The Fairy Princess is a member of BOTH Performing Unions, Screen Actor’s Guild/AFTRA and Actor’s Equity Association.

In fact, she just had an email from AEA about celebrating her DECADES in AEA, and no – she is not sharing the length of time, but wow….

That aside, the two Unions are fighting like siblings – and if you have ever fought with a sibling, you know that it can be intense, and here is what they are fighting about for those reading along at home.

Since the pandemic, and it’s mishandling by the Trump administration – Broadway has been closed. Production on Film, Commercial and Television sets were put on pause, AND both Union’s Trustees have jacked up their Health Insurance requirements to the point where, most of the members will not be able to make their ‘minimum’ to get coverage. We are all quickly moving to the the elimination of the working class actor, which is incredibly sad.

Now, AEA’s health insurance is measured in weeks – how many weeks of work you have (minimum 11 per calendar year) gets you 6 months of Health Insurance. If you work 19 weeks per year or more (Broadway Contract), you have a year’s worth of Health Insurance.

By the way – please note that even if you are a Broadway performer, once you have ‘worked’ your 19 weeks – you do not get ‘extra credits’ towards your health insurance for the next year – your extra weeks and the money they still take without qualm from Producers, goes to supporting those members who have worked less but still qualify for insurance.

SAG/AFTRA’s health insurance is based on money earned per quarter, per year.

The Health Care plans are primarily what this fight is about because…people need to be covered. Particularly given that we are in a pandemic and healthcare costs – which have always operated well above what should be allowed – are skyrocketing.

Therefore, to be covered by SAG/AFTRA, your wage earnings must meet $25,950 or 100 days of work.

In addition, SAG/AFTRA wants you to pay a premium per month of $125 if you are single. Your premium per month goes up if you have dependents.

So for working actors who are members of SAG, you likely need to book at least 1 if not 3 National Commercials and hope that they are not kidding you and it changes to Cable or Internet usage, a few Guest Star roles, or get bumped up to Recurring on a long running show where the writers like you, or…be Brad Pitt.

Good luck with that!

For ‘working actors’ of AEA, you need, very likely, a Broadway contract, or an Off Broadway Contract for short runs at prestigious theaters, or solid Regional theater work – like being in a production of “Christmas Carol” that starts in September somewhere out of town.

Otherwise, as a Stage Actor – you are not going to get insurance. As a Stage Manager, you chances of making your insurance minimum is better – and as Stage Managers really are the glue of theater, their employment record is ‘better’ than actors. It is entirely possible to make a good living as an SM.

SAG/AFTRA has more members, and because of that, they do have more money and more clout and…with the Pandemic, as producers are turning to ‘filmed’ stage shows – and THAT, oh AEA, is where we kind of ‘showed our ass’.

Because AEA has for years, talking decades now – made it so impossible to film live stage shows in New York, that Producers have flown entire companies to OTHER COUNTRIES – Canada, U.K. – to film a ‘live’ stage show for broadcast.

SPONGE BOB – you loved it on Nickelodeon, filmed in the U.K.

AMERICAN IN PARIS – you loved it on Great Performances – filmed in the U.K.

JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR was filmed in Brooklyn, by a Television Network – so that is different. It was filmed live for television. By theater people, yes – they did not do it under AEA.

They did it under SAG/AFTRA.

So did HAMILTON for Disney+, DIANA for Netflix, the TONY Awards, and the MACY’S THANKSGIVING PARADE.

AEA members are concerned – and should be – about not ‘making their weeks’ to get coverage. AEA wants to film live stage shows make it ‘easier’ for their members to keep contributing to their weeks- and so ‘Bigger, Sister Union, SAG/AFTRA” offered them a ‘waiver’ which AEA has rejected.

According to AEA – SAG/AFTRA has gone to the vendors (aka Producers, Production Companies) and negotiated rates and contracts to allow their members to continue working or resume working – and neatly substituted themselves into the realm of The Broadway.

Where they already were, because…filming.

Something AEA has long been against.

Even the library at Lincoln Center has had to jump through hoops to film, for their archives, Broadway shows – and then, they had to agree to almost an AREA 51 Clearance to put it in the library at Lincoln Center and maintain a stranglehold on who gets to see those filmed shows.

This is when being a purist comes back to bite you in the butt. Because now that AEA needs filming to prop up it’s Pension and Health & Welfare Funds, they need SAG/AFTRA to play nice.

