Filmmaker Questions

Actor Questions

General Questions

Filmmaker Questions

How long does the signatory process take? When should I start? Is there any way to expedite the process?

SAG-AFTRA recommends that you start the signatory process 4-6 weeks before you plan on using the services of SAG-AFTRA actors. You may be able to expedite the process if you’re willing to do some legwork, but that all depends on the workload of your Representative and the specifics of your production.

How do I get started?

If you’re ready to start the process now you should fill out a preliminary information sheet and email or fax it to your local SAG-AFTRA office. The numbers are on the form. Don’t send them to SAGindie. We only promote the agreements, we don’t actually sign them.

This all sounds great! Send me the paperwork right away! I can’t wait to get started!

Whoa, there! We appreciate your enthusiasm, but SAGindie does NOT handle the paperwork. We’re an educational program, kinda like the Peace Corps: we teach you how to fish, but we won’t hold the rod for you. Now, don’t be confused by that convoluted metaphor. Just visit our Contracts page to download the Preliminary Information Sheet, or call the Theatrical Department at 323.549.6828 (or, if you’re on the East Coast, 212.827.1553), and they will get the paperwork to you. Again, we don’t handle the paperwork! The only thing a call or email to us about your paperwork will get you is a grumpy SAGindie employee, and a lump of coal in your stocking come Hanu-Kwanz-Mas time.

I am starting to shoot tomorrow and need to get an agreement today.

That’s funny. Do you know any others?

I can’t get anyone in the theatrical department to call me back and I’m starting production this weekend…

Did you start the process 4-6 weeks ago? If not, we probably can’t help you. If you did start the process but no one is responding that’s a problem. Please send us an email and we’ll try to resolve it.

I’m a SAG-AFTRA Member and I want to produce my own film, if I’m the only SAG-AFTRAmember out of the cast, do I have to get a signatory contract?


I have a related question. Is it true that if I am a producer on the film I can act in it without signing a SAG-AFTRA contract?


Can non-union actors and SAG-AFTRA members work in a production together?

Under the terms of the Student, Short, and Ultra-Low Budget contracts you can use both SAG-AFTRA and non-SAG-AFTRA actors in the same film. Under the Modified Low Budget and Low Budget Agreement the so-called Taft-Hartley rules apply.

Do I have to use union extras?

It depends on which contract you’re using and where you’re shooting. Background actors aren’t covered under the Student, Short, Ultra-Low Budget, and Modified Low Budget Agreements. If you’re signing any other contract, contact your local SAG-AFTRA office here to see if Background Actors are covered.

What’s that thing you guys have every second Thursday of the month? Is it free?

It’s a FREE workshop in Los Angeles and New York that will walk you through the signatory process and answer all your questions about signing a SAG-AFTRA contract. It’s FREE and it takes place the second Thursday of every month at the SAG-AFTRA office in Los Angeles and New York. You can sign up for the FREE workshops here. And, yes, they’re FREE.

If I use SAG-AFTRA actors without an agreement will anything really happen to me?

Bad karma.

My film is going straight to video, what, if any, contract do I need to file?

It depends. Do you already have a video distribution deal? If so, you need to sign to the SAG-AFTRA Television Contract. If not, give us a call. The number is here.

What’s the deal with the casting breakdown service? Who can use it? How do I use it?

Any producer who has signed or is in the process of signing to a SAG-AFTRA Agreement can use the FREE online casting breakdown service. Just fill out the online submission form here.

I need to find an audition space/DP/caterer/editing equipment/etc. Do you have a list of resources for filmmakers?

We have a HUGE list of Resources for filmmakers right here.

If I live outside of NY/LA, whom do I call to become a signatory?

You can find the telephone numbers for all of the SAG-AFTRA offices here and here. Call the SAG-AFTRA toll free hotline 800.SAG.0767 and you’ll be automatically connected to the SAG-AFTRA office for your area.

What does “No Consecutive Employment” mean?

Under the Basic Agreement producers are required to pay consecutive employment. This means that if an actor works on Monday and Wednesday the producer not only has to pay them for these days, but also for the “consecutive” day of Tuesday. Under all of the low budget agreements there is no consecutive employment, so if an actor only works Monday and Wednesday, the producer only has to pay them (or defer their pay) for Monday and Wednesday.

I already shot my film non-union with several SAG-AFTRA actors in it. Now I have a distribution deal and I don’t want the actors to get in trouble. Can I sign the film after the fact?

No. You can’t sign retroactively. And your actors are very, very naughty.

I’m doing this internet thing, and I want to podcast it. Or maybe spin it out into a series of mobisodes. On second thought, I may want to sell it on iTunes. Then again, if YouTube comes calling, I may stream it. I’m not sure. But I definitely want to do something for the internet. I think.

Hmm. We’re not sure what you’re asking for here. Each of these distribution models is distinctly different. But hey, we’re prepared for any eventuality, and SAG-AFTRA has a contract for you. However, before calling the Theatrical Department to start the signatory process, determine exactly what you want to do with your film, and exactly how much you are going to be spending. Once you do that, give SAG-AFTRA’s New Media Department a call at 323.549.6446. They’ll pick up if they’re not busy poring over their Twitter pages.

I want to shoot a commercial/industrial/PSA under a Low Budget contract. Can I?

