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    Posted November 28, 2006

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Equity's Memorandum of Understanding: Works For Me

By Barbara Pinolini, AEA Member

Barbara Pinolini

In the current climate of job uncertainty, maintaining a viable performance career can be a challenge. Opportunities come and go and our unions seem to be in a constant state of flux. It is especially frustrating when you find yourself in the situation of being just 1 or 2 weeks shy of reaching your Equity health weeks goal. For some members, assistance may be found in the "Memorandum of Understanding" - a new addition to the Business Theatre and Events Contract.

I am proud to be the first member in the country to work under this agreement.

Our Traveling Business Rep, Joe Erdey, introduced the memorandum at our annual membership meeting this summer in Washington, DC. I responded immediately, knowing it was the kind of agreement that would compliment the variety of acting work that I pursue within the corporate/business world. I had a conversation with Joe after the meeting to get the specifics and take a look at the addendum. The next day, I approached a producer who planned to hire me for a future project.

Corporations and businesses most often employ actors as Independent Contractors, with no taxes removed from the fee and no benefits for the worker. Working under the memorandum, you have the advantage of receiving all the benefits and protection that our union offers AND you can negotiate your fee with your employer. What actor doesn't appreciate the opportunity to craft his/her own wages?

The whole process was easy. (The most difficult part is getting the job!)
First, I came to an agreement with the producer on what my fee would be (keeping in mind Pension/Health contributions, dues and per diem/travel). Second, I initiated a conversation with a pay service (they will process the taxes, social security, unemployment insurance, etc. and cut your check; remember they charge a fee for this service). Third, I contacted Willie Boston, the Equity Business Rep in my region. That's it!

It helped that I had an existing relationship with a local producer and pay service (many actors who work under SAG and AFTRA's contracts often do). My only comment is that the memorandum is lengthy and some employers may not understand the specifics. A producer may hesitate to sign knowing that some of the contractual conditions don't apply to that particular job.

But, I encourage those interested in pursuing career opportunities in Business Theatre to take a look at the Memorandum online and contact the Business Rep in your region with your questions and thoughts. I plan to use it as often as I can. Perhaps it will open up a new path in your career.

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