The Playgoer: Showcase Showdown

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Showcase Showdown

My very first proper "feature" article is out today, in the Voice.

Subject: that ol' Equity Showcase code. You may have already been reading about it here, and here, and here, here, and assorted other blogs and chatrooms. And this article may admittedly seem nothing new to you if you have. But at 600-odd words, I hope it can at least serve as a primer of sorts to give the issue itself wider exposure and explain to more theatre loving folk the basics of what's going on.

So many issues didn't make it into the final cut--AEA members' concerns about health insurance, the role of fringe festivals, to name just a couple--and there are also some different proposed remedies than the ones I cite from ART/NY. But if you're really interested in getting into it, just follow those links above.

I also want to express gratitude here for all those actors, directors, producers, playwrights that put aside time to talk or email with me who didn't get metioned or quoted explicitly. (You know who you are. I'll preserve your anonymity.) All these conversations helped enormously in my understanding of the issue, even if the final edit may smooth over some of the complexities a bit.

I also would like to encourage lots of comments, corrections, challenges and general feedback to the article. Even better--please comment on! (Click on "Write a Comment" at the bottom of the screen.) It would be great if the editors there saw how strongly people felt both about this issue and just the presence of more theatre reportage in the paper, something I credit my arts editor Brian Parks with seeking out.

Finally, if you're wondering just what the Showcase code is? Well, happy reading.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen this topic ever mentioned, but since I read this paragraph, I wondered who's taking care of collecting foreign levies for US playwrights -- if it's the WGA, we're in trouble:

from the sister pub, LA WEEKLY:

"At the very least, unaffiliated writer William Applegate Jr. should have been informed that the WGA was going to go after his money — and was also going to decide who, besides him, should get most of it. But Applegate, the true author of The Silencers and all of his other films, never knew because, incredibly, the guild rarely communicates with the thousands of nonmembers who write books, stage plays, material for the Internet, and TV shows, as well as screenplays for the better-known Hollywood productions typically scripted by WGA members.

It was because of U.S. acceptance of the Berne treaty, as well as the emergence of satellite, cable, videocassettes and DVDs, and the ease of digital theft over the Internet, that the concept of “foreign levies” was born. To ensure that an author gets his due, Berne Convention nations established so-called collecting societies: agencies convened, supervised and sanctioned by each country specifically to collect revenue due any author for his rightful share of any use of his work — and to get that money to him as quickly as possible.

The German collecting society, which paid William Applegate’s foreign levies, for example, is very specific about its duty to screenwriters: to provide for royalty payment to authors of films shown over cable TV. Similarly, Spain made La Sociedad General de Autores y Editores responsible for getting Applegate his money for airings of The Silencers. Argentina sanctioned the collecting society Argentores to pay Applegate for his seminal role in delivering Anna Nicole Smith’s dulcet dialogue to the unsuspecting TV audiences of Buenos Aires.

But none of these collecting societies are labor unions. Their purpose is solely to get authors’ money to authors, regardless of their union affiliation or national origin. Thus, when the WGA and the DGA first approached the collecting societies in 1990 shortly after the U.S. signed on to the Berne Convention, proposing that the guilds disburse that money on behalf of U.S. authors, it spawned the fundamental complaint now facing these guilds in Richert’s lawsuit: that neither guild can legally speak on behalf of writers or directors who aren’t guild members."