How to Join SAG-AFTRA

Don't know how to join SAG-AFTRA?

Check out this quick overview of SAG-AFTRA eligibility rules to join through screen work, other actors union or vouchers from extra work.

1) How do I Get SAG-AFTRA eligibility?

There's 3 ways to get SAG-AFTRA eligible:

  1. Get an acting job in a SAG-AFTRA project.

    It can be any project (film, TV, commercial) as long as the producer has signed a SAG-AFTRA contract and has paid you for a principal or speaking part. Basically, that means you've been hired as an actor, not an extra.

    Most casting notices specify whether a project is SAG-AFTRA or not. If not, the film is probably non-union, but you can always ask. Some low-budget films and student films may have a special agreement with SAG-AFTRA where they can hire both union and non-union actors, in which case you may not be hired under a SAG-AFTRA contract and not obtain SAG-AFTRA eligibility from your role, so always check with SAG-AFTRA on a project's status if you're not sure.

    tip sign If you're wondering how to join SAG-AFTRA this way, keep in mind that it is hard sometimes for non-union actors to get SAG-AFTRA auditions, but not impossible. That's why it's so important to have a good acting headshot. Casting directors love to discover new talent and will call in newcomers for union auditions if an actor's picture catches their eye.
  2. Get an acting job with one of the other actors unions affiliated with SAG-AFTRA

    These unions are Actor's Equity (the actors union for theater), ACTRA, AGMA or AGVA. You must have been a member of that union for at least one year, have worked as a union member and have all your union fees and dues paid to join SAG-AFTRA.

  3. Union vouchers

    If you haven't had any union acting work yet and are still wandering how to join SAG-AFTRA, there's one more option: SAG-AFTRA vouchers for extra work. How do you get SAG-AFTRA vouchers? Well, there's several possibilities.

    You could start by accepting work as a non-union actor on SAG-AFTRA projects and hope to be upgraded to SAG-AFTRA scale that way. For example, if a SAG-AFTRA background actor doesn't show up one day, you could be picked to replace them, or you could be singled out for a scene pick up where your presence is needed for the footage to match.

    Another way to get SAG-AFTRA vouchers is to have something unique that makes you in demand for special projects. For example, you're unusually tall and a movie calls for extras over 6'2", or you have an original 60s Cadillac that is needed for a period film (extras are often hired for their vehicles or unique wardrobe like police outfits), or you resemble the lead in a movie and are called upon to be their stand-in (to walk through their scene as the crew adjusts lighting and sound on the set).

    warning sign With so many SAG-AFTRA eligibility options, you may not be wondering how to join SAG-AFTRA anymore, but that doesn't mean you should. After all, getting to join SAG-AFTRA because you have a cool car doesn't really make one an actor, but it will limit the roles they can get to build an acting resume, so read the pros and cons of joining actors unions before you go through all this trouble.

2) How to Join SAG-AFTRA once you are Eligible

Once you have gained SAG-AFTRA eligibility, you can remain a SAG-AFTRA eligible actor or join SAG-AFTRA by going through the following steps:

  • Mail or drop off to the SAG-AFTRA Actors Guild membership department original pay stubs from your SAG-AFTRA acting job along with your name, address, phone number and DOB.
  • Once you receive a letter from the SAG-AFTRA actors Guild saying you're eligible, you can set up an appointment with your local branch.
  • The last thing you need to know about how to join SAG-AFTRA is that it's expensive. You will have to come to your appointment with initiation fees of over $2,000 (at the time of this writing), plus semi-annual SAG-AFTRA dues starting at $58. You won't be able to pay these by check, but you could get a loan, so check with SAG-AFTRA if you need help.
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The name on your SAG-AFTRA card doesn't have to be your legal name. It should be your stage name or the name you use on your acting headshot, so decide before you join.

And that's it! You got your SAG-AFTRA card. Congratulations! You just took a big step in your acting career. Have a party! And don't forget to put your union membership on your resume right away, as well as update your status with your acting agent and online casting profiles.

Now that you know how to join SAG-AFTRA, take a moment to consider the pros and cons of SAG-AFTRA membership and when is the best time for you to join.

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