How do you join SAG? You can join as I stated in my article on The Unions depending on your standing with AFTRA, or through a Taft Hartley waiver. This is basically a waiver that states that the producing company could use you and only you for the job. SAG can potentially contest this, but it is unlikely. In my case, I did the voice-tag on a small commercial campaign for the UK on radio and TV. Because some of the spots would be on TV the job fell into SAG territory. Now, it’s not always the case that just because your commercial/show was aired on TV that it is a SAG job. There are many things that apply, but most of all, there has to be a SAG contract for the job, which you will sign upon completion (more on contracts later). So, the production company and ad-agency had to appeal to SAG and state that, because I am an English actress and because the commercials would be aired in the UK and after 4 weeks of searching/casting for the role that, in their opinion, I was the ONLY person for the job. SAG then reviews the waiver request and invites me to join. The common belief is that I now have 30 days where I can work on both non-SAG and SAG jobs before I have to fork out the whopping $2700 initiation fee to become a full-fledged SAG member. But, as I learned, in reality it is a wholly different story.
I waited 3 months before I received my letter from SAG congratulating me on my qualification to join. I was told by two agencies and fellow actors that I was as good as a SAG member when I got the Taft Hartley waiver and that I was entitled to do as many SAG/non-SAG jobs in the following 30 days that I could get my hands on. And after the magic 30 days, I would simply have to join. However, until that waiver is filed and acknowledged by SAG you are as good as NON-SAG. Period. And there is a GIANT backlog in the waiver-filing department so it can take a very long time before they get ’round to yours. In my case 9o days!! Up until that point I had been put on 1st refusal for 2 additional SAG jobs that I was sent out for by a very large and reputable agency who was under the impression that I was SAG. If I had booked those jobs, I would have had to file another Taft Hartley waiver which would have made me look REALLY bad. In fact, it would have made me out to be a liar. Which I wasn’t. Just an actor who’d taken dodgy (yet legitimate) advice. What’s more, once you get said letter of congratulations, you will have to wait an additional 2 weeks or so before you are even able to go in and set up your membership. Therefore, when you finally get this holy grail of a SAG job you should carry yourself accordingly. Inform any and all industry folk of your PENDING SAG status, but be aware that if you book any other SAG work in this allotted time, the producers will have to file ANOTHER Taft Hartley waiver for you. There will be no record of your pending “must-join” or “SAG-eligible” status until that waiver is filed by the appropriate offices. At which point, they will notify you by mail. So keep working to get any and all jobs just as before – when you did not have a Taft Hartley waiver in the works. Pretend it never happened. It will save you a lot of bother.
And finally, the folks down at the SAG offices can be very snippy and rude. I’m sure this is in part due to the fact that they must get a lot of actors in there who are not the real-deal and who try and fake their way into the union. But whatever the reasons, you will not necessarily get much help or sympathy from SAG employees. It would seem that they will try and get a way with as little work as possible. The day that I got my letter in the mail, I called up one of the women I had been conversing with over the whole matter and left a message on her voicemail (she was at lunch). She NEVER called me back. I ended up speaking with her by chance 2 days later when I called back to make my appointment and she was just as rude as before, even though now I was an actual future member. There is zero customer service.