A message from
ACTRA Toronto President
David Gale


ACTRA Toronto stands in solidarity with the performers affected by the events that have taken place at Compass Artist Management. In this precarious industry, to have your financial, emotional and mental well being abused by someone you trust is one of the worst possible situations to find yourself in. On November 1, 2022, the ACTRA Toronto Council gathered to discuss concrete steps to help address the imbalances that exist between performers and their agents within Canada’s creative industries.  We will work toward establishing a system that empowers the performer and ensures they cannot be taken advantage of again.

In 2015, because of the sustained efforts of ACTRA Toronto and Equity, Ontario’s Protecting Child Performers Act was signed into law, with the result that all child performers (union or non-union) now have access to the protections which previously were only available to ACTRA members.

So we know that we can effect change. We’ve done it before. And it is imperative that we prevent the heart breaking situation with Compass Artist Management from ever happening again.

We also know that there is no quick fix. The needed change will not happen overnight, it will demand resources, and will require involvement from multiple partners in the industry to achieve consensus.  As we did with the Child Protection Act, we will call on the government to work with our industry partners to help develop legislation that will protect our performers.

This is a fight that ACTRA Toronto is committed to taking on, but it will also require all of us to pitch in. Please watch your inbox and the ACTRA Toronto website in the days ahead.

In the meantime, ACTRA continues to work with the AFC and AFBS to ensure that performers in need can apply for financial assistance and that their benefits are not affected by the events that took place at Compass.

In solidarity,

David Gale


Disclaimer

The information provided on this page is general information only and is offered to our members for their reference and convenience, “as is”, with all faults and without warranty of any kind, expressed or implied.

ACTRA Toronto makes no warranties or representations regarding the accuracy, completeness or suitability of the information provided.

The information is not intended and should not be construed as legal advice. Do not rely on information at this site or others in place of the advice of competent legal counsel or professional advisors. Only you can decide whether a particular course of action is right for you and only a lawyer can advise you of any associated legal consequences.

Jurisdiction

The contracts between talent agents and clients are not collectively bargained. Consequently, neither ACTRA nor ACTRA Toronto have legal standing or jurisdiction in contract disputes between performers and their agents nor any direct leverage or policing powers over agencies.

That said, ACTRA Toronto does consult on a regular basis with the Talent Agents and Managers Association of Canada (TAMAC) and with other agents who are signatory to the Entertainment Industry Coalition (EIC) Code of Ethical Conduct. Although the union does not regulate agencies, members who feel that their agent is acting in an inappropriate way are encouraged to submit an online Talent Agent Complaint Form. All complaints are kept confidential.

EIC signatory status and what that means

The Entertainment Industry Coalition is a voluntary association of agents, casting directors, unions, guilds and other industry professionals that has created a Code of Ethical Conduct to set out the principals that define best practices for Talent Agencies. It is administered by a volunteer board.

Prospective member signatories must sign on to the Code of Ethical Conduct and demonstrate to the board’s satisfaction that their business practices are in compliance with the Code.

The EIC provides a list of member signatories to ACTRA Toronto which publishes an Agents Directory of EIC signatory talent agencies on the ACTRA Toronto website with the following preface:

ACTRA Toronto cannot recommend agents or agencies. For your convenience and reference, we provide this list of agents who have joined the Entertainment Industry Coalition (EIC) and signed a Code of Ethical Conduct. You may want to compare this Code to any representation agreement you consider.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Neither the EIC nor ACTRA Toronto have any continuing right of audit or ability to monitor agency business practices and, consequently, cannot warrant, endorse, or recommend signatory agencies. Prospective clients determine the suitability of the agencies and the services they offer for themselves and at their own risk.

ACTRA Toronto updates the Agents Directory when requested by the EIC board to do so.


In case of a dispute…

Keep good notes (and your cool)

It is best business practise to make sure that negotiations, complaints, contract interpretations and disputes are properly documented. Create a paper trail by summing up all conversations in an email and making your position clear so that a reasonable third party reading the correspondence would be able to understand the issues and your position.

Avoid personal attacks, threats or abusive language. State your case, provide your evidence and clearly define your “ask”.

Rebut positions you do not accept or disagree with. Do not let things stand until your claim has been satisfied. Answer emails with a specific action-oriented “ask” that has an associated deadline. (e.g., “Please pay the full amount by etransfer before Friday at 4:30 pm.”)

