How To Use Professional SAG-AFTRA Actors In Your 48HFP filmThursday, April 11, 2019
Did you know that you can use professional film actors in your 48HFP film? No more chasing down your friends, relatives, and old college roommates and begging them to be in your film (not that there's anything wrong with that!). But one of the benefits of creating a film through the 48 Hour Film Project is being able to use not just friends and family, but also experienced professional actors. That is all possible through our long-standing relationship with the professional film union for actors, SAG-AFTRA.
SAG-AFTRA is the union that represents approximately 160,000 actors, announcers, broadcast journalists, dancers, DJs, news writers, news editors, program hosts, puppeteers, recording artists, singers, stunt performers, voiceover artists and other media professionals. SAG-AFTRA members are the faces and voices that entertain and inform America and the world.
SAG-AFTRA brings together the two American labor unions that represent actors that work in film and TV--the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA). Both unions were formed during the 1930's to protect the rights of actors by guaranteeing things like a fair wage for actors based on how the film or television project is used, safe and fair working conditions for actors on set, and even benefits such as health care and retirement.
Both SAG and AFTRA have existed separately for years to protect these rights for professional actors, so the actors can focus on creating great work, without having to be a "starving artist." In 2012, the two separate unions combined their efforts and merged to become the single SAG-AFTRA union that represents the rights of professional actors today.
Normally, members of SAG-AFTRA can only work on union projects. This mean the production company or producing agency has been vetted by the union and has agreed to work with union actors. They also guarantee certain conditions, such as paying at least the SAG-AFTRA minimum rate for the project as well as contributing to their healthcare & retirement. They also agree to maintaining safe and fair work conditions for the actors on set, payment through a third party "paymaster", and other conditions that help protect actors that belong to the union.
Now, all of this might seem daunting for a filmmaker who is looking to hire professional actors for their film projects. And there is a long list of requirements that a filmmaker must have in place before being allowed to hire SAG-AFTRA talent. However, there are some resources like SAGIndie that help break down the process to make it easier for filmmakers to be able to work with professional talent.
And for our 48HFP filmmakers, it's even easier to use SAG-AFTRA actors. The partnership between SAG-AFTRA and the 48HFP extends back over a decade, and the union has made it VERY easy to be able to use professional actors for your 48HFP films. Because ALL members of 48HFP teams work as volunteers, and participating in the 48HFP is intended as a showcase of film talent both in front of and behind the camera (as opposed to a money-making venture for the filmmakers that participate), SAG-AFTRA has agreed to allow any union actor that wishes to participate in the 48HFP to do so--without having to pay the minimum wages or fulfill the other conditions that they normally require of filmmakers who employ union actors.
On our website, we have a page that breaks down how simple it is to work with SAG-AFTRA talent at http://www.48hourfilm.com/sag-aftra. The first step is identifying any SAG-AFTRA actors that you wish to work with and sending them to this web page to make sure they understand the requirements and allowed uses of our 48HFP films. As part of our agreement with SAG-AFTRA, union actors may appear as volunteer actors in 48HFP films. This means that they are able to work on the film, but won't get their regular minimum salary (or ANY salary) or contributions to healthcare and retirement. SAG-AFTRA has agreed that union actors may appear in 48HFP films created under this agreement, and that those films may screen theatrically, can be included on 48HFP DVD/Blu-Ray compilations, can be entered into film festivals, and can be shown on the 48HFP website, provided that they are not downloadable. There is also a special internet rider to our agreement with SAG-AFTRA that allows filmmakers to post the film to their personal website, provided that it's only used as part of the filmmaker's video "resume" to showcase their previous film work.
So for filmmakers that use union talent in their 48HFP films, they already have permission from SAG-AFTRA to use the films in those ways outlined above. But for anything not included as a part of the 48HFP agreement with SAG-AFTRA, filmmakers would need to obtain permission from the union first before utilizing their 48HFP film in any additional ways. For example, our agreement does not cover the film being posted on YouTube, Vimeo, or other video-sharing sites, so the individual filmmaker would need to contact SAG-AFTRA before they would be allowed to post their film to any of those sites. Our agreement with the union also does not cover any distribution or sales of the film, so if the situation came up where a 48HFP filmmaker was being offered any sort of distribution deal for their 48HFP film that used SAG-AFTRA talent, they would need to get permission from (and possibly pay some sort of fee to) both the 48HFP and the union before that deal could be executed. This all goes back to protecting the rights of the actors, and ensuring that they are getting fair compensation and benefits for what their work is being used for.
The actual process of using SAG-AFTRA actors is very simple, and is outlined on that page on our website. There are three documents required for each SAG-AFTRA actor being used in your 48HFP film--the short film agreement, the employment contract, and the internet use rider. These forms must be filled out and signed by both the union actor and the 48HFP team leader, placed in the special SAG paperwork envelopes that the 48HFP provides, and then turned in at the Dropoff along with all of the other required production documents.
So for all of the rules and regulations that the union has in place to protect its actors, they have made the process of working with a SAG-AFTRA actor for your 48HFP film as simple as filling out these three forms. And because the performances of professional actors can significantly raise the quality of your 48HFP film, this small amount of extra paperwork is well worth what you're getting in return.
Working with SAG-AFTRA actors means working with professional level talent that either act for a living, or have a significant level of experience working in front of the camera. Because the union has requirements of their own for accepting actors, there is a certain amount of vetting of the actor that has already been done by the union. Actors are required to work on a certain number of union shoots before they are eligible to join the union, so you're guaranteed at least a certain minimum level of experience from a union actor. In addition, the union does their own "policing" of actors to make sure that SAG-AFTRA members are maintaining a certain level of professionalism that would be expected on set. So not only does the union protect the rights of the actors, but they also work to ensure that filmmakers have a positive experience working with the professional actors that they represent.
So for your next 48HFP film, seriously consider trying to work with SAG-AFTRA actors in addition to your regular pool of non-union talent. The process is easy, and using experienced union actors can take your films to a whole new level.
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