SAG-AFTRA’s national board, at a contentious meeting tonight, passed a resolution to form a task force to “investigate and address” issues involving “paint-downs” and “wigging.” The motion was brought to the board by SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris.
The move, which was opposed by five stunt performers serving on the board, comes after dozens of stuntmen and women signed a letter sent Sept. 30 to the leadership of SAG-AFTRA calling for an end to “wigging” – the age-old practice of putting wigs and dresses on stuntmen so they can double for actresses – and “paint-downs,” in which dark make-up is applied to white stunt performers so that they can double for actors of color.
Stunt Performers Call On SAG-AFTRA To End “Paint-Downs” And “Wigging”
Saying that “legitimate questions and disturbing allegations have been raised by a number of stunt professionals about the hiring practices, ‘paint downs,’ ‘wigging,’ and other discriminatory practices that continue to surface during productions throughout the entertainment industry,” the resolution authorizes the Task Force to look into:
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• “Employers who require or encourage hiring practices, or any other practice, that continue the scourge of discrimination against stunt performers including possible violations of federal and state anti-discrimination laws;
• “Stunt coordinators that engage in, authorize, or otherwise support practices that discriminate against stunt professionals in protected groups, including by creating a discriminatory and hostile environment;
• “Stunt performers that engage in ‘paint downs,’ ‘wigging,’ and other discriminatory practices on productions throughout the industry.
• “Retaliation suffered by stunt performers and stunt coordinators who bring these issues to light, including threats to their safety and working conditions.”
The resolution notes that the union “is committed to ensuring the work of the entertainment industry reflects the full diversity and inclusion that constitutes the American scene,” and that “the leadership and membership of SAG-AFTRA are committed to the elimination of racism, sexism, homophobia, disability discrimination, ageism, and other forms of discrimination that block work opportunities and impede the career paths of professionals within our membership and industry.” It also notes that “these practices may involve decisions made by members of the stunt community as well as by producers.”
The resolution was opposed on procedural grounds by many members of the union’s main opposition group, Membership First, and by all five stunt performers serving on the board, who argued that safety should always be the first priority, and that the resolution could tie the hands of stunt coordinators in their hiring decisions, which could lead to more on-set accidents and injuries. “Every stunt person on the national board voted against it,” said board member and stuntman Peter Antico. “This referendum was not on the agenda, and they wasted three hours of the meeting giving us hearsay without any substantiation evidence of anything that they were saying. The stunt community is against racist practices and paint downs, but safety must always come before diversity. We proposed an amendment to include all stunt people on the Task Force who serve on the local and national boards, and it was turned down by people who know nothing about the stunt business.”
Another stunt performer on the national board, however, said that two stunt performers on the board abstained. “I am a stunt national board member and I abstained, and my understanding is another stunt board member abstained as well,” said the board member, who asked not to be identified. “I believe all of the stunt national board members are in favor of the principles of the task force, and only against the process by which it was created. I abstained instead of voting for it since I did not have the opportunity to speak due to time constraints to go on record with my concerns about the resolution, and because the task force did not go through the proper channels of governance (the National Stunt Committee) prior to being presented to the national board. The National Stunt Committee is an appointed group of stunt professionals representing the interests of the entire stunt community. To circumvent this group of leaders brings to question the purpose and effectiveness of a national committee. Reasons for not presenting the task force resolution to the committee initially were provided in the board meeting; however, issues that affect our community should be addressed by the leaders who understand the nuances of being a stunt professional, not national board members who are unfamiliar with our occupation. I believe we would have ended up with the same result if the formation of this task force went through the proper channels.”
“Most of Membership First abstained,” said a source familiar with last night’s meeting. “The reason why was for process reasons. Everyone in Membership First is against paint downs and wigging. They find the process abhorrent. The problem was that Gabrielle never consulted any of the stunt people on the board. That’s why they’re there, because there are other issues at play – mainly safety. We have to find a way for everyone to have fair and equal access to work. Membership First didn’t want to block the Task Force, but they’re sick and tired of Gabrielle excluding certain people for political expediency.”
In other actions, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the union’s chief operating officer and general counsel, provided a report on the ongoing jurisdictional dispute with Actors’ Equity over the taping of stage productions, noting that the union had filed a formal jurisdictional complaint with the Associated Actors and Artistes of America and a request for mediation with the AFL-CIO’s Department for Professional Employees.
SAG-Producers Pension Plan CEO Michael Estrada and AFTRA Retirement Fund CEO Christine Dubois reported that both funds are in the so-called “Green Zone” and “are stable and safe with a positive outlook.”
Secretary-treasurer Camryn Manheim and CFO Arianna Ozzanto reported that” third-quarter actuals are on plan and tracking to budget.”
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