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When An Actor Should Join A Union

 

There are three essential unions for professional actors.  Actors’ Equity Association (AEA), Screen Actors Guild (SAG), and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA).  All three unions have a one-time initiation fee, plus annual dues, which are calculated based on your earnings under that union’s jurisdiction.  When you join the union you are no longer allowed to take a non-union role, so when you are just starting out it is usually wise to remain non-union for a while to gain experience by doing non-union roles.

Working in summer stock or at a dinner theater is a professional job, even though the theater does not work under union rules or offer union contracts. But all Broadway theaters, major Off-Broadway productions, and the best known regional theaters, operate according to Actors’ Equity Association rules, so in order to act in such productions you will have to be a union member. All studio produced, and most independent feature films, as well as television soap operas, series, and movies, require that you be a member of a different union, the Screen Actors Guild (SAG).

The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) has some overlapping responsibilities shared with SAG, but represents a wider range of professionals in various entertainment categories, from newspersons to magicians. SAG is primarily concerned with wages and working conditions of performers working on film.

 

American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA)

AFTRA is the easiest of the three performers’ unions to join, merely requiring you to fill out an application and pay the initiation fee.  The membership includes actors, announcers, news broadcasters, singers (including royalty artists and background singers), dancers, sportscasters, disc jockeys, talk show hosts and others. In addition, AFTRA is:

  • A national labor union affiliated with the AFL-CIO,
  • AFTRA represents actors and other professional performers in TV, radio, sound recordings, commercials, non-broadcast/industrial programs and interactive programs such as CD-ROMS.
5757 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90036
213-634-8100

260 Madison Avenue, 7th Floor
New York, NY 10016
212-532-0800
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
http://www.aftra.org/

 

Actors’ Equity Association (AEA)

Actors’ Equity represents over 40,000 theatre performers and stage managers. The way you become a member of AEA is:

  • Auditioning for and being hired on an Equity contract;
  • Being a member in good standing of another performers’ union for at least one year and supplying proof of work under their jurisdiction.
  • Going through the Equity Membership Candidacy Program which allows you to join Equity if you have completed 50 weeks at an Equity theatre which offers the Candidacy program.

165 West 46th Street
New York, NY 10036
212-869-0358
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
http://www.actorsequity.org/

5757 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 1
Los Angeles, CA 90036
213-634-1750

 

Screen Actors Guild (SAG)

The Screen Actors Guild is organized into three governing divisions, and each division is governed by its own Rules of Procedure. Essentially SAG negotiates and enforces collective bargaining agreements that establish equitable levels of compensation, benefits, and working conditions for performers. SAG has jurisdiction over movies, television and commercials produced on film.  You can join SAG in one of three ways:

  1. By being cast and hired to work in a principal or speaking role for a SAG signatory producer.
  2. After a minimum of one year’s membership in an affiliated performers’ union, with proof of principal work under that union’s jurisdiction.
  3. Three days covered SAG extra work.

1515 Broadway, 44th Floor
New York, NY 10036
212-944-1030
Email: webpage link
http://new.sag.org

5757 Wilshire Boulevard
Hollywood, CA 90036
213-954-1600

 

Other vital unions and guilds for the performing artist

ACTRA
ACTRA Toronto Performers
625 Church Street, Suite 200
Toronto, Ontario
M4Y 2G1
Phone: 416-928-2278
National Organization of Canadian Performers Working in Film, Television, Video and all other Recorded Media.
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
http://www.actra.ca

AFL-CIO
815 16th Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20006
Phone: 202-637-5000
Fax: 202-637-5058
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
http://www.aflcio.org

American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada (AFM)
4400 Mac Arthur Boulevard NW
Suite 306
Washington, DC 20007
Phone: 202-337-9325
Fax: 202-338-3787
Union that represents professional musicians.
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
http://www.afm.org/

American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA)
1430 Broadway, 14th Floor
New York, NY 10018
Phone: 212-265-3687
Fax: 212-262-9088
The labor organization that represents the men and women who create America's operatic, choral and dance heritage.
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
http://www.musicalartists.org/

American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA)
184 5th Avenue
New York, NY 10010
Phone: 212-675-1003
or
363 7th Avenue
New York, NY 10001
Phone: 646-674-0135
Represents performers in Broadway, Off-Broadway, Cabaret productions, night club entertainers and theme park performers.
Email:

