Do I Have to be a SAG Member to Get Acting Jobs?

There are many articles online about how to go about joining SAG, and below we give you our instructions as to how to go about becoming a member.

Blue circle with gold writing on black background image of the screen actors guild SAG logo.

However, since we are the top full featured acting studio and we work with young talent every day, our practical overview of Screen Actors Guild membership for young actors – who are just starting out – might be a bit different from other things you have previously read.

Break Into Hollywood Studios recommends that a new actor not rush into joining SAG. In most cases, we think that it is best to do a number of non-union roles first – before joining SAG. Why? Because non-union acting jobs are a great place to start to build up your resume and refine your acting and auditioning skills. These roles are generally more accessible to the new actor. You have to keep in mind that once you sign up for SAG – you cannot go back. In other words – after you become a SAG member, you can no longer take non-union roles – and that may very much limit the real opportunities on hand for a new actor just starting out.

When you get to the point where you can attract, and sign a contract with an agent or manager, they will then be trying to secure bigger roles for you. When they actually get you those roles, they will certainly get you into SAG.

So, when it’s time to join the Screen Actors Guild – you will know it – and before that time comes, we feel you are better off taking and experiencing all the good non-union roles that come your way. This will prepare you for bigger roles and the step up to SAG membership.
How to Join SAG when I Am Ready!

You are a young actor just starting out. You have some nice little non-union roles on your resume. Perhaps then you get your first role, maybe as a small part or an extra on a featured film or TV show. That may be the first time that you start hearing more about SAG – the Screen Actors Guild. All the movie and television actors you know and love are members. If you career takes off – you will need to join too. When you first hear about the overview of SAG membership, the SAG requirements and the cost to join SAG – it may be a bit confusing and overwhelming. We want to simplify it for you, because we know first-hand everything about the young actor or actress, and how best to break into the business.

So the big question often is, “How do I join SAG?” There are a few ways to go about it but let’s start with telling you what SAG is all about. According to the Screen Actors Guild, SAG is “the largest national labor union representing working actors.” It was started to assist and protect working conditions for actors. Being part of a union like SAG provides a lot of protection for the artist because union productions have to abide by union rules.

But here is the puzzle: in order to get the protection SAG provides you must work on a SAG project and in order to work on a SAG project you must BE SAG! So most actors are left with the conundrum of how to join SAG?
SAG Membership for Young Actors

One way is to join SAG is to get cast a principal performer, this is the most straight forward way to join the union. The way this happens is when a production company does something called Taft-Hartley. Basically this means that they need to cast you the performer because of your unique talents rather than casting another union actor. Congress passed the Taft-Hartley law so non-members of unions would have a way to join the union more easily. When you are cast on a TV Show, Commercial, Film, or video that is produced by a SAG signatory company as a principal performer, have worked at least one day and paid scale or more – you can be considered SAG eligible. You now have thirty days to join the union and pay your initiation fee.

The next way to join SAG is to be a member of an affiliated union. If you are a member in good standing of AFTRA, AEA, ACTRA, AGMA, or AGVA, you can join SAG if you have been a member for one year and you have been paid at least once as a principal performer. So if you are not a member of one of these unions consider joining AFTRA. If you have the money you can join AFTRA at anytime, all you have to do is pay the initiation fee plus your yearly fee. You can even do all this on their website. Now the next step to you get closer to joining SAG is to get cast as a principle performer on an AFTRA show. Then as soon as that year is up you are now eligible to join SAG.

The final way to become a SAG member is to do background work. In order to become SAG a performer must work a minimum of three days either consecutive or non-consecutive as background performer on a SAG signatory production. The performer must also be given a voucher and paid the appropriate wage for SAG background performers. The performer can work on the same project or other projects to achieve a total of three vouchers. However, you should know that each SAG production has a certain number of SAG extra spots that they allow for SAG background work, the only way for a non-union extra to get one of those spots is if someone does not show up or they don’t have enough SAG extras to fill the spots. If you are given a SAG extra spot at the end of the day you will be given a SAG voucher, but you still have to work two more times as a SAG extra to become SAG eligible. Hopefully this gives a few ways to join SAG and become a new union member!!
Breaking Into Hollywood

We are happy to let you know that Break Into Hollywood Studios is the #1 full featured acting studio. In addition to the acting skills we teach a young performer, we also will coach you on the business side of acting. It’s ‘what you know’ & ‘who you know’ that counts most in this industry – and we focus on both. Many of our talented students have gone on to great success in TV and films, and attribute their time and studies at Break Into Hollywood Studios to have played a crucial part in their career.