What value is Equity

  • John Doull

    Actor

    Hi all....As well as an Actor, I am a director, writer and run a Theatre company...What I am frequently finding is that Actors are no longer bothering becoming members of Equity. When I mention that Equity membership gives the holder personal liability insurance, the reply is often, "well, if I get a job, the company I am with will have Insurance. So, what I am asking is, as there is no longer a closed shop union system in this country, what purpose does Equity serve? As a long standing member I am asking the question - Do we need Equity?

    I welcome your comments.

    • 20th Oct 2012
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  • Mark Kempner

    Actor

    Surely...the Equity union is why we earn the negotiated Equity set rates...on an Equity contract?

    I am involved with an Equity contracted film project at the moment...and due to all the previously negotiated rates...what with the repeats, the holiday money and every other little add on....the money is great.

    Well - great compared to the shit rates offered outside of an Equity contract.

    I am also involved with a student film….and at first I was surprised my agent offered it to me….but it was a lovely little script, great role, and way above NMW and the Equity "Student film rate per day" ….it was also a direct offer based on my reel and other video clips I have on show.

    From my stand point there seems to be lot of unpaid and unsung reps at monthly meetings. They have all played their part in negotiating those rates for me/all of us, on my behalf as a Union member. If I were to swan in and scoop up those rates simply to save myself about a tenner a month….I think that is shoddy practice in any industry where a Union is overseeing your best interests.

    That's all aside of the "cheap as chips" personal liability insurance you already mention….which automatically comes with your membership dues. Let alone the free legal advice and or negotiation skills when moneys are not paid or a dispute arises on a job.

    Those who say: What does the Union do for me…. Should think again!!

    However, the other side of the coin is….The Union does have an image problem, and from what I hear it is still pretty archaic in construction and decision making at the top end. I have spoken with Jean Rogers recently, and was encouraged by her aims and aspirations though. I think things are slowly "a changing" and there are many reps who have all our interests at heart…..but they can't make changes if other actors are not prepared to invest a round of drinks per month in membership fees….and use that membership to cast your votes instead of moaning about the way things are….whilst saving yourself membership fee.

    I do not personally attend meetings and the like…..I know myself and it's really not my thing, but I apply the Union principles to employers and my fellow actors….and if we "all" did that…..the Union and all of us would be in a far stronger negotiating position than we currently are. The reps and Union officials would also have greater clout too.

    Something like that anyway!

    • 16th Oct 2012
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  • Catherine Stobbs

    Actor

    I can't say I have used it for much, but someone on ccp is trying to take my name so I am firmly hanging on to it!

    • 16th Oct 2012
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  • User Deleted

    This profile has been archived

    Equity is not just a union but a body which assists with any legal problems or when companies do not pay you your fees and equity will take up action to ensure fees are paid at the equity rate

    Too Many companies offer fees at much lower than recommended rate of theatre or touring fees whilst its upto the actor whether thyey accept lower payment below equity rates its well worth being a member to protect you against unpaid fees or unfair terms of contract.

    Its well worth bearing in mind that for the actor to chase companies themselves its both costly anf time consuming far better to let equity advise you and let them take over that burden.

    Steven Ritchie

    • 16th Oct 2012
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  • Dan Gregory

    Actor

    I'm sure you'll find reasons here to add to what Mark has said.

    www.equity.org.uk/home/

    Or you could ask the same question on the

    forum

    www.equity.org.uk/members-area/forum/

    • 16th Oct 2012
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  • Tracy Bargate

    Actor

    Hi John, for most actors I guess Equity is behind the scenes, negotiating contracts and fees, collecting residuals, etc. However if something goes wrong they're invaluable. When I got investigated by the Tax Office (I was picked out at random) their clout really helped me in negotiations, and when I was ill I was provided with some financial support from an Equity managed charity, which made all the difference. How many of us get angry when we see some of the low fees offered for work on sites like CCP, yet feel a bit powerless on our own to do anything about it - Equity seems to be the only organisation for actors where we have some power to try and change this (although I wish it was still a closed shop). And we get insurance and legal advice. I'm not one for meetings either but I feel a bit more supported in this vulnerable world of freelance work being a member. Best wishes Tracy

    • 16th Oct 2012
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  • Sally Beaumont

    Actor

    My top reasons:

    Insurance

    Free legal advice

    Advice generally in quite an isolating profession

    Ongoing negotiation of better rates and conditions

    A sense of solidarity with other actors.

    In the past few years Equity's given me advice that has helped me earn more, protected my rights, and prevented me getting sued (that's another story).

    During a recession when wages are at rock bottom we need unions more than ever- our rights won't defend themselves, especially in an industry where there's always a newbie ready to work for nothing.

    I'm really proud to be a member- I don't think we should take their work for granted.

    • 16th Oct 2012
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  • Daniel Jude Gennis

    Actor

    Hi John,

    The first agent I ever applied to for representation, asked me three questions:-

    1. Are you a member of Equity?

    2. Are you on Spotlight?

    3. Do you have black and white 10x8 photographs?

    My answer was a resounding no to each question. Her response was simple: "You really ought to get them. Within a year I got the first two. The third took a little longer.

    Like any Union, Equity still has a relevance and if you want to know why look at everything that has happened to workers rights since Thatcher, right up to now. Our own industry included. I have you looked at the low rates offered for many jobs these days? And that with BECTU and Equity around. They are still fighting our corner.

