The Screen Actors Guild Election of 2004:  My Candidacy for the National Board and Hollywood Division:    home

Positions | Record of Past Service | Log of Campaign Events : September 4, 2004 |

Positions:

Anti-Merger with AFTRA under any of the past scenarios presented.  Open-minded about future efforts.

Anti-2004 theatrical contract extension.  Why abandon the strategic advantage of essentially co-terminus contracts with the Screen Writers Guild, West?  The supposed "gains" were not worth the bargaining leverage lost.  Union Bargaining 101 was ignored here.  Why?

Pro-Elimination of Three-Background-Voucher Method of Union Entry.  This system has been a cancer on the union for years.  It is inherently corrupting and hurts members' efforts to get a share of the already-scarce union background work.

Pro-Efforts to deal affirmatively with the unequal playing field presented by many instances of foreign production (especially Canada) competing with US production.

Record of Past Service:

Committee work began immediately after joining in 1992. 

Ran successfully for the Board the first year I was eligible in 1994. Won as the highest vote getter that year in Hollywood. 

Re-elected in 1997, and 2000. 

Ran unsuccessfully for president in 2002.

Author of nearly a score of research studies, procedural challenges and critiques taking on such matters as election vote allocation, director replacement procedures, name duplication procedures, theatrical contract bargaining positions, etc. 

Produced a documentary video of an annual EEOC Career Day event hosted at USC and organized by me.

Committees: EEOC, Guild Government Review, Background Actors, Name Duplication

Log of Campaign Events:

July 14, 2004: I filed my candidacy documents at SAG HQ at about 2:00 pm.  I wanted to attend the Membership First meeting at the Stella Adler Theater this afternoon at 3:00 pm. on the Hasbro waiver, present source of much controversy, but could not because of a prior commitment.  All reports I have read on the Hasbro waiver, which preemptively surrenders members' individual rights to negotiate compensation for use of their earlier performances in newly-produced Hasbro commercials in exchange for Hasbro contributions to the Industry health clinics that serve SAG members, is that it's yet another example of the sort of ill-conceived concessions to the producers that do not serve the membership's interests.

August 14, 2004:  Unpublished letter to the LA Times Calendar Section Editor that I sent in response to two pieces: 1) a review of the Royce Hall performance of the all-women, Chinese classical music group, 12 Girls Band, and 2) my take on the recent effort to screen D.W. Griffith's "The Birth of A Nation" in Los Angeles:

Editor:
 
I was among the full house at Royce Hall for 12 Girls Band on Thursday, August 12.  Dan Heckman's review reflected my reaction to the performance though I fear he was treading lightly for fear of cultural offense, especially given the wildly enthusiastic response of the overwhelmingly Asian audience there that night.
 
I'm African American, but I've lived in the Asia/Pacific region, have many Asian friends, the rest of the litany that's mandatory today before comments like the following about an ethnic-specific event involving an ethnicity not one's own:
 
The group appears to have been assembled and packaged as a "pop/novelty/eye candy" act.  The group, as their eponymous name indicates, is all female. Why? The women are too uniformly young and pretty for their assembly to have come out of anything like a "blind" audition process one might see for putting together a serious, modern, Western, classical orchestra.  But, there's nothing new in packaging pop groups on looks first and musicianship second, if at all. And mind you, I really enjoyed them.  So what's my beef?
 
Well, as Heckman observed, these women clearly are fine musicians.  The potential for this band being on the cutting edge of the awakening of Western audiences to the richness and wonder of Chinese classical music is tremendous.  But, their presentation at Royce allowed them far too little opportunity, aside from the very short, isolated "Leonard Bernstein-teaches-you-about-the-orchestra-style music appreciation moments when they could really "cook."
 
Most of their performance, apparently confined to what was most compatible to the relentless back-up tapes, involved Suzuki-Saturday-night-recital-like unison playing that must be hell to play night after night for such gifted artists.  Western audiences will appreciate these women as musicians and they should be given the artistic space to perform as such here, even if that is not part of their marketing in Asia.  Western music, even classical music, but certainly jazz and rock, thrives on a conversational approach to performance.  One instrument, or player gets a theme going, another takes it up and transforms it, a third shades it yet another way, then perhaps they coalesce around a given harmony or  tension.  That's what makes music exciting, that conversation. 
 
