SAG-AFTRA Ad Campaign Displays Elitist Attitude which is Toxic to the Arts

William Ferguson 

Attached is a picture of an ad in a magazine for, ad executives, that recently popped up in my Facebook feed, and I found the line at the top, "You can't fix bad acting in post" sickening.

I am currently a non-union actor, but I do hope to reach a point where I am making a living off of my acting, and will eventually join a union. However, this attitude that unions are taking towards non-union actors, movies, productions, etc. is, to be totally frank, extremely discouraging.

This ad was approved?

This ad was approved?

Three years ago, I encountered a similar attitude towards non-union actors and shows. In 2014, Actors Equity launched a social media campaign called "Ask If It's Equity" which encouraged potential theatre goers to first check if the show they are purchasing tickets for, is a an equity tour. The implication being that if it isn't, they shouldn't purchase the ticket.

Equity's reason for this, so they say, is (and I'm paraphrasing here) One: to discourage non-union tours from being advertised as a "Broadway Tour." Now to be totally honest, I could see how that can be a legitimate claim, but I feel that's really just a branding/copyright problem. One that the unions should be taking up with the touring companies directly, not involving the audiences, because ,like me, most of us couldn't care less if the show we're seeing is "Direct from Broadway" or not, when the lights go down and the curtain comes up, all we care about is whether or not the show is actually any good. Which brings us to their second claim, (once again I'm paraphrasing):

To ensure that audiences are receiving a high quality show.

This is the one that sent me over the edge. The implication here, of course, is that any show that isn't an equity show, is a subpar show.

This is an outright lie. In Portland, where I live there is only one Union House, Portland Center Stage and yes, their shows have been terrific, but there are dozens of other professional Non-Union houses around town, and all of their shows have been just as good, if not better, then PCS.

But I feel that ad campaigns like the one above or "Ask Is It Equity" bring about an elitist attitude, which can be very toxic to this industry.

This attitude towards non-union actors discourages aspiring actors from even making an attempt at becoming a professional actor. In order to join an actors union (Sag, AFTRA, Equity, etc.) you first have to be cast in a union project. How will anyone get started in their careers if the attitude that all non-union actors are subpar becomes standard? It's already difficult enough as it is.

It also limits smaller professional companies with limited resources, because they wouldn't be able to afford union wages. If these companies are led to believe that their show won't succeed with non-union actors, how are they going to continue mounting productions, or even start earning enough to actually pay union wages?

Attitudes like this are not only false, but toxic. In an industry that is already known for being cutthroat and difficult to navigate, this makes it worse! Room should be made for all artists, union, non-union, professional, and amateur. We're already heavily competing with each other at auditions, do we really need to extend it elsewhere?