Q & A with SAG-AFTRA Chicago’s Kathy Byrne

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Kathy Byrne

Kathy Byrne provides a wealth of information for Chicago productions.  Currently the SAG-AFTRA Chicago Local Director of TV/Theatrical, she was a Project Coordinator for the Mayor’s Office of Special Events in the Film Office.  


Byrne has been the Director of TV/Theatrical for SAG-AFTRA Chicago since May, 2010.  In addition to running the TV/Theatrical Department, she also is the head of Agency Relations for the Chicago local.  This entails working with Franchised Agents in the Chicago market.  Kathy is a firm believer in outreach to both actors and filmmakers who are beginning their careewhors, or  have worked on several film projects without realizing how easy it is to work with SAG-AFTRA actors and contracts.  Kathy covers 11 states in the Midwest and travels to those locations with the same message.

Prior to her position at SAG-AFTRA, Kathy was the Project Coordinator for Film and Television for the Chicago Film Office for nearly 20 years.  She also was the Program Coordinator for the Chicago Outdoor Film Festival for 3 years.  Kathy is a proud graduate of Illinois State University!


ALSO READ: Chicago Film Office lists new production guidelines


REEL: How long have you been involved with SAG-AFTRA?  

KATHY BYRNE: I have been with SAG-AFTRA for 10 years.

REEL: Are intimate scenes going to require new levels of protection, or do you see real couples being cast for such scenes or CGI being used?  Is there talk amongst SAG-AFTRA regarding intimate scenes going forward? 

KATHY BYRNE: At the minimum, actors involved will be required to be tested for COVID-19.   The comfort level of the actors will also come into play for the choreography involved in the scene.

REEL: What are some major changes we can expect on set regarding social distancing? 

KATHY BYRNE: The changes are based on safety for cast and crew.  PPE and disinfecting of locations and equipment are the minimum that should be expected. 


Here is the Reel 360 link to the industry-wide guidelines that have been shared with each state’s governor regarding resuming production.  Further guidelines will be forthcoming.


REEL: Going forward, do you expect an additional insurance requirement on top of workman’s comp and liability insurance for SAG actors? 

KATHY BYRNE: No, not from SAG-AFTRA.  Individual insurance companies may have additional requirements for productions during COVID, or may not cover COVID related issues.

REEL: Limiting crew interactions with talent is obviously a big part of keeping talent safe. What are some additional on set routines that can keep talent safe? 

KATHY BYRNE:  Maintaining social distance for everyone not on-camera, wearing masks, frequent hand-washing, disinfecting of equipment, props, etc.

REEL: Do you see talent having bigger responsibilities in the future regarding their hair and makeup, wardrobe and props, either on set or prior to shooting? 

KATHY BYRNE: No, those things will still be handled by production, but attention to safety and cleanliness will be the key. 

REEL: Do you imagine the SAG-AFTRA rate going up again because of COVID-19, and the risk talent will have being on set? 

KATHY BYRNE: No, not from SAG-AFTRA.  However, SAG-AFTRA only sets minimum rates, so all wages are negotiable above and beyond scale.  Individual performers may negotiate higher rates due to the individual circumstances of the production.  On a separate note, the current SAG-AFTRA TV/TH contract expires July  1st, so rates will go up then – not related to COVID.

REEL: What are some of the main reasons for the rate increase this next July? 

KATHY BYRNE: The only reason for the increase is contract negotiations.  SAG-AFTRA negotiates the TV/Theatrical Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) every 3 years with the AMPTP (major production studios).  Part of that negotiation is a rate increase every year within that 3  year contract.  Therefore rate increases happen every year on July 1st.

REEL: Where can filmmakers and producers find up-to-date information on SAG requirements going forward? 

KATHY BYRNE: The SAG-AFTRA website currently has the Industry-Wide Guidelines. There will be additional information in the coming weeks, so www.sagaftra.org is a great place to check in regularly for updates. 

If filmmakers are thinking about moving forward with a production in the coming months, they should feel free to reach out to Kathy.Byrne@sagaftra.org or 312-867-5508.


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Katharin Mraz is a contributing writer for Reel Chicago and Reel 360Email her at katharin@reelchicago.com

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