SAG – My Journey and Why I Decided to Join


Whenever someone finds out that you are an actor or have done acting jobs there are a handful of questions that are inevitable 1) are you on Netflix (where can I see you) 2) are you a member of SAG?  I’m not sure why people seem so interested in whether you are a member of the screen actors guild or not but it’s VERY frequently asked.  In general, my response has been I have done work that makes me eligible but up until this month (January 2019) I had not joined.  Here are some of the reasons why I had not joined:

  1. I wanted to build up a decent acting resume before joining.  Since it is significantly easier to find non-union work I wanted to wait until I had a couple of dozen productions under my belt before joining SAG.
  2. Up until this month no production companies had expressed an interest in me being a part of SAG.  While I could have skipped it, knowing it was important to them coupled with having some experience on my resume helped me decide to move forward.
  3. It’s not cheap to join SAG and as you may or may not be aware acting jobs do not pay super well (or consistently).  So while my day job as a software developer does pay I wanted to make sure that there was a financial return on my investment for joining the union.
  4. A lot of jobs in the Houston area are non-union so I wanted to wait until I had more National jobs and/or a specific goal in mind (I now have both of those covered).

In my opinion to join or not join SAG is a personal decision that each actor needs to make based on their own circumstances.  Whether I made the right decision or not is way too early to tell but if you are trying to decide, here are some videos that might help you take a decision:

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iV1gCpThbPw – Wendy Alane Wright, The Hollywood Talent Manager provides some solid advice on when to join SAG and the difference between SAG Eligible and Must Join.  It’s a little more about timing than it is whether you should join or not.  She does say “set aside money to join SAG because eventually you will need to.”  She also says your resume should be full before you join so that you can compete with the best of the best.
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Qec-vIH5UU from The Acting Resource Guru.  Provides three things to think about 1) where are you in your craft? 2) What is your on-set experience? 3) How much is on your resume? How much footage do you have?
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jw_bsynwu8Q this one tells you quite a bit about what the union does for its members.  Which helps you understand more about why you should join SAG and finally how you join.
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8S4bzsHcYIs this video is really just a commercial for their workshop but the interesting point that it makes is know the industry in your area.  Are there union jobs around you?
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vEKojxchH58 this is actually just a hilarious video about what his experience was with joining SAG on very short notice.  Humor me.  This is a great distraction if you are just trying to decide to join or not join ha!
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XOduSHxPxBM This one is from Amy Jo Berman and she is a well known acting coach and casting director.  She also talks about knowing your market because a lot of markets across the U.S. are heavily skewed toward non-union jobs.

So now, let’s talk about the process to join SAG and what was that like (at least for me).  For me it was a multi-step process that looked something like the following:

  1. I submitted a SAG agreement that I had signed for a new media project (Chosen Kin) to the appropriate SAG-AFTRA email (newmedia@sagagtra.org).  Now I did this over the holidays so it took a week or so for them to get back to me.
  2. They sent me an employment verification form.  I added the dates I worked on the project (for the contract submitted) and attached the call sheets for that project.
  3. I also had a very kind-hearted and amazing producer reach out to SAG on my behalf to vouch for me (somewhere throughout this process).
  4. The New Media group over at SAG notified me that my employment was confirmed and that I needed to call the membership group to setup an appointment or get the full application.
  5. I called them and answered a few questions (did I want a State or National membership) and then they told me the amount and sent over about a dozen pages for me to read and fill out.
  6. I completed all of those things and then had to fax that all back to SAG.
  7. They then contacted me to let me know that someone already in SAG had a similar name to mine and that I needed to add my middle name or initial to proceed.  This is known as the “SAG name game” in the industry.  They do this to make sure there is no confusion for acting jobs, royalties, etc.  So it’s actually really important and just something you have to clear.
  8. Finally, they processed the paperwork and charged my card for the membership fees and first quarter dues and I was done!

Okay, so I kind of touched on this but I found another reason you may want to join SAG sooner rather than later is if you have a super strong preference for your name a certain way.  If you do then you may want to lock that in because it has to be unique (phonetically unique).  So in my case any derivatives of Kenney (ken, Kenny, Kenneth) made my name not unique.  It’s not a super big deal though so don’t freak out and join just for that reason it’s just another possible factor.

So this may or may not be useful or interesting to other actors or my friends and family but I just wanted to write this up before it becomes ancient history.  I’m actually excited to begin 2019 as a part of SAG and working on some really interesting projects (Little Cupid, New Dogs Old Tricks season 2, and a couple more surprises).  I’m super fortunate to have some great friends in the industry and none of it would be possible without my friends and family supporting me (I need every bit of help I can get).  Thanks again for reading about my SAG adventure!

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