My Thoughts on This “One Union”

3 Apr

On March 30th, 2012, the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists merged and became ONE UNION. The new name for this one union: SAG-AFTRA.


I know that a lot of you are hoping for a more creative name.

CONGRATULATIONS to all of my SAG and AFTRA friends! We are now ONE voice in the entertainment industry! Hopefully this will bring more jobs, better contracts, and so on, so forth. For those who were one union or the other, it probably felt good to not have to pay additional money to join the other union. For those who joined SAG recently and wished that they waited, well, my thinking is that you’re probably in a better position, since you already got yourself placed in the pool of SAG actors before the influx of AFTRA-only actors got into the mix.

What are MY thoughts on this whole merger thing? Well, back in 2010, after about a month of working in the industry, I received my first AFTRA waiver from working as background on an Onion News Network gig. I was excited and happy about it, and absolutely THRILLED! Lil’ ol’ me? Working a UNION gig this soon??? Aw schucks! 🙂

Well, then I became a dreaded “Must-Join” (which means that you need to join the union before you can work another job for that union), and I couldn’t submit whenever there was an AFTRA project, unless I was willing to join. Being somebody who always wants to “earn” what they get, I decided that I wasn’t going to join AFTRA until I booked a speaking part. So a year after I received my AFTRA waiver, I was called by director Frank Mosca for a PSA that was being pitched to FOX. A month later, it was picked up! That was my first AFTRA Principal Contract! The PSA was titled “The R-Word”, or now, it’s better known as “Not Acceptable” R-Word PSA”. It was my first national commercial, and it premiered on May 24th, 2011 in the last 10 minutes of the season finale of FOX’s “Glee”. It was pretty neat! The PSA also starred Jane Lynch and Lauren Potter…and ME!

So BOOM! There’s my gateway to AFTRA! With SAG, I had been eligible since October of 2011. I had received 3 SAG waivers for doing background work, VERY quickly, all thanks to Grant Wilfley Casting. During the time of my “OK-30” (the time period where you’re eligible to work union work without having to join yet), I was fortunate enough to book more SAG work, including getting upgraded to DAY PLAYER for a SAG indie film, “That’s What She Said,” starring Anne Heche and directed by Carrie Preston. The film actually ended up getting accepted to the Sundance Film Festival this year, and I will also get to go to the New York Premiere at the Soho International Film Festival! Totally excited! And if it weren’t for being in my OK-30, I would’ve never gotten the opportunity for the upgrade!

You would think that the day player contract would be a good enough reason to join SAG immediately, right? Well, not really. I booked a lot of work as a principal for non-union commercials and industrials, as well as other feature films. Some people think of “non-union” as un-professional. Well, it’s not true. Some of the BEST gigs I’ve ever worked on were non-union, and I wouldn’t have traded those experiences for the world. Also, non-union commercials are run EXTREMELY professionally. The only real difference is the pay and certain little things that are under a SAG contract. Otherwise, totally legit work.

I will confess. A part of me was somewhat “scared” of the merger. I enjoyed getting lots of calls for auditions and booking non-union principal work. I enjoy being a WORKING actor. I enjoy NOT having to do background work to make a living. I had heard from some of my SAG friends that it got way more difficult for them to book work and even get called in for auditions after they joined. Yikes!

Well, I decided that I would join SAG once I booked that gig that would “seal the deal.” So that to me meant booking a principal role in a national network commercial or a day player role in a feature film or episodic. I had gotten auditions for national SAG commercials, and even a callback on my first try (for a New Balance commercial), but no booking. I wanted to EARN this SAG card, dammit, so someone needed to book me!

And then the merger went through. A part of me wanted it to, but a part of me who was still hellbent on earning all of my achievements didn’t quite. I DID vote “Yes” to the merger, so I was part of that 86% of AFTRA members who voted FOR it. Am I glad that I saved $2,335 on joining SAG? Yes. Am I scared of the additional competition in an already crazy competitive field? Well, I was. But after a meeting with my manager, I know that in order to progress, I NEED to keep on moving FORWARD. Staying non-SAG felt like it was helping me, but if I wanted a meeting with a legit agent, I would NEED to be SAG. I have great commercial agents, and get sent out a good amount, but it’s time to step it up. After being SAG-eligible for 18 months and not joining, the universe decided it all for me.

My name is Teresa, and I am a VERY proud member of SAG-AFTRA.

Bring it on.


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