What You Should Know Before Joining the Actor’s Union

Project Casting

Should you join the SAG-AFTRA union?

If you just started working in the entertainment industry as an actor, then you may have heard people talking about the “union”. The “union” is actually the SAG-AFTRA. According to the SAG-AFTRA website, the union represents over 165,000 actors, announcers, broadcast journalists, dancers, DJs, news writers, news editors, program hosts, puppeteers, recording artists, singers, stunt performers, voiceover artists and other media professionals.

But, what does SAG-AFTRA do for you as an actor? The SAG-AFTRA works like any other union. It is an organization that fights to increase compensation and benefits for people in the union. For example, a union background extra earns approximately 75% more per hour than a non-union extra. Not too mention a bonuses for wardrobe, bad weather, and short lunches.

But, before you sign on the dotted line and join the union. Here are a few things you should know before joining the SAG-AFTRA union:

If I am not a part of a union, can I still audition for union roles?

-Yes you can. If they want you they will file paperwork called a Taft-Hartley which will make you eligible to join. The Taft-Harley period, allows for the actor to work on union projects but the talent is not required to join the Union. During that point it time, they have a maximum of 60 days to work on union productions. But once the Taft Harley expires, the actor is required to pay dues.

Can you join now then leave when you get to Los Angeles so you can do non-union work?

-No. Keep in mind that when you join the SAG-AFTRA union you are now competing with a more talented group of actors, models, and industry professionals for bigger productions. It would only be in your best interest to join the union once your resume and acting abilities can land you several productions.

SAGAFTRALogo_0102.jpg.644x203_q100If it is not a SAG-AFTRA production, can I work on it?

When you join SAG-AFTRA they have a major rule: no contract, no work. If the production doesn’t have an arrangement covered by SAG-AFTRA, you can’t work on it. So you limit the things available to you, but now you’re guaranteed a certain pay rate on things above a certain budget level, you can get residuals, you can become eligible for health insurance if you make a certain amount of money, they have seminars and classes and screenings etc.

If I become SAG-AFTRA would I gain more opportunities? 

Yes and no. In right to work states such as Georgia and Louisiana, productions are not required to obey certain SAG-AFTRA rules and regulations. As a result, producers are less likely to hire an individual that is SAG for a role because they will have to pay that actor more in comparison to a non-union actor. However, a SAG actor is able to audition for productions that make more money and entitled to better benefits than a non-union actor.

How do I join the SAG-AFTRA?

In order to join the union, a performer has to work on a SAG-AFTRA production, or if the person is a background actor the talent has worked on three days of work as a background actor. After that you send your application to the Union to be fully investigated for validity. For more details visit SagAftra.org

Do not apply, if you are not local or if you do not fit the description.

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