I have what may be a pretty dumb question. If you are not in SAG, can you submit to a SAG job and get some kind of permit? This is all new to me and my son is interested in applying for a SAG job.
This is actually a very common question, so I’m glad you asked it! You’ll undoubtedly hear many different — seemingly contradictory — answers to questions of this nature mainly due to the fact that there are so many different SAG contracts, each of which has its own sets of rules and restrictions.
The short answer to your question is this: You do not have to be in SAG in order to submit on a SAG project. Of course, it is an uphill climb to get cast in a SAG project even for existing SAG members, so that short answer doesn’t necessarily get you any closer to a booking — much less a SAG card. I’m just saying it’s okay to submit!
What does it mean to be cast in a SAG project?
Depends on the contract.
If a nonunion actor submits on, auditions for, and is cast in a film being shot under the SAG Student Film or Experimental Agreement, that actor is no closer to being a SAG member for that experience. Those two SAG agreements allow nonunion and union performers to work (for no pay) on extremely low-budget projects.
SAG contracts above the level of the SAG Experimental Agreement allow for producers to Taft-Hartley nonunion actors into SAG, either by paying a fine or submitting a letter to SAG that explains well the reason the production had to bring a non-union performer into the union, rather than using one of the many current SAG members instead.
So, if your son were to get cast in a SAG project (depending on the contract), he could be Taft-Hartleyed and become a member of SAG due to that booking (or become — and stay — SAG eligible, a status that many actors keep for as long as possible, as it allows them to be eligible to work on a SAG project without a production-level fine and continue to do non-union work until that must-join moment comes).
Getting really clear on the various SAG contracts is a great way to orient yourself to the industry, if you’re just starting out.
What I recommend more than anything, for more information of this nature, is that you attend one of SAG Indie’s monthly free contract workshops in New York and Los Angeles. While they are geared for the indie filmmaker, by attending one of these two-hour sessions, you can certainly learn a great deal about the various SAG contracts. Advance RSVP is required. If you are unable to attend a workshop (and even if you are able to attend), invest a few hours in visiting the SAG Indie website to review all of the contract summaries and other great information available there. This is beneficial for anyone planning to work in the world of the SAG independent film.
Since you mentioned in your question that you are asking on behalf of your son, I also recommend a visit to the Professional Actors Resource Forum. Run by parents of young actors, this discussion forum is a wealth of information on topics unique to minors (including work hours, work permits, on-set tutoring, missing school for auditions, Coogan accounts, etc.).
These links should get you started. The best news is, you may be new to the business, but you’re asking questions. Excellent! Let me know if you have others, along the way.
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Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/000105.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.