Canadian Actors Equity Assocation (CAEA) is a national association representing just over 6,000 artists working in theatre, opera and dance across the country. CAEA’s membership includes performers, directors, choreographers, fight directors and stage managers. It was founded in 1976, when it became independent from its American counterpart the New York-based Actors Equity Association (AEA).
AEA was formed in 1913 in response to how actors were being treated on Broadway; its roots are in the labour movement of the early 20th Century and its raison d’etre was to counter the commercial producers’ tendency to exploit actors by overworking and underpaying them.
The roots of Equity in Canada began shortly after the Stratford Festival had its inaugural season in 1953. At that time, there was no association or union representing live performers in Canada – it simply wasn’t necessary; apart from a few outliers in Toronto such as the Crest Theatre and Toronto Workshop Productions, home-grown large-scale “professional theatre” prior to the founding of the Festival didn’t really exist; theatre in Canada largely consisted of touring shows from the US and UK, and the work of local amateur theatres.
Stratford Festival performers began to seek representation for collective bargaining with the Festival, and asked for assistance from the Canadian Council of Authors and Artists (CCAA), an organization that sprung from the unionization of radio performers in the 1940s, and which would eventually become ACTRA in 1963.
In 1954, the CCAA met with AEA in Montreal, and Stratford actors began working using AEA contracts, administered by the CCAA. In 1958, the first Equity office in Canada was opened in Toronto at 519 Jarvis Street, the same year that the first large Canadian regional theatres came into existence – the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre in Winnipeg and the Arts Club Theatre in Vancouver.
As the professional Canadian theatre scene grew, a desire grew among the membership to become independent from AEA. In 1972 Dan Macdonald, Chairman of the Canadian Executive Committee, and Theodor Bikel, president of AEA, went for a “walk in the woods” at a meeting of FIA (International Federation of Actors) in Stockholm, and laid the groundwork for a Canadian branch of Equity.
1958-1974 saw the creation of large regional theatres across Canada, thanks in part to the generosity of arts philanthropists but also due to a new enthusiasm on the part of the Federal government to provide funding to help the growth of the arts in Canada in the wake of the 1951 Massey Report – which led to the founding of the Canada Council for the Arts.
The new regional theatres included Neptune Theatre in Halifax and Vancouver Playhouse in 1963, Edmonton’s Citadel Theatre in 1965, Regina’s Globe Theatre in 1966, Theatre New Brunswick and Theatre Calgary in 1968, and Montreal’s Centaur Theatre in 1969. The late 60s and early 70s brought with it the founding of the “experimental” theatres in Toronto, including Theatre Passe Muraille, Factory Theatre, and Tarragon Theatre.
As the Canadian branch of AEA planned to strike out on its own, they began to create the first version of the Canadian Theatre Agreement (CTA) in 1974, the first consolidated contract for live performers in Canada. 33 theatres across Canada banded together to form the League of Canadian Theatres (LOTC) in order to negotiate as a group with Equity, and a few years afterwards renamed itself The Professional Association of Canadian Theatres (PACT).
On April 1 1976, Canadian Actors Equity Association officially became independent from AEA. In June 1977, the Western Office opened in Vancouver. CAEA’s main office is currently located on 44 Victoria Street in Toronto, where they have been since 1996.
|Discipline||Name||Details||Membership Required?||Read more|
|Theatre||Canadian Theatre Agreement (CTA)||Professional theatre companies who are members of Professional Association of Canadian Theatres (PACT)||Yes||CTA|
|Theatre||Independent Theatre Agreement (ITA)||Professional theatre companies which are not members of PACT||Yes||ITA|
|Discipline||Name||Details||Membership Required?||Read more|
|Theatre / Dance / Opera||Artists' Collective Policy||Collaborative productions where there is no guarantee of any fees and instead there is an agreement to share revenues||ACP|
|Theatre / Dance / Opera||Dance • Opera • Theatre (DOT) Policy||No||DOT|
|Theatre / Dance / Opera||Festival Policy||Showcasing artistic activities in a festival setting||No||Festivals|
|Theatre / Dance / Opera||INDIE 2.1||Flexible agreement.||No||2.1|
|Theatre / Dance / Opera||Industrial Shows Policy||Corporate productions||Yes||Industrial Shows Policy|
|Theatre / Dance / Opera||Guidelines for Benefits and Fundraisers||Fees to fundraising for theatres and other charitable causes||Yes||Guidelines for Benefits and Fundraisers|
CAEA and PACT renegotiate the terms of the CTA every three years. CAEA also has another agreement, the Independent Theatre Agreement (ITA), which is practically a clone of the CTA – this agreement is for non-PACT theatres. “Independent” in this case, refers specifically to professional theatres who operate independent of PACT.
