by A.J. Catoline
Photos by Scott Sebring
When members are awake and aware, a union is strong.
Solidarity remained on display at the Motion Picture Editors Guild Town Hall Meeting on Saturday morning, April 13 at the Harmony Gold Theatre in West Hollywood, a block away from the Guild offices on Sunset Boulevard.
Nearly 200 Guild members came to hear the “State of the Union” from National Executive Director Cathy Repola, who said, “Our union is more engaged and more enthusiastic than ever before.” A PowerPoint presentation entitled “A Membership Awoken” was displayed on the theatre’s large screen. The meeting went over the two-hour schedule as members enthusiastically asked questions and shared comments and ideas on a variety of issues.
MPI Pension & Health Plans
At the outset, Repola confronted concern about the Motion Picture Industry (MPI) Pension Plan. The annual report mailed to participants by MPI disclosed that the pension funding percentage has ticked down to 66.8% — a drop of more than half a point from the prior year. “This is cause for justifiable concern,” stressed Repola, “and something on which we need to continue to stay diligently focused.”
She assured members the plan is certified to be in the “Green Zone,” the legal threshold under federal guidelines in which the MPI actuary projects the plan will be in five years, with above 80% funding. However, Repola presented this clear-eyed analysis: “It is our responsibility during negotiations to secure additional funding from the producers to bolster revenue streams.”
Union members are working more hours than ever before. “This is good,” she continued, “however, more hours being reported does not fix the long-term funding problem of the pension plan. We did not propose an increase in the pension hourly contribution rate,” adding that the next contract negotiations in 2021 will be “imperative to achieve new residual streams” from so-called New Media streaming.
Repola also made reference to an elephant in the room. Following last year’s contract negotiations, she was removed in October from her
position on the Board of Directors of the MPI Pension and Health Plans by the President of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Matt Loeb. Members viewed this as retaliation for the Guild’s Board of Directors voting unanimously to recommend against ratification of the Basic Agreement. The membership-at-large voted overwhelmingly to do exactly that.
However, Repola saw a silver lining, noting that the Editors Guild has “been really busy,” explaining, “Our committees are more active than ever, providing important needed avenues to enhance member engagement on so many levels. It’s really incredible to witness, and I have made an effort myself to participate in as many as possible. And while Matt Loeb removing me from the Board of Directors of the Plans was absolutely wrong and obviously retaliatory — and Local 700 should absolutely have a Director on the Plans — I can say he freed up an awful lot of time for me to be involved within the membership and to continue our mobilization efforts in a way I may not have had time to fully do otherwise. So maybe I should thank him for that sometime.”
Friendly Engagement with Other IATSE Locals Members
Repola said she would continue enhancing contract education to members in the podcast series “Post Coast-to-Coast,” which is streamed from the website www.EditorsGuild.com.
Some in attendance suggested that Guild members engage with members of the other IATSE locals who make up the West Coast Bargaining Unit, which meets every three years to negotiate the Basic Agreement. Although last year the Editors Guild was the lone holdout among the group, more than 47% of all voting IA members disapproved of the contract.
Members also speculated that there is change in the air, as is a renewed sense of union activism as evidenced by results of elections last month by the script supervisors (IATSE Local 871) and the property craftspersons (IATSE Local 44). The elections demonstrated a healthy union democracy with a larger-than-usual number of these local members voting which resulted in a change in leadership.
Further discussion ensued to encourage union participation by getting to know other IATSE members of the crew on productions, both in person and on social media. “Invite them as your plus-one to union screenings and mixers,” suggested one member. “Getting to know the different issues that the IA crafts face is paramount to creating unity.”
Change the Culture in the Workplace
The Guild’s Membership Outreach Committee organized the Town Hall to create more opportunities for members to directly engage with Guild leaders and Board Members. Committee co-chairs Stephanie Brown and Molly Shock, ACE, addressed the meeting and hoped that a precedent would be set to hold recurring Town Halls in the spring, followed by the General Membership Meeting in the fall.
A recurring theme discussed by members at the meeting and online on the “I Am the Union” Facebook page concerned working long hours — sometimes in excess of 15 hours per day — especially in television on pilots and first seasons.
Repola suggested that members report their experience to the Guild as part of an anonymous survey on the Guild website. In the last contract negotiations, an exception was made for Editors Guild members to receive only nine hours of turnaround time, the rest/break between the end of a shift and the start of the next. The other guilds in production received 10 hours.
Discussions continued regarding the responsibility of members to support each other by writing down overtime hours and meal penalties on timecards. A member suggested that “more leadership and advocacy are needed for yourself and your crew.”
The Membership Outreach Committee also announced plans to organize a roundtable discussion among members to brainstorm strategies to “change the culture in the workplace.” The committee further suggested holding a panel discussion with members who have had success in assertiveness on behalf of their crews as they helped enforce the union contract on the job.
Visual Effects Editing Duties Increasing
Members continue to request that the Guild update classification descriptions as technology and workflow are constantly changing. Many of the classification descriptions in the contract are decades-old, and there remains uncertainty around the workflow of visual effects. Tracking and organizing hundreds of revisions of visual effects shots in film in television — many unnoticed by the casual viewer — have become arduous task that often fall on the shoulders of assistant editors, who are not necessarily compensated extra for this work.
The committee announced that it will hold a roundtable member discussion to determine what precisely is the definition and requirements of a visual effects editor — a position that, ironically, is neither about creating visual effects nor editing.
Committee co-chair Shock said, “It is important for members to know that we have heard them on this issue and we are responding.”
Reports of Guild Committees
Guild President Alan Heim, ACE, introduced the chairpersons of several committees, and they addressed the Town Hall about recent accomplishments and goals. Members were encouraged to serve on committees and to get in touch with ideas and suggestions.
Publications Committee – Oversees publication of CineMontage magazine and the website CineMontage.org. Co-chairs Jeff Burman and A.J. Catoline suggested that some of the best stories are written by members from a their own perspectives, and encouraged them to submit ideas. The regular column “Union Made” is a personal story about how a member started in the industry and joined the Guild, and contributors are always needed to write this column. For more information e-mail Publications@EditorsGuild.com.
Website Committee – Oversees the editorial and technological policies of the Guild website. Co-chairs F. Hudson Miller, MPSE, and John Vitale reported that many improvements have been made to the website, including an advanced search tool and the ability to upload personal resumes. They also proposed incorporating a new feature called “Know Your Worth” that will share data with other members to give better bargaining leverage when making deal memos. For more information, e-mail Website@EditorsGuild.com.
Diversity Committee – Fosters awareness, support, mentoring and networking to promote diversity and inclusion in the Editors Guild. Chairperson Maysie Hoy, ACE, was proud to announce that this is the largest and most active committee ever, and that more members are joining the “Diversity in Post” Facebook page. She shared the stage with the various sub-committee chairs who are planning several events and seminars, including the Women’s Steering Committee, the African-American Steering Committee, the Pan-Pacific and Asian Steering Committee, the LGBTQ Steering Committee, the Latin Steering Committee and the Career & Longevity Steering Committee. For more information, e-mail Diversity@EditorsGuild.com.
Archive & History Committee – Coordinates the Guild’s historical photograph and audio-visual library of interviews with members, as well as pertinent entertainment and union-related footage. Co-chair Sharon Smith Holley spoke about the museum of editorial equipment created at the new Editors Guild Archive room at the Los Angeles office. For more information, e-mail Archive@EditorsGuild.com.
National Training Committee – Oversees budgets and training programs for both the Los Angeles and New York offices. Co-chair Hudson Miller announced that the Dede Allen Seminar Room in Los Angeles has been upgraded with 7.1 sound, an acoustical transparent screen and screening capability. Expanded seminars and workshops are planned on both coasts. For more information, e-mail NationalTraining@EditorsGuild.com.
Going Green in the Workplace
The meeting continued with an extended Q&A session that lasted 90 minutes. Members were very engaged and offered ideas. Assistant editor Isabel Yanes shared how she attended a class on sustainable waste education and suggested that members could work together to recycle and re-use in the workplace, especially with all the to-go food containers thrown in the trash on a daily basis. This segued into another important topic.
Lunch Is Not a Luxury
Repola reminded members that a lunch break is not a luxury, it’s a contractual
requirement. “If you don’t have time to take a break, write down a meal penalty,” said Repola. Members suggested supporting each other in asserting this stipulation in the Basic Agreement. Another suggested that if the post-production crew members joined together each day to have lunch at a restaurant or the studio canteen, they would achieve the purpose of uniting and discussing issues and not using take-out containers — a win-win!
Tacos and Craft Beer
Speaking of lunch, after the meeting wrapped, the members walked the short distance back to the Guild parking lot at 7715 Sunset, where they they found a taco truck with home-made tortillas and fresh salsa waiting for them. They enjoyed music spun by DJ and Guild Organizer Preston Johnson. Publications Director and Editor of CineMontage Tomm Carroll shared his extensive knowledge of craft beer, providing tastes of many different styles of brews from around the world.
The members of the Editors Guild continued their discussion and networked under the warm LA sun, continuing to stay woke and engaged.