So you’re ready to make your low budget indie film. You’ve worked hard writing and rewriting the script until every word in it shines like a diamond. You’ve spent countless hours trying to get it funded and you’ve finally reached the point to where you can start casting your film.
So what now?
Getting to the casting point is a long process. You’ve already spent a ton of time getting everything perfect. Being a non-union production probably makes you cringe because the thought of unprofessional non-union actors possibly ruining your film and making it a joke is enough to make you lose sleep at night. Now, I’m not saying that all non-union actors are terrible. In fact, I’m a non-union actor and I am halfway decent. You’ll definitely find some non-union gems. But for the most part, union actors are far and away superior actors. They have spent years honing their crafts and pay some hefty union dues just for the privilege of that little Sceen Actors Guild (SAG) card. Joining SAG isn’t cheap. There’s a $3,000 one-time initiation fee for new members!
According to Castingfrontier.com the unemployment rate for SAG actors is around 85%. Another site, Easybudget.com, listed the unemployment rate as high as 97%. In the same link, Easybudget.com has some wonderful advice as to why you should avoid SAG’s ultra low budget film agreement as well. I highly suggest you read it!
So what we’ve learned so far is that basically anyone that is not a major star is probably desperately looking for some acting work. SAG actors want to be able to pay their bills. They also want to perfect their craft by being in more film projects and build up their acting reels to hopefully get them noticed. But it’s hard to do that if they are not allowed to be in thousands of independent productions that are non-union. They are reduced to competing against thousands and thousands of other SAG actors for just a handful of jobs.
So how do you get SAG actors in your non-union film?
Simple, you post a casting notice on acting websites like; Actors Access , Model Mayhem , and if you live in (or near) a big city, I would suggest putting up a casting call on Craigslist. In your casting notice make sure you let the actors know that you are non-union but are open to casting SAG actors. Make sure they know that you have no intention of becoming a SAG project, but are not against casting SAG actors. If they get caught working on non-union projects it’s their hide, not yours. Unless they are famous the odds of them getting caught are pretty slim (and if they are famous they probably wouldn’t be in your movie to begin with). SAG has so many actors it would be almost impossible for them to keep tabs on every single one of them. In most cases, getting paid on a non-union production is worth the risk.
The one thing I want you to take away from this article is that if you are not a part of SAG you do not have to follow their rules. With an unemployment rate between 85-90%, most SAG actors are chomping at the bit to get some acting done. And if you are paying them, that’s all the better. They need the money to cover their union dues. You know, for that union that is keeping 90% of them unemployed!