Legal Recourse

If you are unable to get satisfaction through correspondence, you do have the option to take the agency to small claims court. There are associated costs and only you can decide if the amount to be recovered is worth the investment.

Often, a lawyer’s letter is a sufficient trigger to get the other party’s attention. It will cost money. Don’t assume the lawyer will write a better letter than you. Ask to see a draft. Do listen to the advice you are paying for.

Remember that you may not be able to recover debts or legal costs from a bankrupt party and make sure the cost/benefit math works for you before you engage.

Some free legal advice services available for performers based on location

Links

Redirection of payments that are under ACTRA’s control

ACTRA is not bound by the terms of the contract between members and their agents and will direct payments under its control (PRS payments, NCA payments) according to the member’s instructions. Contact ACTRA Toronto Member Services to change your instructions regarding cheque direction.

NOTE: Payment for contract work fees under the IPA will generally be sent to the address on the contract. Members can direct the payments to their home address by substituting it for the agency address on the contract.

Be aware that changing the payment authorization may breach the terms of your contract with your agent and only you can decide whether you are willing to accept any risks for doing so. To make that decision, you will need to have a copy of your contract with the agency and be familiar with its terms. Only a lawyer can advise you if an agency’s failure to pay promptly voids their contract with you.

Get some support

The Agent/Client relationship is a very important one and when troubles arise in that relationship it can be extremely stressful and leave you feeling exposed and vulnerable. You don’t have to let those feelings prevent you from making good decisions and negotiating well but make sure you do have some support to lean on.

Agent Performer Trouble FAQ

What is ACTRA Toronto doing to push for legislation to regulate agents in Ontario?

We have already started conversations with elected government officials at the provincial level.

Much like the work that went into getting the Protecting Child Performer Act (PCPA) passed into law, there will need to be a coalition of many constituents in the industry coming together to lobby the government into action. Those initial conversations have started.

There are many consultations and meetings required in order for an idea to become a Bill and that Bill to become a law.

Member support for this work is essential

As part of the Bill creation, ACTRA Toronto members will absolutely need to be part of the process. Politics is a numbers game. Motivating MPPs to support the Bill will require a demonstration of community and industry support including but not limited to email campaigns, lobby days and outreach to constituency offices.

Has ACTRA Toronto had any communications with EP Canada to amend the Fraudulent Endorsement Investigation form?

Yes. 

EP Canada update for performers represented by Compass Artist Management

For any missing payments that went through EP Canada only

  • Please file a complaint with Toronto Police Services if you haven’t already done so 2050@tps.ca
  • The Case number for this investigation is TPS Case # 2022-2018849
  • Please email both Liza Wilson ewilson@ep.com and Angela Hughes ahughes@ep.com at EP to request that you be sent a Declaration to sign. Please include the TPS Case number in your email.
  • The form will be forwarded to their bank (CIBC), which will open an investigation in an attempt to recover funds. This investigation is solely conducted by CIBC and neither EP nor ACTRA Toronto are part of the investigation, nor will we be privy to the findings. Please note the investigation may take a number of weeks.
What is the amount of ACTRA Working Dues deducted from a member's earnings?

Working dues are 2.25% of your fee. So, for a contracted fee of $1,000, ACTRA would receive $22.50. An agent would receive $100-150 depending on the commission in your contract. Producers deduct and remit the 2.25% working dues to ACTRA according to the terms of the IPA and a further 12% Producer’s contribution to the performer’s benefits is sent to AFBS. This direct payment of the benefits contribution ensures there is no loss of benefit contributions.

Will the benefits of members owed money by Compass be affected?

Insurance and retirement payments are add-on payments made by the Producer (12%) and not deductions from the fee or dues. And because those Producer contributions are remitted directly to AFBS by the Producer, ACTRA members whose payments were received but not forwarded by their agent did not lose the Producers Benefits Contribution associated with the work they had done. There is a 3% deduction from the fee put towards retirement by the performer.  ACTRA Toronto has spoken with AFBS to ensure they are up-to-date on these events so they can respond accordingly as, and if, needed.

Will ACTRA amend the rules of the EIC so it can inform entire rosters their agent is no longer a member?

ACTRA Toronto is not the EIC and cannot amend its rules.

