Acting : To join or not to join...that is the question by Gary Craig

Gary Craig

To join or not to join...that is the question

I think it's the dream and goal of most actors to become part of that elusive union SAG/AFTRA. It's a prestige thing.."Yeah, I'm in th union...I'm a SAG actor" Your treatment on set differs from non-union actors, and the pay is better. But listen to THIS story. Years ago I had a principle co-starring role on an episode of Baywatch. Now fast forward to present day. When I started working in film, I wanted to make sure what the requirements were to get into the union. I understood that if I was able to get 3 Taft-Hartley waivers, also referred to as "being wavered" I could Join Sag. That's where a SAG production will allow you to work and give you the waiver to do so. So I called the New York office and asked if that were true. The lady said, "Well what's your name, let's see if you qualify" I assured her that I didn't because I hadn't been able to accumulate the 3 waivers. She looked it up anyway. She said, "Did you do an episode of Baywatch?" "YES", I said. "Well, you were eligible to john THAT day" My stupidity about the business cost me alot of money! Cause back then it probably would have cost a couple of hundred bucks to join compared to thousands today.'s the thing. I found out quickly that as non-union talent, you have WAY more opportunities to get into a production than union actors. If you're just starting out, and you're building your reel..take EVERY opportunity to work. Get the footage, build your reel..THEN worry about getting into the union. Here I am on Baywatch

Debbie Jennings

In Arizona, the answer would be NO - you would rarely work - so I think it depends on where you live :) I did a commercial last year that was AFTRA, but I am not union.

Benjie Anderson

Your comment is on point, Craig. I liked Baywatch by-the-way. I've worked w/ GregAlan Williams (Baywatch) here in Atlanta. I'm SAGe and have been for years. It's a blessing and a curse. Curse (a smaller check), blessing (having worked in a project(s) that makes one eligible.) As I say of myself... I'm an actor who works. I'd prefer being a WORKING actor, etc. I'm 30 yrs. in and still workin' my way up the ladder towards "the/those" roles; series lead, guest star, co-star, featured, recurring, etc. A lot is happening here in GA, however, when "the" productions roll into town or the State, they're already loaded (budget, talent, etc.), and what's left for local seasoned players (like me) won't pay too many (if any) bills. I do a lot of indie work here as an actor and producer (of our own project(s). With GA being a "right to work" State (union vs non-union projects if one may be fortunate to get in) varies widely (and should) further up that ladder where most would like to be, but who don't have the "real" requisite skills; look, ability, training, connections, etc. to be that far up the rungs. I'm dedicated to the "craft" and not the "novelty" of the business like many (in our) market. I WILL get UP there. One of these days when I grow up... PEACE!

Johanna Marshall

It's curious that this comes up now. I became SAG because of the merger, since I was AFTRA. That was last March and I've only worked a few jobs since that were SAG. There are so many n/u jobs available that I would like to go after but don't dare now. I also was planning to wait it out because of the expense, but the merger changed everything.......Yes, it is a blessing & a curse..................It is what it is, ........the paycheck may be better but it can be a long road before you get one...........All good things come to those who wait???????let's hope so.............................................

Hoji Fortuna

You have another choice, Johanna, that would allow you to work in SAG/AFTRA projects as well as non-union projects: Financial Core. Read my book New York for Actors (link provided on my projects) to find more. And good luck with your career!

Carmen Halliday

Damn can't watch on my phone :( good advise :)

Erin Reinhard

I'm certainly no expert, but from what I have learned is that if you work on a SAG project as a principal role you become SAG eligible (AKA "must join") - only one project is needed (extra work is different). I have also heard that FiCore (financial core) is not something that is looked at as a "respectful" option. A lot of actors view it as sort of "low-class" or dishonest. Again, I'm no expert, but I would recommend doing a lot of research before choosing that option. If you've worked on a SAG/AFTRA project and not sure if you're now eligible, just contact the SAG offices and they'll let you know.

Leslie Trentalange

absolutely...thank you for confirming what I was thinking...i don't see any reason to try to acheive union status until I can get a decent amount of work as such...otherwise, it doesn't even cover the cost of joining.

Chad Theodore Everson

I would rather die than join a union of any sorts.

Johanna Marshall

Yes, I have also heard that being FiCore is frowned upon. It takes 3 vouchers , if you are n/u bkgrnd. in a sag prod. & you get a line, to join Sag. Over a 4 yr. period I only had one. There always unscrupulous crew guys who would sell them to a most desperate extra, which was not my way to go...........As I said , if the merger hadn't happened & I wasn't Aftra, I would still be waiting to join & get as much n/u work as I could..........I was fortunate though last year & before. to get a semi- re-curing role as bkgrnd. for a disney show, under Aftra............

Gary Craig

Yeah David, I don't submit for outdoor scenes in this weather!!

Gary Craig

You're welcome Mike. Keep going baby!

Kathy Rowe

I'm kind of leaning toward not being WGAE, simply because I'm new to screenwriting, and I want the opportunity to get something produced- which I've heard is how you build your credibility in Hollywood. So, that said, I'm working with a small production company to hopefully get a novel-to-screenplay adaptation of The Hall. Fingers crossed. I know the pay won't be even guild minimum, but the value of having a produced film is probably more worth it. And it'll drive up my book sales too.

Kris Kemp

Thank you for the post, Gary. I'm work full-time as an actor in NYC. I've been here for 6 months, been working for 5 months, and already have 8 waivers. I'm considering joining the union because the checks, for non-union, are, typically, small. However, I work, usually, full-time. I'm probably going to put off joining union until I get more speaking roles in indie films, in order to gain experience and build my resume. I blog about how to get more work as a background actor in NYC here: To that person who recommended going Fi-Core - No!!! That is looked down upon by the union, because you're playing both sides of the fence. Also, casting companies need to know whether you are union or non-union. They don't want to deal with Fi-Core.

Gary Craig

Weigh it carefully Kris. Once you;'re can't work non union.

Rachael Saltzman

Unless you go fi core.

Mr Bradley

How about a straight swap for my U.K Equity card? I'll throw in a nice jar of jam and a tin of Tea and a packet of aunties scones.

Denise Cruz-Castino

Gary, you were in Baywatch! I used to be the nanny for their kids when that show was created. I remember when they came up with the idea. I still keep in touch with their kids that are adults now. Funny to see the show again!

Chuck Dudley

Gary were you the one driving the ATV or the one on the roller blades? In any case nice work!

Gary Craig

Hahahahahaha! Neither!

Johanna Marshall

I know who you were "Mr. Announcer",,,,How old were you................... 15?????????????

Robert Sciglimpaglia

GC, Now what are you doing stirring up the pot on here? Get back on the radio!! Hope you're well, and thanks for sharing your story. I agree one should not join the Union until you are ready to compete for Union jobs, ie, tv series, feature films, etc, AND until you are ready to compete against those actors that can land those gigs. When that is will vary with every actor.

Craig Fones

Great post. Being SAG-AFTRA in Arizona is slim pickings for work. Tons of non-union,which I can't do. But I would still rather be in SAG then trying to get into SAG.

Niecy C.

I love reading your posts. I've been a must join for the past 3 years. Don't plan on joining unless I book another principle gig. But I work frequently so I can't complain. I'm here to work above everything else. And from what I hear, making more than a lot of my union friends right now.

Marcinho Savant

GREAT advice!

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