Writing this, The Ultimate Guide To Getting Your SAG Card, was difficult on several levels. Let me start by stating that, this is in no way a SAG bashing…
However, some of this is pretty cringe worthy.
Before I give you the blueprint for how to get your SAG Card, you need to understand the methods behind the madness.
Remember, the industry is not all about “the art.” At the end of the day, it’s still business and SAG is just a component of big business. Like many, similar initiatives in other industries, the stated mission of SAG is noble...but at the core, it’s less than that.
See, at its inception, the stated mission of SAG was largely the same as it is today: to ensure that performers would be guaranteed fair pay, favorable conditions, and not be subject to discrimination for demanding those things.
Of course it is and if it were to have been a completely open system, that’s where the story would end.
However, since a union production has to jump through hoops to hire a nonunion performer, the competition for those inside the union was relatively low. That’s what the main driver was at the beginning, to obliterate the competition for union’s “founding actors.”
They couldn’t just come out and say that of course, so they created several ancillary benefits to union membership.
See, actors needed SAG credits to become a member but it was incredibly tough, and still is incredibly hard (for everyone not reading this guide), to get union credits as a nonmember.
Because producers have to fill out paperwork, provide a compelling reason for hiring a nonunion performer over a SAG performer, and pay a fine for doing so, the chances of landing a gig that qualifies you for membership in this way is pretty rare.
Remember tribe, I reserve no room for fluff nor frills in the community so I’m not going to go deep into this subject.
It’s true, you can collect 3 vouchers for background work and become SAG eligible.
You could also be cast as a principal in a union project, but again the chances of production going through the hassles of hiring you under the purview of the Taft-Hartley act (WTF why haven’t the abbreviated that yet???) is super slim.
It would be like me telling you to buy a scratch off lottery ticket to pay rent, it’s incredibly lucky if you can pull it off and be “Taft Hartley’d.” And if you do pull it off, for goodness sakes go buy a power ball ticket immediately!
By now you know that what most actors do in this town, should usually be your blueprint for what not to do. This occasion is no different. I know way too many actors that spent years doing meaningless background work, hoping to get a voucher and doing things mom wouldn’t be proud of just to get one.
See, this whole internet fad has given us a 3rd way that puts us in the driver’s seat. We no longer have to beg and plead someone to give us a few vouchers, and we don’t have to hope that LA implodes, leaving us as the only available actor left so that we’re a shoe in for a principal role and get Taft Hartley’d.
The Taft Hartley process changed within the last 2 weeks, as of this writing so bear with me.
Several years ago, SAG created the “new media” division to cover nontraditional forms of content distribution. While this has mostly focused on internet content so far, it’s likely that the oversight of that division will soon stretch to things like gaming, social media distribution, virtual reality, and more.
In some ways, it’s already the governing body by default instead of by design. That however is a subject for another guide, because there is so much untapped opportunity in those fields for you.
Some say that you should wait as long as possible to get your SAG card. Since you are no longer able to do nonunion work once you become a member, you would be limiting your opportunities.
I disagree! Do you want to build your resume or build a career. Having a SAG card immediately get you better access to better projects and agents, so if you want to build a career you should get one as soon as possible.
The easiest, fastest, and most reliable way to become SAG eligible and get your SAG card, is to do it yourself.
I’ll explain, see the new media division allows for you to create a production of your own, cast yourself as a nonunion actor and “Taft Hartley” yourself in the process.
Because SAG cannot keep you from expressing your creativity, this “loophole” isn’t even a grey area. It’s not there by design but you can still use it for your benefit without worry or hesitation.
The truth is, with more content distribution moving from traditional channels to the internet, SAG has to move along with it. Like every good business, it must continue expanding so it created the new media division as a way to encourage productions to participate in SAG.
Don’t worry, it’s not complicated or expensive and you can totally do it on your own.
All you need is the will to do it.
The process is simple.
1. First you sign up as SAG signatory production. You can do this online and in as little as fifteen minutes.
2. Once you have completed your application, SAG will send you a production information packet to fill out. Relax, it only looks intimidating but it’s actually just a fill in the blanks exercise with info you should already have if you are going down this road and you’re putting a project together anyway.
3. You will have to follow all SAG guidelines during production and you will be assigned a SAG representative to help with this. They’ll help you ensure that all of your ducks are in a row and that your process moves along smoothly.
Even though you have to pay everyone in accordance with SAG scale rates, they do allow for smaller productions and even deferred pay.
Also, SAG has added a “Legitimacy of Application” clause to prevent abuse. As long as you put together a real production with real value, you have nothing to worry about. It was only intended to ward off people who would put together a 10 second, one line short and call it day with all of the other requirements fulfilled.
So, use this experience to boost your production knowledge and gain real industry experience. After all, you will become a credited SAG producer through this and take a project from idea to completion, so make the most of it.
Once you become eligible they will want to review your resume and training credentials. Remember that one of the key drivers of credibility is your IMDb ranking so be sure that it’s top notch.
4. After you have finished your project, you will have to complete a post production packet and walk your production contract along with your check stub and initiation dues, into a SAG office to kickstart your eligibility.
That it’s! Compete steps 1-4, put your project together and we’ll be welcoming you to the SAG family in no time.
This is exactly how you can skip the years of hoping and instead hack the SAG framework and become SAG eligible, even if you have never set foot on a SAG production before.
I’ll leave with this:
John F. Kennedy asked Wernher von Braun what it would take to put a man on the moon. His response was ‘the will to do it.”
So grasshopper, do you have the will to do it? You can continue on the path that everyone else takes and hope that someday you become SAG eligible and get your card, or you can take your career and your life into your own hands and create your own future.
Whichever way you choose to go, remember that I’m always here to lean on for support and I’m just an email away.
See you at the top,
P.S. I know it’s SAG-AFTRA but I have insider info that the AFTRA will soon be dropped, as will the “loophole” of joining a SAG affiliate for a year to become SAG-AFTRA eligible
P.P.S. What project do you have floating around in your head that you’ve been wanting to get off the ground? If this gave you the extra push you needed to get it going, shoot me an email, and let me know what it’s all about.