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SAG for short or SAG-AFTRA as the full name is the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. It is an American labor union representing approximately 160,000 film and television actors, journalists, radio personalities, recording artists, singers, voice actors, and other media professionals worldwide.
It is not solely restricted to actors but all performers who appear on-screen or off for voice over talent. Sometimes it is commonly referred to as just the “union” when you are on a film set.
You do NOT have to be a SAG member to work on SAG sets or affiliated studios.
When submitting for roles, your resume should state whether you’re non-union (not a member) SAG-E (not a member but eligible to join), or SAG (member).
Why be a SAG Member?
A performer becomes eligible for membership under one of the following conditions:
- Proof of SAG-AFTRA, SAG or AFTRA covered employment as a principal performer or recording artist; proof of three days of SAG-AFTRA.
- SAG or AFTRA employment as a background actor; or employment under an affiliated performers’ union.
- Potential broadcast members should contact the National Broadcast Department or their nearest local for information on joining.
In reality, many roles the average dancer will be cast as do not receive SAG credit. You’ll only receive SAG credit as a dancer if you have to learn choreography (different than being asked to do certain moves by the director) and/or are given lines on a SAG set. If you have three or more SAG credits in a year, you are eligible to join SAG but it is not a requirement.
Unless you’re a constant performer, you may not want to become a member as the membership does cost money. Additionally, you are not allowed to work on any non-union sets if you’re a SAG member. However, there are certain benefits to being a union member. Visit the SAG website for more information about how to join and the benefits of being a member.
Some Things to Expect on SAG Set
- To be paid ~$250 minimum for a role as a dancer unless if it’s a low-budget SAG film.
- Every set should have a Production Assistance (PA) designated to the dancers. This is your go-to person should any issues arise, you have any questions, etc. Read more about what to expect on set in this post.
- You will only receive SAG pay if you worked on a choreographed routine with the set choreographer. Otherwise, whatever you choose to do is included in your base pay.
- If you’re asked to do something extra (remove clothing, perform a stunt, etc.) you should ask for an increase in pay. If removing clothing was part of your original agreement, there is no increase in pay.
- Should you get injured or even if you have a headache or get your period, there should be a set medic who can assist with these things.
- The set may or may not have alcohol to clean the poles with because production staff aren’t dancers. I’d strongly advise bringing your own and your own grip aid.
Some Things to Expect on a Non-SAG Set
There can be big difference between working a union versus a non-union set in terms of pay and how you can expected to be treated along with the level of professionalism.
- If you work a non-union set, pay can be as low as $75 (for the day).
- There may not be a set medic.
- You will not have a PA, and you’ll probably have to fend for yourself should any issues arise.