When Moira Jones wrapped up her studies at Toronto Film School this past June, she was surprised with a very special graduation gift: the opportunity to be recognized as a professional actor straight out of school.
And it’s all thanks to a newly inked agreement between TFS and the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA) – one that will allow Acting for Film, TV & the Theatre grads access to the 28,000-member-strong acting union’s New Graduate credit to become an ACTRA Apprentice member.
“Hearing that there was the possibility that you could already gain a credit to become an ACTRA Apprentice, you feel like you’re a step ahead,” said the 20-year-old Drumheller, Alberta native, who starred in the Canada Shorts award-winning independent film, All Alone.
“Being part of ACTRA is something I’m absolutely striving for.”
More than a decade in the making, the new partnership between TFS and ACTRA is one Acting for Film, TV & the Theatre Program Director Hart Massey characterized as a game-changer for acting grads like Jones and all those who come after her.
“This opens a lot of doors for our actors, because you don’t work on a network series or feature film without having ACTRA tied to that production. Now they get to be in that conversation,” he said.
“We’re the first private school in Ontario to be accepted, so it’s a real honour for our school to be considered for this elite program. It’s as though we’ve been brought to the table of the professional industry, and I think our students are going to reap the biggest benefits.”
“This new agreement is going to make a huge difference for our students, and for Toronto Film School’s reputation as an institution that prepares its graduates to become not only ‘set ready,’ but ‘industry ready,’” he said.
“Our Acting grads can leave school confident in the knowledge that they have mastered their craft and are now being welcomed into the most significant organization in the Canadian acting industry.”
Founded in 1943, ACTRA is, indeed, the largest organization of cultural workers in Canada, representing performers in the film, radio, television and new media industries. With more than 15,000 members here in Toronto alone, ACTRA is a member-led and member-driven union whose aims are six-fold:
“It’s a wonderful thing to belong to an organization where you can connect with like-minded performers and artists, but also important to know that this organization has your back when it comes to wages, working conditions, benefits, respect on set, and advocacy,” Taisa Dekker, Manager of ACTRA Toronto’s Industry Initiatives & Outreach, said of ACTRA membership benefits.
“For emerging talent and new grads, why ACTRA is important is essentially knowing that you are going to go onto a set that has rules and conditions that ensure you’re being treated as a professional and with respect.”
Effective Sept. 1, 2022, new grads from ACTRA-approved schools like TFS simply need to apply to join the union as an Apprentice Member within one year of graduating.
To apply, grads must provide a copy of their diploma and an official transcript to ACTRA Toronto’s membership staff at [email protected], along with a completed and signed Apprentice membership application form, proof of Canadian citizenship or Permanent Resident status, and payment of an initiation fee.
Interested graduates should keep in mind, however, that once you join ACTRA, you are not permitted to do any non-union work in recorded media of any kind, including student films, commercials or promotional work, voice work or unpaid work.
While the TFS-ACTRA agreement is not retroactive, TFS Acting grads who finished their studies before June 2022 will be offered the opportunity to obtain their second of three credits towards full ACTRA membership if they’ve already earned their first via other means.
That news was welcomed by Class of 2018 valedictorian Mélie B. Rondeau, who just claimed her education credit through the agreement after earning her first credit acting on the set of the 2020 independent feature, Quebexit.
“This new agreement between ACTRA and the Toronto Film School is such a good news…As a young professional, it’s encouraging to know you’ve got that option for yourself at the end of the program,” she said.
“I was also so grateful to hear that grads from previous years, like myself, were also able to claim their education credit, given they were already an Apprentice with the union. I actually asked for mine last week and it was added the same day. Only one more to go before I get my full membership!”