FIA Presidents

Many dedicated leaders have steered the work of FIA and represented the organisation over the years.

Below is a timeline presenting each of the great men and women serving as Presidents of the International Federation of Actors.

Ferne Downey

2012

For more than 40 years, Ferne has worked as a Canadian actor in television, film and radio. She trained for the theatre at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Her formative creative years were spent developing and producing new Canadian plays with her frequent collaborator and life partner, playwright Paul Ledoux.

She began her career fresh out of school working in recorded media for CBC Radio. By her late 20s, she turned her focus to performing in television and film and thrived in those milieus.

Ferne became enamoured with union leadership and strategic planning when she was first elected to ACTRA's Toronto Council in 1991 on a mandate of helping to bring significant structural change to ACTRA (Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists) - Canada's national union of professional performers working in the English-language recorded media - to make it a dynamic, responsive member-led union.

In May 2017, Ferne finished an unprecedented eight-year term as ACTRA National President. Previously, she served five years as ACTRA's National Treasurer. It has been an invigorating and challenging 26-year-long journey of renewal, growth and membership engagement.

As an activist and feminist President, she was elected as General VP on the Executive of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) where she served for seven years. She was proud to be the first person from the cultural sector to be invited to serve in this capacity.

Ferne studied with Dr. Elaine Bernard at the Harvard Trade Union Leadership program before agreeing to stand for the position of FIA President. The pivotal event that secured her willingness to stand was delivering the keynote speech at WIPO's Diplomatic Conference on the Protection of Audio-visual Performers in Beijing on June 20, 2012. It was intimidating, vital work and just the sort of challenge that sparks the imagination.

Ferne was elected FIA President at the 20th FIA Congress in Toronto in 2012. She is the third woman and the second North American to lead the federation. Ferne has been proud to bring her strategic planning skills to good use in this global governance role. She was re-elected by acclamation at the 21st Congress in Sao Paulo, Brazil in 2016.

Ferne also serves as Chair of the Board of Governors of AFBS, a unique insurance and retirement fraternal organization for Canadian performers and screenwriters.

In June 2017, Ferne received an honorary degree for her "exceptional service to the community" granted by Dalhousie University, a Doctor of Laws, honoris causa - L.L.D.

In spring 2018, ACTRA honoured her with a Life membership in recognition of her "outstanding leadership and dedicated activism on behalf of our industry and our members."

Agnete Haaland

2008-2012

Agnete G. Haaland was the proud president of FIA from 2008-2012. She was the president of the Norwegian Actors Equity for 11 years and is a dedicated fighter for the arts, human rights and for freedom of speech.

She is a well-known actress from Norway who has toured the world with several of her own monologues. Her monologue Florence Nightingale - woman at war has toured three continents. She is also a writer and a director. She has played leading parts in Henrik Ibsen's plays including Nora in A Dollhouse at The National Theatre in Beijing. She also played all the parts in Henrik Ibsen's Peer Gynt. This production toured Norway and was presented in Beijing and Shanghai by The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to mark that Henrik Ibsen died 100 years earlier. She has starred in all kinds of plays from Anne in The Diary of Anne Frank to Pippi in Pippi Longstockings. She has done major parts in film and TV in Norway.

She had to leave FIA when she became the artistic director of The National Stage in Bergen, Norway. The National Stage is Norway's oldest permanent theatre and it was founded in 1850 by the Norwegian violinist, Ole Bull. Henrik Ibsen was one of the first writer-in-residences and art-directors of the theatre. Today the theatre houses three stages and presents approximately 20 productions each year, both international and national classics, musicals, contemporary drama and children- and family theatre. The theatre employs around 150 people and 45 actors and presents around 800 performances a year.

She is an active and important voice in the Norwegian public debate, and she has been a member of countless boards and committees. When it comes to gender she believes in counting and the gatekeepers' responsibility to move the world forward. She is also convinced that it is no point in knowing the price of everything, and value of nothing. Agnete firmly believes that art can make the world a better place by changing our perspectives and by creating empathy with other human beings. She misses FIA enormously and hopes to work again with all her FIA friends when she is no longer an employer!

