competition.
If you earn your living solely as a professional actor and have other concerns that are not addressed on this page, click firstname.lastname@example.org.