I’m often asked, and it comes up almost monthly in Power Group, what the easiest way is to get into SAG. And now that I’m the National Committee Chairman for SAG’s New Technology Committee, it comes up even more often, along with questions about webisodes and YouTube and QuickTime.
Without a doubt, using a web series you’ve written for yourself, and produce as a SAG project, is the most direct path. While you’re at it, you can write in parts for your union-hungry fellow actors, and Taft-Hartley them in as well.
It used to be that Taft-Hartley was only possible if the casting person exhausted their search of available union talent before requesting permission from SAG to document the use of non-union talent on a union shoot. That non-union talent was then placed on “must join” status. It was a big deal for that to be granted, and for casting directors who abused the practice, there was the potential for a fine levied against the production company.
Those days are long gone.
Because of one simple thing: money. See, over the last couple of years, since the former leadership of SAG insisted on an ill-advised refusal to bargain on the TV Theatrical contract, mostly over new media issues (irony, anyone?), a frustrated AFTRA broke away from the Phase 1 talks, bargained separately, came to an agreement almost immediately and took the lion’s share of 2009’s pilots that went to network air. Oddly enough, the same thing happened this year, despite a SAG contract being in place. Sadly, it’s clear that the producers would rather play with AFTRA than SAG.
The unintended side consequence to this dramatic shift in contract concentration means a huge shortfall in dues and producer contributions to SAG, while AFTRA is enjoying an enrichment they’ve never seen. That shortfall at SAG has caused them to relax certain rules, and Taft Hartley restrictions are amongst those relaxations.
So – if you want to get into SAG real bad, do this:
- Write a web series
- Produce it under the SAG New Media contract
- When you go to 5757 Wilshire to sign your paperwork, if they don’t bring it up, ask how to Taft Hartley your non-union cast members
- Taft Hartley your non-union cast members, including yourself.
That’s it. And, there’s no charge. Enjoy. Be advised that this is a temporary window. Believe me, should the contract placement shift back to SAG, that window will slam shut as soon as the financial shortfall has been met.
Next, as long as we’re discussing new media and the unions are involved, I’ll share with you how to turn non-jurisdictional and non-union new media (and old media) work into union work by being your own signatory.
David H. Lawrence XVII