Becoming a member of SAG is a major goal for many professional film actors - outside of winning a fancy award and crying onstage about how much everyone really likes you, of course. Potential bragging rights aside, the benefits of being a member are pretty crucial: health and pension, workshops, endless resources, and, of course, SAG Awards voting privileges, among many other valuable perks.
Whether you're actively seeking membership or you’re just curious as to what it all looks like (and costs), here’s what you should know about the process:
To be a member of SAG, you must qualify to be a member of SAG.
So, no, you can’t just be an actor with a checkbook and a dream. Don’t get me wrong — those are lovely things to have. But in order to make the cut, you’ll have to provide proof you’ve completed at least three days of work as a background actor under a SAG-AFTRA agreement or have been an active member of another union, such as ACTRA, for minimum one year.
What does said proof look like? Glad you asked, my friend. Proof can come in the form of pay stubs or proof of employment printed out from the payroll company responsible for whatever project(s) you worked on that states your name, social security number, the name of the production company, the title of the production, the salary paid in dollar amount, and the specific date(s) worked. Mail it all to the address listed on their site, and wait for them to say you’re good to go.
And don’t you dare stretch the truth, Lie-sa Minnelli
It’s going to be tempting to do whatever you can to into SAG so you can go after all those parts you want right away. But you might want to read this little bit of info on SAG’s site before making any bold moves: “While it is your responsibility to ascertain the validity of your qualifying employment, the Union will be the sole arbiter in determining whether the employer was legitimate or bogus, and whether the qualifying employment which you performed was actual production work ,or work created solely to enable you to gain Union membership. Please be aware that false representation or deception on your part will jeopardize your chances to join SAG-AFTRA.”
So, as with any audition, you must do your due diligence first. And if that doesn’t scare you off, great! This next part hopefully won’t, either…
Pay up or hush up
You can’t become a member of SAG without dropping some serious cash: a whopping $3K of your hard-earned dollars, to be exact. You’ll need to be able to cover the initiation fee plus the first semi-annual basic dues. These fees may be lower depending on what area you live in, and the annual base dues are $201.96, along with the work dues which are a percentage (1.575%) of what you earn.
Still confused? There’s an orientation for that.
There’s a lot of info to digest, from the benefits to the tools and the fees and beyond. SAG is aware of how confusing the process can be, and that’s why they hold optional orientations so new members can have all their questions answered and their concerns addressed. It’s never a bad idea to research what you’re getting into before dropping a ton of cash on a commitment, and that same bit of advice will serve you prior to your wedding day or your first time buying a car, too! Good luck!