Acting : I live in a right to work state by Abigail Yates

Abigail Yates

I live in a right to work state

Tennessee is a right to work state. There is some argument that joining SAG-AFTRA would be very bad here. I personally want to join as I can see the many benefits of it. There are MANY unpaid jobs here and some that do pay and aren't student productions are low paying. Granted if it's a great role that I can use on a reel then it may be worth the time. But once I worked on a large film that should have had a better budget and we were told to wait in a pitch black room, no windows, couldn't even see each other. They used a flashlight to usher us in and out, this should never happen on a set. So I'd like to hear your opinions on whether you feel it's better to be union or not, especially in a right to work state.

Douglas Eugene Mayfield

Most of the actors I know want to be in SAG or if they meet the criteria, have joined. I'm not sure how being in a 'right to work' state, that is, in some cases, you cannot be compelled to join a union, would affect the issue of SAG membership. My experience with dealing with SAG requirement is limited, but I got the impression that they give answers to your questions. So I'd consider asking SAG about the issue of living in a 'right to work' state. They've probably run into this question before. Or at least check with their web site to see if they give an answer there.

Marlene Hamerling

Abigail, I'm going to address the no/low pay for work issue. In an effort to "create jobs," SAG-AFTRA has developed many, many contracts that cover new media, Internet, ultra-low budget (ULB) and low budget projects. With many, you're lucky if you make gas money. And then there's the "deferred" category -- generally about a hundred a day, if and when the project is actually distributed. Unless you're working on a full-fledged film or TV show, getting "union rates" doesn't mean you're actually making any money -- and I'm in LA!:-) If you're on Actor's Access, I suggest you request notifications for union work, for your profile, for LA. Then you can see what's really available and for what kind of money. It might help you decide what to do.

Matthew Cornwell

Something to consider is that in a right-to-work state, you are never forced to join the union, but can continue to work on union projects. Also, joining the union won't suddenly guarantee that you'll start booking union work. The downside of joining the union is that you'll cut yourself off from all non-union work. It's a complicated decision that I've wrestled with for many years in Georgia. I still make a fair percentage of my acting income from non-union jobs, so it's hard to justify joining the union. On principle I would have joined several years ago, but it's only now becoming a potential reality as my union income has increased substantially with the influx of projects. And beware of the union supporters who will try to claim that only union actors can be considered "professionals". There are some union advocates here in Atlanta that are trying to shame actors into joining, which is just wrong.

Abigail Yates

Douglas, I have looked on their website and spoken to them and, of course, they encourage membership. I had a meeting with my agent day before yesterday and she suggests waiting simply based on this being a right to work state. Marlene, I agree. I'm looking into using a student SAG agreement for some upcoming productions myself, but the idea isn't so much about the money as it is about set conditions. Plus, on the money side, I've never seen a non-Union job pay residuals. Matthew, my understanding is that you can do two or three SAG productions a year then if you do not join they will block you from future SAG positions. Is this inaccurate? I don't want to knock myself out of the running for good jobs, but I also don't want to find myself locked in another unlit windowless room. Not all non-Union productions are like that so perhaps the better route would be to note which production companies don't treat their people right and just not work for them. Thank you all for your very valuable input, I will wait to consider joining. Nashville's film market seems to be growing, but I am willing to travel if possible to a production. If I decide to move to LA or NYC then I will reconsider joining.

Matthew Cornwell

Legally they can't block you from employment. I became SAG-eligible in 2003 here in Atlanta, and have continued to book union jobs since then (6 alone in the last 8 months).

Suzanne Bronson

I live in Arizona and I wouldn't join SAG until you get cast in a union project and they force you to join. however film sets still must follow state labor laws so I would check online and see whatthe laws are in your state you can always file a complaint against a production company with the state

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