    During my years in the business from part-time drama student to Extra/SA to Actor, I have met many people who can't be bothered to join nor are willing to pay a small fee each month to have some kind of representation in the field they work in. This whether it is Equity or FAA/BECTU. And yet these same people enjoy the same hard fought for pay and conditions that the Unions negotiate for. And because of that kind of attitude, the rates for many jobs in our sector has fallen quite drastically. It is very difficult to make a living full-time as an actor and if you are not entitled to state benefits, it makes life that much tougher. Make no mistake there is still a need for Equity.

    Yes, the Union Closed Shop no longer exists and I at times wonder, when as today I saw a job advertised on CCP for a short film offering £45 for a half-day that will probably run to a full-day. Fallen for that one in the past. And another (also on CCP,) for a photoshoot on the London/Surrey border offering £25 plus expenses. Didn't say how long you would be needed. Those are two examples , along with the three questions posed above, why Equity is still relevant. I try to get to my branch meetings whenever I can. There was a point where I didn't attend for more than a year due to rehearsals on a Saturday morning for work in theatre that I was never paid for.

    Yes, Equity is necessary if only for the reasons I have given above from my own experience. I often wonder why actors posed such a question. No one in any other industry asks why or if a Union is relevant so why do we?

    It is that kind of attitude that makes making a living as an actor that much more difficult. If people have to question the relevance of their union, they really need to be somewhere else.

    • 16th Oct 2012
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  • User Deleted

    This profile has been archived

    Hello,

    I certainly think being an Equity member is a necessity and cements your status as a professional. Like Daniel, I viewed the two postings for £45 for a half day and the job on the Surrey/ London border for a mere £25.

    Last week's Stage newspaper had a front page article regarding the efforts of Equity and BECTU to crackdown on low/ no pay within the industry. BECTU in particular is calling for the advertising of unpaid work to be made illegal.

    The whole issue added to my despondency and this was exacerbated when, a few days ago a job was advertised on CCP - the Salary stated as N/A. This infuriated me especially when one considers what they were demanding from actors in their performances!

    Anyway, I digress, but my salient point being, the Entertainment Unions are working hard for our rights legally, morally and otherwise and they have my full support.

    Regards

    Mark

    • 16th Oct 2012
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  • Daniel Jude Gennis

    Actor

    Here, here Mark. People, why bother entering the acting profession if you are going treat that profession with such disdain? I am glad Mark also viewed those two jobs because that is why we need to get behind and support our Union not just by joining but attending the branch meetings whenever you can. My Local Branch the North and East London Branch holds their meetings the second Saturday of each month.

    Equity has much for the acting and showbiz/variety professions. I have met actors who left Equity because Models were allowed in. Odd really given how many models I have met who also act and work in variety shows but there you go. They fail to recognise Equity as well as BECTU are broad churches. I am also a member of the FAA under my legal name.

    • 16th Oct 2012
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  • Robin Miller

    Actor

    John, if you want to know what Equity 'does' for its members, take a look at the South/South West London branch - our wonderful chair Andrew last year organised auditions for us with the National and the RSC. This year he's doing the same with TV and film casting directors.

    And the public liability insurance offered by Equity covers you the whole time you are travelling to and from the job, not just while you're at work, which is all the company insurance does.

    Long live Equity!

    • 16th Oct 2012
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  • Benjie Dudgeon

    Actor

    I've recently been very impressed with Equity South West London branch. Chairman of the branch, Andrew MacBean works hard to get actors involved with such things as Readings at theatre 503 and casting days at a fraction of the cost of most of the things going on in London.

    • 16th Oct 2012
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  • Sally Beaumont

    Actor

    All these posts have warmed my heart!

    • 17th Oct 2012
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  • Denny Hodge

    Actor

    When I broke my arm and was unable to work, I was able use my insurance with Equity to claim a monthly payment. Memberships has lots of benefits.

    • 17th Oct 2012
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  • Daniel Jude Gennis

    Actor

    Here, here Mark. People, why bother entering the acting profession if you are going treat that profession with such disdain? I am glad Mark also viewed those two jobs because that is why we need to get behind and support our Union not just by joining but attending the branch meetings whenever you can. My Local Branch the North and East London Branch holds their meetings the second Saturday of each month.

    Equity has much for the acting and showbiz/variety professions. I have met actors who left Equity because Models were allowed in. Odd really given how many models I have met who also act and work in variety shows but there you go. They fail to recognise Equity as well as BECTU are broad churches. I am also a member of the FAA under my legal name.

    • 17th Oct 2012
    • 14
  • Dan Gregory

    Actor

    For those of you who like myself don't live in an area where there is a branch Equity is in the process of setting up an on-line branch. You can register your interest on the Equity website.

    • 17th Oct 2012
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  • Forbes KB

    Actor

    "What did the Romans ever do for us?" :-D

    • 17th Oct 2012
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  • Daniel Jude Gennis

    Actor

    A great deal Forbes. Roads, central heating, London, Bath, baths and many other things that were forgotten or not realised. I would argue the same about Equity. There is much Equity has done over the years that is forgotten or not realised.

    • 17th Oct 2012
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  • Lee Ravitz

    Actor

    It's also worth pointing out the fact that Equity's internal committee structure is set to change drastically in the next few years: the greatest restructuring shakeup in the way that actors' voices are represented at committee level for decades is gearing up to be implemented. Whether this will prove of massive benefit or only a moderate change remains to be seen, but since many of the details are couched in rather abstruse terms for the membership, I think the significance of it is being overlooked. Equity is evolving (albeit shakily) to try and deal more effectively with the concerns of the 21st century industry and this, in itself, is something of note.

    • 17th Oct 2012
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  • Daniel Jude Gennis

    Actor

    I agree Lee which is why I will be attending more branch meetings in future, as well as making my voice heard on certain issues.

    • 18th Oct 2012
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