Drama and Comedy

Each year with the Golden Globes out of the way, star-struck eyes turn to the next glamorous award show on TV, the Screen Actors Guild Awards. Believed by many to be a predictor for the Oscar race, the grand party where the statuette called the “Actor” will be awarded, takes place before Oscar voting closes.  This year, that deadline falls on February 22nd.

Why would the result of the SAG Awards influence the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences voters? Because actors are the people who vote for SAG award winners. There are no directors, writers, cinematographers, or other industry players marking SAG ballots unless they also happen to be actors too. The talented actor who straightens his cummerbund, and the actor who rounds up the yardage of her gown to walk across the stage, know they are receiving the award because of votes from their peers, which makes the honor even more impressive. Members of the AMPA respect that and could be swayed by it. Because the SAG ceremonies occur well before Oscar voting, a SAG award winner could easily negate that sway with an acceptance speech tainted by bawdy Ricky Gervais Golden Globe overtones.

No Hanging Chads

The Internet is responsible for simplifying voting for SAG members via the new voting system available online. It has also had a huge impact on how actors find work and communicate with industry people. Available roles are found online, canvassing for casting agents is done online, sides (specific script scenes) are forwarded to actors to study before auditions and they’re sent as pdf files. It’s all good right? Well, with most new opportunity comes some controversy. SAG’s new voting system has raised complaints. Older actors who are not Internet savvy say it will hamper their ability to vote. But as long as physical ballots are still available, they don’t have to be left out.

Viewing Nominated Films

For years, SAG has been providing voting members with “screeners”, dvds for the nominated films. This takes massive orchestration. Deadlines are paramount as SAG must forward dvs to each voter in time for them to view all the nominees and place their votes. When you consider SAG members number approximately 100,00o this is a time consuming task.

But this year marks a technological breakthrough in the screener viewing process, which if successful, may change the system forever. While two of the five nominated films, The King’s Speech and Social Network, were sent to voters, the other three films, Black Swan, The Fighter, and The Kids Are All Right were made available for download online. A code was mailed to the member who could use it to access the film from iTunes or a studio website. Films from iTunes can be viewed on iPad, Mac or PC, or on HDTV with Apple TV.

You Can Attend The SAG Awards

Ever thought of sitting at a dinner table with Mark Wahlberg, Natalie Portman, or other celebrities? Anyone can by becoming a seat filler which is like a game of musical chairs that will put you in elbow distance to the stars. As a seat filler it’s your job to occupy the chairs of celebrities who leave them to present or accept awards, or simply to freshen up. When the camera scans the room, an empty seat is regarded as a blemish on the award show organizers.

Seat fillers usually arrive about three hours before the actual event so the group can learn their responsibilities and the organizers can size up the cast. It gives them the opportunity to weed out characters whose appearance is inappropriate or who look like their mission is to steal the show once the cameras roll.

Seat fillers hover in a holding area off camera but close enough to sprint to a seat at a second's notice. Strict rules must be followed by seat fillers, some of which include:

• no touching anything on the tables

• no talking to celebs or their guests

• no photography

• no crashing after-parties

Award show dress code is closely enforced and you will find yourself removed if you violate it. Everyone must wear dark, formal clothing. Red or white clothing, hats and stripes are prohibited as well as purses larger than about six inches. In return for your elegant clothing, you will be rewarded with a wristband, which identifies you as a seat filler. It’s almost a guarantee that you won’t be invited back next year to do this job if you confirm your attendance, then don’t show up.

There are only a few companies that provide audiences for TV shows and award ceremonies. If you’re interested in applying here are some contacts:

Audiences Unlimited

Seatfiller.com

Seeing-stars.com

Experience The Red Carpet In Person

Auctions are held each year for bleacher seats along the red carpet but you have to act fast to win a place. This is a popular opportunity and active online bidding which ranges from $25 to $200 and sometimes more, will attract many bidders from all walks of life. Tickets are offered in lots for groups of two or four people to watch the red carpet procession, take photos of stars and request autographs, all things you can't do as a seat filler. Revenues from the auctions benefit the SAG Foundations public children’s literacy programs.

SAG Award Categories, Nominees, And Winners

Unlike the Oscar party, the SAG award has no category for “best film” because they are voting on acting performance. So their version of “best film” is called “outstanding performance by a cast”. They also differ from the Oscar show because they vote for actors on TV as well as on Film. Each category is limited to five nominees. Here are the 2011 nominees and winners.

CAST

“Black Swan”

“The Fighter”

“The Kids Are All Right”

“The King’s Speech” - WINNER

“The Social Network”

LEAD MALE ACTOR

Jeff Bridges – “True Grit”

Robert Duvall – “Get Low”

Jesse Eisenberg – “The Social Network”

Colin Firth – “The King’s Speech” - WINNER

James Franco – “127 Hours”

LEAD FEMALE ACTOR

Annette Bening – “The Kids Are All Right”

Nicole Kidman – “Rabbit Hole”

Jennifer Lawrence – “Winter’s Bone”

Natalie Portman – “Black Swan” - WINNER

Hilary Swank – “Conviction”

SUPPORTING MALE ACTOR

Christian Bale – “The Fighter” - WINNER

John Hawkes – “Winter’s Bone”

Jeremy Renner – “The Town”

Mark Ruffalo – “The Kids Are All Right”

Geoffey Rrush – “The King’s Speech”

SUPPORTING FEMALE ACTOR

Amy Adams – “The Fighter”

Helena Bonham Carter – “The King’s Speech”

Mila Kunis – “Black Swan”

Melissa Leo – “The Fighter” - WINNER

Hailee Steinfeld – “True Grit”

The 17th annul SAG Awards will air Jan. 30th , on TNT and CBS from the LA Shrine Auditorium. Established in 1933, SAG is the nation’s largest labor union. With 20 branches nationwide, it represents more than 125,000 actors.