what is the screen actors guild

What Is The Screen Actors Guild? Here Is How To Become A Member!

The Screen Actors Guild, also known as SAG, is a labor union formed in America. Till now, it has represented 100,000 TV shows and films. This organization has thousands of active members working on various projects. Moreover, there are a lot of benefits to being a part of this union.

An overview of Screen actors guild

Even if you are not an actor or don’t belong to the acting world, you might have heard and wondered about what the Screen Actors Guild is.

You might be hopelessly confused because many times this name gets thrown around you. And we don’t want you to beat yourself for being ignorant because you are here to find the meaning.

This institution is deeply embedded in the foundation of the film and media industry. And today, it is present in every high-profile production. 

Screen actors guild has various roles just like the members it represents. So in this overview, let’s find out more about what this organization is, its importance, and where it came from.

So let’s get straight into the topic. 

Screen actors guild is an American labor union. It mostly represents DJs, TV and film actors, journalists, models, influencers, voice actors, singers, as well as other performers. 

Apart from that, this institution has taken around 160,000 members under its hood. Plus, this organization itself is a member of the AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labor and Congress Of Industrial Organizations).

That federation is considered one of the largest federations of unions in the United States.

The Screen actors guild team is pretty massive, right? Let’s understand the history behind this huge membership of this organization.

History of Screen actors guild 

what is the screen actors guild

Founded in 1933, Screen Actors Guild has seen the golden age of Hollywood. The SAG is also known as the Studio System.

However, some say that this golden age did not favor the actors who were victims of the predatory contracts with studios that had little respect for their well-being or for them.

So that is why the Screen actors guild came as a savior for the same reason most unions come about. In short, it helps the crew of the TV show or film to get a fair share of the money they deserve while working on the project.

Screen actors guild was able to do a collective bargain for the rights of actors working on and offscreen. In 1937, when the Screen actors guild was negotiating its first contract, the American Federation of Radio Artists was formed. It is also known as AFRA.

One year later, the American Federation of Radio Artists began to negotiate its first contract. And by the 1950s, it began to incorporate workers into the new medium of television. 

Since the inception of the Screen actors guild, it has been part of various activities like strikes. Doing such activities has helped them to set strong guidelines on how they garnered large memberships and how their members are to be treated on projects.

SAG and AFRA were in talks about merging up since 1930. And after a big overlap, both became a team officially after 2012.

How to join the Screen actors guild

what is the screen actors guild

Explain Step by Step

Many newbies ask this most common question, “How to become a member of the Screen Actors Guild?” Well, for that you need to do certain things. So here is a step-by-step guide to help you:

Step 1: First of all, you need to confirm your career and make sure it is within the screen actors guild such as influencer, DJ, performer, voice actor, fashion model, actor, journalist, or some other media professional. If you are working in a corporate world, then this unit is probably not for you.

Step 2: Once you know which field you belong to and whether it falls under the Screen actors guild, then there are three ways that will qualify you for the SAG membership.

Step 3: Now, you need to work for at least one day or should have experience in this field for one week. You can choose any job like speaking or principal role in a union production. This can be difficult for some people, so we have an easier option just for you in the next step.

Step 4: You can work as a background actor or even an extra for three continuous days on a union production. If this one doesn’t work, then there is one final route for you.

Step 5: You can become a member of an affiliated performer in the union. This includes working under AEA, AGMA, AGVA, or ACTRA. 

We would just like to say that don’t jump the gun on union membership. If you decide to become a union member, you will have benefits like safety, great pay, and more things that are guaranteed. But sometimes, it can also cut you off from getting other potential work.

For example, if you don’t live in New York or Los Angeles, instead you live in Raleigh. In the latter, you won’t find or get any acting work that is related to the union.

Why is the Screen actors guild important

Screen actors guild is extremely useful for actors be it side roles, extra or lead actors. It helps and ensures they have fundamental rights like on-set safety, as well as healthcare. However, SAG is not only important for actors but also plays a big role in other working areas.

If you are working in or around the media and film industry, it becomes important to understand how crucial it is to be a part of the unions. The union is quite famous among actors for a reason. And the reason is if you are creative and in need of a scrum of thespians, you will always think a hundred times before going for a non-union project.

The important aspect of the screen actors guild is that the members of the union are not allowed to work with any non-union productions. Thus, people who pick any project from a non-union or take this route will be barring themselves from any actor who is a part of this system.

Today, almost every actor working in the media industry has a screen actors guild membership. So, in turn, almost every TV show or film you can name is a part of the union production. However, not all the actors are in the union. You will find two out of 10 actors who are non-union members. This is because there are some productions that need actors but don’t need actors from union organizations. 

Let’s take the example of a small-budget driver’s ed clip. For sure, it is a legal production house. But it does not need the presence of any big star like Tom Cruise, Leonardo Di Caprio, or Tom Hanks. On the other hand, a union project will be more costly and high-budgeted due to union requirements as well as minimums.

Thus, the driver-ed video’s producer is going to opt for the non-union route and use non-union or local actors. So the screen actors guild is not for everyone. If you are unknown in this field and looking for an opportunity as an actor to build your reel, then the screen actors guild is not for you.

If you still decide to join the SAG, then you won’t be able to work on non-union or small projects. And such projects would most likely land you at a good stage in your acting career. One thing you should note is that a non-union actor can work on union sets. But there are some conditions!

In many showbiz towns, when there is a casting process, union actors are mostly given first priority. Suppose you are in a union-friendly state, which means you don’t have the right to work, then you will be given at least two union projects before officially joining the screen actors guild.

There are a lot of reasons to not join the union. But once you have achieved your goals, you will definitely want to learn how to join the screen actors guild.

Frequently Asked Questions.

1. Do you need a SAG card to act in a movie?

No. There is no need for any SAG card to be an actor. You can still work in non-union productions without a SAG card as long as you want. However, if you want to act in bigger projects like TV shows and movies, then you need to join the union and get a SAG card.

2. How good of a union is the Screen Actor’s Guild?

SAG is said to be prestigious in the union. Due to the influence and size of the union, most media companies have a collective bargaining agreement with SAG via TV producers.

3. How do you become SAG eligible?

If you want to get a SAG membership, then you need to at least first qualify as a background actor that too for three or more days. Once you provide all the information, then you will fit into the eligibility criteria of SAG.

4. Screen Actors Guild Foundation: Can you get a SAG card for a part where you find a body and scream?

No. You can only get a SAG card by booking a gig. Make sure it is covered under a collective bargaining agreement along with the actor’s union. As per the Taft-Hartley Act, if the actor had skills then producers are allowed to hire nonunion talented actors after doing a detailed and reasonable search.

5. Are SAG actors prohibited from taking non-union roles?

No. The SAG actors cannot work in nonunion roles or any other jobs.

6. Who gets paid every time a movie is played on TV?

Just like music albums, TV shows and movies are protected by copyright. As the actors and other crew are repaid handsomely after the production is complete.

So these creative works have copyrights that belong to the owner of the film. They earn royalties when the movie is played on TV. Most of the time, the copyright owners of the TV show and films are the producers.

Leave a Comment