First off I wanted to say how much I enjoy The Actors Voice; I have found it incredibly informative and also reassuring as well. I was perusing through your old articles and read the one where you spoke about the opportune time to join SAG and I thought perhaps I could pick your brain for a second as I had a couple of concerns about that very topic. First off, a little history on myself, my name is Zack, I am Chinese-American and 25 years old, and have been pursuing a career in TV and film for about a year now, and currently have commercial representation.
When I came across the article regarding the proper time to join union, I found myself going through a very similar circumstance and needed some kind of guidance. I have always found the things you were saying to be true, especially in regards to properly waiting the time until you feel are ready to join SAG, and I tried my hardest to keep my nonunion status as active as possible. I have strayed away from many union auditions to avoid this type of mistake. But with my agency, they of course sent me out to numerous of union and nonunion jobs, and I was lucky to be able to book two. I was recently Taft-Hartleyed last year, and my newest booking of a union commercial has now placed me in the area of needing to join union.
My question, or more than likely my need for guidance, is what I could have done to avoid this move which I feel I may have made a little too quickly. Should I have spoken to my agents personally and asked them to not to submit out for union roles until I was ready to make the leap?
I think I mainly feel this concern after reading your article again and being reminded of how I felt in the first place with this career and how I wanted to feel prepared before I joined SAG. I just want to make sure from here on out, for my career, I’m able to learn from these past mistakes so I will not lose sight of my long term goal.
I apologize for this overtly long email and probably convoluted and unclear questions. LOL
Thank you again for your time, and please continue to do what you do; you are truly an inspiration and wonderful help to struggling actors. 🙂
Hiya Zack, and thanks for the email. Thanks for the backstory. And thanks for the kind words. I’m glad you’ve found your way to my writing and I’m glad it’s been helpful to you.
First, I’m going to ask you to stop referring to yourself as a “struggling actor,” if you do. 😉 You used the phrase, so just in case you ever use that to describe yourself, I’m gonna ask you to stop. We HEAR ourselves, when we say things like that about ourselves. And we never wanna be liars. So we’ll live a life that makes those statements true. Try “actor starting out” or “beginning actor” or “actor at the beginning of his game.” There’s nothing but potential for growth in those statements, and they’re TRUE. That’s lovely.
Next, let me ask you why it really *matters* what you could’ve done differently to avoid joining SAG-AFTRA too soon. I know you said it’s because you want to — in the future — avoid similar missteps, and I totally get that. It’s a great plan. But in case you’re gonna use any of this to beat yourself up about having made a premature move, I’m just going to ask that you don’t. We all make moves that we’ll never repeat (thank goodness), and “going union” is a lot like losing your virginity. It’s not like you’ll ever be in that “moment before” again. You’ve been there. You went there. You’re on the other side.
That said, sure. Having conversations with your team to be sure they understand what you value and what your goals are about your career (remember, they’re working for you, and they’re earning a commission on your work — but it’s gotta be work you’re down with taking) is always a good thing, at all stages of your career. Your team should always be submitting you in alignment with your overarching goals.
And, off that, there’s the importance of your ability to say NO when you’re offered the “opportunity” to audition for union projects before you’re ready. This actually came up in our class recently. If you have an agent who’s not hearing you; who submits you on union projects while you *know* you’re not ready to join and you’d really rather keep hustling at the top of the nonunion tier to build relationships, credits, and footage; and who submits you anyway, there has to come a time when you get okay with declining (or you have to have a sterner conversation with your rep about how you’re being sent out). The same thing goes for union actors whose reps love to send ’em out for “juicy nonunion gigs,” encouraging them to go FiCore or to work off the card. It’s YOUR career, so you have to make sure your team aligns with what your goals are, rather than feeling steamrolled into a zone you’re not ready to hit. It should be a collaborative experience, your rep relationship.
Most importantly, let’s look at how you can build upon where you are now. If you’re still not feeling READY to compete on union projects at the next tier, please keep in mind that there are student films, low-budget indies, webseries, and all sorts of self-produced content you can create to build up your reel, your experience, and your relationships as a union actor. You should also take advantage of all the union perks at your disposal, from SAG Foundation events to the Liferaft series, and any of the Casting Access Project offerings out there. Learn from everyone you can. Build on where you are right now. And trust you’re on the right path (because otherwise it wouldn’t be your path, right?).
Keep me posted on how it goes for you!
Wanna be sure your tools *and* your mindset are in peak form? Let us get you in gear with some FREE training right now!
Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/001770.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.