Working with AFTRA

Things are moving ahead nicely on the new web-based TV show I'm producing/directing in late July (still tentative shooting dates). I'll be posting extensively about the actual show in the near future, but for now I just want to comment on working with the actor's union AFTRA (American Federation of Television & Radio Artists).

On my last feature film, "Killing Down", I worked with SAG (Screen Actors Guild). The experience was okay. But SAG is not that easy to work with, well the people are fine, it's all the paperwork and rules, rules, rules you have to deal with. Not that AFTRA doesn't have paperwork and rules - they do - but not like with my SAG experience, and that is very nice.

I understand and appreciate SAG for what they do for their actor members. Heck, a lot of my closest friends are actors and they use SAG for their insurance, etc. The thing that gets me is how MUCH power they have over a given production, and this coming from a union with 96% unemployment! Again, SAG is good and the actors they represent are even better (typically speaking), but they can definitely be a headache.

With the new web series I considered SAG at first, but then talked to a few fellow filmmakers and learned that most "web shows" are going with an AFTRA contract. I found this intriguing so I investigated. Turns out they were right. A lot of big companies like Disney, etc. are turning to AFTRA for their web content dealing with actors.

Funny thing is neither AFTRA or SAG has an agreement yet for the Internet! I really couldn't believe it. I know web TV shows (or shows SPECIFICALLY created for the web) are a fairly new thing, but the IDEA for them has been around for a while. So I was just really surprised that no contracts exist yet for this - so what happened? Well, we got to create our own "custom" contract which worked out very well.

Another filmmaker friend of mine did this on a web show he produced - but he went with SAG - and they created a custom contract for that too. So it can be done with either union, but I must say that SO FAR my experience with AFTRA has been MUCH, MUCH EASIER (than working with SAG). Of course we still have to do all the production paperwork, and then post-production paperwork, etc. (similar to SAG) - but the upfront work has been pretty much a breeze.

Have to give thanks to the local Dallas AFTRA rep T.J. Jones for being very helpful and working things out with me. She's been great, even if at the beginning she really didn't understand what kind of show I was producing. I kept using the word "pilot" and that made her and the AFTRA national reps nervous. I guess they hear that word and think NETWORK TV PILOT and lots of money. So, we dropped that word from the conversation and things went a lot smoother. :)

I'll let folks know how everything ends up after the shoot. But for now I would highly recommend considering AFTRA for web-based TV shows and the like (they're indie friendly too).

-Blake


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Who Am I?

I'm a filmmaker who's produced & directed five feature films including the comedy SPILT MILK (available on iTunes), the new horror/thriller PHOBIA (on iTunes) and the action/thiller KILLING DOWN (which you can buy or rent at pretty much all the usual places).

I also created the Streamy and Webby award-winning web series PINK, which to date has been viewed online around 10 MILLION times at places like YouTube, Hulu, Koldcast and TheWB.com. And speaking of TheWB.com, I also produced and directed an online thriller for them called EXPOSED. It was released summer 2010. And most recently I created a new online sci-fi series called CONTINUUM, which is part of the online indie TV network JTS.tv - Just The Story and NOW available via VOD through indie platform Distrify.

Oh, and I don't shoot weddings. Thanks for asking though.

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