Many times I've seen Non-Union feature films listed on AA and they have CD that have cast for major studio films attached. They also include producers that have produced some successful projects.
Why do these types of films choose to go the non-union route? Is it because some are shooting outside the U.S and it would be easier for them to do the paperwork? A lot of times they also don't list a pay rate, are we suppose to assume that the pay is deferred?
Because they save money. Lots of people would jump at the opportunity to do a feature film for breadcrumbs.
The common wisdom/suggestions within the filmmaking community these days is that unless you have at least one "name" talent attached (not necessarily A-list, but someone who is a series lead on a TV show, or who is known enough to be considered a celebrity, however minor, whose name alone can attract distributors), it's not worth going SAG. And certain genre films (action, martial arts, horror) are less reliant on name talent for it to sell.
The reason why isn't just the actual cost, but the administrative hassle of going through SAG. Whether you are shooting a $100M movie or a $1M movie, the amount of paperwork and hassle is almost the same, even if you are governed by different contracts (ultra-low vs. modified vs. regular). Some of it is SAG (they could make the process even less cumbersome for indie projects), but some of it is also a legal thing: under SAG contracts, SAG requires producers to treat actors as "employees" which by law tacks on additional taxes, workers comp, etc. With non-union, you can pay actors as "independent contractors".
And for many indie productions, all crew are basically working non-union: so they are treated as independent contractors, not as employees. This makes a huge difference in how people get paid, and how much liability a producer takes on.
Example: SAG ULB is $100/day.
If the producer pays $100/day to a non-union, they would just cut a check for $100 for that day. Simple.
Now, if it's union, the producer usually goes through a payroll company because you need to have a payroll system set up to calculate FICA, SS, fed and state tax withholding, and SAG pension/health contributions. So producers will pay payroll companies to handle SAG actors, and SAG actors will get a check from the payroll company. And even worse, the SAG actor gets maybe $65 net because $35 was withheld in taxes, just like in a real 9-to-5 job. On top of that, the producer has to pay the employer's share of employer tax plus workers comp plus fees to the payroll company. This all works out to roughly 50% of the base. So $100/day costs $150/day to the producer, and the actor only gets $65.
Even worse, SAG requires production companies to put up a bond (basically like a deposit similar to what you would do for an apartment lease) before you even shoot. Usually, this is equivalent to the first two weeks of your total payroll! So if let's say your total projected SAG payroll is $15,000 for the production, you will have to deposit an additional $5,000-7,500 to SAG, since most features don't shoot for more than 21 days total. SAG will then hold onto this money for another 5-6 weeks after shooting before returning the deposit to you.
Again, a non-union actor that is $100/day, costs $100/day. A SAG actor quoted at $100/day is basically $150/day, plus having to front SAG additional cash on top of your payroll, and having to fill out a mountain of forms.
So yes, it costs more, it's more of a hassle, and again only worth it if you have name talent.
Now, the question you may wonder is "aren't you getting better actors if they're SAG?"
Not necessarily. For just about any ethnicity in the 20-45 age group, there isn't really any difference overall in terms of skill level, professionalism, attitude, etc. There's a lot of amazing SAG actors, as there are non-union actors as well out there.
Did you just say that there isn't any difference in quality of actors in a gigantic age group? Maybe 18-21 it's all kind of the same. But still, that's a ridiculous statement, regardless of union or non.
They argued with someone at the Union and said F it?
SAG-AFTRA does not equal talent nor status and never has to those in the know. Most young folks think they've arrived once they join, so they find anyway they can to make that happen..usually before they are ready or experienced.
It's the only actor union where you can do background work to get vouchers in order to join the union. Which is silly. And since so many people bought in by walking into AFTRA an laying down cash, the union means less to me in terms of talent. Most members never earned their union card as an actual 'actor.' But ask an AEA member how they got their card, and they will tell you they earned it either from a principal contract or by earning points in an Equity theatre.
In addition, many agents and managers (mine included)are now telling their clients to go fi core because of the amount of non union work, especially in the commercial world. Hence I remain eligible.
So, union does not equal talent or status or having reached a professional level. Far from it. Talent is talent. Unions have nothing to do with that.
Scoff all you want. But if you've ever sat on the other side of the casting sessions enough times (not just once, but multiple projects), you'll find that an actor's ability, preparedness and enthusiasm has little to do with their union status.
There is a reason why many filmmakers these days would rather go non-union if they could. This isn't a knock on SAG at all - it's just the reality that there's a lot of talented people out there.
If there truly was a huge difference overall in the talent levels between the really good non-union actors and union actors, more filmmakers would find it to be a no-brainer to go SAG every time.
This is not true...at least not to those of us "in the know", you can join ACTRA solely through doing background work. You can also join Equity UK through BG as well.
You can't do background and get in AEA because theater does not have background. If you're going to act all holier than thou, you should probably be correct.
There are plenty of talented actors not in the union, however...
...you cannot make a living without being in the union. Every project that will get you any real publicity and press (something that every actor needs) is SAG-AFTRA. It takes more than talent to make a living. You need to work alongside experienced producers and name talent - and they will not work outside the union.
It's a PITA to get in, but it's just one of those things you have to do.
Does anyone know if I can do a non-union film if I am a SAG/Aftra non-active member? I am not paying any dues. PLEASE HELP! Just got cast!
Global Rule One!
I think you may at this point be considered not a union actor and can work non-union. But I'm not entirely sure - you should probably call the union to check.
DonQ--you're right on! It's the $ and paying an actor on 1099 is clean for both parties. While SAG-AFTRA protects the actor (SAG legal did get me some bond $) the merger has forced Union to do non-Union work...maybe not the 'names'...but day-to-day actors who need paying roles to eat. Yes, there's Rule # 1...but tell that to Producers paying the bills. Ideally, I'd love every job to be a SAG job, in fact, I have a SAG commercial running now and the checks are terrific. Yet, if I were a Producer I'd try to cut talent and production costs too.
Oh yea, the TONS of money from the non-union films. I'm sure that $50 you get is gonna make it worthwhile (Assuming you even get anything).
The merger hasn't done crap, its just another way for people to complain.
Not true Syphus...you see the same NY listings as I do...and one can choose the jobs to audition for. There is lots of N/U work out there in the $1000's...and when I saw major Packaged Goods advertisers seeking N/U Principals for TV Commercials...I was floored. Even Agents ask actors to list themselves as FiCore to get more work. As for the Merger (which I voted for--I was in both) I don't know your specs but I doubt if you're working as much as before. If you are, you the lucky one.
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