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How to Attract a SAG Actor to Your Indie Film

November 9, 2015

So you’ve written your script, you’ve done your re-writes, and now you feel it’s ready to be produced. The chances of you getting the attention of a major production company are pretty slim, unless you have connections. The chances of you getting a good indie producer to shoot your film are better, especially if you live in an area where filming is prominent, say Atlanta, New Orleans, Charlotte, Flagstaff, etc. If you are in one of those areas and you’ve found a decent team to film your script, the question then is… How do I get a named actor interested in being in my film?

Assuming you’ve hit all these key points above, the obvious first step is to get your film SAG sanctioned. How do you do that? It’s fairly easy, but all the rules you have to follow in order to keep can be a bit overwhelming. The first hoop to jump through is becoming, or convincing someone on your team to become, a SAG signatory. I know, it sounds complicated, but it’s not. Being the SAG signatory just means that you are the one responsible for making sure the film and everyone involved are following SAG’s rules. And all you need to do to become one is fill out a bit of paperwork. Which paperwork you fill out depends on what type of production you’re filming (movie, television, etc.).

I know what you’re thinking, “But if I make a SAG film then I have to pay a lot of money to my actors, crew, and writers! I can’t afford that!” Au contraire, mon frère. With a SAG Ultra Low Budget contract you only need to pay your SAG performers $125/day. That means you can hire non-SAG actors and performers for most spots and hire one SAG actor and all you’re paying is $125/day. And those other actors will most likely be willing to act in the film for free because you have a named actor in it. To them that means more exposure. Not to mention the fact that they are in a SAG film means that they can now apply to be in the guild. That’ll make ‘em happy!

“Well that’s all fine and dandy, Tony, but how do I attract that SAG actor?” Oh yea. That’s what I started to write about. Well, honestly, you need to write a role that a higher caliber (by higher caliber I mean an actor that won’t work for free) would want to perform. Make that character compelling. Remember how to write compelling characters?

“Okay, I’ve got compelling characters. How do I find a SAG actor?” Aim your sights low. Unless you know someone that knows someone, keep your search in the D-list actors. If you don’t have an IDbM Pro account, get one. They have a 30-day free trial! There are no excuses not to have one if you’re serious about creating films. You can look up actors and find their contact information. Find out who their agents are and send out your proposal. It may take you several inquiries, but eventually you’ll land one. And when you do… you’re on your way! Until next week, happy writing.

  1. loudfeedback permalink

    Thanks for the info! I had no idea you could have both SAG and non-SAG actors on the same show. Good to know!


  2. scott aronson permalink

    You can’t so easily. If it’s a SAG show you have to Taft/Hartley in all non_SAG actors and that’s not so easy, and if SAG denies your TH paper then they’ll fine you to boot. Do NOT attempt to make a SAG film without an EXPERIENCED attorney and a solid indie line producer or you’ll be sorry.


    • rod knoll permalink

      Those requirements do NOT apply to the SAG-AFTRA Ultra Low Budget agreement. Any non-union actor (I like the way the union calls these people “non-professionals”!) is NOT, I repeat NOT made eligible for membership in the union if your project is signed to an Ultra Low Budget agreement. This is the appropriate language from the contract:

      ‘Producer is not required to give preference of employment to professional performers in casting roles for this Picture, nor will the Union Security provision of the Basic Agreement be applicable to the employment of non-professionals or qualify a non-professional for
      membership in SAG-AFTRA. In order to insure the safety of all cast, crew and production personnel, this exception does
      not apply to the category of “stunt coordinator.”‘


      Those requirements DO apply to all the other low budget agreements (ABOVE a ULB) and to projects “intended for initial exhibition on a new media platform”:

      “All Principal Performers and the first ten (10) Background Actors per day must be covered under a SAG-AFTRA contract. If, within reason, you need to hire a non-union member for any covered role, you must submit a Taft-Hartley report, within 15 days of the performers’ initial work date…

      …Please note Preference of Employment guidelines apply under the New Media Agreement and SAG-AFTRA reserves the right to reject Taft Hartley reports that do not meet these requirements.”



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