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EXCLUSIVE: N.Y. Talent Agent Broke; SAG Warns Actors

Espresso3Gilla Roos Ltd., a 35-year-old New York-based talent agency, has temporarily gone out of business due to the recession and has had its franchise agreement deactivated by SAG, Back Stage has learned. The guild is demanding members represented by Gilla Roos to terminate their relations with the agency and is urging them to cancel all check authorizations immediately, according to a bulletin sent to members.

"SAG reminds you that you have the right to revoke any and all check authorizations (or other payment authorizations) executed in favor of Gilla, at your discretion. SAG strongly encourages Gilla clients to immediately take this course of action by notifying, in writing, each and every employer, payroll service, as well as SAG’s Residuals Department, of your decision to exercise this option."

While SAG is imploring members to contact producers and processors, contacting Gilla Roos, an agency founded in 1974, will be difficult. There was no answer at its telephone number and its voicemail system was not receiving messages. An email message seeking further information, sent Wednesday from Back Stage to agent David Roos, has yet to be answered.

MichaelCuddireMichael Cuddire, a non-union actor based in New York who worked through Gilla Roos on a freelance basis, told Back Stage earlier this week that the agency closed Feb. 20. He was due a payment of $538 for work he did on an industrial video and has not received the money. The actor contacted Roos by email Monday and asked the agent how he should proceed. This was the agent's response:

"As you know, The Gilla Roos Agency has temporarily closed due to financial distress caused by the current downturn in the economy. We are undergoing corporate restructuring. I will be in touch as soon as I have an answer to your questions. I wish I had more information at this time and I apologize for any hardship this may bring to you."

When Cuddire contacted 30 FPS Productions, the video's Long Island-based producers, about his check, he was told it had been sent to the agency and had cleared Feb. 20, the day the agency closed.

"I've gone to the office every day this week," Cuddire said, "and the doorman tells me, 'The agency's closed today, but maybe not tomorrow.' It's almost laughable. Five hundred bucks isn't that big a deal, but there are probably a lot of actors out there with a lot of outstanding contracts and residual payments."

When asked what he thought his chances were of getting paid, Cuddire said, "Pretty slim. My only options are to go to small claims court or file a claim in bankruptcy court, which I don't even know how to do. I'll probably move to the bottom of the pile. The landlord is going to want to get paid, the creditors, and then all of the SAG actors with SAG behind them."

Back Stage has contacted the guild about steps its members can go through to make sure they are paid and will add details as they arrive. However, just because the agency is going out of business, actors aren't necessarily finished with their former talent reps, SAG stated in its bulletin: "Please be reminded ... that in the event you choose to revoke a payment authorization to Gilla, you are not necessarily relieved of the responsibility to remit appropriate commissions that are owed to the agency."

--Andrew Salomon

 

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If there are any actors who are owed money by Gilla Roos, a group of actors have teamed up on this matter. Please email the exact amount that you're owed to: GillaRoosAction.com. We have learned that there may be more to the story. For example, it takes Gilla Roos 3 months to invoice their clients. If they're so strapped for cash, why take that long to get their money? Gilla Roos also hired a new booker the week of their closing. Why? Also, an email was sent out by David Roos on Friday only to a few talent in the database. Some received it and some were forwarded the email. We need to get to the bottom of this everyone! In the meantime, please file a complaint with the attorney general (http://www.oag.state.ny.us/resource_center/complaints/complaints.html) so they are aware of this situation. We need to fight hard for our hard earned money!

Please note that the correct email address for GillaRoosAction is GillaRoosAction@gmail.com.

As long as the illogical and preposterous arrangement exists whereby the agent receives the acto's fee and forwards it, minus commission to the actor, such problems as in the Gilla Roos case, can be expected to continue. The core of the issue is this bizarre practice of paying the employee last. A producer hires the actor, not the agent. The money should go directly to the actor who should then deduct the agent's fee and pay the agent. The agent works for the actor and is an employee of the actor. It makes absolultey no fiscal or ethical sense for the salary or fee to be paid to the agent rather than the actor.
This is merely a method of weakening the power of the actor in the same Hollywood, took the key element, the writer, and divested him or her of so much power that the writer is at the bottom of the pile - usually the least paid, the most ignored, the marginally billed and without clout. As Harry Cohn once said, if writers knew how important they were, they would take over the business. And so the Hollywood power structure is essentially upside down. The author of "Forest Gump" for instance got $10,000. Hanks and and director cleared about $40 million each. Actors are the key element in the legit area, they should be grown-up enough to demand they be paid directly for their services and not be treated as children where the agent holds their money, not trusting to be paid.

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