Little Fish in a Big Pond 13 – Union vs. Non Union
Getting into the union, as you probably know by now, is a Catch 22. You have to book a job to get you into the union and you have to be in the union to book a job. How do you work around this?
There are a few ways to get into the union. One, you can do extra work and hope that you’re thrown a line which would Taft-Hartley you into the union. These days you can earn SAG (Screen Actors Guild) vouchers. A number of SAG extras are needed on SAG shows, and if they’re short or for other unknown reasons, an assistant director may take pity on you, and give you a voucher. If you get three vouchers, you’re eligible to plop down your money to join.
You can join AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) by just paying the money. After a year with AFTRA, if you get a job, you are eligible to join SAG.
Once you’re a SAG or AFTRA member, you must ease all non-union work! If you are working pretty steadily doing non-union work, you might want to re-think joining SAG or AFTRA until you have to. You will have to join on your second union job.
Many union actors change their names to be able to do non-union work. If they get caught, it’s hell to pay.
There is a lot of non-union work out there. If you know where to find it (your best resources are trades and the breakdowns), you could make a modest living and gain a lot of experience and credits. If one of the independent film hits, you might just make a name for yourself. The breakdowns, by the way, are pages of roles available in film, television, theatre, and commercials, sent out each day to agents and managers.
I wouldn’t be in a hurry to join the union though it is true that you’re thought to be more legit if you are in it. It’s expensive to join, and again, you will have to cease all non-union work.
Union jobs are very hard to come by. There are so many actors vying for each job, and casting directors are using names they can rely on these days, people they know and people they trust. The little guy like you is very lucky to get a featured or co-star role. Guest star roles are going to major T.V. or film stars.
For the most current union information, visit the Union’s website.
Break a leg!