Trish and Harold's Weblog

News, information, and random thoughts from the busy lives of Trish Egan and Harold Phillips.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I'm Not A SAG Member, But...

...that doesn't mean I'm not watching today's SAG elections closely. Look, I'm a non-union actor, but what happens within the guild (and within AFTRA, the television and radio union) affects me - and more importantly my local market - a great deal.

Hey, it's no big secret. My business is changing; we saw more than a few nods to that fact at Sunday's Emmy Awards when half the jokes were about the "death of traditional television" and the rise of "new media." The amount of work I've been doing over the past couple of years is directly related to the way the industry is changing - inexpensive equipment and editing formats, digital self-distribution, "web-tv," and increased state incentives have all conspired to make this a golden age of opportunity for actors around the country. Now more than ever, you don't have to live in New York or Los Angeles to have a career in the entertainment industry.

As I said before, I'm a non-union actor... but that doesn't mean I'm anti-union. The reality of the Portland market is that, currently, there's more non-union work available than union work. Union actors are barred from working non-union jobs, and that's posed a real catch-22 for SAG and AFTRA members here in town - most union actors weren't able to work more than a couple of jobs a year, unless they wanted to work "off the card," withdraw from the union(s), or go "financial core" - any of which would serve to weaken the purpose of the union, which is to provide uniform protection and collective bargaining for the acting profession.

Looking at that catch-22, I've opted to stay non-union... for the time being. Recently, things have been shifting in the Portland market. Big out-of-town productions such as Leverage, Twilight, and Untraceable have been shooting here regularly. More importantly, support for the actors unions has been growing within our local industry; I've talked to at least four filmmakers in the past year about projects they're planning to mount in coming months - all of them plan to be SAG or AFTRA signatories. The official announcement has been made that Electric Entertainment is going to bring Leverage back to Portland third season... and then there's that Daniel Baldwin guy...

Besides, I may have to join the union(s) before too long... generally speaking, you can only work one union job as a non-union actor (under the Taft-Hartley law). In order to work on another union shoot, you must join the appropriate union. I and other actors here in Portland are thinking that our non-union days may be numbered... which, given the circumstances I outlined above, isn't as scary a prospect as it might have once been.

What keeps it from being so scary is the increase in union work in my region... and that's why I'm watching this SAG election so carefully (you didn't think I'd ever get back to the point, did you?). For those of you not following SAG politics, the two major candidates for president this year are Anne Marie Johnson (representing the "Membership First" faction) and Ken Howard (representing the "Unite For Strength" faction). I'm not going to go into the differences between the candidates and the factions... click the links if you want to find out more about them.

What's got me watching so closely is Johnson's recent statements of support for the SAG "Branches" (Portland constitutes one of these), and the Regional Branch Directors responses to these statements. Now, generally speaking, the respondents to Johnson's statements have been in support of Howard, and I haven't seen a similar breakdown of Howard's attitudes and opinions on the branches... but that last article from SAGwatch gives me pause, and makes me wonder just how much support SAG Portland is going to get from a Johnson presidency.

I'm not a SAG member, but that doesn't mean I won't become one. Whether I, and other non-union actors in the branches actively seek membership in the unions depends largely on the amount of work we can expect in our areas... and that's going to depend on how much support the branches get from the national union. Look, guys, production is not going to stop leaving Los Angeles for other areas of the country; as I mentioned above, technology and incentive programs have made sure that you don't have to be based in LA to get films and TV shows made. It seems to me that it would be in the union(s) best interest to strengthen their presence in these outlying areas, to preserve the overall amount of union work. But hey, what do I know... I'm just a non-union actor in a Branch, not a "real" actor in LA, right?

I hope that SAG voters think about the future, and the way the industry is changing when they cast their votes. I guess we'll find out when the results are announced tomorrow...


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A Real Stand-Up Guy

Hey guys, I want to introduce you to someone. Meet my state representative for the 48th district of Oregon, a guy named Mike Schaufler

Mike's been my Rep for about seven years. I'm ashamed to admit that, until recently, I didn't really know that. Like most people, I knew the President's name, Oregon's Governor and Portland's Mayor. Like (sadly) fewer people, I also knew my Senators names. My State Senator and Representative, though? Eh... not so much.

You might remember that back in March I and a group of people from Oregon's film industry went to our state capitol in Salem and lobbied for the passage for Senate Bill 621 and its companion bill, Senate Bill 863. Mike was good enough to meet with me (on short notice) and talk about the bills. I could tell from our first meeting that he was a "regular Joe," a working man in a suit. He got the positive economic impact that the bills would bring to the sate, but he also got the political realities of the economic crisis the state was facing. We had his support on the bill, but he didn't whitewash things - he let me know that it'd be an uphill battle to get it passed.