Tomas Bolme

1992-2008

Tomas Bolme is a Swedish Actor who started as a child at the age of seven with radio, television and movies. He was accepted to the Swedish governmental Drama School (1966-1969) and since has never been unemployed.

Tomas grow up in a trade union active family, with both father and grandfather taking part in different executive committees. It was no big surprise that he became a member of the actors' board at the Royal dramatic theatre in the early 70. He attended his first FIA congress in Stockholm 1973 as Rolf Rembe messenger boy. He became Vice-President of the Swedish Union in 1976 and President in 1979. Following up the Swedish tradition, he attended FIA Congresses in Paris, Athens and Leningrad in 1982, 1985 and 1988. Supported by Rolf Rembe he was a candidate for President at the Congress in Montreal 1992 and was elected.

He first worked with Michael Crosby as General Secretary and took part in all that Crosby suggested. When Katherine Sand was elected General Secretary in Copenhagen in 1996, she wanted him to take a much more active part in FIA's work. The two travelled a lot during the years and when Tomas successfully got support from the two-umbrella organizations LO-TCO international aide for trade union development, they started with the African countries, Foreign Eastern European countries, Hong Kong and Latin America. A good result was the establishment of Afro-FIA in Ghana, which was presented at the Congress in Montevideo 2000. Unfortunately for FIA, Katherine left for husband and USA in 2001.

Dominick Luquer became the new General Secretary and found a perfect way of working together with Tomas. Together they managed the Congress in Budapest in 2004 and finally in Marrakech in 2008 when Tomas finally stepped down.

Tomas has said that the work with especially the brilliant Katherine Sand created an atmosphere that always led to consensus. Followed by a specifically good cooperation with Dominick Luquer and with a Presidium of the best trade union delegates he ever met, made the work for FIA easy and exceptional joyful.

Peter Heinz Kersten

1982-1992

Peter Heinz Kersten was an Austrian magician, singer and Wienerlied (traditional Viennese songs) interpreter. He was President of FIA from 1982 to 1992.

In 1938, Peter Heinz Kersten became a member of the Catholic boarding school Wiener Sängerknaben - Vienna Boys Choir - foundation for his singing career. In 1944, he started to study dentistry, which he finished with a state examination in 1954. One year later he opened a dental practice. Parallel of his university college, he studied music at the academy of Vienna. His last appearance at a song recital in Vienna was in November 2002.

In 1962, he was elected as the President of the Magische Klub Wien, which he held until 1989. In 1973, he became President of International Federation of Magic Societies (FISM) and in July of 1976 he organised the 13th FISM International Congress in Vienna. Two years later he became chairman of the Section Entertainment and Arts in the Union for Arts and Media (GdG-KMfB) and also President of the Soziawerks Österreichischer Artisten.

Peter was elected President of FIA in 1982, a post to which he was re-elected in 1985 and 1988. The same year, he took part of founding the MRA (Magischer Ring Austria). He was elected as the first MRA President, function he held until 1988.

Peter Heinz Kersten died in 2004.

France Delahalle

1973-1982

France Delahalle joined the National Actors' Union (Syndicat National des Acteurs - SNA) from her first acting contracts. It was the events of 1968 in France which awoke in her the commitment to trade union activism. Without ever setting aside her sharp critical thinking, she was able to move, together with others, in a constructive direction. After this difficult period, she began working in the union in the "theatre branch" but quickly became interested in international issues which led her to participate in the FIA Congress in Amsterdam in 1970.

She committed herself wholly to this work and was elected president of FIA at the next Congress in 1973 in Stockholm. This involvement and the responsibilities arising from it, took place in the difficult context of the withdrawal of the previous President Vlastimil Fisar, who had been elected in at the FIA Congress in Prague in 1967, as a result of the events in the Czechoslovakia in 1968.