The financial terms of the ITA are not substantially different from those of the CTA, and you will likely find those terms unfeasible when you’re starting out. As a new producer, it is vital that you distinguish the ITA from Equity’s other policies for small-scale independent productions. If you don’t, CAEA may encourage to become a signatory to the ITA. Once you’ve signed on, CAEA is notoriously inconsistent in allowing companies to use the small-scale policies again. Do not start using the ITA until you determine whether or not company is in a position to take on the financial and administrative responsibilities outlined in that agreement.
If one day, you have a company where using the ITA is the next logical step, then you can ask yourself whether you want your company to become a member of PACT.
Minimum Fees of an ITA
Fees are determined by calculating your company’s category, as defined by CAEA (see chart below). Here are the minimum fees you can pay your artists and team when working under an ITA agreement, in the lowest category:
Sector 1 – Not-for-Profit Theatres
Actor Level 1: $628.00/week
Actor Level 2: $472.50/week
Production Stage Manager: $865.00/week
Stage Manager: $717.75/week
Assistant Stage Manager: $577.50/week
Sector 2 – For Profit Theatres
Production Stage Manager: $910.50/week
Stage Manager: $758.00/week
Assistant Stage Manager: $612.75/week
(*)does not include Fight Choreographers, terms for TYA Productions, or Workshops/Readings
Calculating Company Category
In the CTA and ITA, your company will be placed in a category that will help you determine the expenses you have to pay. Calculating your company’s category is based on potential box office revenue for one week at 100% capacity.
So, for a theatre with 300 seats at $25 a ticket, for a 5 show run in one week, you would calculate as such:
300 x $25 x 5 = $37,500
In this example, you would be considered a company category E (see chart of company category determination below).
When you are dealing with Equity, it’s important to remember that this organization was founded to deal originally with Broadway producers, the Stratford Festival, and large, well-funded regional theatres. It sees its primary responsibilities as a) collective bargaining and advocacy for its members, b) ensuring workplace safety and insurance benefits, and c) making sure its members get paid.
Though CAEA is a “professional association” and not technically a union, it essentially behaves like one, and considers all live performance in Canada as part of its jurisdiction. Consequently, many of its business representatives have a tendency to take an adversarial position when it comes to dealing with producers, no matter what kind – commercial, regional, small-scale, or even self-producing members.
For much of its existence, CAEA has not been an ally to small theatres working with limited resources – it simply is not part of their mission. It would treat small theatres as if they were exploiting their actors just like a commercial producer, and consequently actors and producers would come to side agreements in order to create work.
A happy development with CAEA’s creation of three new producing policies is that it’s no longer necessary for independent producers and Equity members to lie to CAEA about how work is being produced. Each of these policies had an immediate “ancestor” with more rigid oversight by Equity, and were not well attuned to the contemporary reality of producing small-scale theatre with limited resources.
The Festival Policy used to be called “the Festival Waiver”; and was solely focused on giving Equity members permission to act in Fringe Festivals. It was not designed to take into account the sheer amount of curated or semi-curated festivals that have sprung up in the wake of the success of Fringes across the country.
The Artists Collective Policy used to be “The Equity Co-op”, an astonishingly cumbersome agreement that required detailed descriptions of various aspects of how the collective would work before Equity would approve it. For example, companies had to submit a full budget, outline in detail each member’s duties and responsibilities, and even had to describe what mechanism would be used to resolve disputes.
The original “INDIE” policy, which was created in 1995, was once as elaborate as writing a grant. In addition to a description of the production and the company, you were required to provide a full rehearsal schedule, production budget, and marketing plan in order to be approved.
