Thread: Does SAG - AFTRA really have any teeth.

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  1. #1 Does SAG - AFTRA really have any teeth. 
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    Ive been researching the possibility of using professional actors in upcoming productions if we actually manage to find some money.

    I'm in a situation similar to many in the current digital climate. I operate in a small non industry community with no professional talent, cast or crew, so thus far we have managed to operate without paying anyone, similar to community theatre. We have a well attended festival that essentially guarantees a screening as well as a indie theatre that will cooperate. Everyone has fun. That said we still have big dreams and know that even a semi name from years ago is going to have more pull, make a film look more legit than complete unknowns. I also like the idea of pulling a Tarantino and bringing out someone I liked from my youth that rarely woks now and give them a chance to bounce back, who know right.

    In this scenario SAG is a problem. First I'm not in US so don't qualify for the indie contracts. I would budget for full rate and travel expenses for one or two actors coming in from New York or L.A. Local talent would be paid a reasonable rate, but full Union rates are in no way reasonable for non pros, and there is no way there would ever be enough money to import the entire cast.

    Anyway, in researching the signatory process it clearly states that the SAG logo must be displayed in credits just like iatse and teamsters if they are used. When was the last time anyone saw SAG on a big studio movie. Pretty much always iatse, but never sag. They have the big stars, and would be paying way more than scale, so what gives. Is the big push from sag indie because they are losing studio films, and want to bully indie films into using them. Some of the actors I am looking at have most certainly worked non Union , assuming no end credit tag clearly indicates non Union. Realistically if for example an actress over 40 only worked 2 days last year, she is not going to turn down a good role, does sag really have any power to sanction her for doing so?

    As an outsider the main problem seems to be access. Agents and managers are not supposed to forward non Union offers so how do non Union indies bypass that to get their video box names. I'm not talking about open casting hoping that someone cool find their way on board, but rather targeted short list.
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  2. #2  
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    Any actor can work for you. If they are SAG, it's their call. SAG members can claim "ficor" meaning not enough union work where they reside so doing non-union work is allowed. It's common here in NC. If you become a signatory to the whole SAG agreement, then you are bound by its terms.
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  3. #3  
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    Yeah, I know about ficor, and have no intent on signing. There is no Union work for local cast, just wondering about the logistics of getting someone to come in from LA if you don't have some sort of direct connection. Agents don't seem to be helpful, they can't even quote a rate appearantly, you just have to guess what someone is worth and hope for the best.
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  4. #4  
    Senior Member SamuelJacobPauling's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dop16mm View Post
    Yeah, I know about ficor, and have no intent on signing. There is no Union work for local cast, just wondering about the logistics of getting someone to come in from LA if you don't have some sort of direct connection. Agents don't seem to be helpful, they can't even quote a rate appearantly, you just have to guess what someone is worth and hope for the best.
    This is true. It's a rule nowadays, where you can't get someones rate. (I don't know if there anything legally binding to this rule) but, it used to be you could call up someone and ask what their rates are... They may tell you, if you're close with them.

    But, this is mainly for actors with good managements. Focus on what you can pay for, and just make an offer. If they don't like the offer but like the material - usually the manager will try to accomedate or negotiate. OR if they're really into it but the actor isn't, they will point you to another actor of theirs. Most Agencies and Managements are like this... They want business.
    Best,
    Samuel Jacob
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  5. #5  
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    In general, money has always been pretty sensitive and secretive, but more so for talent in this industry. Not like production crew jobs where most positions may get paid around the same ball park besides the very low and/or the very high end.

    Like most people won't go film for 10 hours for $100 but will probably consider it for $1000 (just an example).

    Actors/actresses might get paid $10K for a commercial by one company and another might pay them $30K for something similar with the same amount of work.

    The spectrum is more extreme....but I guess there are also those cases in which you're aspiring and just trying to make it so you may consider anything but it's more damaging for talent (especially in unions) to take lower paying jobs than anyone else, IMO.
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    It seems a little contradictory to pursue SAG actors then attempt to circumvent the policies of said union. There are a few tiers of low budget and experimental contracts. That said if you can afford to fly, house, and feed a foreign actor for a month you should probably be able to pay her scale as well.
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  7. #7  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Howie Roll View Post
    It seems a little contradictory to pursue SAG actors then attempt to circumvent the policies of said union. There are a few tiers of low budget and experimental contracts. That said if you can afford to fly, house, and feed a foreign actor for a month you should probably be able to pay her scale as well.
    I'm not talking about shorting the actor, it's all the other related fees, and the expectation of paying local non Union the same and forwarding fees for them back to said Union for which they are not members just seems dumb. And having to use payroll companies that take a bite too. Ultimately I don't think I should have to bend over backwards to offer a good role to an underused talent, I'm not trying to bid for time with an A-lister.
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  8. #8  
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    Another downside in dealing with SAG AFTRA is that you need a third party signator to facilitate the payment, and they take 5-10%. Wardrobe fees. Taxes. Fees end up being nearly as much as you pay the actor. I will say though, it's worth it a lot of the time. Some of the best I've ever worked with had the most loopholes.
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  9. #9  
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    The old school guys will say it matters. And I agree with them, if there is known talent and the film will have decent distribution.

    Otherwise, there are ways of doing a non-union picture with union players... But, now you're sort of at the mercy of the talent managent's decision.
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    Samuel Jacob
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  10. #10  
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    Thanks Samual, confirms what I sort of already knew. Still curious about the status on big movies if anyone knows. I've been rally looking and the SAG logo is almost never there. iATSE always, sometimes Teamsters. They have all the big stars, I thought that was the leverage. I wonder if this is the reason behind SAG-indie, even though the ultra low rates look good, the small print makes your movie un releasable.

    btw the low budget contracts, and even multimedia only apply to US shoots, and only in the home base of the actor you want, if they travel it is full rate plus travel days plus paid days off plus per dium plus union dues plus payroll company +++. Even though I'm sure that there are many who would be happy for the work with some of those extras lopped off.
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