SAG and Joining a Guild

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Buckner/Variety/REX Shutterstock (5490254a)
Screen Actors Guild Awards statue
22nd Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards Nominations, Los Angeles, America – 09 Dec 2015

SAG and Joining a Guild

Labor unions emerged as a way for employees to leverage their power over a company to demand fair and equal work agreements. From pay to allowable hours of work, groups like this can be found in virtually every industry. That being said, nowhere are they more prevalent than within the arts.

Screen Actors Guild (SAG)

Most commonly referred to as SAG, the Screen Actors Guild is a labor union founded in 1933 as a way to protect actors from the exploitation they faced regularly at the hands of the major movie studios of the time period. Including no limits on work hours and contracts that gave these studios full control of the performers’ public and personal lives, the union was a huge success, being supported by virtually all major actors of the time, including Humphrey Bogart and James Cagney.


Almost every aspect of the performing arts has guilds. Because it is a collection of professionals that protect one another, there are rules in place to verify that those applying are, indeed, what they say to be. To join SAG specifically, one of two conditions must be met. The first is that you have received work as a background actor for three days under a position covered by a SAG-AFTRA collective bargaining agreement. The second option is you having been a paid-up member of an affiliated performers’ union for a period of one year and have been paid at least once as a principal performer. From there, it’s a matter of providing the proper documentation and paying your dues once accepted.

While this is a fantastic opportunity, it does come with the downside that you can only work on SAG-approved projects after you join, something that could potentially limit your career options. In the end, it’s a decision that isn’t right for everyone but may be perfect for you.

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