Posted July 23, 2008
AEA's Website: Ten Years and Going Strong!
By Craig A Meyer, Eastern Chorus Councillor
On the last day of the National Plenary of 1997, I stood up to present a proposal during the New Business portion of the meeting. My idea turned out to be provocative and controversial: Actors' Equity needed a website!
After I completed my two uninterrupted minutes, several Council members called for time. Reluctantly, I began to sit down. But before I was seated, I felt someone grab my arm and drag me back to me feet. The steady hand belonged to my dear friend and Equity Legend, Iggie Wolfington. For the next few minutes, Iggie urged the Council to be open-minded about this burgeoning technology. Iggie knew about leadership, as a strong advocate for such Equity mainstays as our health and pension plans and bonding protection. Once he was done, he yielded the floor to me and I completed my presentation.
Next I fielded questions from the floor. Among the concerns-in 1997-were that not enough people in the Union had access to a computer, or even owned a computer. Some felt it was an unnecessary expense and would not provide a meaningful return on investment. Others weren't interested in creating more work for our new IT department. Ultimately, after a lengthy discussion, Council established the Ad Hoc Committee for our website, and I was elected Chair.
The next 18 months were a blur of activity as we sought to define our goals, create the site architecture and provide content.
Then, on August 4, 1998, ActorsEquity.org went LIVE! Thanks to the efforts of many individuals including Alan Eisenberg, Guy Pace and especially Doug Beebe, the first phase of the website was up and running!
Within a matter of weeks, our "hits" began to multiply, as more and more members began to connect with us on the internet. A few months later, in October the "crown jewel" of the website, Casting Call, went into operation. Boom, our hits exploded.
Since its inception, Casting Call has been a tremendous benefit to Actors who have instant access to audition information regardless of where they reside in the country. The number of auditions posted and the millions of hits by actors and stage managers looking for work in the last ten years have made this the most valuable tool of ActorsEquity.org.
The website was redesigned in 2000, as we added more features. Then on March 4, 2004, we introduced our Members Only section. Within this restricted access portion of the site, members can find a bounty of benefits that comes with membership. Some of the most popular features are: the Document Library, where members can access rulebooks, salary rates, Stage Manager forms and Deputy information; our discount section, where members save money on a health, fitness, tickets, car rentals, computers and other offers; and our online agency and theatre directories for lists of current franchised agents and Equity theatres. Today, more than 27,000 members are registered. If you haven't signed up, just log-on to our homepage, click on the Members Only icon and follow our tutorial.
In the last couple of years, we have expanded the Members Only section to include some incredible money saving and "green" features. Among them: paperless voting for our annual elections, online dues payments, as well as electronic calls to meetings and online Council Minutes. These latest additions have saved the Union thousands of dollars in paper costs and postage fees, decreasing the countless pages of paper that would have been headed for the land fill. In the past two years, over $2.4 million dollars in dues have been processed electronically.
On the communications front, ActorsEquity.org was a crucial resource during the Local 802 musicians' strike in 2003, and the Local One IATSE stagehands strike of 2007. In addition to posting press releases and official statements, members stayed informed of strike benefits available to them, when and where meetings were being held, and the status of negotiations. More recently, members were kept up-to-date during our own Production Contract negotiations.
In 2006, the website was redesigned and enhanced in a joint effort by Communications Director David Lotz and IT Director Doug Beebe. As more and more members surf the web, it continues to be the keystone of Equity's communications strategy.
What's next? This fall, we will add a section for our Area Liaisons, so members who reside outside of Equity's office cities can get better connected to the Union. Also planned are improvements to Members Only, an interactive Centennial section (anticipating our 100th Anniversary), and mobile-friendly enhancements for members on-the-go.
Most of all, ActorsEquity.org was created to be a tool for our members. Based on what I hear from fellow actors, and my own personal usage, ActorsEquity.org is a success!
I am humbled to have spearheaded this venture and look forward to your suggestions on how we can serve you better in the next decade. You may reach me at email@example.com.
Thank you in advance for your dedicated use of the site and your input for the future.
Craig A. Meyer