Fortunately, the revised versions below, much of CAEA’s rigidity has been relaxed, and these three agreements are the ones you are mostly likely to use when you start out as new, small-scale independent producer or as an artist-producer. But, even so, when approaching Equity you may still find your production being met with unexpected challenges.
One of the things that you will find frustrating as you look over these policies is a deliberate vagueness when defining terms of eligibility. This is intentional on CAEA’s part; the breadth and diversity of independent theatre practice makes it impossible for an organization of their size to monitor everything that goes on, so it’s important to them to have the ability to unilaterally set the terms of any given independent production.
Remember that Equity has a membership of over 6000 people, spread out across the country, and their intent is to represent all regions, and all live performance disciplines – theatre, dance and opera. But the National Office in Toronto has only 23 staff members, and the Western Office in Vancouver only two. It is an organization that is under-resourced and overstretched, and on occasion this overwhelming workload combined with an adversarial mindset can easily lead to communication that might rub you the wrong way.
The best way to conduct yourself when dealing with CAEA is to familiarize yourself with the various policies available for independent productions, and determine which one is best suited for your production in order to anticipate and answer concerns CAEA might have.
And of course, if none of the artists in your company are members of CAEA or ACTRA, you do not need to use any of these agreements.
The following sections will outline the main differences between these three policies with a particular focus on the producing philosophies, eligibility rules, and expenses associated with each one. Once you have determined which policy is best suited for your production, you are ready to contact equity and asked to be connected with a Business Representative.
Click on the appropriate link to see and download PDFs of all documents on the CAEA website.
You will note that working conditions, publicity, and program/website notice are exactly the same for the Festival Policy and Artists Collective Policy. Both of these agreements operate as profit-shares, and are the simplest and most straightforward.
The Indie 2.2 requires minimum weekly fees to all artists, and is consequently far more detailed in its guidelines and expectations.
This is by far the simplest policy, and is reserved for companies participating in Fringe or Fringe-like festivals across the country; productions can be selected by lottery or curated, and the artists retain at least 70% of box office revenue.
The Policy is also applicable to “Best of Fringe” or “Fringe Holdover” festivals. CAEA has a list of which festivals are considered eligible – this list is fully under CAEA’s discretion; if you are participating in a festival that is not on the list, you will need to contact CAEA to see if they will extend the policy to that festival. http://www.caea.com/equityweb/eligiblefestivals/
A few comments on the eligibility terms laid out in the Festival Policy:
“May only be produced by individuals, groups of individuals, collectives, and not-for-profit theatre companies that are not adhered to a professional agreement negotiated with Equity”
This means that your company is not a signatory to either the Canadian Theatre Agreement (CTA) or the Independent Theatre Agreement (ITA). Though it does not explicitly say so here, if your company is incorporated, or is a registered charity, that will likely make you ineligible as well.
“May not receive presentation fees from a festival, but participating groups may receive a small honorarium from the festival producer for their services or participate in sharing box office receipts.”
CAEA provides no definition distinguishing “a small honorarium” from a “presentation fee”.
“May only receive limited technical assistance and be provided with a limited number of performances.”
Again, the limitations on technical assistance and number of performances are not defined.
As long as the festival you are participating in is on the approved list, you don’t need to worry about the vagueness of the above definitions. If the festival you want to participate in is not on the eligible list, it is the festival producer’s responsibility to contact CAEA and ask to extend the policy to your company.
You will be required to pay $10/work week (Monday-Sunday) for each Equity member in your company.
“Insurance premiums are required for all performance weeks in addition to the week prior to the first public performance”
This means you will need to budget for, at minimum, 2-3 weeks of insurance per equity member in your company. CAEA expects that rehearsals for festival shows may be part-time or spread out over several months, so they don’t ask for insurance coverage for the entire rehearsal duration. Only the week before opening, and the weeks of the festival. There is no provision in this policy to pay for partial work weeks.
There is no application fee for the Festival Policy.
The Festival Policy doesn’t specify how profits should be divided, so it’s best to have an agreement in writing among members of the collective and modelling it on the Artists Collective Policy (ACP) is often easiest.
