Tonight’s President and National Councillor’s report is going to be a little different, as you all know – tonight is my last AGM at the podium –  so although I should give you a run down on what has taken place since last year – I would prefer to give you a highlight reel of the last six years – things that I am particularly proud of and want to share. 

I will start with my National Councillor hat on:    The work National – Council and Staff – does is so incredibly prolific it is mind-boggling.  These are the people who keep us working —-  protecting and maintaining our rights and safety on set, dealing with the politics and politicians, opening work opportunities, making sure we get paid now and later,  negotiating hard for our agreements.   And, as we say  – they have our backs! 

I have served with 2 incredible Presidents – Ferne Downey and David Sparrow from Toronto, and now – for just the past two days – the equally incredible Eleanor Noble from Montreal.  I have met and worked with probably over 75 fellow performers and “ACTRAvists” who sit and have sat on Council.  This was an amazing opportunity bestowed on me, being your National Councillor.  I learned so much and am in awe of all the performer Councillors across the country who make our union tick. 

I was appointed as Regional Caucus Chair a couple of years ago and did my very best to make sure the needs of the small branches were heard, understood and very often acted upon.  We have made many changes in the past few years and are now a much more cohesive and effective group who share similar issues which are often different from the larger branches – the regional branches in the Caucus are Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ottawa, Maritimes (in Halifax) and Newfoundland. 

I spent much of my early time on Council asking if a training document, or member pamphlet or online info that had the word Toronto in it (because it was produced by ACTRA Toronto), could be re-designed and altered so the smaller branches without the resources could also use it.  And it happened.  We ended up with online training programs and member information programs that are available and relevant to us all.  And now, the Toronto Branch often says things like – “anything we have done you are welcome to use as your own”.  This is significant.

I sit on the Constitution Committee, and although this may not sound like fun, it is probably the most rewarding and revolutionary of my time at ACTRA.  It is tedious work – looking over the basic way we do everything at ACTRA from a member standpoint.  With the very patient guidance of our co-chairs Keith Martin Gordy from BC and David Gale from Toronto, we updated terminology,  strengthened our defense against harassment, and cleaned up the election process.  AND we significantly changed the make-up of National Council to make ACTRA a more unified body across the country:   Every Branch now has a spot on the Executive (before the smaller branches rotated in every 4 years), BC and Montreal are more fairly represented on Council, voting is representative of membership numbers and no one Branch (Toronto) can have a majority regardless of their numbers.  Almost every branch had to offer some compromise to make this happen.  And I am very proud to say I had a major hand in designing and implementing these changes – so I hope they last and work well for years to come.

I sat on the ANWC – ACTRA National Women’s Committee and was instrumental in revising the process for nominating and selecting the Woman of the Year. I will continue to sit on both Committees if it is the wish of our current Council

Our work in Diversity, Equity, Inclusivity and Belonging is forefront in ACTRA’s National agenda.  We added 100,000.00 to the budget last year in order to really commit to action and change.  We have a new full time Director of DEIB  who is there to support the National DEIB Committee and any initiatives from across the country. 

PLUS – our finances at ACTRA National are in hand, even after the disastrous year Covid gave us.  The entire staff at ACTRA – including Marie and Daintry who are here tonight, plus the intrepid Anna Bucci in Toronto and our National Treasurer, Theresa Tova deserve more than a standing ovation for ending the year in a surplus – although there are more challenges to come as we go into recovery mode.

I also want to send a shout out to Rick Skene for his work on the National Stunt Committee.  A few years ago he pitched the idea of a Stunt Hall of Fame for ACTRA National to recognize the pioneers and stars of Canada’s Stunt industry (since their faces rarely get seen).  After many, many meetings and discussions across the country, the Stunt Hall of Fame as a virtual gallery will become reality very soon. 

ALSO – Negotiations are underway for the Commercial Agreement, the IPA is next and the government has to vote in BillC10  – the updating of the very antiquated  Broadcasting ACT – if we are going to keep our stories and our actors forefront on our screens. PLEASE DO YOUR PART any time you have a chance – this one really counts.  You liked the CERB – like the BillC10.

