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The Actors Fund On Air!

April 12, 2012 Comments off

Last Thursday, Actors Fund Western Region Director Keith McNutt and Director of Social Services Tina Hookom were guests on Samm Brown’s For The Record, KPFK 90.7 FM’s weekly radio show that delves into various behind-the-scenes entertainment industry issues. Keith and Tina’s one-hour live chat with Samm included a discussion of the Actors Fund’s fascinating history, what makes our work possible, a bit on who we help and how we help them, the realities of working in the entertainment industry, and an overview of The Fund’s programs and services. They took some interesting listener calls throughout the broadcast, too.

If you’d like to check out the archived show, go to http://archive.kpfk.org/index.php?shokey=fortherecord, scroll to the April 5th program, and click the “play” link to download and listen in your music player.

Free Tax Preparation: Our LA Office Launches VITA!

February 9, 2012 Comments off

The Actors Fund’s Los Angeles office has just kicked off the pilot season of its Entertainment Industry VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program) program, which provides free income tax preparation to low and moderate income individuals and families. Our goal is to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to file their taxes, claiming all legitimate deductions and appropriate credits–including the Earned Income Tax Credit, which is often overlooked–and receive their tax refund, if applicable.

VITA is hosted by The Actors Fund and supported in part by contributions from Actors’ Equity, AFTRA, SAG, the SAG Foundation and IATSE to assist their members; therefore, VITA is only open to industry professionals that hold union cards. The program will have only four days of operation in 2012, during which IRS Certified volunteers will help prepare returns, so the number of available appointments is very limited, and we recommend applying for a spot as soon as possible.

If you’re interested in taking advantage of the VITA program, visit www.actorsfund.org/VITA, where you can access additional information, determine if you are eligible for the program and request an appointment. Candidates will receive a VITA worksheet packet which must be completed in order to see a tax preparer, and in-person appointments are mandatory. Walk-ins will be seen, but only if possible, and on a first-come first-served basis on each day of operation.

And dont’ forget, if you’re not in LA or can’t make a VITA appointment, The Actors Fund has numerous other Financial Wellness programs at your disposal, including three episodes of The Actors Fund Podcast Series!

The Newest Podcast Has Arrived: Financial Wellness Part 3!

January 26, 2012 Comments off

Podcast Series LogoThe final episode of the first Actors Fund Podcast Series is now up and available for viewing. Financial Wellness Part 3: Credit Health, featuring Nancy Johnston, shows you how to analyze your personal credit and debt profile, including how to understand your credit report and your credit score.

The episode also takes you through The Actors Fund Credit Accounts Organizer, a self-assessment tool which will give you a simplified snapshot of your pertinent credit and debt information. Credit is important in today’s world, and responsible use of credit offers many valuable options that can improve your financial life. For many people in the entertainment industry, credit is the tool that you use to ensure lifestyle continuity – in other words, paying your bills and putting food on the table when you’re in between jobs. When you use your available credit it becomes debt, which can limit your options and create undue financial pressure. This segment will not only help you to determine if you have a debt problem, but also to establish a stable method of managing your overall credit health.

You can view all seven episodes in the Podcast Series on The Actors Fund website.

The Actors Fund would like to extend special thanks to those individuals who graciously donated their time and resources to this series. Chaim Cantor, President of the New York Chapter of the IATSE Local 600 Cinematographers Union, who recruited the fabulous crew: Peter Barrow, Desirée Oritz, Glynis Burke, Annette Lian-Williams, Russell Costanzo, Mitch Jacobsen, and Alyssa Trumper. The Fund also thanks scriptwriter and WGA member Halayne Eherneberg, as well our fabulous SAG actors: Diedre Goodwin, Michael Iannucci, Nancy Johnston, and Michael McCoy.

The Latest Actors Fund Podcast is here: Financial Wellness Part 2

January 19, 2012 Comments off

Podcast Series LogoThe Actors Fund Podcast Series continues, and this installment – the sixth of seven – discusses how to organize your income as part of an overall cash flow plan. (If you have’t already, please view Financial Wellness Part 1: Organizing Expenses prior to watching Part 2).

In this eight minute video, Michael McCoy covers some of the challenges people working in performing arts and entertainment face when trying to balance variable income and expenses, and also touches briefly on important tax issues. A performing artist’s financial life is complex, so it’s easy to get confused when trying to organize your money. This podcast will help you distinguish between regular and irregular income, and determine what this means for building yourself a financial cushion, saving for periodic expenses and investing for your future. The overall goal of the Financial Wellness series? Establishing a stable method of managing your finances!

