Strong Union: Strong Future
As we prepare to enter the third decade of the 21st century, I think we are all ready to close the door on the second. I know 2020 has been a tough year for us all. However, I also know ACTRA members are resilient. We stepped up to the challenges we all faced in dealing with a global pandemic and are ready and eager to go back to work.
Although we may not know exactly when, COVID-19 will eventually end. Recent news about potential vaccines, I hope, has helped lift your spirits. While even as early as next year we may see many things return to a new normal, our industry will likely be forever different from its pre-pandemic days. Buffet lunches, cramped holding spaces, protocols around hair and make-up, scenes of intimacy and so many other aspects of our daily business will be treated more carefully for a long time to come.
Another thing that comes to mind is the audition process. I’m sure many of us are wondering if the self-tape audition is here to stay or if we will ever be back in a live audition room again. What has burgeoned as a pandemic necessity is likely to morph into a new, post-pandemic audition process where self-tapes will be the first contact for most roles. While this will give opportunity to performers living in more remote locations, the learning curve and cost of producing a self-tape must be addressed with producers in future negotiations.
This crisis has forced our government and society to recognize the important impact storytelling and performance have on Canadians. ACTRA and our industry colleagues have had the ear of government officials and have been heard. Even so, Canadian performers will need to reinvent and strengthen our place in an industry that has moved very quickly toward the truly global. But hey, we are a creative bunch with over 75 years of technological/media adaptation behind us. Together our collective bargaining and political strategies will support the careers of Canadian performers, the stories of Canadians and the proud culture our work projects to the world.
Throughout the pandemic shutdown and the recent return of work opportunities, your union has remained steady. ACTRA staff have continued to ensure commercial residual payments, and ACTRA Performers’ Rights Society and UBCP/ACTRA royalties are received by members across the country. Additionally, your union was able to help convince the government that performers should be included in the CERB and that up to $1,000/month in earnings should not be counted against CERB eligibility.
Your union was also vocal about the need for new financial support to be made available to self-employed and gig economy workers once the CERB came to an end in September. The government listened. For the first time, such workers were included in an EI provision. The new Canada Recovery Benefit, different from the CERB, helps support the gap in earnings an individual may experience due to various COVID-19 impacts.
Your union has also been busy working for its members on the industry front. ACTRA lobbied the government to create a temporary insurance support measure that would help Canadian productions should they be faced with a COVID-related interruption. And when the government heard our call and announced the Short-Term Compensation Fund, ACTRA joined forces with IATSE and the DGC and called for health and safety protocols and provisions for adequate compensation for cast and crew to be included in the Fund’s guidelines. By the way, those excellent health and safety protocols being observed on set… ACTRA staff from across the country worked with their local industry colleagues and governments to establish protocols that would make everyone working in our industry safer. (Check out ACTRA’s ACTSmart! page.) It is for these reasons our country has been seen as a safer location for film & TV work to resume.
Diversity, equity and inclusion, always a priority for your union, have taken on an increased and deserved importance this year. We were thrilled to have Olivia Nuamah join us last month in the newly created position of Director, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging. (You can learn more about the expertise Olivia brings to this position by linking to our announcement.) And I want to thank member Richard Young for stepping up to Chair our National Diversity & Inclusion Committee. Additionally, ACTRA has recalled the coalition of Canadian Creative Industries to address anti-Black racism and to work together to bring lasting change to our industry with the goal of ensuring real representation on all of our screens.
This year has also been a full and challenging year for our federal government, but they have not forgotten their pre-pandemic goals for our sector. We should take a moment to celebrate our legislative successes. After years of consultations, we were pleased to have Canadian Heritage table Bill C-10 – An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act – in November. The much-needed changes proposed in this Bill, specifically bringing online streaming services into the broadcasting system, are good news for Canadian content production and for Canadian performers. The simple changes to rules for online streaming services is expected to generate $830 million per year in contributions to Canadian audio-visual stories and music creation by 2023.
In the months to come, ACTRA will keep an eye on this new legislation, liaise with Canadian Heritage and will continue to advocate on behalf of ACTRA members as we work our way out of the pandemic. Let’s all remember to be professionals at all times, letting the industry here in Canada and around the world know ACTRA members make health and safety their first priority and we can be counted on to help make productions amazing and successful. Let’s keep our sets safe and our industry rolling.
The new year is right around the corner, so please take care of yourselves, your friends and your families, especially during the holiday season.
I wish you all health and prosperity in a brighter 2021.