These women rarely look at one another as they play.  They gaze directly at the audience with a Stepfordian uniformity of smiles, much as a group of court musicians would look at the nobility for whom they're playing, mindful only of pleasing their patrons, not one another, not themselves.  Though entertaining, even fascinating, it was also disturbing in a way only life in Asia can explain.  This is a group designed to please, to entertain to be sure, but not by one who is one's equal or possibly even one's superior as any great artist is, to the likes of me certainly, and to most of the rest of us in my experience.  This band of 12 "girls" is not designed to challenge anything or anyone.
 
So, Las Vegas would appear to be their natural home, and if I were managing this band, I'd book them into the biggest showroom I could get there, Mandalay Bay or that room "Celine" and "Elton" work at Caesar's.  Lots of dry ice, lights, several costume changes, dragons, cute patter in Mandarin with simultaneously-translated supertitles above the stage, opera style.  I'd insist on getting that sort of gig for the week of Lunar New Year.  They simply can't miss.  I state unapologetically, that I'd pay big money to see that show.
 
But when these women play, when they really play, and the erhu players make tears come to your eyes with their plaintive human crys, you see how much more they could be, how very much more they could say about China, about themselves, about all of us.
 
I hope they get that chance.
 
Now, about "The Birth of a Nation":
 
I just think it's a shame that I had to go to Paris to see this stomach-churningly racist, but undeniably-artful, groundbreaking film.  I saw it at the Cinematheque Francaise in the 1980's when they did a big Lillian Gish "homage."  I also got to see Miss Gish in person along with some of her other films including "Orphans of the Storm," "Way Down East," and "The Wind."  Bless the French!  It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I was grateful for the opportunity.  Bless Peace Corp too.  It was my ticket abroad.
 
I think the real danger Confederate Griffith's film posed early in the 20th century, when lynchings of black folk were a weekly, and often several-per-week fixture of  American life, is not present today.  That is not to say the film can be merely viewed as a historical curiosity.  That would be naive to the point of criminal negligence.  But it should be viewable and viewed here.  I thought that was what all the carnage in Iraq was supposed to be safeguarding.
 
As I said in these pages a couple of years ago, "Monsters Ball" is, for my money, as unrealistic and distorting a portrayal of contemporary race relations in the Old South as "Birth" was in its time.  And "Monster's Ball" has a lot more potential to spawn present-day racial mischief.  But "Monsters Ball"  got no bomb threats directed at its screenings and was one of the critics' darlings.
 
It's so much easier to be self-righteous against Mr. Griffith and Miss Gish who are no longer around to defend themselves and their work, than it is to call the very-much-with-us Mr. Thornton and Ms. Berry to account for theirs.   
 
Eugene Boggs,
music fan (World and otherwise), movie fan (silents and talkies), unemployed culture vulture and former SAG board member.
 
My phone no. is 310-216-5758, cellular: 310-733-6977. 

 

August 28, 2004:  I received my ballot in the mail and realized that my Uniform Resource Locator (aka URL or web address) had been entered on the candidates' brochure incorrectly.  I decided to send Michelle Bennett, SAG's National Director of  Governance the following letter:

Dear Michelle:
 
The text of my campaign statement is flawed in a way that puts me at a disadvantage to other candidates.  I included the URL for my website: www.eugene-boggs.com.
 
It has been printed in the Voters Guide as "www.eugene-
boggs.com," i.e., with the first part of the URL a line above the second part.  To a reader unacquainted with my site the URL appears to be www.eugeneboggs.com with the "dash" simply indicating the word break to move to the next line.  Going to the latter URL will not connect to my site. 
 
What concerns me about this error is that there is no apparent reason for it that would be a matter of chance or inadvertence.  The text I submitted personally to your office had my URL all on one line where the dash as part of it was clear and all staff at SAG now, I am sure, know that URLs are read literally by computers typically allowing  for no variances except letter case choice ("UPPER" and "lower" being read the same).  See the text as I sent it to your office below in the post script.
 
Do those words, "chance" and "inadvertence" sound familiar to you in the context of previous election irregularities at SAG?  They should.  If not, please review the files on the Grodin Report.  Notice the "coincidence' that the irregularities also involved me as a candidate.)
 
If the word break was necessary, it, at least, should have read "www.eugene--
boggs."  Still,  that is confusing as well.  But, clearly, no such word break was necessary.  There was plenty of room within my text space to include the whole URL, unbroken, on the last line of my statement.
 
