SAG Awards: The Ensemble

The SAG Foundation might be approaching the 30-year mark, but few people outside the thesps in SAG-AFTRA’s vast ranks are aware of the crucial cushion it provides its 165,000 members.

Alec Baldwin, who has served as the Ambassador to the SAG Foundation over the past year, calls it “the best-kept secret in town for the past three decades.”

The star of NBC’s “30 Rock” gave a shout-out to the Foundation in his acceptance speech for best actor in a comedy series at the SAG Awards in January, calling particular attention to BookPALS, which enlists actors to read aloud to kids with the intent of making literacy palatable to all ages.

“I was attracted to the SAG Foundation’s commitment to children’s literacy as well as the range of assistance and educational programs that it provides to a vast number of professionals in our community,” Baldwin told Variety via email.

Children’s literacy is one third of the Foundation’s three-pronged effort to provide both educational and financial support for actors and their families.

With an annual budget of $5.5 million, the Foundation’s training initiatives include panels with producers, actors and industry professionals, as well as casting workshops.

It also provides financial and emergency assistance in times of need, including a catastrophic health fund for SAG-AFTRA members.

In fact, the recent hurricane that hit New Jersey, Stanton Island and other nearby areas was not lost on the organization’s relief outreach.

“Right now, we’re so pleased to be partnering with SAG Motion Picture Players Welfare Fund and the AFTRA Foundation in creating a Superstorm Sandy Emergency Fund for SAG-AFTRA members affected by the storm,” Jo Beth Williams, president of the Foundation, tells Variety.

“This past year, we’ve significantly expanded our reach to professional performers by taking our educational programs on the road and producing many more live-streamed events in both New York and Los Angeles. More than half a million dollars in emergency assistance helped SAG-AFTRA members in need over the past year,” she adds.

Coming up, the SAG Awards’ annual holiday auction scheduled for Dec. 6-16 on eBay. Last year’s auction raised $35,000, which, along with the organization’s two other SAG Awards-related auctions, added to a total of $75,000 for the cause over the course of two months.

Jill Seltzer, the SAG Foundation’s executive director, says anyone can bid on an array of signed collectibles and what she calls unique experiences in the film and television industry.

“With the help of this fund-raiser and others, the SAG Foundation looks forward to continuing to respond to critical issues facing the professional performers it serves through its educational and assistance programs,” she explained in a statement. “And we believe the best way to do that is to sustain current programming and initiate new programming as opportunities arise.”

SAG Awards: The Ensemble
Human voices wake us and we cheer | Foundation aids in times of crisis | In primetime, the family that stays together learns together

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