Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What about SAG?

Aspiring actors always have questions about the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and how to become a member, so after being asked the following questions by a young lady reading my book, The Tao of Acting, I decided the information was worth sharing here. Her questions are in black and my answers are in red. These replies refer only to the acting unions in the USA. Membership requirements for actors unions in Canada or the UK are quite different.

· How exactly does an actor join SAG? Do I have to have a speaking role in a big studio film, or can I just call SAG up and ask to join? You either have to have a speaking role in a SAG supervised film or you have to be an extra in three SAG supervised films and get the SAG vouchers before leaving the set. AFTRA is different, but you need to treat them similarly, and that is you do not want to join a union too soon. Once you are eligible and want to join, you go to the nearest SAG or AFTRA office, pay the initiation fee of $2777 and the first six months dues, and you are a member.

· What benefits do I get from SAG? Decent working conditions, fair pay for your work including overtime, and a health and retirement package if you are active enough.

· What does SAG Eligible mean? It means you have met the qualifications for membership, but have not yet joined.

· What is a background actor? An extra. Sometimes referred to as a non-speaking role or atmosphere.

· What does paying dues mean? Literally it means that every six months you pay the membership dues, seventy five dollars, I think. Figuratively paying your dues means that you have done the necessary preparation and put in the time to qualify as something.

· If I join SAG, am I only allowed to accept or be a part of certain SAG talent agencies or SAG films? Can I not do independent films or amateur theatre? You can have any agent you like, but you would be foolish not to have a SAG franchised agent. You cannot do non union films, but you can do amateur theatre.

· If I am not an SAG member, will certain talent agencies not represent me? For instance like William Morris Endeavor, or United Talent Agency? Agents want to represent marketable actors who will get union work,so they want SAG eligible or SAG actors, or actors that are likely to earn SAG membership quickly. The big name agencies will not even look at you unless you are known in the industry and working steadily.

· Does a professional actor HAVE to be an SAG member? By definition in my book, to be a professional actor you must belong to an actor's union==SAG, AFTRA or AEA.

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