Fall 2019

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Page 42 of 118

A group of SAG-AFTRA members visited the renowned Groundlings Theatre & School in Los Angeles on June 30 to speak to fellow performers about the role the union plays in helping actors to build sustainable careers and the importance of member solidarity. The panel, which included members Stephanie Courtney, Jim Cashman, Zora Bikangaga, Sharmila Devar and Hayes Hargrove, was one in a series for the #AdsGoUnion campaign, SAG- AFTRA's drive to increase union commercial opportunity while combating the proliferation of non-union commercial work. Like many other improv schools and theaters across the nation, the Groundlings, an improv comedy institution that trains thousands of performers every year, has become a target for producers trying to find great comedic talent, often for non- union work. The panelists, who have a great deal of success and experience as professional performers, used the opportunity to speak to the audience about the importance of performer solidarity, the dangers of non-union commercial work and the benefits of union coverage. They also shared insights from their careers and explained how they broke into the industry. The panelists described their transitions from non-union performers to union members, what jobs earned them eligibility and why they decided to join SAG-AFTRA. Bikangaga (Drunk History) shared that before he was a union member, he couldn't believe that he was being paid to be in a television commercial. In hindsight, he realized he earned just pennies on the dollar of what he could have — and should have — earned for that spot because it was a non-union production. Courtney and Cashman ("Flo" and "Jamie" from Progressive) explained that before they landed the wildly successful Progressive campaign, their union commercial work helped sustain them as they worked to perfect their craft and land more roles. Hargrove (Interrogation) and Devar (Scandal) spoke about the protections of having a union contract and what that means when something goes wrong, whether it's a safety concern on set, not getting paid properly or protection of likeness — all of which the union works to correct and address. The panelists also shared audition tips and tricks that they found helpful in booking work and how having improv training had advanced their careers. The audience had the opportunity to interact with panelists, sharing coffee, donuts and good conversation for an hour after the panel concluded. SAG-AFTRA members have also visited improv students at the Upright Citizens Brigade (New York and Los Angeles), Second City (Los Angeles), The Pit (New York), Westside Comedy Theater (Los Angeles) and numerous local theaters across the nation. For more information about the #AdsGoUnion initiative and how you can be involved, visit MEMBERS VISIT GROUNDLINGS TO TOUT PERKS OF UNION WORK

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