Following the interim mandate of the Canadian Pierre Boucher, a " neutral " presidency was needed, due to two opposing factions. It was General Secretary Gerald Croasdell who persuaded the French delegation to propose France Delahalle due to her authority and strong character. In was in 1973 and the following September Pinochet's putsch took place in Chile. From the outset of her mandate, France was able to convince all of FIA to unanimously condemn this event. Throughout her three mandates lasting until 1982, she played a key role, together with Gerald Croasdell, in maintaining a balance in FIA that, at that time, was still delicate.

At national level, France could always be counted upon when the union came under different forms of attack or ran up against internal difficulties. This was the case in 1968, but also in 1976-77 during the long 3 month strike by television performers, and again in 1980 when the general secretary very suddenly and unexpectedly left the union and during the events in Poland that same year, which impacted on the Trade Union Confederation.

In 1984 she became co-director of the St Georges theatre. She acted in more than 20 films (cinema and television) and in more than 25 theatre plays. Her husband Georges Herbert was the head of a major touring management company and was also a theatre director from the end of the war up to his death in 2000.

Pierre Boucher

1970-1973

Pierre Boucher is one of the many actors who served as President of the Union des Artistes (UDA), in Canada.

Yet, he never though that one day he would be an actor. He discovered his passion for theatre during his law studies. Star of many plays presented on stage; TV lovers would remember him for his roles in "Radisson", "Rue de l'Anse" and "Rue des pignons".

When he became president of UDA in 1962, there is a disagreement with the Place des Arts which refuses to recognise the jurisdiction of the UDA on artists who perform there. It was also at this time that UDA began to feel the need to define a "Status of the Artist" that will come only many years later.

After sitting on the board of the CRTC (Council of Canadian Broadcasting and Telecommunications), Pierre Boucher die prematurely in 1973.

Vlastimil Fisar

1967-1970

Vlastimil Fisar was a leading actor at one of the main theatres in Prague in the 1960s, a popular radio and television artist, president of his national union. At the FIA Congress in Mexico City 1964 he boldly invited the Federation to meet next time in his country - which would mean the first FIA meeting behind what was then referred to as "the iron curtain". The initiative was successful. Observers from both Screen Actors ' Guild of America (SAG) and the Cultural Workers' Union of the USSR came to the Congress in Prague 1967 and within a year both organisations announced that they would apply for membership .

The Congress had ended with electing Vlastimil Fisar president of FIA. The following months probably were the best and happiest in Vlastmil's time as a trade unionist. They coincided with "the Prague Spring" 1968 which was a dynamic movement aiming at a liberalisation and humanization of the existing political structure in Eastern Europe. Vlastimil was a member of the Communist Party but also an enthusiastic spokesman for the "Prague spring" - which was bound to create tension with the political establishment.

During the summer Vlastimil travelled to Stockholm to where the FIA Secretariat had been moved from Paris, in the company of his dearest property: his family and his newly acquired SIMCA. When he drove back the idyll took an abrupt end; at the frontier between the German Democratic Republic and Czechoslovakia waited German troops, prepared to enter into his country. The neighbouring socialist countries had decided to put an end to "the Prague Spring".

For Vlastimil Fisar the future had turned dark. The authorities prevented him not only from taking part in any national trade union activity but also from appearing in front of any audience, camera or microphone. He was allowed to live on with his family in the flat opposite "his" theatre but without ever performing there. Also for FIA this was an unbearable situation; it could not operate with a President who was unable to carry out his profession. At the next congress in Amsterdam 1970 Vlastimil was elected Honorary President but his active function was taken over by the French-Canadian actor Pierre Boucher.

Not until twenty years later, with the fall of "the Berlin Wall" in 1989 and the general political relaxation that followed in Eastern Europe, did Fisar's personal situation improve. The professional ban on him was removed, and his colleagues could call him back into the work of their union. But sadly, it was too late. He had been struck by a throat cancer that within short ended his life.

