The SAG Foundation celebrates its 25th anniversary

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"Testing, one, two, three."

Those may be the first words of celebration as the SAG Foundation turns 25 in January. A nonprofit group that is financially separate from SAG itself, the foundation aims to assist and educate actors.

In the latest step toward that end, next year the foundation will open the doors to its Don La Fontaine Voice-Over Lab, where actors can work on voice-over reels with professional equipment -- free. The lab will work in tandem with the Actors Center, a space in the foundation's Wilshire Boulevard headquarters where members can edit their reels and attend seminars.

"Everyone knows the entertainment industry is one of the most difficult to be successful in," foundation executive director Marcia Smith says. "We try to fill in where the (acting) schools left off."

On a lean annual budget of $4 million, the organization -- initially founded to provide emergency health care assistance to SAG members -- has expanded its mission to offer SAG members a variety of programs, including Casting Access, which brings in top casting directors like Gary Zuckerbrod to speak to actors; and Life Raft, a series of seminars on topics like contracts that aims to provide actors with actionable business knowledge.

The organization receives no money from SAG member dues, though its catastrophic health assistance program does benefit from an annual auction held just before the SAG Awards. It also receives a small percentage of the show's profits.

"The amazing thing is, because of judicious investing, we have not had to diminish our assistance," Smith says. That assistance includes the Dale Scholarship program, which hands out $400,000 per year to actors who wish to pursue higher education.

"We try to give actors the ability to become employable," Smith says. "We give them the opportunity to learn how to market themselves and, in essence, how traverse the business of acting."
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