The Artists Collective Policy (ACP) is almost exactly the same as the Festival Policy – an agreement that allows ad-hoc groups to produce and share the profits of an independent production. The policy specifies that it can’t be used by existing theatre companies that engage artists under CAEA’s other policies or are incorporated as legal entities.
There is no provision for a “producer” as part of the ACP, since the principle behind this agreement is that it is a collective endeavour. In a formalized collective, all members, no matter what artistic discipline, are partners in the endeavour and ought to have a say in decision making. The preamble states:
“A collective may decide to delegate a specific responsibility or authority to a member of the collective, however, every collective participant is a full and equal business and legal partner. It is very important that each participant in the collective has a clear understanding of his/ her role and duties for the activity/production.
All participants equally and cooperatively manage, control and are responsible for the business and affairs of the collective. Additionally, the collective must agree upon a method for conflict resolution in case an issue arises that needs to be resolved.”
So, as the producer of a collective, you may have been delegated specific authority by the company, but in CAEA’s eyes, you are not the final decision-maker. Everyone is equally responsible.
In reality, of course, many artists working on a show for a share of box-office profits may not be interested in the ramifications of being a “full and equal business partner”. They may just want to practice their craft, and leave the producing and administrative work to the right person.
Because the ACP is geared towards Equity members who are self-producing, CAEA expects the primary contact for the company to be an Equity member. If you, the producer, are not an Equity member, you will need to work with one in your company to contact CAEA to access this agreement and to communicate with them during the application process.
These rules are much more comprehensive, and are devised to keep a low-cost Artist Collective from being taken advantage of by larger theatre companies or by commercially-minded producers.
“An ACP activity/production may only be produced by individuals, groups of individuals, and ad hoc theatre companies. An ad hoc theatre company is one that is not a commercial venture, incorporated, a legal entity, or receiving capital funding. An ad hoc theatre company does not regularly engage Equity members under the DOT policy and is not adhered to a professional agreement with Equity.”
In the ACP, Equity defines an “ad hoc” company (which they do not in the Festival Policy, even though most companies in festivals are ad hoc by their very nature). They also include the DOT policy (see below) as an agreement which, if regularly used, precludes eligibility for the ACP.
“The ACP provides for no guarantee of payment of any kind to any participant in the collective. The collective must retain revenues from the artistic activity/production.”
This “no guarantee of payment” is made explicit in the ACP, it is implicit in the Festival Policy.
“Each member of the collective agrees to participate in the activity on the basis of payment from a fair division of revenues. The collective participants shall share equally in the revenues after expenses or as otherwise agreed upon to fairly reflect individual participants’ contributions to the artistic activity/production. (e.g. If the Artist is both the director and publicist for the activity/ production he/she may be entitled to two shares.) The collective participants must agree to a timetable for the reconciliation and disbursement of revenues.”
Here, the method of profit-sharing is outlined, and as you’ll note in the application form, there is a space to define the number of shares each collective member receives.
The ACP’s profits, once all production costs are covered, are divided among the collective members based on the division of shares specified on the application form- this could be one share per person, but it’s common for individuals wearing multiple hats to take on one and a half or two shares- an actor who is also the fight choreographer, for example, or a director taking on a substantial part of the production work.
Co-productions with engagers who otherwise engage Artists under one of Equity’s agreements/policies are not permitted.
i.e. any theatre who normally contracts artists under the CTA or ITA should not be co-producing with your company and thus getting your artists working for them for a profit-share instead of the required weekly minimums.
Established theatre managements/engagers are not permitted to “host” an ACP activity/production, or present them as part of a season, unless the activity/production qualifies under the Festival Policy or other contracting arrangements have been made with Equity.
Again, this is about keeping larger producing theatres from taking advantage of your production without paying the artists standard minimums.
A collective may only enter into an agreement for any services with an established theatre company/engager for venue, front of house, and technical services. Payment for services may be by levy against box office revenues.
And once more, this further defines the relationship a collective could have with a larger theatre company, excluding any kind of producer/engager relationship.
Insurance Costs for the ACP are the same as in the Festival Policy; $10/work week for each Equity Member, with the minimum being the week before opening, and all performance weeks.
There is a $25 application fee when requesting use of the ACP.