The Actors Fund Podcast Series is based on workshops that are presented regularly at The Actors Fund’s New York and Los Angeles offices. Geared towards assisting entertainment and performing arts professionals, these videos are for you! The rest of series is available on our website – and be sure to check back for our next installment!

The Actors Fund would like to extend special thanks to those individuals who graciously donated their time and resources to this series. Chaim Cantor, President of the New York Chapter of the IATSE Local 600 Cinematographers Union, who recruited the fabulous crew: Peter Barrow, Desirée Oritz, Glynis Burke, Annette Lian-Williams, Russell Costanzo, Mitch Jacobsen, and Alyssa Trumper. The Fund also thanks scriptwriter and WGA member Halayne Eherneberg, as well our fabulous SAG actors: Diedre Goodwin, Michael Iannucci, Nancy Johnston, and Michael McCoy. Visit http://www.actorsfund.org to learn more about the series and to view the latest podcast.

The Latest Actors Fund Podcast Is Now Available – Finanical Wellness Part 1: Organizing Expenses

December 8, 2011 Comments off

Podcast Series LogoThe fifth installment in The Actors Fund‘s ongoing Podcast Series begins a conversation about financial wellness, specifically money management. This eleven-minute video offers a few steps that will help you organize your expenses in order to better understand and manage your cash flow. Knowing traditional budgets are not always flexible enough for those in the entertainment and performing arts industry, creating a good template for a basic month of expenditures is a tremendously helpful tool to have in order to plan for a financial cushion to help you through the dry spells. There’s even a budget outflow worksheet you can download to get you on your way to developing a positive, healthy relationship with money. After all, taking care of your money is just a regular part of taking care of yourself.

This episode features SAG and Actors’ Equity member Nancy Johnston, who you’ve seen on Broadway in The Secret GardenThe Music Man, and Elf, as well nationally in countless regional theatre productions and as Hold Me Touch Me in The Producers First National Tour. “The Actors Fund pulled me out of the fire on three occasions,” says Nancy. “Whenever I’m in a show and the time comes to raise money for The Fund, I always volunteer to spearhead those campaigns. And when Tim Pinckney called me about this project, I said, ‘Oh yes, what hoop can I jump through for you!’ It comes right back — it’s paying it forward.”

The rest of The Actors Fund Podcast Series is available on our website. And check back for our next installment!

The Actors Fund would like to extend special thanks to those individuals who graciously donated their time and resources to this series. Chaim Cantor, President of the New York Chapter of the IATSE Local 600 Cinematographers Union, who recruited the fabulous crew: Peter Barrow, Desirée Oritz, Glynis Burke, Annette Lian-Williams, Russell Costanzo, Mitch Jacobsen, and Alyssa Trumper. The Fund also thanks scriptwriter and WGA member Halayne Eherneberg, as well our fabulous SAG actors: Diedre Goodwin, Michael Iannucci, Nancy Johnston, and Michael McCoy. Visit http://www.actorsfund.org to learn more about the series and to view the latest podcast.

Supporting The People Who Make Us Laugh

April 13, 2011 Comments off

American Comedy Fund LogoIn tandem with The Comedy Awards, which aired this weekend on MTV Networks, a consortium of organizations announced the launch of  The American Comedy Fund. To be administered by the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF), this new financial resource will help The Actors Fund and the Motion Picture & Television Fund (MPTF) provide social services and financial assistance to comedians who qualify. The American Comedy Fund is the first-ever charitable fund dedicated exclusively to supporting the comedy community in times of need, crisis or transition, and will help The Actors Fund provide much-needed financial assistance, health services and other resources for comedians across the country — many of which have no union support.

To further illustrate the need for The American Comedy Fund, the leaders of the three organizations overseeing it, Lisa Paulsen of EIF, Ken Sherer of MPTA, and Joseph Benincasa of The Actors Fund, penned the following Op-Ed, which was published by The Comic’s Comic (and subsequently picked up by The Huffington Post).

“Knights of Comedy: An American Dream or Impossible Dream”

From Bob Hope in the sixties to Steve Byrne and Ryan Dalton performing comedy for American service members over the Christmas holiday in a tent at Camp Marmal, Afghanistan, comedians have had a long history of donning Don Quixote’s “helmet of membrino” as their battle gear to perform on the front lines and entertain our troops abroad during wartime.

Comedians have also been the first in line to perform and to help raise millions of dollars for Americans in need back at home, from Comic Relief for the homeless to Hurricane Katrina.

