What is SAG? Many people getting started in the entertainment business ask this question. SAG stands for Screen Actors Guild. Today it is known as SAG-AFTRA and is a labor union for actors, journalists, radio personalities, and media professionals worldwide. Years ago, as an actor, it was a measure of success. Today, depending on where you live and what your goals are, this may no longer be the case. Actors are SAG, video production companies like ours can be SAG signatory and Advertising agencies are or are not SAG signatory.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both. We discuss a few in this article.
As an actor, your goal is to land a role on a SAG television show, feature film or commercial video production. As soon as you do, you automatically become SAG eligible. This simply means that if you choose, you can join the global union of SAG actors. You are eligible for membership. Another less known way to become SAG eligible is to work as an extra on three SAG TV shows, feature films or commercial video productions for three days.
AFTRA stands for the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. Initially created as the American Federation of Radio artists in 1937, they merged with the television authority in 1952 and formed AFTRA. Today SAG and AFTRA have merged to become SAG-AFTRA. Typically, they are just referred to as SAG among industry professionals.
Once you become SAG eligible as a performer, you must pay an initiation fee to physically become a SAG member. That fee is approximately $3,000. Once you are a member, yearly dues start around $200 and increase depending on how much money you make.
As a member of SAG you earn credits towards retirement and healthcare each time you work. It is stated that SAG actors are given a “first look” treatment for roles on television, film and commercial video productions. You also join a long list of the greatest name talent in the world.
Many think just because you are SAG, you have made it. This is not the case. As a matter of fact, when you start out, one should think long and hard about joining the union. Once you become a SAG actor, you can not work non-union jobs. The biggest and the best tv shows, films, and commercial video productions are SAG. When you are starting, the chance you will be hired for those jobs are slim to impossible. There are many non-union jobs that pay well. In Atlanta, a non-union commercial can pay anywhere from $500 to $5000.
It will benefit you to wait until you have momentum and a good track record of booking jobs before you become a full-time SAG actor.
There is no rush. Take your time and make sure you choose wisely. Joining the union is a step in the right direction. If you plan to be a superstar, your membership is inevitable. If you are a dedicated actor or if you know someone that is dedicated to the craft and needs a little more information, please forward this article to them using the share buttons at the top.