This is like watching that scene in Stagedoor between Terry and Jean – one wants to go to Hollywood and live under a contract with the film studios and one wants to possibly be poor all her life and do ‘art’. The disdain with which each views the other’s choice is blatant and clear – and has parallels here.

SAG/AFTRA sent over a waiver, that they – apparently out of the goodness of their hearts and not after long months of negotiating – ahem- that they feel is a good offer to get AEA through this crisis.

AEA has NO MEANS AVAILABLE to do what they normally do – which is cover Stage Managers and Actors who engage in live performance. AEA needs this deal, and they are not in the primary position, because the jurisdiction is clear – filming is under SAG/AFTRA.

The Waiver (See the actual verbiage here) that AEA rejected says, in a nutshell that because of the Pandemic SAG/AFTRA will allow shows to be filmed to be streamed or broadcast if they were originally theater productions.

They will grant AEA jurisdiction on that, but there are a few rules –

  1. The waiver would cover anything that falls within the realm of live theater. Readings, staged readings, live streamed performances etc.
  2. It has to look like theater – so no quick editing jumps, no zoom ins, etc
  3. When it is up for sale, people have to be able to purchase it on a restricted platform – they cannot sell it to Netflix or Apple Plus or that kind of thing
  4. You can only film as many works as you own theater spaces simultaneously, because it has to approximate live theater. You cannot go into a theater and see WICKED and then go into a back room in the same theater and see HAMILTON. One show per ‘venue’.
  5. You cannot sell more tickets than you have theater seats in your theater, doubled. So if SIX is in a theater with 890 seats, then you sell those – and double it, but that is it. That is the limit of seats they can sell digitally. You can also not sell them more than the existing 8 shows per week.

As we have seen from HAMILTON – this is restrictive. Because to film a play or a musical effectively – as fully professional production to which you CAN sell tickets- you need to be able to edit it and use closeups. Who is to say what is ‘excessive’ editing. How many ‘cuts’ per scene? Is sound mixing considered editing under this agreement? Where do the musicians unions come in on this issue – is it a recording? Is it a pit orchestra?

So on first glance, it seems like SAG/AFTRA is being somewhat reasonable until you understand they want to it look bad, and they want, in turn, to be able to pull the plug on this the minute they feel like it. They also want to have an Executive Oversight committee to meet regularly and discuss all the ways in which to pull blood from theater’s stone.

So already they are starting in a bad spot, which, honestly – they don’t care.

It is like your older sister allowing you to play with her Barbie Doll and then, in the middle of your play, she swoops in and grabs it back saying it is HERS, it has always been HERS and how DARE you play with it!?!?!

It is the same kind of fighting- it does not help solve anything- and this is a situation that needs solving. Yes, AEA has always had an issue with filming and yes, it is kind of hypocritical to say ‘Well now WE need it, it is ok’- but this is the first pandemic since THE BLACK PLAGUE that has shut the theater- so forgive them if they require wiggle room to adjust.

It is what it is.

So, there is the issue of jurisdiction- clearly SAG/AFTRa is the big dog in the fight. The other issue is that AEA is alleging is that SAG/AFTRA is going around them to deal with Vendors aka Theater Owners and Producers, giving them all sorts of ‘deals’ to keep the productions under the ageis of SAG/AFTRA and not allow AEA a shot at a production deal.

Who does this affect? The Stage Managers.

Which is a HUGE. ASS. DEAL.

Because SM’s are the ‘regular and reliables’ of our Union.

In the theater, once the Creative Teams have ‘left the building’ – aka once the show is “Up”, everything is dependent on the Stage Manager. Stage Managers do a variety of very skilled tasks that include keeping the Actors in tip top order, negotiating with the various departments and making sure things get done, resolving disputes, dealing with injuries, replacement cast members, rehearsals, auditions, dealing with the management company – in short, they are the most important people in the theater.

Without them it all goes to hell in a hand basket.

However once a production goes under SAG/AFTRA, the SM’s are cut out – there are different Unions and Departments all those duties go under – and this is a huge issue.

AEA has also stated, in a letter by Mary McColl (which you can read in it’s entirety via the link, but here is an important snippet) that SAG/AFTRA is deliberately undercutting the SM’s.

