Thursday, January 24, 2008

Actors Equity

I am doing a little research at Actors Equity this afternoon. In reading through this year's report, I came across this:

Chart 13 graphically depicts the growth in earnings over the past ten years. As you can see, there was an obvious lull in earnings growth between 1999 and 2002, brought about in part by both industry events and the economic impact of the 9-11 attack, but save for those three years, there has been steady and sometimes considerable growth from year to year, and over these ten years, earnings have increased by an impressive 34.5%.

The figures for the 1997-98 season were about $236,300,ooo; the figures for 2007 were $317, 824,000. Increase the first number by 34.5% and you get the second number. And everybody feels good, right? Of course, if you plug the numbers into the Inflation Calculator, a little bit different story emerges. That $236M figure from 1997 represents $294M in today's economy. Suddenly, the "impressive" 34.5% increase is a wee bit less impressive: 8.25%.

We all know a lot of organizations spin numbers to make its members feel good, but this sort of thing borders on insult. I mean, come on.


Drewster said...

I feel compelled to point out, as a producer that hires both Equity and non-Equity, Equity salaries go up every year. My theater sees about a 3.5% increase in salary that has no connection to how well the theater is doing. Being a small non-profit, we are struggling like the rest, and as a result, management does not see a raise, non-Equity do not get an increase, but Equity always does.

Don't get me wrong, we love our Equity membership, but assuming they can get work, each year is always "better" than the last at MST.

Tim said...

I'd like to weigh in here. I'm the marketing director for a professional theater in Greenville, SC called Centre Stage. We've worked out a guest artist contract with Equity that we offer union actors, but hardly ever hire them because the costs involved are becoming astronomical. If Equity is falling on hard times, I think it's safe to assume that their members aren't faring much better, so it seems the union would do what the theaters have had to do, namely adjust to market conditions. We were on the verge of hiring an Equity actor a couple of months ago when the union informed us that our performance schedule put us in a higher pay bracket. So we hired non-Equity. I do understand why we have unions and in major metropolitan markets where the union is strong, I'm sure they can flex their muscle to good effect. But in "non-union" parts of the country like SC, where there's plenty of non-union talent to choose from, Equity actors are being DENIED work as a direct result of the union's inflexibility. I've seen this happen repeatedly and it makes me wonder if the union really gives a damn about actors who'd like to work in smaller markets.