The EIC is a voluntary industry coalition formed in the early '90s to draft a code of ethical conduct for talent agencies. While ACTRA Toronto is a proud supporter of the EIC and is represented on the EIC Board by a member volunteer, the union and the EIC are distinct organizations. The decisions of the EIC Board with regard to its list of member/signatories is not subject to ACTRA Toronto’s review or approval.

ACTRA Toronto publishes the list of EIC signatories in the Agents Directory on the ACTRA Toronto website as it is, from time-to-time, amended by the EIC. The following statements appear on the Agents Directory page:

ACTRA Toronto cannot recommend agents or agencies. For your convenience and reference, we provide this list of agents who have joined the Entertainment Industry Coalition (EIC) and signed a Code of Ethical Conduct. You may want to compare this Code to any representation agreement you consider.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided on this page is offered “as is” with all faults and without warranty of any kind, expressed or implied. ACTRA Toronto makes no warranties or representations regarding the accuracy, completeness or suitability of the information provided.

It must also be understood that the EIC is a voluntary association of member agencies. It is not a regulatory agency and was never conceived of as a warning system.

The current situation makes it abundantly clear there is a desperate need for such a regulatory body with appropriate powers to investigate and compel agencies to adhere to a minimum standard of ethical behaviour.

The EIC, in its current form, unfunded and entirely dependent on the work of volunteers, is not that body.

It is time for Ontario performers to be able to rely on the secure enforceable protection that comes from  legislation of the kind currently in place in British Columbia and in California.

What options are being considered for splitting pay checks within ACTRA, and not having pay checks be split by agents?

The current situation has made it clear that the terms of many current Talent Agency contracts, which are apparently designed to  provide security of commission payment for agents and agencies, do not offer adequate protection for the performer’s earnings held in trust by the agency (i.e. earnings net of agency commissions) in the event of agency insolvency.

One solution might be for agency commissions to be deducted at source, either by the producer or by a payroll company engaged by the producer. In the event of an agency insolvency, commission due to the agent would continue to be paid to the insolvency trustee but the performer’s “take-home” pay would be left whole.

Such an arrangement, while satisfactory, would have to be collectively bargained to become part of our collective agreements.

To transform the union into a payroll service, on the other hand, would require additional staff and resources to handle the increased volume of accounting work and would still have to be bargained.

The best solution would be a robust government regulatory regime for talent agencies that would establish standards for security of payment and enforce compliance with those standards to protect all parties.

How do we make sure any proposed legislation applies to all agencies, not just TAMAC members or EIC signatories (who can opt out without repercussion, or notice to the actors)?

Any regulations proposed by ACTRA Toronto would include all Talent Agents and Managers in the province of Ontario. Just as the Ontario Protect Child Performers Act provides protection to all child performers whether unionized or not, the scope of a robust regulatory regime for talent agencies must include all the agents and talent representatives in the province, regardless of size or affiliation.

What can ACTRA do to mandate that actors receive call sheets on commercials so performers can figure out who to contact to track down missing payments?

Unlike the IPA, the NCA doesn’t stipulate that Performers receive a copy of the call sheet. Changes to the NCA would require collective agreement negotiation and members should be aware by now that ACTRA is curently engaged in a tough fight to defend our commercial jurisdiction and bring to an end an illegal lockout by a number of powerful agencies who seem determined to break our union.

ACTRA Toronto's commercial staff do, however, pursue late and missing commercial payments on behalf of Performers.

Various scenarios for session payments:

  • ACTRA Toronto have copies of the engagement contracts and a process in place to pursue payment when timelines not met
  • Agent calls ACTRA Toronto
  • Performer calls ACTRA Toronto

Residuals are slightly tougher to track, as ACTRA Toronto needs to know where/when the commercial was seen and whether or not 20 working days have passed since the spot was seen. We do not have the staff to make general inquiries about where/when a commercial will be used but rely on information from the agent/performer/engager.

Can we have the cheques from Film and TV sent to us directly, as we do have for commercial work?

A performer and their agent decide where film & television cheques are sent by production on the deal memo/contract.

Many ACTRA members already have their film & tv payments sent to them directly.

Under the terms of the NCA, ACTRA Toronto staff receive, process and distribute commercial cheques directly to the performer or to their authorized agent, according to the member's instructions.

