When it comes to working with & becoming a Union member, things can get very confusing. Do you automatically become a member after a Union job? Do you have to rack up a certain "working x number of hours"? This post is meant to help you get a better grip on all things Union. (Most of this info was pulled from the Actors Equity Association website and the SAG-AFTRA website)...
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.
Once an AEA actor, you’re limited to performing in shows that offer Equity contracts. You can audition for a non-Equity theatre, but if you are offered a role the theatre must negotiate an agreement with Actors’ Equity, usually a guest contract or a Special Appearance contract.
In regards to SAG, it's slightly different...
You can join SAG/AFTRA in one of three ways:
By being cast and hired to work in a principal or speaking role for a SAG signatory producer.
After a minimum of one year’s membership in an affiliated performers’ union, with proof of principal work under that union’s jurisdiction.
Three days covered SAG extra work.
A few things to keep in mind...
You do not become Equity or join SAG the minute you get an agent. Some agents are Union-only agents, meaning they deal exclusive with actors that are Equity or part of SAG. Most agents represent Union and non-Union actors, and then there are some that represent ONLY non-Union actors. As always, if you're looking to submit to a specific agency, do a review of their website to see what they say regarding representing Union or non-Union actors (they should list it on their site).
Based on your interest in this article, we think you should check out these programs ATC has build for students just like you:
Janet Foster, CSA, has been a casting director for over thirty years working on Broadway, off-Broadway and most recently for the American Conservatory Theatre. She has helped hundreds of actors launch their careers.
In this 4 week Masterclass, students will learn the importance of nailing a written piece and the importance of creating your own work. Each week student will workshop a new monologue or scene with Matilda while also learning about her incredible journey in the industry as actor, director, writer and producer.