Ok – before I go down a rabbit hole – let it be said that my time as your ACTRA National Councillor  was inspiring, rewarding and informative beyond my expectations.  There is always so much more to know, but please just read the info you get sent from National and help them in their efforts to make our work lives better. 

Now to change to my President’s hat:  To  those of you who are here tonight – thanks so much for showing up! – Showing up tonight, and showing up as Professional performers and ambassadors for our branch whenever you are working. 

At the top of my laundry list of local achievements and events – is our growing membership numbers AND seeing our members appear on screen more and more often and in better and better roles!  We now have 401 Full members. 199 Apprentices and 97 AABP.  The Manitoba Award winner is getting harder to determine because so many productions are putting our members front and center, and all around,  in their movies and tv shows!  I love it!   Of course the vibrancy and growth of our industry and the number of productions shooting here is a huge change from 6 years ago and I just see things going upwards and onwards and with it our membership and the diversity of our membership and the quality of work opportunities for all.  Although they are not here I do thanks all our Manitoba Casting Directors and agencies for working so hard to ensure that we work.

We initiated and designed the Respect on Set program and mini brochure – working for two years on this one with the DGC and IATSE.  The Me Too movement then made everyone sit up and take notice and now, we just have to keep reminding everyone to play nice.  I personally have noticed a sea-change in how sets operate so much better now – with respect and decency.

We hired two new staff to support our Branch Rep – Liz whose job it is to steward sets – giving us more presence and giving our members more, on the ground support.  And Julie whose work bringing in new members and keeping us all informed with Member 2 Member has been wonderful. And, of course Rob Macklin – what would we do without you.  I constantly hear members say, what would we do without Rob.  He is the most dedicated and hard working person and is always available. He fights for us.  Big thanks to our incredible staff.  

We started the Member 2 Member newsletter which just keeps getting better and is doing exactly what I had always hoped for in connecting our members.

Casting Roundtable Initiative – Well, that one fell a bit by the wayside, but we managed to get about 2/3 of the way through our objectives and then Covid hit. Maybe the new Council will pick this up…

Our work with Gimli Film Festival and the Future is Ours programming (formerly Future is Female).  Our sponsorship and support of many local film festivals and events, such as All ACCESS has brought us into the center of our film industry.   We work more closely with On Screen, IATSE and DGC than ever before forming common fronts and taking advantage of what each other has to offer.

Our bi-monthly (or so) Actor Gyms featuring so many of our amazing members/coaches/mentors have been a tremendous success for our members.

We started and continue to nourish our YEAA Committee – recognizing that young members may have different needs and assets to offer our membership.

The recent Diversity Casting Series will be talked about later, but I just want to hand out major kudos to the Diversity Committee for really taking the reigns over the past year and putting together some exciting, well attended and much talked about Diversity training and programming.

Galas and MIPs Nights and our Holiday and new member parties  – particularly our celebration of 60 Years of ACTRA MB and 75 Years of ACTRA National. Yes, we are very good at partying in Manitoba.  Again, when you show up the party is sooo much better – and a great time to network.  

I will leave it to our Committee chairs to talk more about their work and accomplishments and to our Treasurer to give you the good news about our finances.   We are a healthy branch financially with a decent surplus.  In my six years as President we have never ended the year in a deficit position.  

The theme of many of my many, many, many speeches over the past six years is “Taking Care of Each Other”.   Back in 2017 I said – It is my greatest hope that, during my time as President and National Councillor, if I can leave one stamp, it would be to grow a membership who take it upon themselves to be informed and grow professionally; to collectively disseminate accurate information; and most vitally to always stand up for each other.   And I am so satisfied that I am able leave this position knowing that my goals are being realized and I can hand the baton off to the new Council and now just enjoy the ride.

I am sure I have missed something major or someone major but this speech has to end so the others can get their 2 minutes in. But thank you for indulging me and thank you for being such an incredibly involved membership.  

Jan Skene
Outgoing President