Rodolfo Landa

1964-1967

Rodolfo Landa, stage name of the very famous in Mexico Rodolfo Echeverría Alvarez, was clearly a multifaceted man with a particularly appealing personality, which contributed his vast culture. His acting career that started in theatre in 1934 is characterised by his tremendous sympathy that along with his interest for social problems brought him to lead the Asociación Nacional de Actores de Mexico, also known as ANDA, from 1953 to 1966, activity that as often slightly drive him away from his original profession. But, it is fair to say that he led the union with a specific knowledge of labour law, since he also was a lawyer. From 1966, he started to exercise public positions of great importance, usually in connection with the entertainment industry. His younger brother, Luis Echeverría Alvarez, also entered in politics and became President of Mexico. In 1970, Rodolfo was nominated Director of the National Bank for Films setting a fundamental period for the development of the Mexican audiovisual industry, with a great incentive for the young directors and creating among other things: the Cineteca Nacional, the Centro de Capacitación Cinematográfica, and supporting the Festival Internacional Cervantino, founded by the theatre master: Enrique Ruelas. Over the years, this theatre festival gained an international recognition as an event to present the theatrical work of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, by companies from all around the world, especially of Hispanic language.

During his years as trade union leader in ANDA, he was also president of the Centro Mexicano de Teatro, affiliated to the Instituto Internacional de Teatro of UNESCO, between 1955 and 1962, and promoted the integration and participation of ANDA in the beginning of the International Federation of Actors. In 1964, was organised in Mexico the first Congress of FIA in an Latin American country and resulted with the election of Rodolfo Landa as President of the International Federation of Actors, so far the only President from Latin America. He served as President until 1967, shortly after he stepped down as President of ANDA, to engage actively in politics in his country. He was elected national Member of Parliament in two occasions and once senator.

When he was a law student, Rodolfo Landa worked with Julio Bracho, founder of the Teatro Universitario and shared a warm friendship with the Mexican poet, Nobel Price, Octavio Paz, as well as with the professor López Portillo, that from lawyer and academician, and because of his friendship with the brothers Rodolfo and Luis Echeverría Alvarez became interested in politics, being later one of the most prestigious and recognised presidents of the Republic of Mexico.

As well as working regularly as a theatre actor, and before focusing his efforts on syndicalism and politics, Rodolfo Landa also worked in nearly 80 movies, maintaining en intense life until the last decade of the past century. He died in Cuernavaca in 2004.

Fernand Gravey

1958-1964

Fernand Gravey was a famous actor and one of international renown, thanks to his cinema career. He was born in Belgium to actor parents. Under his true name, Fernand Mertens, he was granted French nationality after the war.

As a child he appeared in several films. During the First World War, his family moved to London, where he learned English, something that served him well later in his career. He gravitated towards theatre and moved to Paris at the end of the 20s, where he adopted the stage name Gravey. In the period up to the Second World War, he was in some 40 films and a dozen or so shows. He was the young leading man who embodied French seduction.

His perfect mastery of English meant that he could consider an international career and try his luck in Hollywood. He crossed the ocean in the company of his wife. He was engaged by Mervyn Le Roy for " The King and the clown girls " (1937) with Joan Blondell and acted in " Fools for scandal " (1938) with Carole Lombard. Later he said "Working in Hollywood is magnificent and you learn a great many things - first and foremost, that you can't stay there forever."

In '44-'45, as he still had Belgian nationality, he was engaged on a voluntary basis in the French Foreign Legion and joined campaigns in France and Germany with the rank of Reserve Lieutenant. When the war ended, he acquired French nationality.

In the SNA (the National Union of Actors), the successor to the Union of Artists, he had the idea in 1946 of creating the "Bureau V" (the "Stars' Bureau" - with V standing for "vedettes", the French word for Star). This was inspired by the example of the US and intended to bring well known Stars into a more active role in the union. Thus in 1947, the "Bureau V" played an active role in the campaign to revise the Blum-Byrnes agreements, signed in 1946, which would lead to the French government placing a limitation on the number of copies of American films shown in France.

He was proposed by the SNA for the Presidency of FIA and was elected in 1958, remaining President until 1964. He was also the first representative of FIA in the management committee of the Association for the Cannes Film Festival.

