Here is a wonderful response I received from SAG-AFTRA about my query about Non-Union performers being hired for Union projects:
Thank you for your email. We do not have restrictions on non-union performers auditioning for union projects but certain projects do prefer to only hire union performers. This is a personal preference for the production. Working on union projects is how people become eligible to join, so we aren’t as restrictive with non-union performers working on projects. There is often extra paperwork for productions if they hire non-union performers so sometimes that can factor into their decision.
I’m adding our list of requirements for becoming eligible below, just so you have all the information available on this topic. Additionally, there is a process called “Employment Verification” for performers who have been in low-budget new media projects, ultra-low budget films, student films, student commercials or short projects. This is different from eligibility in that there are no grace periods, you cannot list yourself as SAG-E or SAG-AFTRA eligible with any agencies or managers, and a performer must be prepared to join as soon as their employment is verified. This can work different for New Media/Short Projects and Ultra-low budget/student projects. Please let us know if you have been involved in any of these lower-budget projects so we can best direct you.
A performer must meet one of the following requirements to join the union:
A. One (1) day of employment in a principal or speaking role (actor/performer) or as a Recording Artist.
B. Three (3) days of employment as a SAG-AFTRA (or SAG or AFTRA) covered-background performer at full SAG-AFTRA rates and conditions.
C. Any covered job on the staff of a radio or TV station or network covered by an SAG-AFTRA or AFTRA
D. Union Affiliation – Performer is a paid up member of an affiliated union for one year and has worked as a principal in that union’s jurisdiction. Affiliated unions include Actors’ Equity, ACTRA, AGMA and AGVA.
1. Eligibility does not expire.
2. Ultra Low Budget, Student, or Short Films do not qualify towards SAG-AFTRA eligibility.
3. Potential Broadcast Members should contact the National Broadcast Department or their Local for information on joining.
4. Potential Sound Recording Members should contact the Sound Recording Department or their Local for information on joining.
Should a production fail to submit eligibility paperwork on your behalf, you can self-submit the documentation. To confirm your eligibility, please submit one of the following:
· Original Paycheck Stubs – The paycheck stubs must indicate date(s) of employment, performer’s name and social security number, production title, signatory company and wages paid.
· Performer Contract – The original contract with the performer’s name and social security number, date(s) of employment, production title, signatory company and wages paid.
· Payroll Printout – The payroll printout will include the performer’s name and social security number, date(s) of employment, production title, signatory company and wages paid.
Background vouchers and copies of paycheck stubs are not acceptable as proof of work. Submitting these types of documents will delay SAG-AFTRA verification eligibility.
In addition to enclosing proper eligibility documentation, you will need to include a separate piece of paper with the following information:
· Professional Name
· Current primary address
· Current telephone numbers
· Date of birth
· Place of birth (city & state)
· Social security number
A self-addressed stamped envelope must also be included so the documents can be returned to you. Once verification is completed, the performer will receive a letter of eligibility from SAG-AFTRA.
PLEASE NOTE: It takes the Membership Department 5 – 7 business days to verify the submitted eligibility documents.
Mail documents to:
Membership Services Department
5757 Wilshire Blvd. 7th floor
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Attn: Membership Services/Eligibility
Please make copies of the documents for your records before submitting them to SAG-AFTRA.
Should you require further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.