Though far more detailed than either of the two previous policies (this one is 16 pages long), the INDIE 2.2 is relatively easy to learn, and will give you a good idea of the nature of what is expected of you as a producer, and how the other CAEA agreements work should you ever be in a position to have to learn them.
An independent producer usually starts to use this policy once you decide you no longer want to keep asking your artists to work for a profit-share alone. It is best for non-traditional work, due to things such as location and schedule, also for small companies and collectives with smaller budgets. The agreement is great to customize and to create a contract that everyone can agree on.
The INDIE 2.2 expects a weekly minimum to all artists of $600/week, with an option to add a revenue-sharing agreement to the artist contracts; you can opt to pay your artists a reduced minimum of $300/week, on the understanding that you will make up the rest of the minimum fee from the profits.
CAEA articulates the philosophy behind this agreement like so: “The "INDIE 2.2" is designed to facilitate the production of theatre made with limited resources. As resources are administrative as well as financial, significant effort has been made to reduce the administrative burden of the INDIE 2.2, allowing theatre companies to focus their time and energy on the artistic and creation process.”
It is a policy for use on a single production at a time; i.e. every time you want to use it for a new production, you need to re-apply.
The idea is that CAEA provides the guidelines for an agreement between artists and producer, and expects that such an agreement will be in place before rehearsals begin.
This agreement between the parties forms the guiding principles of a specific production and ought to address the specific responsibilities of each participant. Responsibilities include, but are not limited to:
- task assignments and the expected level of participation in, and for, the production
- rehearsal schedule
- performance schedule
- workplace conditions
If a revenue-sharing plan is applicable, the Artists must determine an acceptable revenue verification process.
CAEA expects that it is the responsibility of the producer to provide clarity on all these issues, and the responsibility of each artist to demand clarity on the terms before signing a contract.
In the preamble, they write:
“Equity’s role in administering the INDIE 2.2 is to ensure that these key principle discussions take place, and decisions are made by fully informed participants. Rather than administering every element of the production’s terms and conditions, Equity will only intervene in a production if there is a problem, dispute or violation of the INDIE 2.2 or the agreement made between an independent producer or a theatre company and the Artists.”
The INDIE 2.2 has terms under which a Theatre Company is eligible to use the agreement, and under which a specific Production is eligible.
(i) must be a non-commercial company (i.e. functions as a not-for-profit organization and is not incorporated as commercial entity); and
(ii) must be able to demonstrate to Equity’s satisfaction that it cannot meet the minimum terms of the Canadian Theatre Agreement (CTA) or the Independent Theatre Agreement (ITA), and not have generally operated under those terms in the past; and
(iii) does not have an annual operating budget greater than $50,000 a year.
In the spirit of an agreement for theatre being made with few resources, these stipulations are in place to make sure a company doesn’t have access to the kind of revenue that a larger company might.
Points i & iii, are self-explanatory, but to clarify point ii’s reference to the minimum terms of the ITA or CTA: that refers to the minimum weekly salaries in the bigger agreements. To give you a sense of comparison, remember that every artist under the INDIE 2.2 is making between $300-$600/week; see above for the minimums for artists working in a G house (the smallest capacity theatre - less than 200 people) in the ITA agreement.
The production shall not:
(i) have a production budget that exceeds $75,000; and
(ii) have a box office potential that exceeds $18,000 per week; and
(iii) compete directly or indirectly with Engagers operating under the Theatre for Young Audiences provisions of the (CTA or ITA); and
(iv) be produced under a co-production arrangement or be presented as part of a series or season with another Engager operating under the terms of the CTA or ITA. However, Equity recognizes that the way in which productions are structured is changing and so consideration will be given to circumstances where administrative support, publicity, or space is provided by an Engager to assist theatrical production in their community.
The important thing to know about items i & ii above is that those numbers have been chosen somewhat arbitrarily – because of the sheer diversity of independent theatre practice, these numbers are CAEA’s best guess and a starting point to determine a given production’s eligibility for the INDIE 2.2; they are numbers that represent an average-sized show. An example of a budget (not nearly complete) for a small-ish indie show might look like this, and even with an incomplete list of expenses here, such a production comes well under $75,000.
