Brooke Thomas & Mary Callahan

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To Join or Not to Join...


So many questions surround the “SAG/AFTRA (union) vs non-union” work for actors.  Here are some answers. On a side note, as much as I love that SAG and AFTRA have merged it is a pain in the ass to type SAG/AFTRA every time so I am going to refer to them as SAG going forward. 

SAG is the union with represents all television and film performers.  When you work on a SAG production you are paid according to the rates and rules that SAG determines.  When you become a member of SAG you can no longer work on any projects that are non-union (not working under a SAG contract).  Non-union work refers to any project that is not done under a SAG contract.  This means that the production determines what you will be paid and how long you will work.  No residuals will be paid to you as non-union productions pay talent on a buy-out basis.  I realize this content is very dry but good to know. Here is a funny dog pic to keep you going.

One question we always get is “Should I join the union?’

The answer is, you should join when you have to. When you are non-union you are living in the best of both worlds.  You can do non-union work (and there is a lot of non-union work out there) and you can do SAG work as well but only for a limited time.  Let me explain. When you book your first SAG job you will be given a waiver known as a Taft Hartley (here).  This registers you with the union and puts you on their radar. After you are waivered as a principal performer, you have 30 days in which you can still work on SAG projects without officially joining the union.  After 30 days if you book a SAG job, you must join the union to be able to do that job.  Joining the union currently costs $3000.00.  So think carefully about which SAG jobs to accept when you are a must join.  Don’t accept, say a SAG industrial job as it only pays between $490-$610 and you would have to pay $3000 to do the job.  Doesn’t make financial sense.  As long as you are not a member of SAG you can still work on non-union projects.  Once you become a member you can no longer work on non-union projects.  Get it?  If not, please re-read.

Another question we get is “Will an agent work with me if I am non-union?’

The answer is yes (if they like you of course).  Agents will represent talent regardless of their union status.  There are some agencies that are SAG franchised agencies.  This means that they can only submit talent on union projects.  They can submit both union and non-union talent because if a non-union talent books the job they can get a waiver (the Taft Hartley I mentioned earlier).  There are agents and managers who are not SAG franchised and they can submit talent on both union and non-union projects.

Okay, that’s enough about this.  Next week will be more inspirational blogging by Mary

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