News & Events

“Protecting Entertainment Workers” – The AFC featured in 24Hours Toronto – April 12, 2016

MADDEAUX: Standing up for artists

Protecting Entertainment Workers.

What happens when an actor actually breaks a leg? You can find lots of stories online about “8 celebrities who lived in their car before they got famous” or “18 stars that were once homeless.” It’s nice when these stories have happy endings, but sadly this clichéd image of a struggling entertainment worker living out of their car is all too real and often the ending isn’t glamorous as Tyler Perry’s or Hilary Swank’s stories. Actors, singers, dancers, stunt people and other entertainment pros are at a high risk for poverty and homelessness because of the irregular, often underpaid nature of their work. They often get no benefits from employers or minimal benefits supplied by unions (these are often tied to levels of income, which make them hard to use in a crisis). If they have an accident, injury or family illness, they’re – pardon my French – totally screwed.

Enter The AFC (formerly known as The Actors’ Fund Canada), which just rebranded to reflect its support of all entertainment workers. The much-needed charity gives over $500,000 a year to help actors, dancers, videographers, singers and more maintain their dignity and ability to work after an accident, illness or other professional hardship. They pay the bills for necessities like rent, groceries, medical costs and transportations so recipients can focus on getting better and finding work in the industry they love once more … not cashiering at McDonald’s or cleaning toilets like government unemployment funds would mandate. The AFC has helped over 12,000 entertainment pros since 1958.

The newly minted AFC held a swanky soiree at developer David Daniels and power publicist Kate Daniels’ sprawling Casa Loma home last week to announce the organization’s rebrand and call for more support, like financial experts to aid with financial literacy courses. The Daniels are two of the city’s most ardent arts supporters, counting the Acting Up Stage Company, Crows Theatre, and the National Theatre School amongst the stage-centric orgs they bolster.

The likes of Wendy Crewson, Patricia Rozema, Fiona Reid and Don McKellar sipped wine in the Daniels’ perfectly curated abode while Tony award winner Brent Carver led the room in a round of exuberant show tunes. The real star of the night? The Daniels’ adorable dog Bella, who freely roamed the rooms.

The bottom line: The AFC allows creatives to continue creating in a culture that often takes their talents for granted. Even entertainment pros who are gainfully employed earn a yearly average of just $27,600 a year compared with an average of $45,400 for the overall labour force. They’re also much more likely to be self-employed, hold irregular or multiple jobs, take seasonal work and – get this – be more highly skilled and educated than the overall labour force. Yet, as David Daniels laments, “No one wants to give money to actors.” Maybe it’s time we rethink that uneducated stance.

SABRINA MADDEAUX/ 24 HOURS

See the article online here and in the e-edition here

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