In this post I’m going to tackle arguably the most debated topic and question in the Acting industry: Do I have to join SAG? The whole Union vs. Non-Union debate is heavily discussed among aspiring actors, and rightfully so. Every famous Actor is part of SAG, which is the Screen Actors Guild, making it even more appealing to upcoming actors. Do you have to join it though? It depends.
While an entire book could be written about the advantages and disadvantages of Union and Non-Union, I’m going to break it down and scratch the surface in this post. My goal isn’t to explain to you how to join SAG – as that’s a topic for another post – but to bring your attention to the Why you should, or shouldn’t, join (as oppose to the How).
Here’s what it comes down to: In order to secure major roles in feature films and TV Shows, you have to be SAG. Joining SAG can be tricky, so you can imagine that so many Actors want to get in anyway they can, so they can get famous roles they’ve always dreamed of. The truth is, you want to plan out your career accordingly.
In case you didn’t know, I’m an actor, and many of my friends are actors as well. And a lot of them (myself included) have said the same thing: Stick with non-union as long as you can. Once you cross that bridge and join SAG you can’t do any non-union work anymore. There’s a lot more non-union work than there is union work, and I know many actors who were forced to get a part-time job because they couldn’t financially support themselves when they joined SAG.
Not only are there less roles with SAG, but it’s a lot more cut throat. Many actors are auditioning for one role, and one role only. SAG roles pay significantly more than non-union roles, but it’s just harder to secure them.
In addition, by doing many non-union jobs you can build up your resume and acting chops. The last thing you want to do is get an amazing roll and freeze up in front of the camera because you didn’t spend enough time acting. Although it’s important to be ambitious and dream big, it’s equally as important to be patient and trust the process.
So overall, do you have to join SAG? It honestly depends.
Inevitably, yes – especially if you plan to be a huge actor. Like I said in the beginning of this post, every big and famous actor is part of SAG, and your goal should be to eventually become union.
However, both for experience and financial reasons, I would wait to join SAG until you’re 100% ready and have a strong reason to do so. My best suggestion is to become SAG-eligible, meaning that you’ve met the qualifications to join SAG, and wait to join until it’s absolutely necessary.
Keep acting, don’t give up on your dream, and trust the process that by working non-stop and doing audition after audition you’ll eventually make it!