My name is Rocky Capella, and I’m running to represent you as a member of the San Francisco Local National Board for 2023. For those of you who don’t know me, here’s my story.
My father was a Naval fighter pilot and flight instructor (what’s now called a Top Gun) for over 30 years. Since both my parents were born and raised in San Francisco, my father made sure to finish his career in the Bay Area, where I was born. Growing up, I always planned on being in the Navy, just like my dad—he even got me an appointment to join the Naval Academy after high school. Everything changed during my senior year, however, when I signed up for a film class. After a year spent writing, directing and performing in our own films, I was completely hooked on making movies. It was the creative outlet I was missing and a heck of a lot of fun. I knew that I’d found my calling (sorry, Dad).
Making movies was what I wanted to do, but at that point I had no idea how to actually “make a living” in the business until I met Robert Conrad, the actor who played Jim West in the series Wild, Wild West. We connected over our love of boxing and film, and he gave me some advice that changed the trajectory of my career; he suggested that while working as an actor is great, I should try stunts, since it might be a better fit for my background as a competitive boxer. And if I wanted to be taken seriously in the business, he said I’d want to join the Screen Actors Guild. I took his advice, ran with it, and moved to LA at 19 to learn as much as I could about the industry. After a few years of hard work, hustling, and making connections, I moved back to the Bay Area to open a gym and stunt training facility called GYM WEST (after Conrad’s character). I joined AFTRA, got my SAG card a year later, and started the stunt business in the Bay Area.
I began my career on a few low-budget Italian projects that were shot right here in Northern California. I also directed dozens of safety films, which was great experience for me and my new stunt team in the Bay Area. Around that time, George Lucas was launching Industrial Light and Magic, and I knew someday I’d love to be a part of it. Ten years of phone calls and letters later, my persistence finally paid off. ILM was filming the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit and looking for a stunt double and coordinator. As luck would have it, I was the same size as the lead actor, Bob Hoskins, and I ended up working on the film for over 3 months. It was the beginning of a long working relationship with ILM that next led to me working on Willow (Ron Howard’s first big film) and then becoming the stunt coordinator and driver for all the projects in their newly-established commercial division. Needless to say, this experience completely changed my life and has shaped my time in the industry ever since.
My folks always stressed the importance of service and giving back, so as I became more established, I knew I wanted to make giving back to our community a priority. I started a 100% volunteer 501(c)(3) nonprofit charity, RCP Charities (www.rcpcharities.org), that would focus on helping people both in the industry and the wider Bay Area community. Over the last 30 years, our stunt association has given thousands of dollars to people going through difficult times; we’ve helped those affected by recent wildfires, given out dozens of student and teacher scholarships, and directly helped families who have lost loved ones in the film business.
During my career, I’ve had the honor of working directly with many of the top producers, directors, and actors in the business: George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola, the Wachowskis, Ron Howard, Ryan Coogler, Chris Columbus, Michael B. Jordan, Sean Penn, Rosario Dawson, Matthew McConaughey, Don Johnson, Robin Williams, Mark Ruffalo, and many more. These people put their trust in me to make sure that the action matched their vision, that we stayed on schedule and within budget, and that everyone went home safe after a hard day at work. I’m proud to have always given my heart and soul to every project and deliver as promised.
Along with being a union performer, I have often worked behind the scenes, serving on both the local board and the National Stunt Safety Committee (for over two decades). I’ve also given talks about safety at SAG-AFTRA meetings and local film festivals, where I always am sure to reiterate the benefits that being part of the union provides. I am also a member of DGA and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
I have been on set with many of you, making sure you that were safe and comfortable around all of our action sequences. Over the last 40 years, I’ve had the opportunity to hire local actors and stunt performers, as well as Taft-Hartley many new union members across the hundreds of productions I’ve worked on as a director and stunt coordinator. I also directed the award-winning film Guitar Man right here in the Bay Area, for which we were able to hire dozens of our talented local SAG-AFTRA members.
I am not a member of any political faction here at SAG-AFTRA, and I have no political agenda except to advocate for what’s right for our Northern California members. I’ve never been swayed, bullied, or bribed into doing anything I didn’t believe in—and I won’t start now. Those of you who have worked with me have seen my calm, professional approach firsthand when collaborating with production and other performers. During this election and beyond, I refuse to belittle or disrespect people, and I welcome different insights. I’ve always believed that the fairest, most intelligent decisions depend on hearing all opinions.
We have several new candidates running for office this year, and change is often very good. I have been friends and worked with Mike Martinez for most of my career, and, more recently, with Andrew Neis—both are smart, hard-working, dedicated members of our local who truly want to make a difference. With streaming gaining so much ground and A.I. growing out of control, us as members need to think carefully about the choices we make that will shape our future. A key part of my job as a stunt coordinator is being thorough; you can be sure that I won’t “rubber stamp” any decisions here either. Our hard-earned dues pay for this union to exist, and I’ll do everything I can to ensure your money is well spent. Remember that we, as SAG-AFTRA members, are the employers. I’ve heard your concerns: why don’t residuals count towards medical coverage for seniors? Where does our dues money go? How can we get more local SAG-AFTRA members on set when companies shoot here? I know you want answers.
So, why am I running for the National Board? Because I want to do what I can to make sure our pensions survive in the future—for you, me, and our next generation of SAG-AFTRA members. I have the experience of starting and sustaining successful businesses, including a nonprofit, without any corporate backing and have helped others in the process. We can make a change to bring more work to Northern California, increase our residuals, get better medical coverage, and protect our pensions. I’ve seen time and again that when people work together, we can get things done!
My dad always told us growing up, “Remember, pressure makes diamonds.” As you’ve seen, I’ve handled the pressure and always had your back. I’ve protected you on sets, and I promise to do the same as your Northern California National Board representative. Let’s bring more film work back to Northern California and make it the fun, “diamond” location we all know it can be.
Thank you all for your time and your votes.