I Am Now A SAG - Eligible Actor!
Last month I worked as a principal actor on a union production for the first time, earning me my SAG - E status!
Let's go over some definitions:
Principal Actor - An actor with a speaking role on camera
SAG-AFTRA (the union) - Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists
SAG - Eligible (SAG - E) - A performer that has met SAG-AFTRA's minimum requirements to join and is now eligible to become a member of the union
Here is an excerpt from Martin Bentsen's article SAG Eligible: What it Means and How to Get There that explains why being a SAG - Eligible actor is such an accomplishment:
"Joining SAG-AFTRA is something most actors aspire to because they'll be guaranteed higher wages, health benefits, strictly enforced protections on set, pension plans, and lots more. Joining the union is often considered a rite of passage for actors because of how difficult it can be. Many actors feel validated as true professionals when they finally join SAG-AFTRA.
All actors must be "SAG Eligible" first to be able to join. Just having the money to afford initiation does not qualify you!
Here are some benefits of becoming SAG-Eligible:
It looks great on your resume. Casting directors are more likely to hire SAG Eligible actors because that status signifies to the casting director that the actor is experienced and has been booked in legit productions before. It also means that a producer will not have to write another Taft-Hartley letter that could be rejected by the union (and result in a fine).
You can still audition for non-union projects. As we'll discuss more in a moment, once you join SAG-AFTRA, you're no longer allowed to audition for non-union productions. But being SAG-Eligible means that you're not actually a member of the union yet, so you can audition for both union AND non-union projects.
Non-union directors and producers will take you more seriously. Being SAG Eligible tells these non-union people that you're serious about your career, and that they should hire you while they still have the chance. You'll almost always be considered first – above all non-union actors.
Agents will take you more seriously. For the same reasons as noted earlier, agents will consider you much more closely since SAG Eligible actors tend be more experienced and more serious about their careers than non-union actors.
In general, the status of SAG Eligible tells people that you're able to work in any production, union or non-union, without causing them too much hassle or difficulty. It shows you're an experienced actor who takes their career seriously."
Hopefully, now you understand why I am so grateful to be a SAG - E actor. Years of hard work have led me here and I'm glad to be in the next stage of my career.