Artists Rights Foundation
7920 Sunset Boulevard, 6th Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90046
Phone: 323-436-5060
Fax: 323-436-5061
Send Email from this webpage: http://www.artistsrights.org/contact/default.htm

Directors Guild of America (DGA)
7920 Sunset Boulevard
Los Angeles, California 90046
Phone: 310-289-2000 / 800-421-4173
Fax: 310-289-2029
Represents members in theatrical, industrial, educational and documentary films, as well as television live, filmed and taped radio, videos and commercials.
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
http://www.dga.org

Industry Labor Guide
11693 San Vicente Blvd., # 206
Los Angeles, CA. 90049
Phone: 310-440-5800
Toll free: 800-820-7601
Fax: 310-440-5812
Comprehensive resource, covering Union & Guild contracts for all major Production Centers.
Entertainment Publishers, Inc.
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

http://www.laborguide.com

International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE)
1430 Broadway
20th Floor
New York, NY 10018
Phone: 212-730-1770
Fax: 212-730-7809
Represents technicians, artisans and craftspersons in the entertainment industry, including live theater, film and television production.
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
http://www.iatse-intl.org

NABET/CWA Local 57
3210 W. Burbank Boulevard, Suite D,
Burbank, CA 91505
Phone: 818-567-9935
Fax: 818-567-9968
Communications Workers of America.
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
http://www.nabet57.com/

Professional Musicians, Local 47
817 Vine Street, Hollywood CA 90038
Phone: 323-462-2161, x150
A 100-plus-year old labor organization representing over 9,000 local members.
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
http://www.promusic47.org/

Writers Guild of America, East
555 West 57th Street, Suite 1230
New York, NY 10019
Phone: 212-767-7800
Fax: 212-582-1909
Negotiates Minimum Basic Agreements with major producers of motion pictures and television programs as well as contracts for staff members at radio and television stations.
http://www.wgaeast.org/

Writers Guild of America, West
7000 West Third Street
Los Angeles, California 90048
Phone: 323-951-4000
Toll Free: 800-548-4532
Is the sole collective bargaining representative for writers in the motion picture, broadcast, cable, interactive and new media industries.
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
http://www.wga.org/

   

 

 

Relevant Associations & Organizations

Actors' Fund of America
729 Seventh Avenue, 10th Floor
New York, New York 10019
Phone: 212-221-7300
Fax: 212-764-0238
A nonprofit organization founded in 1882, committed to helping show business professionals in times of need with programs in health, human services and work programs.
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
http://www.actorsfund.org

AFTRA-SAG Federal Credit Union
12711 Ventura Blvd. #200
Studio City, CA 91604
Phone: 818-487-6400
Fax: 818-766-9552
Financial services that benefit members of AFTRA, SAG, AGVA and other Select Employee Groups.
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
http://www.aftrasagfcu.com

American Association of Advertising Agencies (AAAA)
405 Lexington Avenue, 18th Floor
New York, NY 10174-1801
Phone: 212-682-2500
Fax: 212-682-8391
Along with the Association of National Advertisers, it is officially recognized by the National Labor Relations Board to negotiate labor union agreements with commercial performers affiliated with SAG, AFTRA, and the AFM.
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
http://www.aaaa.org

National Association of Talent Representatives (NATR)
c/o The Gage Group
315 West 57th St., #4H
New York, NY 10019
Phone: 212-262-5696 -or- 212-541-5250
Fax: 212-956-7466
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

SAG Pension & Health Funds
Burbank Plan Office
3601 West Olive Avenue
P.O. Box 7830
Burbank, CA 91510-7830
Phone: 818-954-9400 or 800-777-4013 (outside the Los Angeles Area)
Fax: 818-953-9880
This site provides you with the most current information regarding your health and pension benefits
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
http://www.sagph.org

Dramatists Guild of America
1501 Broadway, Suite 701
New York, NY 10036
Phone: 212-398-9366
Fax: 212-944-0420
The website of this association of Playwrights, Composers, and Lyricists holds information about membership, copyright, contracts, events & seminars, ways to contact playwrights and their agents, and articles from The Dramatist.
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
http://www.dramaguild.com

For a full listing of helpful associations and organizations click here