I have been asked this question quite a bit lately.
“I am SAG-AFTRA eligible, should I join the union now or wait?” This is a good question and also a good place to be. My answer is, “It depends.”
For those who don’t know what SAG Eligible means, I recommend contacting SAG-AFTRA. There is a wealth of information on their website or you can call them directly.
If you are an actor who is SAG Eligible (or SAG-E for short), you most likely can or have worked one SAG job and will need to join the union on the next job. It’s like being in limbo and you may wonder how to navigate your next move. Should you wait until you get the job or join now? My advice is usually to wait, though it is a personal choice with many factors to consider.
Here are some of the issues that come up in my discussions:
- If you are looking for new representation, SAG-E can be very attractive to a potential agent. This means they can submit you for both union and non-union roles, which creates more opportunity to get you ‘out there.’ It will give you an edge over non-union actors that they might be considering.
- By the same token, SAG-E status lets the world know that you’ve only worked on one union job. Some actors feel this makes them look less experienced. By joining the union, they see themselves as more professional which may make them feel they have more status.
- Some actors feel that agents take union actors more seriously than those not in the union.
- Of course, there is also the issue of money. The current initiation fee is $3,000. Plus there are yearly dues that need to be kept current in order to retain your union status.
I believe all these issues are valid and there are many factors to consider when deciding to join the union.
My opinion is, if you are SAG Eligible, take full advantage of it. The truth is you haven’t done much union work. If you’re looking for a new agent, it puts you ahead of all the non-union actors out there. I believe agents and managers will take you seriously as it takes work to become SAG Eligible, and it says you’re doing your job as an actor. Get as much experience as you can, as much work as you can, meet people and make connections. Why not take advantage of the opportunity to get in more work and connections at your level and experience?
The bottom line, of course, is your talent, your passion, and how you see and sell yourself. Own it, stand in it – whatever your choice is – so that energy will serve you. Never apologize for ‘only’ being SAG Eligible. With hard work and dedication, you will become a member of the union and