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-   -   No budget short - can I use union actors? (https://www.dvinfo.net/forum/techniques-independent-production/51343-no-budget-short-can-i-use-union-actors.html)

Brian Andrews September 19th, 2005 08:06 AM

No budget short - can I use union actors?
I have a few more pre-production questions...

I am making a no budget short. Any money that I have to spend will be my personal funds. I don't have a production company or a business. I just want to make some movies and have fun.

1. Can I use union actors? I'm totally in the dark on the rules here. I just read that one filmmaker didn't want to use union actors due to the costs. I have told all actors that there is no pay. Can a union actor still take a no pay job? I'm confused because I have gotten resumes and headshots from union actors.

2. This project is just for fun and maybe I'll submit to some local festivals. But, let's say that I decide to sell DVD copies of the movie for $5 each. Can I do this? Do I need a business to do this? If I do this do I have to share profits with the actors or crew?


Glenn Chan September 19th, 2005 09:00 AM

Brian, the following thread should be very helpful for you:
SAG Experimental Film Agreement in plain English

Yes, you can use union actors. There are a few things you need to watch out for.

Barry Gribble September 19th, 2005 10:56 AM

Actually SAG discontinued the "SAG Experimental" contract in July. They still have many options though.

They have a lot of limitations too. You can defer the pay to the actors until you make money on it, but you have to follow all the other SAG rules about times and such (no more than 12 hour days, no less than 12 hours off, etc.).

You have to give SAG full accounting and a full budget, even if it is $5. You also have to sign up 30 days ahead of time.

Here is the page with the new contracts:


I had a good meeting with the local SAG office. Their goal is definitely to have their actors working, so they are eager to sign people up for these things.

The other option is using AFTRA. Unless you are shooting on film, you can get an AFTRA contract instead. Their offices are together, so you can ask about both on the same trip. When I went in last year they didn't have as good an option, but they said they were working towards it and trying to position themselves as the union for digital production.

Good luck.

Barry Gribble September 19th, 2005 11:00 AM

Forgot to mention though....

One of the tough things about this is that you can show it at festivals, but officially you can't post the film online for unlimited distribution without paying the actors at least $100/day for their time. The details are in the contract.

Dylan Couper September 19th, 2005 09:12 PM

Some people are of the opinion that you can do whatever the hell you want and it is up to the actors to sort out their own s--t.
I sometimes subscribe to this theory, depending on how much of my own money goes into a project.

Heath McKnight September 19th, 2005 09:52 PM

Dylan's half right--actors will even say that. But if you make it big, it can bite you in the a-- later on. They may protest you, since you decided to say forget it to SAG. Plus, and I haven't looked closely at the new agreements, but at one point SAG limited where you could show your indie film in theatres. That stinks...

But I will say this, dealing with SAG Miami and even L.A. has always been nothing but a pleasure. They don't make you feel dumb or insignificant, and they get back to you right away. Very nice people.

Ultimately, it's up to you. I went with someone SAG on a 5 minute short, but if I want to sell it on DVD, I've gotta be careful.


Reid Bailey September 29th, 2005 07:03 AM

By all means contact the local SAG office.

I recently used sag talent in my last short and am doing so again in November for my next shoot.

While initially the contracts can be daunting (Anyone receive the Full agreement book? Yikes!) You can figure it out. Yes you have to submit a budget and your script but they aren't sticklers.

You cna do defered pay, mix union and non-union talent. Yes, you are some what limited with exhibiting it, IE festivals only and very limited theatrical, but that's where a lot of us are at now any way.

Not to say that non-pro talent is worthless, but there can be a striking difference between seasoned pros and less experienced individuals.

Call them and tell them what you have going on, they'll work with you

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