So now we are getting to the crux of the matter, as AEA states it – SAG/AFTRA is undercutting the members of AEA and the Union’s ability to negotiate, and that there has been no contributions to AEA’s pension and health which decreases a member’s chance of making their weeks – which, if true, is a crap thing to do.

Because once theater does come back – and no, we do not know what it will look like or when it will actually be – the SM’s are the ONLY ones who are going to know everything needed to get the show up and running. They are the keepers of the “Book” in which every cross, every cue, every everything is written down so that the show can never get it wrong.

They are the difference between ‘winging it’ and saying “Wow, looks like they never left!” as we wait for it all to reopen. Stage Managers are the OG bosses of the theater, and if you do not believe TFP, she will fight you.

So if SAG/AFTRA cuts out the SM’s, but covers the Actors, who are under their jurisdiction and paid for filming at SAG rates, who loses here?

AEA and Stage Managers, that’s who.

The Actors who get to film under the SAG/AFTRA contract are actually ok – they are working and contributing to the SAG/AFTRA health and pension funds, and their rate of pay is higher than AEA’s, and they get residuals.

No work + no health care + no bailout for theatrical professionals of all kinds = people permanently leaving the industry.

However SAG/AFTRA says this is NOT true.

So who to believe?

It does not matter, it just needs to be fixed. That is the truth.

TFP knows both the Unions and the People running them, she considers many of them friends as well as colleagues. She knows that this is a stressful time and money has been extremely hard to come by – and she also knows that Entertainment people are essential workers.

Essential workers for the human spirit, and ‘we’ are necessary because ‘we’ create magic.

Magic helps people escape their circumstances if only for a little while- and when you are trapped in the house unable to escape physically- you rely on Entertainment to keep you sane. This includes all the craftspeople who create what we wear, how we look, the writers, the directors, the producers who fund ‘the dream’- we are ALL Essential Workers!

This has not been acknowledged during this crisis, but what would people have done if they could not stream a favorite show or watch a film? Or Video Games with Professional Actors voicing characters? Or Books on Audio?

They would have gone crazier than a rat in a coffee can, that’s what.

However Entertainment largely relies on the way it makes people ‘feel’ – which is ephemeral. It is hard to quantify.

The ability – whether on the stage or on the screen – to make the general public laugh or cry is one that is shared by both AEA and SAG/AFTRA members.

We specialize in the imagination and bringing things both unimaginable and within reality’s realm, to life. It is not, ‘I am more talented!’ Or ‘I am more beautiful!’ Or ‘Mine requires more actual skill!’ – it is the SAME ART FORM! The exact same one.

The infighting has to stop.

She does believe that AEA is having it’s members undercut – although she does not think it is SAG/AFTRA that is doing it. Are they entirely free of guilt by association? No. The need to undercut production usually is not a Union grown idea, because it does not benefit them.

Likely, it is the Producers themselves. Because it is always, always, always the one whose money is being spent on the production, who is in charge.

The producers are the ones in the best position right now – although it may not seem it. They are the ones with the money – and money right now, is tight. People are willing to negotiate, that cannot be denied. They do not want to lose any more money, so they are lowballing to try and make up for being closed the past few months.

Don’t hate the player, hate the game.

They are probably, basing it on past difficulties with shooting through AEA, approaching SAG/AFTRA and saying “Hey, I want to do it – but….BUT…I only have this much money and so now I need the Indie Film Contract to do it. I mean, we are FILMING right? Which falls under YOUR jurisdiction, doesn’t it?”

It is pretty much the same tactic that Producers used to say, keep the 99 Seat LA Theater Contract going for umpteen years, and the Off Broadway Wages at like, $300 per week for over a decade, Oh, we can’t afford an increase” “Theater will die if you make us pay the actor’s living wages”

So dramatic.


Did theater die? No.

What does that tell you?

SAG/AFTRA has all kinds of budgets within it that allow for filming at almost every level. TFP knows this because she has been an Indie Assoc Producer on SAG/AFTRA projects, and because she knows how tenuous the grip SAG/AFTRA has on actual projects. They do not have have a lot of power here – the only thing they ‘own’ in this situation, is the jurisdiction.

Undercutting the production itself does not help SAG/AFTRA in the long run – because as they are a bigger union, they have bigger bills. They would be working against their own self interests to take away residuals and pension contributions.

