A union for actors, like SAG, were created in create equal and fair labor rights for actors and performers who were working on a project. Most Union projects are high budget. Before unions were created, performers were at the mercy of directors and this resulted in long working hours, no health insurance access and very low pay for some.
Actors who are union members will gain access of benefits, as well as earn a minimum steady rate for certain projects like commercials or SAG roles. Once an actor becomes a member of a certain union, they are not allowed to work on a “non-union” job any more which prevents some from joining at first, even if they are qualified.
The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) This union or “guild” negotiates for actors who work on any projects that are filmed, as opposed to being “videotaped”. Projects that are “filmed” can include most movies, some television shows, some commercials and industrials. Pretty much every actor who acts in movies is a member of The Screen Actors Guild. Beginning actors are not encouraged to join SAG very early in their career. The guild encourages actors to “gain their chops” first by participating in various non-union jobs before they become a union actor and are thrown into a highly competitive pool of talented actors, and must then accept the responsibility and commitment of being a member of the Screen Actors Guild. The union also has strict eligibility requirements for actors who wish to join. To become eligible to apply, an actor must have proof of employment on a principal, or speaking role in a SAG project, (this can sometimes happen when a background actor is bumped up to a speaking role on set). Or background actors may prove they worked on a minimum of three times on a SAG project, at the SAG rate and conditions by receiving at least three SAG waivers. For more information, visit www.sag.org