For many of those who provide service in various capacities, from fireman to teachers and hospital workers — unions, guilds, pension and health plans provide financial help and health services in their difficult times.  But when comedians need help, who’s there for them?

In tough economic times, people in some professions struggle more than others.  Comedians are a case in point.  Okay, they don’t put out four alarm fires, but these talented writers, directors and performers have literally changed the laugh track of our lives.  They are pioneering legends and young performers who have calmed our collective consciousness through some of the more challenging times in American history.  They have educated us through their humor.  They have pushed boundaries; from the TV shows that we rushed home to watch, to the movies that are indelibly etched into our collective pop culture memory and the stand-up comedians that make us think while we laugh. And they deserve our support in times of need.

Comedians simply don’t have a national safety net when they are in crisis, whether it’s a need for housing, health care or other basic services.   Without a union, guild, or other protection (which many other entertainment professions such as film, television and theatre offer), comedians face unique challenges to succeed and survive.

The life of the comedian is very similar to any worker or independent contractor that moves from job to job to make their living.  Work is erratic, security is fleeting, health insurance and a respectable retirement is often just a dream.

To fill some of these gaps, entertainers have been able to turn to The Actors Fund www.actorsfund.org and The Motion Picture & Television Fund (MPTF) www.mptvfund.org.

For 90 years, the MPTF has had a rich history of helping performers in need on the west coast in providing care and support ranging from health care services to retirement housing.  Many of comedy’s great legends have turned to MPTF and their network of services such as Larry Fine, one of the Three Stooges; long-time comedic actor Louis Nye; Jerry Colonna, Bob Hope’s side kick; comedic actress Patsy Kelly; and comedian Pat McCormick.

The Actors Fund, since 1882, has served performing arts and entertainment professionals through programs that address their unique and essential needs.  Skilled nursing care and affordable housing, social, health and employment services are all part of how The Actors Fund helps from coast to coast. From Smith and Dale (the “Sunshine Boys”) to “Dr.” Harry Stanley (the “Master of Double Talk”), who both lived in Fund residences, many comedians of all ages have turned to The Fund at different times in their lives.

In a newly created, collaborative effort to provide more services exclusively for comedians, the Entertainment Industry Foundation http://www.eifoundation.org has joined with The Actors Fund and MPTF, along with Comedy Central and MTV Networks to host “The Comedy Awards,” —  the first-ever multi-network, multi-platform, annual event dedicated to honoring and celebrating the world of comedy, premiering on Sunday, April 10, 2011, simultaneously across MTV Networks’ COMEDY CENTRAL, Spike TV, TV Land and VH1.

The purpose for creating The Comedy Awards and this new collaboration is the establishment of The American Comedy Fund, which, through donations made by the public and others at http://www.thecomedyawards.com/fund, will become the first-ever charitable fund dedicated exclusively to providing financial assistance, health benefits and other resources for comedians that qualify across the country during times of distress.  The American Comedy Fund will be administered by EIF in collaboration with the MPTF and The Actors Fund.

A few examples of how The Actors Fund and MPTF have helped comedians illustrate what can be accomplished with this new collaborative fund.

Bill, a comic and comedy writer in his early sixties, was no longer able to work by the time he was in his early fifties due to diabetes and congestive heart failure.  Beset with memory impairments and confined to a wheelchair, he received Social Security disability, a small pension for some of his writing and sporadic financial aid for medical expenses. The Actors Fund helped Bill obtain in-home meal services and home health services – basic needs that were not being met by his income.

And there’s John, a 40-something comedy writer, who has been HIV+ since 1999.  Four years ago he was facing extremely difficult health issues that affected his ability to work. The Actors Fund provided financial assistance for rent and food, and when his health improved, helped him get sideline work. Three years later when his health declined again, The Actors Fund moved him into an affordable housing residence, cutting his rent costs in half.  As his health improved, he’s been writing again — webisodes, jokes for a late night network comedy show, and he’s been hired to write for several well-known comics. In a recent interview, John said:  “Having a dedicated service to people in the entertainment industry is a true godsend. The Actors Fund made a difference in my life. Today, my health has improved, financial stress has begun to leave me, and I am focusing more on my career endeavors.”

In 1998, comedian, veteran comedy writer and performer Pat McCormick was on his way to a show when he suffered a stroke causing his car to careen into a wall and explode into flames.  Bystanders saved his life, but the stroke left him paralyzed on his left side and unable to speak.  Although, as Pat would later remind his friends and fellow comedians — he could still hum!  For the next seven years the Motion Picture & Television Fund provided medical care and emotional support, and when needed, financial assistance.  Pat McCormick was Big Enos in Smokey & the Bandit, and he wrote more gags for Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show for 12-years and many other comedians than anyone else.  When crisis struck, the generosity of an industry helped provide quality of life for seven years until his passing in 2005 at MPTF.