5 actors x $600/week over a 6-week gig = $18,000
1 director x $600/week over a 6-week gig = $3,600
1 stage manager x $600/week over a 6-week gig = $3,600
3 designers, each making around $2000 each = $6,000
1 Producer (always remember to pay yourself!) = $3,600
3-week Venue Rental (eg. Tarragon Extraspace @ $2750/week) = $8,250
3 weeks of Rehearsal Hall rental (6 8-hour days @$20/hr) = $2,880
Set and Costume materials & building (est.) = $5,000
Marketing/Publicity/Administrative Costs $3,000
Transport, Laundry, Running Costs, other misc $2,000
The best practice here is, if your production will exceed these numbers, to simply explain why. Perhaps you have a cast of 12 people – in that case, actor salaries alone will account for more than half of a $75,000 production budget if you’re paying them $600/week.
And regarding maximum box office potential, CAEA is also calculating an average number to start from: $18,000/week is the equivalent of a 100-seat theatre, selling tickets at $22 each, for eight shows per week. But perhaps you’re not in a conventional venue; perhaps you have a much greater audience capacity, and there is an opportunity to make a lot on box office should the production be successful!
If your expenses are high, and if the bulk of your production budget is going towards paying actors, you should not have a problem qualifying for this agreement. CAEA’s main concern is that the actors are being paid what was agreed to. If you think it’s plausible that the profits from box office could be very high, you could always work that into the revenue-sharing agreement with your artists.
The INDIE 2.2 costs you nothing to use! No application fees – however, under this policy, you as the producer must remit CAEA deductions from the artists’ fees to Equity prior to the start of the production – so in terms of your cash flow, you need to have this money up front. Deductions are:
2.25% working dues
6% RRSP contribution
$18/week of engagement for insurance (all weeks of engagement must have be insured)
So for an actor making $600/week on a six week gig ($3600), their total deductions would be:
$81.00 working dues
$216.00 RRSP contribution
For a total of $405.00 in deductions, meaning the artist walks away with $3,195 in their pocket.
OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER FOR THE INDIE 2.2
- you must apply to use this at least 30 days prior to the start of rehearsals
- prior to submitting an application, the cast and team is already tentatively in place and made aware of the conditions of the contract
- you must have at least one Equity member in the collective, but all of the collective members are subject to Equity deductions
CAEA and ACTRA have a reciprocal agreement where it was once the case that, if you were an ACTRA member working in Equity’s jurisdiction you would be compelled to join Equity, and vice versa. The worst version of attempting to enforce this agreement, would lead to ACTRA members being understandably upset at being charged a full Equity initiation fee. (Today, this fee is $1000).
However, as of 2015, Equity and ACTRA have introduced what they call “appropriate engagement terms”, which means that each organization can grant permits to non-members at their discretion. This reciprocal agreement usually does not apply to the any of the above policies, but should you find yourself in a position where you have an ACTRA member (but not an Equity member) who you want as part of your small-scale production, you will need to make sure Equity won’t be charging them a permit.
The DOT Policy was first introduced in January 2016, and has replaced the old “Guest Artist Agreement”. This Policy allows for Equity members, in all three disciplines of Dance, Opera, and Theatre, to be hired for any given production that doesn’t fall under the CTA or ITA agreements. Usually this agreement is used when a producing organization does not usually work with Equity members – Universities, Colleges, and Theatre Schools often use this agreement.
Who is this for?
- post-secondary educational institutions who want to hire professional artists as performers (non-faculty).
- Equity performers who want to do a multidisciplinary show with an independent company (non-PACT) and with non-Equity members
- when most of the cast of the multidisciplinary show is Equity
- for professional artists who are being engaged by a place that doesn't normally hire professional artists
That said, it’s worth familiarizing yourself with the DOT in case you are in a position where you only need to hire, say an Equity Director for a community theatre production. That said, the minimum terms are above even the lowest ITA fees.
There is a $65 application fee for use of the DOT, and the lowest minimum acting fee is $820/week.
Other things to note:
- if your cast exceeds 50% Equity actors, you maybe be required to hire an equity stage manager
- you can choose to pay artists by the week or by the hour
- multidisciplinary works will be contracted under the predominant discipline
- non-union artists have to pay Equity deductibles and they get credits counting towards equity membership