Fast-forward to late June of this year... the session was winding down, and SB 621's future was in Jeopardy. Trish and I joined the dynamic Leanne Littrell and Lana Veenker as they were shuttling back and forth to Salem to lobby for SB 621's passage. Mike was on the front lines of that fight - he and I had several conversations in between votes about the bill, and he was instrumental in gaining the support that eventually got the bill passed.

Mike gets it. He's a regular guy who understands people who work hard for their daily dollar. He also knows that the best way to help working people at the bottom of the ladder is to help THEM, and not the people at the top of the ladder. Sit down with Mike, and you won't get a patrician attitude or the idea that he thinks he knows more than you do - he's the type of guy you might run into at your local diner, or out at your local supermarket.

This effort to pass SB 621 was a real wake-up call to me... if you've read the blog much in the past, you know that I keep an eye on politics. Those politics have always been on the national level, though... and this was a reminder that "all politics are local." Get to know your State Rep's and Senators - they really want to hear from you on the issues, and it's a great way to play a part in shaping the decisions that get made on a local level.

And if you're one of my neighbors in Happy Valley, get to know Mike. He's the type of guy you want on your side.


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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Why Do I Love Living In Portland?

Here's just a few of the reasons...

Nothing too substantive this rainy morning... I just caught Sockeye Creative's latest video for Travel Portland, and thought I'd share. A lot of the people who stop by the blog from time-to-time know I live in Portland, and they hear me wax rhapsodic about all the "city that thinks it's a town" has to offer... but I don't think I've ever put it all the well in words. This piece captures the vibrancy, beauty, pace, and feel of the rose city just perfectly, and I'm more than happy to help spread it around.

If you haven't come to visit us, you're missing out!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Adventures in Etymology (Not The Bug Kind)

(Because, you know, the bug kind is ENTomology. Totally different. Really!)

So (as if the paragraph above didn't already prove this) I'm a total super-huge nerd. Anyone who knows me has probably already figured that out. There are lots of different nerds out there... computer nerds (I have my moments)... stat nerds (I'm not one of these, believe me)... policy nerds (Again, not me... but I have to admit, I find some of them kinda hot - no matter what their sexual orientation is, smart is sexy!)... ad infinitum.

Among my various nerdist traits, I'll wholly own the fact that I'm a "word nerd." I love words and language. I just think the evolution of words is fascinating... how did a word come into being, and why do we use a given word instead of another word that might be just as good, but may have fallen out of favor?

Like I say, I'm a super-huge nerd. One of the things that makes a nerd is mental preoccupation with intellectual subjects - whether those subjects are dialects of Klingon, quantum mechanics, or Etymology.

How mentally pre-occupied can I get? Well, this morning I awoke having a conversation with myself about the words "Casual" and "Causal." See how similar they are? A U hops from one side of an S to another, and all of a sudden the word takes on a different meaning. Or does it?

Is there a relationship between these two words? Can something casual, like a daily drug habit, be causal of something else, like, say... a drug overdose? By nature, a cause must have an effect... and something "casual" would seem to have no effect at all other than the action one deems to be "casual." But is the causal relationship, however unintended, still a part of the casual action?

Like I say, I'm a big mega-sized nerd. This was the conversation running through my head this morning as I climbed up from the depths of sleep. I don't know that there's an answer to my inner dialectic... but I thought I'd bring it up.

See, now you're going to be thinking about this in the back of your head. That's the thing about Nerdism... it's a communicable disease. If you're exposed, you have a good chance of becoming infected... though there are worse things to be infected by.

Enjoy feeling your mental wheels turn...


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Monday, September 14, 2009

Hey Ya Bastard! What's With The Ads?

Yeah, you're right... if you're reading this directly on my blog, and not from Facebook, AliveNotDead, Plaxo, whereever else I've got a "feed" set up, you've probably noticed the new "feature" up at the top of the page. Does this mean, as one emailer said the other day, that I've "sold out and started putting ads on [my] site?" Well... yeah, I guess it does... but is it wrong to try and make a little scratch from something you enjoy doing? That's what I've been doing for most of my professional life, ya know?

Look, as I said way back in the beginning of March, "When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Creative." This year has been an interesting one financially... On one hand, my acting income is WAY up from last year. I've had a pretty good year. On the other hand, my day job has taken a bit of a hammering over the past year. I mean, it's not a surprise... when money's tight (or when people are afraid that money's going to get tight), they hold off on repairs or investment in new systems. Consequently, the guy who does the repairs or helps set up the new systems... yeah. You get the picture.