In the period from the end of the war until his death, he acted in a further 30 or so films, including " La ronde " directed by Max Ophul and, " Si Versailles m'était conté " directed by Sacha Guitry, as well as a TV series directed by Maurice Pialat. During the same period, he was in some 30 theatre plays, many of them in the "Boulevard" theatre.

He died suddenly of a heart attack. He had been married to actress Jane Renouardt since 1936.

Gordon Sandison

1956-1958

Gordon Sandison was General Secretary of Equity from 1946 until his early death at the aged of 47 in 1958. He held office during a period in which the rapid development of new media and methods of recording affected actors more than in any other decade and in which foresight and consistent leadership were essential.

Soon after his appointment the closing of theatres in the fuel crisis gave Sandison the opportunity of demonstrating effectively his energy and determination and in every aspect of Equity's work. He saw the importance of full organisation in the film studios and secured representation of the profession in the Councils of the industry. During this time Equity, the Musicians' Union and the Variety Artistes' Federation joined to secure the separation of sound radio and television so far as artists' engagements are concerned. In television he pressed for, and secured, proper fees for mechanical repeats and an all-important limitation on their use. He saw the critical importance for the future of the pattern of employment in television films and commercials and recommended and carried through effective action to secure the establishment of exploitation and use fees.

On his death the Council of Equity set up a fund for the maintenance and education of his children. That more than £7,000 was raised was a testimony of the respect and affection in which Gordon was held in the profession.

Jean Darcante

1952-1956

Jean Darcante was a French actor and stage director. Following his studies in the National Conservatoire for Dramatic Art, he began his career as a theatre actor in the early '30s with Gaston Baty, who would later entrust Darcante with his theatre, in order to stage La Célestine by Fernando de Rojas. In the course of his cinema career, he filmed, among others, with Sacha Guitry, Jean-Pierre Melville and Christan Jaque.

During the Occupation of France, he was active, with others, in the Youth Theatre Committee, whose main activity was in fact to resist and go against the Vichy-authorised "Organising Committee of Stage Producers" (Comité d'organisation des entreprises de spectacle - COES). Together with the author and activist Claude Vermorel, Jean Darcante created a clandestine actors' union, linked to the Trade Union Federation CGT, also operating underground at that time. He was (already) elected Secretary General of the Union under the Presidency of André Luguet. And so he was bitten by the trade union bug.

After the war, it became necessary to restructure the Trade Union of Artists. It changed its name and adopted the new title of the National Union of Actors (Syndicat national des acteurs - SNA). Ever a man of action, Jean Darcante was very opposed to the union management of the time, which was accused of inertia. Thanks to his proposals for affirmative action by the union, he was elected to the position of Secretary General of the SNA in 1945 and was re-elected several times. He was an authoritative figure, whose great skills in oratory allowed him to stay ahead of his political opponents. Such were his qualities of leadership and organisation that the Statutes of the union were changed in order allow him to continue to stand for election, despite the fact that he was named theatre director of the Renaissance Theatre in 1946.

As of 1951, the issue arose of the intellectual property rights of artists over the fixation and copying of their recorded works. Meetings were held in Paris between unions from different European countries, under the chairmanship of Jean Darcante. The first of these was in April 1951. In 1952, FIA was created in London and Jean Darcante was its President until 1956.

Ever since the Liberation, the conflict with the old union management of the Union des artistes had been ongoing. This conflict between the "old guard" and the "modernisers" continued to deepen until it resulted in a split and a breakaway union, of which Jean Darcante would be the backbone.

Together with Gérard Philipe, who would be the figurehead and leader, Darcante participated actively in this split, led by the "modernisers". It was finalised in August 1957 and lasted until the eventual reunification in June 1958, which was carried out under the new name of the French Union of Actors (Syndicat Français des acteurs - SFA). Gerard Philipe was elected President of the renewed union.

In 1958 Jean Darcante became Secretary General of the International Theatre Institute (UNESCO), a position he held until 1980.