Through this new collaboration creating The Comedy Awards & The American Comedy Fund, EIF, MPTF and The Actors Fund, with extraordinary support from Comedy Central and MTV Networks, will utilize their resources and relationships in the entertainment industry to engage the public in raising much needed funds to expand the safety net for comedians.

“Caring for our own” throughout the history of entertainment, our community is often the first to come together for the betterment of those suffering wherever and whenever needed, and our community comes together to support each other from the days of vaudeville to Broadway and Hollywood today.  Through the Comedy Awards, we have found a way for our community, as well as the millions of fans entertained each year by men and woman who make us laugh in clubs, to support comics who need a helping hand.

The American Comedy Fund is a step forward, offering comedians the opportunity to attain what we all strive for and deserve in our lifetimes – a piece of the American Dream.

Lisa Paulsen, President & CEO, Entertainment Industry Foundation

Ken Sherer, CEO, Motion Picture & Television Fund

Joseph P. Benincasa, President, The Actors Fund

5 questions for… Amanda Clayman

January 14, 2011 Comments off

Amanda Clayman, assists clients through The Actors Fund's Financial Wellness Program.

Amanda Clayman, L.M.S.W., Entertainment Assistance Program, is a social worker for the Financial Wellness Program at The Actors Fund. Through counseling, seminars, groups and workshops, Amanda and her colleagues in Financial Wellness help people in the performing arts and entertainment community coast-to-coast identify strategies for balancing income and expenses, reduce or eliminate debt, establish financial boundaries, and explore limiting beliefs about financial competence and self-worth. We sat down with Amanda to better understand the vital importance of this service to the entertainment community.

1/ How do you define financial wellness?

Financial wellness is a way of understanding and accepting the role that money plays in everyday life. It includes feeling competent making financial decisions and communicating about money with friends and loved ones from a place of clarity and purpose. It is not about building wealth per se, but centers on principles of self-care and self-determination.

2/ Why is this program so important for people in performing arts and entertainment?

People in the performing arts and entertainment field have complicated financial lives. When you combine episodic employment and variable income with high cost-of-living locations and numerous professional expenses, you get a very challenging scenario! Factor in that people in the arts are often too busy or stressed to deal with these challenges, or they have unhealthy attitudes about money, and it can be quite a knot to unravel. Our program provides concrete services tailored to these unique circumstances, as well as a supportive, encouraging environment where people can learn and grow.

3/ Would you say artists are more afraid of addressing the role of money in their lives than the average person?

Most artists choose the performing arts profession because of a deep love of the arts and a strong identification with the persona of the artist. Therefore any financial difficulty can be experienced almost as a threat to the self. It can be terribly troubling, adding stress to even the most mundane money challenge, and that can seriously complicate the concrete steps of getting stable. Also, many artists feel that paying attention to money doesn’t fit in with the rest of their creative life — an assumption I would vigorously challenge!

4/ Do you have a favorite “success story” from a client you have helped?

Having been doing financial wellness work with The Fund since 2004, my favorite stories are the ones where people discovered the program in a time of crisis and then stuck with it out of the crisis and through to transformation. I’ve seen people who were three months behind in their rent take our workshop “Managing Cash Flow for Artists” and come back six months later with a savings account and an IRA. I also have a soft spot for couples, for people who can hardly have a conversation with each other let alone sit down and talk about financial goals. With several sessions of couples counseling we can break through these impasses, uncovering the meaning behind the money so that partners can develop a compassionate, respectful understanding of each others’ financial needs. But really, I am a passionate cheerleader for every client who comes through the Financial Wellness Program. I get up in the morning believing in each person’s happiness and success.

5/ Any financial wellness tips for you can give for our readers and donors?

I would encourage everyone to pay more attention to their relationship with money, even before you get too involved in dollars-and-cents goals. It’s difficult to be successful with a financial goal when you’re still afraid of money – when you fear it or when it causes overwhelming stress just to sit down and look at income and expenses. Look at money as an energy source, and try to use it in ways that nurture you, making you feel safe and secure.

Amanda is an accomplished psychotherapist specializing in financial wellness and was recently quoted in The New York Times for her expertise in financial therapy. Visit her blog at “The Good The Bad and The Money.”