Before ACTRA Toronto staff could do the same for Film & Television cheques, changes would first need to be negotiated into the collective agreement and then a large number of additional ACTRA Toronto staff would have to be hired to deal with the additional workload. This is not financially possible at current dues levels.

Why hasn’t ACTRA issued an official statement informing the industry of what happened and ensuring CD and producers are aware of the Compass Artist situation??

ACTRA Toronto has communicated with the Casting Directors Society of Canada (CDC), the Association Of Canadian Commercial Production (ACCP) and the Canadian Media Producers Association (CMPA). In addition, ACTRA Toronto has notified Breakdown Services, Casting Workbook, EP Canada, Cast & Crew Payroll, The AFC and AFBS.

ACTRA Toronto President David Gale has issued a statement of solidarity with all performers who have been unable to collect earnings owed to them by Compass Artist Management. ACTRA Toronto Council has committed itself to fight for the overdue regulation needed to establish and enforce standards of practice and ethical behaviour that will protect performers. 

Why wasn’t the roster of Compass Artist Management informed of the removal of the agency from EIC?

Neither the EIC nor ACTRA Toronto have any power to audit or investigate agencies, and no means of compelling agents to provide evidence or any other way of  verifying complaints. The EIC is a voluntary association of member agencies, not a regulatory agency, and was never conceived of as a warning system.

Similarly, without any regulatory powers, ACTRA Toronto relies on moral suasion to encourage adherence to best practices and uses the information it receives from member complaints to inform those efforts. But at the end of the day, we have no actual power to make agents behave and we cannot make public statements based on allegations we are unable to verify.

The current situation makes it abundantly clear there is a desperate need for a properly constituted regulatory body with appropriate powers to investigate and compel agencies to adhere to a minimum standard of ethical behaviour.

The EIC, in its current form, unfunded and entirely dependent on the work of volunteers, is not that body. Nor is ACTRA Toronto.

It is time for Ontario performers to be able to rely on the secure enforceable protection that comes from  legislation of the kind currently in place in British Columbia and in California.

Why is the Members’ Portal work history not updated in a timely way?

Only for ACTRA Toronto productions:

A member’s work history is updated once the payroll company or the Engager’s accounting department remits I&R to the branch and the information is entered by staff. While most payroll records are remitted in a timely manner after a particular pay period has ended, there can be circumstances where remittance and/or entry is delayed.

The work history section of the membership database is intended to be internal accounting records attached not only to a performer’s file, but the production’s as well, in order to record and track insurance and retirement payments. It was not designed as a forensic tool and is not considered a complete or official record for the purposes of declaring income for income tax purposes, but it is a tool that can be used by members for cross-referencing earnings against paystubs, earnings reports generated by a payroll service or a T4A issued by an Engager.

It is best practice to keep your own records of work you have done, and use the work history information accessible through the Member Portal to help verify your record keeping.

Can't ACTRA's insurance compensate lost wages?

ACTRA's insurance does not cover the loss of a performer's income resulting from an agent's failure to fulfill the terms of the contract between the performer and the agent.

Will ACTRA reimburse the earnings and working dues of members who are owed money by Compass Artist Management?

No. ACTRA does not reimburse members who are owed money by their agents. In all cases that ACTRA Toronto is  aware of, producers issued timely payments to performers represented by Compass Artist Management in accordance with ACTRA's collective agreements and sent those payments to the address on the engagement contract signed by the performer or their designated agent. Neither the producers nor ACTRA can protect performers from the failure of their agents to fulfill their obligations to pay performers.

Like all unionized workers, ACTRA members pay dues. ACTRA members pay annual basic dues of $195 and, when they work, they pay working dues (2.25% of gross fees), which are deducted at source. The difference between union members and non-union performers who are missing payments from Compass is that 15% of the ACTRA full members' gross fees, deducted at source, made it safely into their benefits funds. Ironically, this is the same amount their agent would have claimed as commission. Non-union members don't have mandated producer's contributions or automatic performer contributions and are consequently completely out of pocket.

Clearly, even in the midst of this disaster, it was better to be a union performer than a non-union performer.

But if there had been a robust provincial licensing regime for Ontario Talent Agents, this disaster might have been avoided. ACTRA Toronto Council has announced its commitment to getting such a regulatory system put in place. That effort will be funded by the dues paid by all members.