A multi part series for the not-so-established actor, hoping to improve their career.
There is a myth out there… the union myth. The myth that commercial actors must be SAG, and if you aren’t SAG, you should lie about being in SAG until you are. Don’t get me wrong. I understand the perks and goal of being in the union, commercially, so continue to work, work, and work, to join the union just like you have been. It isn’t that you have been lied to; I just think there is a misunderstanding out there…
Commercial actors should never tell industry professionals they are members of the union when they are not.
Don’t lie to your agent (or your to-be agent) about your union affiliation.
Your agent is taking on the primary role of submitting you on jobs. Remember, they have access to jobs, even non-union jobs, that you don’t see or have access to, to submit yourselves on. Casting Directors don’t always open up non-union jobs for talent submissions. While you are not a member of SAG you can be submitted on all union and non-union jobs and are potentially being submitted more often on more jobs than once you join the union. You might call it a non- union submission frenzy! While in your pre-SAG days as an actor, you are eligible to be cast in any commercial job (as long as the CD has not specifically requested union actors only)! There are a whole slew of non-union jobs that you will not be submitted on, some with a really decent paycheck at the end of the line, that you will be totally missing out on if you misrepresent yourself and your union status to your agent.
Your agent is unable to give the Casting Director the heads up of a potential Taft Hartley, if you have not properly disclosed your non-union status. Some Ad Agencies want to have full disclosure about potential Taft Hartley’s up front. The fear is, if you disclose the truth to the Casting Director (who will potentially pass the info to the Ad Agency) you won’t be hired, because the Ad Agency won’t want to pay the penalty fee to SAG. Well, SAG doesn’t always charge the Ad Agency the fee, if there is a good reason for the hire of a non-union actor on a union job, and frankly the fee is nominal in comparison to the budget of the commercial. If they want you, they will take you, even if you are non-union. Tell the truth about this… that means your agent has to know the truth, since they are usually the ones speaking on your behalf.
I believe that many CD’s, if not most, won’t disqualify you (not call you in) based on your non-union status. The fact is, directors typically use the same Casting Director for years and years. But, directors want and need to see new talent, new faces… which means the Casting Director has to shake it up a bit, and get new talent in and on tape. More often than not, those actors haven’t joined the union, yet. It is a fact.
Because you will most likely join the union, sooner or later, it is imperative that you have the money to join when needed. Do not be the actor who is booked on a SAG commercial, knowing that you will be a must join (in which you have 2 seconds to truck down to SAG to pay up) but don’t have the money. I have witnessed an actor having to turn down a job due to this fact. Always have a plan to get the money in short notice (beg or steal if needed) or better yet, have it waiting in your savings account. Not having the money to join the union is a catastrophe for all parties involved.
As always, I am a fan of full disclosure, but you already know this about me. Be where you are… a good sentiment in life and certainly in your acting career. While a non-union actor, milk it for all it is worth. The world of acting jobs is your oyster, as you are eligible to take part in them all (with very few exceptions). There is no reason to lie about your status, and it will only cause problems if you do. Again, be where you are… three cheers for the non-union actor! SAG will most likely be around the corner sooner than you think.