How To Join SAG
One of the most important things that you'll do as an actor in los angeles is to join the Screen Actor's Guild . It's that famous catch-22. You can't really get work until you join the union, and you can't really join the union till you get work.
If you're a beginning actor and you're looking to join the union - there's a number of things that you'll want to think about - and opportunities that you want to pursue.
What Is SAG Anyway
Well, The Screen Actor's Guild is is a labor union founded in 1933 to protect performers.
Primarily concerned with wages and working conditions, SAG negotiates and enforces collective bargaining agreements that establish equitable levels of compensation, benefits and working conditions for performers.
SAG is affiliated with The American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) through the Associated Actors and Artists of America.
All Hollywood films come under the SAG rules as they pertain to actors and extras. For example, pay rates, the number of hours that union actors are allowed to work and so forth.
But the one important rule that you care about is the fact that non-union actors are not allowed to work on films. In order to get hired by a union production - you must be in the union.
So, how do I ever get into the union
This is where that catch-22 comes in. In order to be hired onto a union set you must do one of the following things:
#1 Get hired as a "Principal Performer"
Under the SAG rules, if a Performer has worked one (1) day as a principal performer on a SAG project produced by a signatory company. The Performer should have been
engaged in a daily, three (3) day or weekly contract and paid appropriate wages. So what does that mean? Well this is usually how most actors become what's known as "SAG-eligible". This is where a production can hire you because of the unique talents that you bring to a particular role and they can "taft-hartley" you in.
Taft-Hartley refers to an exemption in the rules. Congress passed this law so that non-members of unions would have a way to join unions more easily.
#2 Get Hired As A Background Performer
According to SAG if a Performer has worked a minimum of three (3) days, consecutive or non-consecutive, as a background performer on any production produced by a signatory company. The three days of work as background performer does not have to be on the same production. However, the background performer must have been given a voucher and paid the appropriate background wage.
In other words if you work three days as a background performer on a production (or a couple of different productions) you can also become SAG-Eligible.
#3 Come in as a Member of an Affiliated Unions
According to SAG a performer who is member of The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), Actors Equity, American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA), Alliance of Canadian Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA) or American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA) for at least one year and has worked as a principal performer under the jurisdiction of either of the above-named unions is eligible for membership with Screen Actors Guild.
So, in many cases these unions may be a way for you to get into SAG as well.
Once you've become SAG-Eligible you'll want to look at the process for joining the union.
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