SAG CEO Greg Hessinger has hired AFTRA execs Rebecca Rhine and John Russum for top slots, touting the moves as signaling an increased focus on organizing, strategic planning and agency relations.
Rhine will hold the newly created post of special adviser for strategic planning and be based in San Francisco while Russum will serve at SAG’s Hollywood headquarters as deputy national exec director for organizing and agent relations. Both will start in their new posts in November, with Russum occupying the post held by Hollis Batchelor, who’s retiring at the end of the year after 30 years at SAG.
The duo represent the first exec hires by Hessinger since he succeeded Bob Pisano at SAG in April. Prior to then, Hessinger spent seven years at AFTRA and worked with Rhine and Russum during his five-year stint as AFTRA’s national exec director.
“Stronger and more effective national organizing and reaching a solution to the current impasse with talent agents are central priorities for our union,” Hessinger said. “Long- and short-term planning will form the foundation for those efforts.”
SAG hasn’t had oversight over most of Hollywood’s major agencies since April 2002, when members voted down a proposed revamp of the 65-year-old master franchise agreement.
SAG president Alan Rosenberg, who won the post last week, pledged during his campaign that he’d seek to find a way of renewing the franchise agreement in some form.
Rhine is AFTRA’s assistant national exec director for strategic planning and public policy. She worked at AFTRA for a decade between the late 1980s and 1990s in a variety of posts, including exec director of the SAG/AFTRA office in San Francisco, and returned in 2002.
Russum has been exec director of AFTRA’s Los Angeles office since 1996.
Hessinger told Daily Variety the moves weren’t related to any renewed push for merging SAG and AFTRA. SAG members voted down merger attempts in 1999 and 2003.