ACTRA Toronto Members Handbook
What is ACTRA?
A message from ACTRA Toronto President, David Gale:
“ACTRA is a member-driven union that secures the rights of, and promotes respect for the work of professional performers in the recorded media across Canada, in languages other than French. ACTRA represents more than 21,000 professional performers across Canada. In Gordon Pinsent’s words, “ ACTRA is the house that Canadian performers have built for themselves.”
Representing 15,000 Ontario performers, ACTRA Toronto is the largest organization within ACTRA and a strong voice for all Canadian Performers. ACTRA Toronto is the engine that powers our national union’s fight for better rates and working conditions at the bargaining table and for legislative and regulatory changes that create more work opportunities for our members and our industry.
ACTRA members can be proud of the work they have done together. Achievements such as regulated working hours, meal periods, residual payments, safe sets, health and insurance plans and better protection of child and other performer’s rights have all been enormous gains, won through collective action and the dedication of ACTRA members.
Since 1943, ACTRA has been working with one goal: to make things better for performers. With your help, we will continue to make good on that promise.
Your Members Handbook
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ACTRA Toronto is the largest branch within ACTRA, the union representing Canada’s professional performers working in recorded and live-broadcast media in languages other than French. As an advocate for Canadian culture since 1943, ACTRA is a member-driven union that continues to secure rights and respect for the work of professional performers.
ACTRA members are principal performers, background performers, voice artists, stunt performers, announcers, singers, dancers, hosts, models, narrators, panellists, puppeteers, choreographers, and dialogue coaches.
Your ACTRA Toronto membership card is the proof that your work has met professional standards and that you have made a commitment to being a professional performer. It is a badge of pride which identifies you as a member of a community of professional performers who stand together for fair pay and decent working conditions.
ACTRA is a federated national union with nine independent branches. The Toronto branch was the seat of the union’s creation in 1943 when CBC radio artists demanded more than “a dollar a holler.” Since the foundation of the union, nearly 75 years ago, ACTRA members have gone out on strike only once, in 2007, when producers asserted that performers’ work could be distributed on the Internet for free. The strike was successful and, today, performers are routinely compensated for work made for and distributed on the Internet.
- ACTRA advocates for you so you don’t have to!
- ACTRA members work in all formats: film, TV, web, animation, commercials, video games, industrials and educational programs, non-broadcast demos, radio drama, audio books, telephony, CDs and more.
- ACTRA asserts that a performance is a performance regardless of how and when the performance is viewed or heard.
- ACTRA is committed to negotiating fair session fees, residuals, RRSP contributions and extended health care benefits for its members.
- ACTRA insists that performers share in the success of programs containing their work in the form of residuals or Use Fees.
- ACTRA seeks to organize all recorded and live-broadcast performance work and expand work opportunities for its members.
- Land a qualifying role in an ACTRA production and join as an Apprentice.
- If you are a member of another performer union such as Equity or SAG-AFTRA and you land a qualifying role in an ACTRA production, you can join ACTRA as a full member. Members of Equity may join in this manner for a reduced initiation fee.
- You can join the ACTRA Additional Background Performer program after you have worked as a background performer for 15 days on any ACTRA set within the preceding 12-month period. 1600 BG hours as an AABP member may be used as a first “credit” to join the Apprentice program.
- Recent graduates of an approved performance program may join the Apprentice program within 1 year of graduation.
On the back of the ACTRA membership card, ACTRA members sign on to the following pledge:
I Work ACTRA. As an ACTRA member, I stand in solidarity with my fellow members to advance the principles and objectives of my union. I will defend the pay, benefits and working conditions of all ACTRA members. I will only work under ACTRA agreements, with ACTRA members or permittees and for ACTRA-adhered engagers who have not been declared unfair.
Bargaining is the primary service ACTRA provides to its members, setting minimum fees and reasonable working conditions under every agreement.
ACTRA has several agreements you might work under: The Independent Production Agreement (IPA), The National Commercial Agreement (NCA), CityTV, CBC Radio, CBC TV, CTV, TVO, Zoomer, the Audio Code, the BC Master Production Agreement, NFB, the Toronto Indie Production Agreement (TiP), and Ubisoft.
With the exception of the the Audio Code, which is a promulgated agreement, the terms of all these agreements are subject to periodic negotiation with the employer or associations of employers.
