Here is everything you should know about union vs. non-union projects and productions.
There are many different kinds of projects that hire actors. Here are the most common:
- Studio movies
- Independent movies
- Short Films
- Web series
- Background Acting
Union vs. Non-union acting
Related: The Easiest Way to Join SAG-AFTRA
For all of these types of work, the SAG-AFTRA, the union for actors, can be associated with the production. When a producer starts a production, he can register it with SAG-AFTRA to become a “union” production. The project is assigned a contract based on a budget of the production, and the production must follow the terms of the union contract.
For nearly every type of production, there is an associated contract. Typically, bigger productions are nearly all union productions. Actors typically prefer union acting jobs because they offer higher pay than non-union jobs. Also, there are guaranteed break times, warm meals, better trailers and facilities, and production insurance production. Also, with the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, there are COVID-19 safety protocols productions must follow.
If a project is a non-union production, producers do not have to pay, feed, house, or give actors breaks. You are essentially a freelance, and there is no authority to contact if something goes wrong. That said, your agent, manager, can negotiate a contract to make sure those benefits are tied to your job.
What is Financial Core?
Non-union productions also do not hire celebrities except the very few are financial-core. Financial core (also known as FiCore or Fi–Core) refers to a legal agreement, which allows workers instead of unions to be employed in a union environment without being a labor union member.
Most celebrities are unionized, and for many major theatrical releases, producers hire recognizable actors. As a result, non-union products do not have many celebrities. The talent level for actors may not be on par as a union production, and sometimes independent films are less impressive. However, with the rise of social media, YouTube, and Web series, there are many non-union productions with high production quality.
What is Production Insurance?
All union productions must have production insurance. Many non-union productions do not. As a result, if you work on a set and slip and fall, the production company should be liable. However, the production company may not actually have any money to pay for your medical expenses. If you are on a film without production insurance, you are accountable for anything you agree to do if you get hurt because you are likely to have to pay the medical bills. It is a risk for actors who do not have production insurance. However, we suggest contacting a worker’s compensation attorney if you have any legal questions.