It appears, rather, that a deliberate, too-clever-by-half, effort was made to frustrate and sabotage voters in going to my website for more information about me and my candidacy.
 
Obviously, I want an explanation, immediately.  Yes, it is unlikely in a post-election protest to the Department of Labor, that I shall be able to prove (should I not win a three-year national seat) that, but for this apparent chicanery, I would have placed higher than I place (wherever that may be), but that makes this no less reprehensible as election practice in a supposedly democratic union.   Since I am not slated, perhaps the thinking was, I could make little trouble since I have no political faction backing me.  Think again.  I am certainly going to research other legal remedies besides the Labor Department complaint.
 
With no remedy possible now, since the ballots are out, my only recourse will be to go public with the strongest possible condemnation of SAG's election administration that I can muster should an acceptable explanation and remedy not be forthcoming. 
 
Thank you for your attention to this matter, and I look forward to your prompt reply.
 
Yours sincerely,
 
 
Roy Eugene Boggs, Jr.
 
P.S.
 
SCREEN ACTORS GUILD, ELECTION 2004, CANDIDATEíS STATEMENT OF EUGENE BOGGS:

B.A., Harvard; J.D., U.C. Berkeley; licensed CA attorney since 1976,

specialty: employment/labor law. Former SAG Board member, 1994 -

2002. Iím told Iím supposed to apologize because Iíve made my living

mostly as a lawyer, not an actor. I wonít. Historically, my legal

background has served the membership well. Now, I think our union

needs me again: fighting for stronger contracts, against ruinous waivers;

pushing for greater union democracy and more rank-and-file

involvement, not less; opposing any instance of corruption or collusion.

Iíd be honored to serve. Visit: www.eugene-boggs.com

September 3, 2004:  I received the e-mail from the Hollywood Division Elections Committee announcing that corrective action with respect to my candidate's statement and others would be taken. 

September 4, 2004:  I received my copy of the corrective "Message" in the mail.  If you have come to this site as a result of getting the corrective mailer, welcome, and thank you for inquiring as to my candidacy.  If you see my efforts in this regard as "frivolous" and "wasteful" (as I'm sure those who oppose my candidacy will so characterize this initiative) then I won't get your vote.  If, on the other hand, you see what I've done as fully consistent with my abiding focus on internal union democracy, then perhaps you'll consider supporting me, even if it requires sending for a replacement ballot. 

The forces in the staff and board  currently in control of SAG policy have a consistent attitude and approach to rank-and-file participation in Guild governance: decrease it: by lessening the number of members who can vote and who can be candidates for Guild office, by making elections as indirect as possible, by decreasing the frequency of elections.  All these assaults on democracy as portrayed as "cost cutting" measures.  Well, so they are.  That cannot be denied since dictatorship is, by its nature, more "efficient" than democracy.  But it's a penny-wise-pound-foolish sort of efficiency which will cost you a voice and active role in your union, and active member participation in the very life's blood of trade unionism.  Visit the website of the heroic Association for Union Democracy at www.uniondemocracy.org to learn more. 

Turning the Screen Actors Guild into a sort of "auto club for actors" serves the interests of administrators and jaded elected leaders who see you as the ignorant "Great Unwashed" whose participation in union affairs is an annoyance at best and, at worst, a real hindrance to leadership efforts to forge as non-confrontational and collusive  a relationship with Industry management as possible, what they see as "constructive" and "pragmatic" labor policy.  Those of us who do not share this view, who, indeed, see it as the short route to ruin for scripted performers in recorded media, must simply be purged from any role in union governance.  Hence the calls for qualified voting, draconian, poll-tax-like restrictions on candidacy, indirect election of union officers, elections every two, three or four? years instead of annually on a staggered basis.  All these initiatives come from one side of the debate within the SAG community and they are all of a piece.  They are, ironically, presented by several members who have high national profiles as progressive "small d" democrats on other issues, but they are the most hidebound of "Tories" on democracy within the Guild.

If this explanation for my request that your dues money be spent on the recent corrective mailer you received makes sense to you, I hope you'll consider or reconsider giving me your support in this election.  There is still time to do so.  This is my second chance in this election.  Our Guild may have no such second chance if a clear message is not sent by the membership in this election, that the current policy direction must be changed, and changed now.

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