Many of the policies which affect how much work comes to our province are decided by government. Educating elected politicians about how our industry works best is an important part of ACTRA’s work. Monitoring legislative and regulatory decisions, lobbying government, public campaigns, participating in audio-visual industry coalitions, and promoting positive relations with allies and the public has made Ontario a stable and reliable location for domestic and foreign producers. It has also made Toronto the third busiest production centre in North America!
Discrimination and harassment weaken our solidarity, reducing our capacity to work together on shared concerns, such as decent wages, safe working conditions, and justice for all.
ACTRA Toronto is a harassment-free zone where our members’ dignity and equality are respected. ACTRA Toronto policies prohibit discrimination or harassment on the basis of gender, gender-identity, sexual orientation, race, disability, age, class, religion, language, ethnic origin or family status.
ACTRA Toronto has an accessible customer service plan in place to serve its members with disabilities.
ACTRA Toronto offers five courses to better acquaint members with the union’s resources, benefits, contracts, and rules.
ACTRA Additional Background Performer Orientation
A short course for all new AABP members providing an introduction to ACTRA. Free.
A session for all new Apprentice members covering your rights on set, your obligations as a member, pay, benefits, paperwork, and who’s who at ACTRA. Free.
Respect on Set Workshops
ACTRA Toronto and the Directors Guild of Canada Ontario (DGC Ontario) have teamed up to offer two joint sessions to equip members with the tools they need on set. The first session covers preventing and dealing with harassment and the second session covers set etiquette and health and safety. Free.
Full Member Session
This course grounds new full members in the business of being a professional performer. Topics include audition protocols, self-promotion and marketing, an overview of ACTRA’s collective agreements and how ACTRA works. The course runs over 1 ½ days and costs $200.
A session with AFBS to familiarize members with their insurance, health and dental coverage, RRSPs, scholarships, special needs, and counseling services. Free.
In addition to minimum fees, being an ACTRA member means you are eligible for health care and dental coverage, life insurance, RRSPs, and scholarships. These benefits are administered by our third-party insurance and retirement provider, Actra Fraternal Benefit Society.
Extended Health Care Coverage
Paid for by Engagers, members have access to extended health care and dental benefits. A member’s level of coverage is defined by their earnings. Every three years, members have an opportunity to buy into a higher level of coverage.
Every full member has death benefits.
Under all of ACTRA’s contracts a deduction is made from the member’s pay and a generous Employer contribution is made to your RRSP administered by AFBS. AFBS has two RRSP funds for members to choose from: a bond fund and a balanced fund, both managed with one of the lowest Management Expense Ratios in the investment industry.
AFBS has scholarship funds available for members and their dependents.
Arts & Entertainment Plan
Apprentices have access to the Arts & Entertainment Plan, a competitive health care and dental benefit program administered by AFBS.
Twice a year, ACTRA Toronto holds conferences for the benefit of its members. The conferences include many exciting professional development workshops with industry professionals as panellists and instructors giving you tools and information to further your career. Workshops have been presented by Casting Directors, Agents, Coaches, Tax Experts, Stunt and Weapons specialists, Assistant Directors, Directors of Photography, Directors and other industry professionals.
ACTRA Toronto’s general meetings are held at the conferences. These “plenary” meetings keep members informed about union business, Council activities and the industry environment.
The conferences are a great opportunity to network with friends and fellow performers. Breakfast, lunch and childcare are provided and the conference is followed by a wine and cheese reception.
ACTRA members can receive a wide range of discounts with their ACTRA card. The Member Advantage Program has discounts on acting workshops, attractions, car rentals, clothing, fitness, hotels, technology, industry publications, travel, tickets, aesthetics and more.
AND, be sure to ask for an arts worker discount at participating stage performances in Toronto.
ACTRA Toronto presents three juried awards annually: Outstanding Performance Male, Outstanding Performance Female and Outstanding Performance Voice. The Award of Excellence is awarded to a performer with a significant body of work who has volunteered their time to advocate on behalf of performers. The ACTRA Toronto Stunt Award honours a seasoned stunt performer who has given back to the community and is chosen by the Stunt Committee.
The ACTRA Awards are peer-nominated and peer-juried. It is an extra special honour when the quality of your work is recognized by your peers. Submit outstanding performances for consideration as soon as you see them through an easy online form.