Again, the Low Budget contracts apply only to theatrical projects. Commercials, industrials, and PSA’s all fall under the Commercial Contract. You can reach the friendly folks in the Commercial Department at 323.549.6858. They are very nice people, and would love to talk to you. Tell them we said “Hi”.

I shot a film under the Experimental Agreement a couple of years ago, but could never afford the upgrade. Now I see that you have the Ultra Low Budget agreement in place – I likes! Please, please, please tell me that I can grandfather my creaky Experimental Agreement into the super-sleek ULB!

There is nothing as satisfactory as giving good news. Yes, you can, with one small proviso: your SAG-AFTRA actors must agree to the change. Provided they do, you can call the Theatrical Department at 323.549.6828 to effect the change. Awesome, huh? Are you as satisfied as we are?

I’m producing a NO budget movie. Really. I’m paying $20 for food. That’s it. I can’t afford to pay actors anything. Can’t I defer the pay? The cast is all my friends and they’re willing to do it for no money. Why is SAG-AFTRA ruining the chance for their members to get work?

You’re making a short, right? I mean, you wouldn’t try to make a feature for $20 – would you? Because if you’re making a short, the pay is 100% deferred. If you’re making a feature, I hope you have a Costco card to help you stretch that $20 into meals for an entire crew for the length of your shooting schedule. Grips get grumpy when they’re not fed.

Don’t get us wrong: we salute your independent spirit. But there are two responses to the second part of your question (and we hope you’ll hear us out).

1) The Guild made a tradeoff with super low budget filmmakers like you. Instead of deferring pay, and then hitting you with a brutal backend balloon payment that would prevent you from distributing your film (just ask your friends about their Experimental Contract horror stories), they decided to institute a flat rate of $100. That’s cheap. Very cheap. And, there are NO upgrades. None. It’s a good deal.

2) At some point you have to ask yourself, “What kind of movie am I making? Something with zero production value and no chance of distribution, or something that Sundance is gonna screen at the Racquet Club?” If it’s the latter, spending a couple of hundred bucks now is going to pay off in the end.

What is the bond thing I heard about? How much is it, and what if I can’t pay it because it will exceed my budget?

As is often the case in life, a few bad apples ruin the batch for everyone (to horribly mangle metaphors). Some unscrupulous/inept producers were not paying their actors, forcing SAG-AFTRA to take a security deposit. There is a formula for this which your SAG-AFTRA representative will explain to you. It is based on the performers’ salaries and work time. Unlike your apartment security deposit this is returned to you at the completion of principal photography.

Hey, what’s this “union bug” thing I have to put in my credit roll? I never heard of this before!

You didn’t sign the SAG-AFTRA signatory agreement without reading the whole thing, did you? Did you? No matter. This is one of the easiest fulfilled contractual requirements you’ll ever run across. The contract simply states that somewhere in your end credit roll you must place the SAG-AFTRA logo, along with a statement acknowledging the cooperation of the Guild in making your film. That’s it.

Now, we’re going to go ahead and answer your inevitable follow-up question: Where do I get the SAG-AFTRA logo? Why, just contact the SAG-AFTRA Theatrical Department at 323.549.6828, and they will email it to you.

We’ll close with one free piece of unsolicited advice. ALWAYS read the WHOLE contract before you sign!

Actor Questions

How do I get into SAG-AFTRA?

You can learn all about becoming a SAG-AFTRA actor on the SAG-AFTRA website (www.sagaftra.org) membership section.

If I do a SAG-AFTRA student film, can I get into SAG-AFTRA/get a voucher?

No. Under the terms of the Student, Short and Ultra-Low Budget Agreement(s), producers can use both professional and non-professional actors in the same film. Non-SAG-AFTRA actors can’t get into the union by doing one of these films.

I’m a member of SAG-AFTRA but I’ve been cast in a non-union film. How do I get a waiver?

You can’t. But there’s no reason to do a non-union film. Tell the producer to sign one of SAG-AFTRA’s low budget contracts and ask them to call us.

I want to sign up for the actor’s workshop SAG-AFTRA offers to its members, can I do that through you guys/is that the same thing as your workshops?

Our workshops are specifically geared to low budget filmmakers. SAG-AFTRA members are welcome to attend (and we encourage it), but they aren’t about developing your acting career. Contact the SAG-AFTRA Conservatory at 323.856.7736 for those kinds of workshops.

I really want to be an actor. How do I do that?

The first step is admitting you have a problem. But seriously, folks, visit the SAG-AFTRA website at www.sagaftra.org and read the great articles in the membership section.

General Questions

I need to find so-and-so’s agent.

Contact the SAG-AFTRA Actors to Locate service at 323.549.6870. We also like the website “Who Represents?” at www.WhoRepresents.com

I’m a Casting Director and I want to be part of SAG-AFTRA’s CD monthly workshop, who do I speak to about signing up?

Call the SAG-AFTRA Casting Committee at 323.549.6415 and leave a message for Vice-Chair Vivian Patrick. If there is no response call us here.

I want to sign up for Conversations/I want to cancel my sign up for Conversations.

“Conversations” is handled by the SAG Foundation. They can be reached at 323.549.6668 or www.sagfoundation.org

Can you help me sign up for the SAG-AFTRA Conservatory?

The SAG-AFTRA Conservatory can be reached at 323.856.7736. More info here: www.sagaftra.org/laconservatory