They want to keep production in the United States, and they want to encourage creatives with dreams, so TFP can see how they would allow people to operate – during this most hideous of times – under contracts that, frankly, are not appropriate for the situation.

She also thinks that they likely did not try and hash this out with AEA because they too, had no idea how things were going to proceed, and when you have 4x the members and have just announced that – like a**holes, you are going to throw most of them off their health care during a pandemic – they might have had a few things going on.

She does not think that they would knowingly try and take away a living from Stage Managers, but if a Producer contracts under an Indie Film budget, then that producer is likely pawning off what would be considered Production Assistant wages to Stage Managers under the assumption that the SM’s do know, that SM’s are not ‘required’ under SAG/AFTRA contracts. That the SM’s would take the job because they need ‘something’ coming in, and they will suck it up.

Which is why everyone needs to come together and stop throwing mud.

We are in a sh*t situation.

Get that? A sh*t situation.

TFP wants to help.

She does not disbelieve anyone, she also does not believe everything.

TFP is going to write a waiver and the Unions can check it over with their legal departments and stop fighting and start getting past this situation. Then they are going to agree to it, because this has to end – put it in fancier language, but this way, people get to work.

SAG/AFTRA is going to be fine because filming in LA and elsewhere on television shows etc, has already begun. Wages and dues are coming in, along with their contributions to Health and Pension – and since they have all but thrown everyone – including by the way, Hillary Swank, who is now suing them for not covering her health issues – she is only a Academy Award Winner, wtf OFF the health care plan, they will eventually have a surplus – but AEA is NOT going to be fine.

As long as live performance is ended and there is no vaccine, it is for all intents and purposes, dead.

Dead Unions do not help this country. Dead Unions are how the billionaires relegate us all to serfs.

Here is TFP’s suggestion.

The following waiver is extended by SAG/AFTRA to it’s sister union, AEA, for the next six months, and will be examined and renewed at the end of the six months due to extenuating circumstances surrounding the COVID 19 pandemic. Should, prior to six months, this national crisis change, a re-examination will occur, as overseen by an agreed upon committee.

This offer is extended in good faith and seeks to alleviate the suffering of AEA members, many of whom are also SAG/AFTRA members.

  1. That any performance based on a stage production, including live streams, be allowed. We waive our jurisdiction. The contracts issued will be under AEA, in order that they maintain their Union, their Health Fund, and their need to protect their members.
  2. That the need to edit, and provide optimal appearance of professionalism at the highest level in order to facilitate ticket sales, is understood, and SAG/AFTRA does not limit the amounts of edits or sound design allowed a production.
  3. That tickets sales to these events, not be sold to a platform such as Netflix etc, however the limit of tickets sold to these live streamed events be allowed to be 4x the number of seats in the venue. With the understanding that the third time the tickets of the venue are sold, the Producers agrees to make a contribution to AEA’s Pension and Health fund of half the ticket sales, and the 4th time the ticket sales are split between the the Producer and the Actors in lieu of residuals – AEA does not have the right to mandate residuals, as that remains under the SAG/AFTRA jurisdiction.
  4. That the Producers agree to only show these filmed events in accordance to the number of venues that they currently rent or own.
  5. The Producers may not show events more than the current Broadway schedule allows, meaning 8 shows a week is the maximum.
  6. That SAG/AFTRA will not allow high caliber productions to be filmed under Low Budget film contracts, and in order to maintain the high standards of the Broadway production worked, that a Broadway Stage Manager is required to be on set, and be paid the rate that they would be paid per week as per AEA wage structure in order to insure continuity and safety for AEA members.

TFP has read the letters, she has seen the back and forth claims and counter claims – at the end of the day, the Unions have to work this out. Stage actors and SM’s need a Union. Film, Tv, Radio Performers need a Union.

“We” need one another or we are not going to make it. If AEA goes down, they have a blueprint about how to take out SAG/AFTRA – everyone will be hired as an independent contractor and there will be no benefits, no pensions – that is where we are.

Artists can afford one another some dignity. We can choose to show clemency. We can not sweat the small stuff – because at the end of the day – none of these streamed performances are going to take the place of live theater. Not one.

If SAG/AFTRA has AEA’s back – then it will all circle around again, back to normal.

If not, TFP does not know what is going to happen – but the Producers will win – they always do – this is a known thing.

Two Performance Unions are better than one.

TFP out.