When you become a member your profile is automatically uploaded to ACTRAonline. You can update your profile yourself; add credits and links to your personal website and demo reel. If you specialize in stunts, voice, or background work or self-identify as culturally or physically diverse you can also choose to create a profile on any of ACTRA’s micro talent databases:
ACTRA’s Online Performer Databases are free for you and free for signatory producers and Casting Directors to use to find talent for their productions.
ACTRAonline.ca showcases thousands of ACTRA performers – Canada’s premier talent pool. Each performer’s detailed, searchable profile may feature up to three (3) photos, contact and agent information, a full résumé, credits, and audio and video clips. Performer details available on ACTRAonline.ca are provided and updated by individual performers.
background.actraonline.ca is ACTRA’s online searchable database of professional background talent. If you work background, create a profile and upload your photos, resume and other information.
diversity.actraonline.ca is ACTRA’s online searchable database of Diverse Professional Talent. ACTRA Toronto members who are people of colour, Aboriginal persons, and performers with disabilities are invited to post their photo, ethno-cultural background, agent contact information, special skills, credits, and links to online self–promotion.
stunts.actraonline.ca is ACTRA’s online searchable database of Professional Stunt Performers. ACTRA Toronto Stunt Performers and resident and visiting Stunt Coordinators can create a profile and upload resumes , photos and other information.
voice.actraonline.ca is ACTRA’s online searchable database of Professional Voice Performers. ACTRA Toronto Voice Performers can create a profile and upload resumes, demos and other information.
Creative Arts Financial (CAF) is a cooperatively run banking institution serving the entertainment industry.
The credit union is a community of your peers in the creative arts, managed and staffed by financial service professionals. As a cooperative organization, a credit union thinks about you differently than a bank does.
Creative Arts Financial (CAF) understands the entertainment industry and the people in it and offers its members a full-service lineup, competitive rates and true family feeling. At Creative Arts Financial, identifying yourself as a professional working in the entertainment industry is the beginning of a financial conversation, not the end.
The AFC provides emergency financial aid to assist cultural workers in recovering from an illness, injury or other circumstances causing severe economic and personal hardship.
The AFC is the lifeline for Canada’s entertainment industry. Over 10,000 professional members of the industry from all over Canada and in the fields of film & TV, theatre, music and dance have been helped by the AFC.
ACTRA Toronto has an Agents Directory available on our website. Only agencies which have joined the Entertainment Industry Coalition (EIC) and have signed the Code of Ethical Conduct are listed on the Directory.
ACTRA does not endorse or recommend talent agencies. When looking for a reputable agency, start with the Agents Directory but ask your peers for a recommendation.
All ACTRA Toronto productions must have workplace accident insurance in place to cover you, in the event that you are injured on set. The Accident on Set plan, administered by AFBS, is currently the most widely used such plan.
Actors are not expected to perform their own stunts. ACTRA’s Stunt Coordinators are second to none and safely coordinate all stunts on ACTRA sets. All stunts are performed by qualified Stunt Performers.
ACTRA has negotiated provisions to protect performers from unsafe working conditions in all our contracts. Additionally, we participate together with producers and other audio-visual unions in a Ministry of Labour Section 21 Committee to address general industry safety concerns.
Child Performers are served by our Children’s Advocate. Information sessions are held periodically to educate parents of child performers, whether union or non-union, on the risks behind the glamour.
- ACTRA child performers have 25 per cent of their earnings deposited to a trust account and invested for their benefit until they turn 18.
- Tutoring provisions in ACTRA’s contracts protect minors from falling behind in their schooling when they work.
- Other protections include age-appropriate working hours and guaranteed parental access.
Read ACTRA Toronto's Parents’ Guide for Child Performers
Making a living in this business is tough. Senior artists can really struggle. ACTRA and AFBS research shows that performer incomes decline in middle age, women before men. That’s why ACTRA is a proud supporter of the Performing Artists Lodge which provides geared-to-income housing for senior performers. Many more such housing options are needed. ACTRA also assists the Canadian Senior Artists’ Resource Network with research, communications and programs.
Understanding that advocating for more work opportunities for our members is most effective when aligned with other industry groups, ACTRA Toronto helped found Ontario’s screen-based advocacy group, FilmOntario.
FilmOntario is an industry-funded, non-partisan screen-based (film/interactive/television) consortium 30,000 strong, of companies, producers, unions, financial services and organizations within Ontario. Their emphasis is on marketing Ontario as a screen-based content creator and production jurisdiction, and working with all levels of government so that policies and programs ensure our international competitiveness.
