Friday, October 9th, 2020
Dear ACTRA Toronto Members,
On Thursday October 8th, we held a special ACTRA Toronto Members Town Hall (Click to open the recording)
It was an honour to present Life Memberships to Jani Lauzon and Jackie Richardson, hear from Nathalie Younglai, BIPOC Film and TV and our Diversity Co-Chair Lisa Michelle Cornelius and Treasurer, Richard Young on anti-Black racism initiatives, and our panel of members on what it is like to get back to work with COVID-19 health and safety protocols in place. It was a packed Town Hall in lieu of our annual fall conference!
In addition to hearing from our speakers and panelists, we provided an update on our operating plan activities. Of course, like everyone else in the industry, we had to “pivot” with the pandemic.
Our staff have worked tirelessly with our industry partners on our provincial health and safety guidelines. But it is up to all of us – cast, crew, friends and family members – to make sure the guidelines and protocols are followed, and our sets stay safe and open. Protect yourself and others. Wear your mask and keep physically distant from others. I understand it isn’t easy to wear a mask all the time on set or to stay 6 feet apart from your coworkers and friends. Productions are spending thousands of dollars on PPE and protocols every day. And, while there have been a few cases on sets, they have been effectively isolated thanks to the protocols.
While our staff have been reviewing workplace protocols – almost 200 to-date – we continue to advocate for income security as the recovery will take time. Our efforts, early on in the pandemic, ensured we were eligible for CERB and will continue to be eligible for the Canada Recovery Benefit. We made sure your residual payments didn’t impact your eligibility and that you would be able to earn some income – and more now under the new program – to create and accept work to keep your skills sharp. Our industry was among the hardest hit and it will take all hands on our political decks to get us back on our feet.
A few of our other activities highlighted in the Town Hall:
Focus on Canada: our stories, our performers
We partnered with Ontario Creates to develop and promote the Ready to Roll Campaign to let Producers and Engagers inside and outside of Ontario know that we have the cast, crew, infrastructure and stable tax credits to support production. Through Minister MacLeod’s Advisory Committee, we have lobbied for the stability, streamlining and improvement of our tax credits. We worked with our industry partners to develop the health and safety guidelines, posted an inventory of programs and courses through Ontario Creates, updated and promoted our performer databases and showcased our talent through the ACTRA Awards and our Spotlight series.
Focus on Performance:
Prior to the pandemic, we met with Casting Directors about facilities we had identified as inaccessible during our audit in 2019. With the pandemic, we have seen much greater access to auditions, thanks to zoom. But, as we recover from the pandemic, there is a commitment from casting directors to use accessible venues and to make sure they are clear in their breakdowns that they will accommodate performers living with disabilities for auditions.
Also, just prior to the pandemic, we released the Best Practices for Scenes involving Nudity, Intimacy, Simulated Sexual Activity and Sexual Violence. One of our recommendations in the Guide is to engage Intimacy Coordinators. Our renewed agreement with Ubisoft includes a new category and rate for Intimacy Coordinators. With COVID protocols, Intimacy Coordinators are playing a valuable role in making sure any contact is safe, consent based and respectful.
In addition to the work we have been doing on anti-Black racism, we have continued to promote and improve our process in handling complaints of harassment. HAVEN, our helpline is available to assist members calling about harassment, anti-Black racism and violence. They have also provided mental health support during this pandemic and resources through the LifeWorks app. Our ad hoc committee recently met to talk about harassment in education and coaching environments. We are working to set up an association of Educators and Coaches, best practices and a Code of Conduct.
Focus on Bargaining:
We have extended our National Commercial Agreement and our Agreements with the CBC, each by a year. Terms and conditions remain unchanged.
The ACTRA Toronto Council approved a new Low Budget Guideline which replaces TiP. Our outreach to new and emerging Producers and schools has continued and the new guideline as well as our guideline for web series have been well subscribed. One of the silver linings of COVID has been the growth of on-line audiences for theatre and live performance. We have welcomed dozens of theatre, opera, dance and music productions to ACTRA.
Please help share (insert link to live performance promotion? )
Focus on Diversity and Inclusion
We heard updates from Lisa Michelle and Richard of our anti-Black racism activities and the fine work of the Diversity & Inclusion committee. Our women’s Committee, TAWC has stayed connected through meetings and workshops and outACTRAto released Working with Queer Performers, a guide to encourage a change in the way screenwriters, agents, casting directors, directors, producers and productions treat queer performers. It’s about how they are portrayed, managed, auditioned, cast and directed.
Focus on Member Engagement:
We may not have been able to meet in-person but members have been engaged throughout this year in unprecedented numbers on-line – through Town Hall meetings, on Social Media and soon through our new website.
Members voted to amend our national Constitution and By-laws, expanding our National Council and Executive to be more representative and accountable through a system of proportional voting.
On behalf of the ACTRA Toronto Council, I want to thank all the staff and Directors who have supported us through these difficult months. We know it has not been easy for anyone and greatly appreciate what you do and the support you provide to all of us.
I encourage you to stay connected with us through Town Halls, our committees, and with others in the industry in on-line groups, workshops and events.
Wishing you all a good Thanksgiving weekend.
Stay safe. Stay healthy.
President, ACTRA Toronto