Now, Don't get me wrong... Trish and I aren't eating rice and beans every night or anything like that (though I won't pretend that finances didn't play a part in Trish's decision to spend more time outside gardening this year - with good results, I might add. We won't be buying tomatoes for a long, long time!) We've have had to watch our pennies a little, though, and we've had to explore alternate means of income... for instance, I finally got my voice studio finished in the garage, and have been sending out voiceover auditions.

Similarly, though I've resisted this for a long time, I've started a Google Adsense account that puts those small, text-based ads at the top of the blog. It doesn't cost me anything, and it's just one more possible revenue source. Now, I have no illusions that I'm going to get rich off of these little ads... for one thing, my blog traffic just isn't that high. I have maybe 500 page loads a month? Maybe?

That's ok, though... if these little ads yield $10 a month, that's $10 a month. That's just one more little stream (or trickle) of income to add to the pot... which is how Trish and I have been living our financial live forever. A little trickle here added to a stream from this project there and a residual from that project and a small stipend from the other project... it all combines to get the bills paid and save a little each month. As long as you're smart about where you put your money and how you spend it, you can do ok living life without one single, steady pay check.

There's an added bonus, as well... I'm starting to work on the producing side of the camera a bit with some of the web series I appear in. Learning how to generate revenue from web resources is all a part of that... that's not to say that you're going to start seeing Google Ads on Animus Cross' web site... but, then again, some times you never know where they'll pop up...

So, that's the story with the ads. If you'd like to help out a little, click on one of them up top and see where it leads. If you're reading this through a "feed" to Facebook, Plaxo, or wherever, visit the source at and click the ad there... I'd appreciate the extra $10, if you don't mind passing it my way.

Thanks for listening...


Sunday, September 13, 2009

I'm Not An "Aspiring Actor" - and Neither Are You!

Hey gang

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I'm in the habit of forwarding links to acting resources, and articles about the profession. I don't generally do that on the blog here... Twitter is an ephemeral platform; an ongoing conversation where sentences arrive, stay for a bit, and then pass on into the ether. Blogging is, by contrast, a much more permanent vehicle. When you write something on a blog, it's set in stone, and there for the ages (or until Google shuts down its Blogger service... which might well happen when the next big digital trend comes along, whatever it might be). You've "published" your thoughts, rather than bandied them about at a cocktail party.

With that being said, please allow me to share this article by Bonnie Gillespie, author of Self Management For Actors and a prolific "Twitterer" who posts pearls of wisdom regularly (If you're an actor and a Twitter user, and you're not following Bonnie, you're truly missing out.) Go ahead and take the jump to read the article... I'll be here when you get back.

The Actors Voice: The Struggle

I agree with everything Bonnie says in the article about actors need to remove the "struggling artist" archetype from their heads... but she hit on a real pet peeve of mine about mid-way through the article, and it's something that I want to elaborate on a bit.

If you'll allow me to wax a little uber-patriotic (and maybe just a little jingoistic)... one of the great things about America is the fact that you can say you're something... and you can BE that something. We live in the land of opportunity, right? You don't have to be born to a rich family to live in your own mansion - you can work hard and buy that mansion. You don't have to be in the right caste to own a bed-and-breakfast; if you dedicate yourself to that goal, you can achieve that too. Wanna be a cowboy? Find a cattle operation, sign on... and BOOM! You're a cowboy. That's part of the promise of our great land... if you decide to be something, you can be it.

The same holds true for our field... the profession of acting. It kinda frosts my cookies when I see someone describe themselves as an "aspiring actor," or a "wannabe actor." If you think of yourself that way, then you'll always be that. That mindset will always limit your work, because you'll put obstacles in your way that you'll have to overcome before you're a "real actor." After all, what makes the difference between a "wannabe construction worker" and a "real construction worker?" I say, if you want to be an actor, BE an actor.

Names have power. If you name a thing, you make it real. That presence in the dark woods is scary and unknown, but when you name that presence a werewolf, you have power over it. You know what it is, and you know what needs to be done to deal with it (or you can find out what needs to be done easily enough). Hey, why am I thinking about werewolves these days? Oh... that's right...

The same can be said about a profession... ANY profession. If you know you want to work in engineering, that's a big mountain to climb. If you know you want to be a structural engineer, though, you can find out the steps needed to work in that field and thrive. The same thing is true about acting. Deciding that you ARE an actor tells you what you need to do - you need to go to auditions, book the jobs, and act. Calling yourself an "aspiring" actor? That tells you that you can go do the auditions, but you'll never book the job and never act. You're just an "aspiring" actor, after all.

Don't aspire. Be.

And with that... time to go to an audition. Hope you're all doing well...