I’ve been a member of SAG-AFTRA for over a year now. I originally joined AFTRA prior to the merger vote, and now I’m a member of the merged unions.
And besides having better work opportunities, better pay, and protection on set (something I could have used in the past), there are lots of other things that are out there for union actors.
First of all, there are free casting director workshops through the SAG Foundation. A big controversial thing in the acting world are casting director workshops that you pay for. I don’t want to start a debate on here, but my belief is that you should not pay to audition for a casting director. You wouldn’t pay to have a job interview in a day job, so why would you do it for an acting job? If you don’t understand what paid casting director workshops are and want to know more about them, I suggest watching this video.
The SAG Foundation also offers free screenings and Q&As throughout the year. In fact, the podcast that I work for did a live 100th episode at the SAG Foundation interviewing the leadership of SAG-AFTRA.
Another great thing through the union that actors can take advantage of is the SAG-AFTRA Film Society. You have to pay for the membership and you can only apply in the spring for the upcoming year. But there are free screenings for Film Society members about twice a month (I’ve already gone to “The Great Gatsby” and “Star Trek Into Darkness” and will be going to “Man of Steel” tomorrow). Plus, you get this awesome membership card!
Another membership within the union that you can join is the SAG-AFTRA Conservatory. I’ll admit that I haven’t taken advantage of being a member of the conservatory this past year. I need to get better about that. However they do have a big weekend event coming up next month and I’m planning on signing up for at least 4 classes.
Also, as many people who belong to other unions know, there are discounts available to union members. This page lists just some of what you can take advantage of as a member of SAG-AFTRA. I personally use the IMDBPro discount. And a lot of my friends use the ATT discount (my cell service is Verizon and there isn’t a SAG-AFTRA discount for them).
If you are a union actor, hopefully I’ve given you some new ideas of how to take advantage of your membership. And if you aren’t a union actor, maybe I’ve made you think about joining. Either way, I have to say that for me, becoming a union actor was one of the best things that I’ve done for my career. And whether or not you are a union actor, if you have any questions, you should give SAG-AFTRA a call. They are so wonderfully helpful and really want to make sure that all actors are taken care of.