ACTRA has many friends in the wider Labour community: a strategic alliance with United Steelworkers and membership in the Canadian Labour Congress.
We know we can count on our labour allies for support during tough rounds of bargaining or when delivering a message to government and the public. Retired Steelworkers provided ready in-person support during our only strike. Our allies know they can count on us too. We honour picket lines and boycotts and we make noise, as only we can do, when our allies ask for our help.
ACTRA has reciprocal agreements with Canadian Actors’ Equity Association, SAG-AFTRA, Union des Artistes, British Equity and the Canadian Federation of Musicians. ACTRA is a member of the international organization of actors’ unions, the International Federation of Actors.
ACTRA is governed by the ACTRA National Constitution and ACTRA National By-Laws. The Toronto branch also has its own ACTRA Toronto By-Laws. These rules and procedures determine how members, Council and Councillors should comport themselves. Democracy and member rule are the guiding principles.
ACTRA Toronto is a democratic union run by working actors who make up our Council. They make the decisions and policies which staff implements.
Council is comprised of 24 elected full ACTRA members. They serve for a two-year term. Councillors volunteer their time for modest honoraria. Council meets monthly and Council meeting minutes are posted on our website.
The executive officers of ACTRA Toronto Council consist of: the President; the immediate Past President; the Treasurer; up to five other officers and the Executive Director, who is an officer of ACTRA Toronto Council with voice but no vote. The officers of ACTRA Toronto Council are commonly referred to collectively as the ACTRA Toronto Executive Committee.
There are many ways you can participate, the most important of which is voting in Council elections, agreement ratifications and referenda.
Any full member in good standing may run in a Council election.
ACTRA Toronto has several committees you might be interested to join: ACTRA Additional Background Caucus, Act Your Age (senior performers), Apprentice Caucus, Awards Committee, Child Performers, Conference Committee, Diversity Committee, Finance Committee, Full Member Background Committee, Parade Committee, Stunt Committee, The Toronto ACTRA Women’s Committee, Voice Committee and the Young Emerging Actors’ Assembly (for those who play 17-30).
Serving on a Committee is rewarding and helps you connect with other members.
ACTRA Toronto takes part in two important city parades: The Labour Day Parade and the Pride Parade. The Labour Day Parade takes place annually on the first Monday of September. We participate in the walk with other unions and have been recognized in the past as the parade’s “most spirited” participants.
ACTRA Toronto revels in the annual June Pride Parade in solidarity with our many LGBTQ+ members who are represented by ACTRA Toronto's outACTRAto Committee.
March is an important month to watch for the notice that your annual dues are payable. Falling behind on your dues could result in suspension from the membership and require you to start the joining process all over again. Don’t let forgetfulness put your hard-earned membership at risk.
Apprentices are sent renewal notices on the anniversary date of their joining.
ACTRA Toronto Factsheets are a great source of information about ACTRA Toronto policies, procedures and the many benefits of membership.
ACTRA’s contracts are administered and enforced by staff Business Representatives. Commercial Business Representatives deal with NCA issues and IPA Business Representatives with film, television, animation, web, gaming, audio and everything else. Go to the Staff Directory page on our website for the names and contact information for our Business Representatives.
If you have a problem on a specific production, go to the What’s Shooting page to find out the Business Representative’s name and contact information for that particular production and email them with the details.
On-Set Liaison Officers (called OSLOs) are full ACTRA members who visit sets by Business Representative’s request, typically if there are minors, stunts or large numbers of background performers. OSLOs are not qualified to interpret the agreements. They function as the eyes and ears of the Business Representative and report back to them.
ACTRA Performers Rights’ Society (PRS) administers the payment of residual monies owed to members for the re-use of their work. You can arrange for direct deposit of these payments to your bank account or, alternatively, choose to receive one paper cheque per year with all your residual earnings combined.
ACTRA Toronto communicates with its members in several ways:
Periodically, ACTRA Toronto sends e-mail newsletters to inform you about your membership status, upcoming union events and other industry and union issues. Voting credentials for union elections and ratification referenda are also communicated by email. Under ACTRA's National By-Laws, consenting to receive union email and other communications is a condition of ACTRA membership, so it’s very important to keep ACTRA informed of your current email address and update it as it changes.
ACTRA Toronto publishes an online magazine called Performers Online .
ACTRA Toronto has a YouTube account for union advocacy videos, a Facebook page a Twitter account and an Instagram account. Stay connected with your community of fellow performers through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube