I have been a member of The Screen Actors Guild almost thirty years. As unions go it’s not a bad group. They spend my dues on politically correct crap I don’t agree with. To the best of my knowledge the union has never supported a political candidate for whom I would vote. A lot of the better known members scream for a government takeover of healthcare but do not pressure the union to adopt a policy which would allow actors who work less access to the union plan. At the same time thousands of paid up members continue to chip in with their dues to support richer member’s benefits. Exactly the opposite of what they would like the government to do.
A lot of my slack jawed knuckle-dragging conservative friends ask me why I am a member. If I ever want to work in film or television again I have to be a union member. The “art” for television and film making is a closed shop. I do get a really cool card to carry around in my wallet and I get to vote on the SAG Awards every year. Getting to vote on the SAG Awards has a great perk; I get screener copies of a number of the nominated movies. Most of them are films which I would never pay $12 to see in a theater. I usually see a lot of films that get nominated for awards on ships or airplanes when I have a lot of down time to kill.
For example, I recently saw “Inglourious Basterds” on a plane. I thought the first scene was compelling and then the movie disintegrated into mess which couldn’t decide if it was a farce or Sam Peckinpah homage.
I understand that the vast majority of folks in my profession don’t agree with me when it comes to politics or art. Many of the films that get nominated for awards make less money than General Motors and that isn’t easy. Also, in Awardville, making money and entertaining people are almost grounds for disqualification from receiving accolades unless, like James Cameron, you throw in an anti-American undercurrent. Then, of course there is the question of values in films. The liberal elites that run the entertainment industry tend to “pooh-pooh” films that have what they consider to be pedestrian middle class values. Apple pie, motherhood, traditional marriage, fidelity and patriotism are a one way ticket to being ignored. Putting a gay couple, a woman with a stripper pole and a heroin problem or anything that says America is the bad guy at the center of your film means a seat up front at the Kodak Theater in April.
This is probably why the two best films I saw in 2009, “Up” and “The Blind Side” got a total of one SAG Award nomination. They both managed to get one award at the “People’s Choice” show, and one nomination for “The Blind Side” at the Golden globes and Two in minor categories for “Up.” I have a feeling that not a lot of other nominations will be coming for those two great films.