Olga Wilhelmine, SAG-AFTRA’s national board member from New Orleans, is on a mission. With so many of her fellow actors struggling financially during the coronavirus pandemic, she’s trying to connect them with their unclaimed residuals.
The union is holding tens of millions of dollars in unclaimed SAG residuals for tens of thousands of actors and their heirs that it can’t locate. Wilhelmine wants to help find them and get them the money they’re owed.
Earlier this week, she sent a letter to the union’s leaders asking them to establish a task force “to assist the Residuals Department with the location of members or their heirs and the distribution of their unclaimed residuals; and in establishing new procedures to expedite that distribution.”
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In the meantime, however, she’s been reaching out to actors on her own whose names she’s found while scouring the union’s unclaimed residuals website, and is encouraging others to do the same. So far, she’s assembled a small cadre of supporters who are also pouring over the site, looking for people they know who have money coming to them. She’s also reaching out to charities to whom actors have bequeathed their residuals but have gone unclaimed, including the Actors Fund, the Motion Picture & Television Fund and the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric Aids Foundation.
“In two days I have found 20 people SAG-AFTRA owes money to,” she told Deadline. “I have spent my time explaining the process and putting together the best way to search and how to go from there. The amount of joy and gratitude expressed filled me with positive energy. It has been spiritually rewarding to be able to spend my downtime doing something positive for my peers instead of all the chaos, mayhem and stress. It is a way to pay forward and I am certain there will be many others inspired to take a crack at that long list to help find members who are due much needed money.”
To see if you or someone you know is owed money – and how to collect it — click here.
“As we face truly unprecedented times, the strain on all of us – every member of this great creative union – has taken a toll in ways unimaginable: on our lives, on our careers, on how we provide for ourselves, our families, our future,” she wrote in a letter to SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris and national executive director David White. “And now, more than ever, we must also provide for each other and stand together as union brothers and sisters – as never before. And as the country finally begins the slow process of returning to normalcy – the immediate future remains uncertain. Even with the unwavering support and financial assistance of our venerated union and industry charities and foundations, we believe there is more that SAG-AFTRA can do to ease the continuing financial pain for many of our fellow members.”
SAG-AFTRA’s residuals department is dedicated to finding members and their beneficiaries have unclaimed residuals. The guild’s website tells members that “If the union is holding unclaimed residuals, it is because we can’t locate you. We may not have current or updated information in our database or we may not know you are the rightful beneficiary/heir.”
In 2016, the guild teamed up with the Association of Talent Agents to make it easier for thousands of actors to collect their unclaimed residuals. At that time, the union was holding nearly $50 million in unclaimed SAG residuals for more than 100,000 performers it can’t locate.
“With the help and support of the Association of Talent Agents, SAG-AFTRA has introduced an additional process to help performers collect unclaimed residuals,” the union said at the time. “ATA has volunteered to provide its member agencies with instructions on how their clients can determine whether they are owed unclaimed residuals and, if so, how they can get this money released. By partnering with the ATA in this way, SAG-AFTRA will be able to ensure that even tough-to-find members are able to collect the residuals to which they’re entitled.”
Wilhelmine believes that an unclaimed residuals task force could aid that effort. “Please consider exploring the implementation of what we consider to be this essential new task force,” she said in her letter to the union’s leaders. “Our members, past and present, are due this money and we should, as a community of professional performers, do the right thing and exhaust all efforts in distributing these funds – in the spirit of true union solidarity. Let’s make this happen together.”
The letter was co-signed by Chuck Slavin, a New England local board member; Chip Carriere and Lance Nichols, members of New Orleans’ local board; Peter Antico, a Los Angeles local board member; Julia Schell, a New York local convention delegate, and New England members Andrea Zangla and Lori Vozzella.
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