Look for the Union Label A major milestone in an actor's career: The SAG card.
Living in New York as an actor has many challenges, not the least of which is becoming part of AEA, or Actor's Equity Association, the stage union. It is very difficult to get real, sustainable work there without being Union. The question of how one becomes Union is not easily answered. There are many flaming loops to jump through, and then, maybe then, if you've been really good and the stars are aligned, you get the honor of coughing up a large chunk of change to join. That was a very exciting day for me.
Is it worth it? Wonderfully so. I had done countless shows before I went Equity, and the difference is massive. Instead of being paid $40 a week (not kidding) to work 18 hour days and being forced to sleep in an attic with three other girls and have additional duties that included mopping the bathroom stalls in the theatre and lugging lumber, suddenly I was being paid $500 a week (on the low end) to have my own room and do ONLY what I do best: act. Brilliant! Suddenly, I'm not slave labor.
Cut to two years later, in Los Angeles, where much of the work is in TV and Film. Everyone with a career here knows you have to be a member of the Screen Actor's Guild, the tv/film union. I have been eligible to join SAG because of my work in Equity. Usually it is incredibly difficult to join SAG, so I'm thankful. I have been advised, however to Not Join SAG Until The Last Possible Minute. This seems to be the wisdom of the masses who are not SAG. They feel that those who are eligible are in the best of all possible worlds, because they can do non-union work and still apply for SAG jobs. Well, that is true, in theory. I figured I'd wait and see what happens.
So, I did some non-union film and commercial work. I worked on one commercial for 8 weeks, with the contractual promise of payment when the commercial aired. Commercial aired, production company said "Sorry! Whoops! We can't pay you! Tee hee!" I did another commercial where I was given product and a stipend but no salary. Then I worked on a film, where I worked two 19 hour days and received NO pay. That's when I said, "waaaaait a second...I'm getting SCREWED!"
See, it's easy to take advantage of actors. The problem is we'll do anything to act, including forget that we're not getting paid and are being driven like donkey slaves. It's passion that drives us, and that's easily exploited.
So, yesterday, with much internal pomp and circumstance, I took myself over to SAG and joined up. Things are about to get sticky there, what with mergers and such, and I wanted to hop on before they decided I wasn't eligible anymore. I am serious about my career and my future, and now, for both stage and screen, I'm Bonafied. Zippity dang dong dooo! Bonafied! It doesn't mean I'll get any more work than I've been getting (probably less), but when I DO get work, I'll be protected, and that's a sweet sweet thing.
Glad things are moving for you. Movement is good. William F. House | Homepage | 06.28.03 - 3:31 pm | #
Wait... still stuck on the fact that you took a job for $40 a week and you had to do more than the show. Wow. D | Homepage | 07.01.03 - 8:51 am | #
that's freakin summerstock for ya. it's supposed to "build character." this was at the New London Barn Playhouse in New Hampshire. I think the word "Barn" should have been the first warning sign. A | 07.02.03 - 10:03 am | #
Well, there are also a lot of good, old-timey barn theatres around... that's not one of them, but they do exist...
No, really. D | Homepage | 07.03.03 - 7:54 am | #
I totally believe it. This wasn't one of them. Nor was Weathervane in New Hampshire, another place I worked. A | 07.03.03 - 10:34 am | #
phew...yeah, strike two. There are plenty of other strikes out there as well. Anonymous | 07.05.03 - 11:32 am