Can SAG-AFTRA actors work on non-union projects?

SAG-AFTRA has this rule, it’s called Global Rule One:

Global Rule One states: No member shall render any services or make an agreement to perform services for any employer who has not executed a basic minimum agreement with the union, which is in full force and effect, in any jurisdiction in which there is a SAG-AFTRA national collective bargaining agreement in place. This provision applies worldwide.

From the union’s perspective, there’s no gray area here: if you’re in the union, you can only work on union projects.

In practice, SAG actors do work on non-union projects. In some cases they don’t know the rules or may think that “just helping out a friend with a video” won’t be an issue.

And sometimes they just try to skirt the rules and hope to not be found out. This does work sometimes, although it’s risky to the actor. Getting caught can lead to expulsion. And it’s hard to feign ignorance to anything called GLOBAL RULE ONE (!!!).

OK, but what about producers? Well, this rule doesn’t apply directly to you (unless you’re also an actor in the union).

But it’s important to know about it for two reason:

  1. You could inadvertently lead an actor to break the rule and jeopardize their career.
  2. You’re not going to score any points with the union by encouraging/abetting actors in breaking their rules.

Reason #1

Actors should know about the rule (remember, it’s called GLOBAL FUCKING RULE ONE) but they might not or they might assume that their are exceptions to it.

So if you have a friend, for example, that wants to help you out on your short or web video or whatever, they might just do it as a favor. They trust you, you’re friends, they’re doing it for free as a favor, it’s only going to take two hours anyway, etc.

This is the kind of situation where the union rules can be maddening because the rules say to the actor: “hey, if you want to help your friend out, they have to fill out a ton of paperwork six weeks in advance and then a bunch more during and after production.”

All of this is to say, if you’re going to ask your actor friends for a favor, you should at least make them aware of the risks and let them decide based on their risk profile..

Reason #2

The other reason relates directly to you as a producer. If you plan on working with SAG in the future, then you probably don’t want to piss them off.

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