For most performers, acting is an obsession. You think about it day and night. A great day on set leaves you feeling euphoric, while a bad audition feels like a punch in the gut. As an actor, it can often feel like your victories and your failures are yours alone, and it’s easy to forget the fact that you’re part of the bigger ACTRA community that can provide a sense of support. This union boasts a collective of thousands of artists whose professional highs and lows are similar to your own. In addition to providing a sense of understanding, being involved in your union can provide you with tools you can use to take control over your career outside of the audition room. ACTRA Toronto’s council makes important decisions affecting your work opportunities, your working conditions and your contracts. Engagement in your union is actually a way of having an influence on your available opportunities and deepening your understanding of the context of this unpredictable business.
Voting in the upcoming Council elections is an easy way to begin your union involvement. If you feel removed from ACTRA and its day-to-day decisions, voting provides an avenue to having someone represent your interests at the table. If you’re passionate or concerned about an issue that is not currently on ACTRA’s radar, voting is a great way to change that. Simply speak to a candidate about bringing your issue to ACTRA’s attention and then make sure you vote for that candidate in October. Beyond individual career concerns, voting is also a means of influencing the fabric of the ACTRA community more broadly. Vote to increase the number of people of colour, women, people of different abilities, and youth on Council. Vote because it ensures that you and your career are counted. If none of the above is compelling to you, vote because it takes literally ten minutes and it strengthens our union.
Zooming out to the current political landscape in Canada, voting in the upcoming federal election holds a lot of the same benefits as voting in the Council elections. Simply put, engagement can make you feel better. Heading to the polls on election day can give you the satisfaction that you made your voice heard, that you are seen and that you are doing something to influence the trajectory of your country’s decision-making. It makes you feel empowered when you understand the current debates and are informed of the positions on all sides. If your candidate doesn’t win, it enables you to take a stance to petition, lobby or protest against the government that does. This kind of involvement can be a highly effective cure for hopelessness and apathy.
The upcoming federal election will have a direct impact on each and every one of us as performers because our film and TV industry depends on government support. Without tax credits, protective CRTC regulations and film-friendly policies, our work opportunities will dwindle to nothing. When past governments have ended tax incentives or allowed the CRTC to weaken Canadian content rules, acting jobs quite literally disappeared overnight. Getting out to vote for a party with a good track record of backing our industry is an actionable way of protecting your work opportunities and of protecting this industry as a whole.
Outside of this arena, what do you do if you don’t feel that any of the parties actually represent you? Perhaps consider that you can use your vote to protect someone else. You can vote for the party that you believe will best defend Indigenous rights, support refugees, address racial inequality or, at the very least, vote for the party that will not aggravate or worsen these issues. And what if you feel like all parties ultimately stand for the same ideas and have phony-sounding leaders who will just break their promises? In the current climate, voter apathy is a legitimate sentiment. Inaction on climate change, pervasive economic inequality, Indigenous dispossession and other important issues can make you feel like your vote is inconsequential. But consider this: As Canadians, we are really fortunate to have a right that people throughout history have literally died for. And if nothing else, your vote could make a small, powerful change on a local level. Maybe you vote for the party that will plant more trees in your neighbourhood, that will refuse to use pejorative language to describe refugees or that will commit more money to support mental health programs.
One of the greatest benefits of union engagement is that your efforts will undoubtedly make a difference. ACTRA is an ambitious organization with a long list of goals and objectives. This is a union actively seeking your votes, your participation and your input. There is space for you to lead here. On top of that, union activism can be seen as another dimension of your acting career. Acting is a calling, and it can feel utterly all-consuming. It is not an easy ride, but you truly don’t need to go at it alone. The notion of solidarity and the premise of collective strength fundamentally relies on individuals coming together under the union banner. Union involvement is a tested and true way for you to concretely defend and improve your work opportunities. So, let ACTRA be your microphone and make your voice heard during the next election.
|Bryn McAuley founded ACTRA Toronto’s Young Emerging Actors Assembly (YEAA) with Eli Goree. She got her start in the industry playing the role of Caillou and has since voiced over 50 animated characters. She is the winner of the inaugural 2019 Female Voice award. Bryn is currently completing her Masters of Global Governance at the University of Waterloo.|