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SAG-AFTRA? What do I do?!
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Rena
Lovely and Talented


Joined: 10 Apr 2013
Posts: 63

PostPosted: Sat May 02, 2015 4:07 pm    Post subject: SAG-AFTRA? What do I do?! Reply with quote

So, this is a bit of a tricky situation. While I have been studying voiceover, I have also been training in film/TV acting. I have done a few independent films at this point. This summer, I will be moving to LA. I made sure that I am union-eligible because to act in LA, you should be in the union. I had full intentions of joining the union when I get to LA.

Now that I am starting my VO career, it has come to my attention that most VO jobs are non-union. So, if I join the union for acting, I can't accept non-union jobs for acting or VO.

As a newbie in VO, would I be shooting myself in the foot if I joined the union? I am open to hear everyone's thoughts or experiences. Thank you!

I know I am new again... but just so you know, I am no longer on llama duty... just sayin'.
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Jeffrey Kafer
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PostPosted: Sun May 03, 2015 12:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hoo-boy. Big ol can of worms you're opening.

Yes, LA is union town, but there's plenty of non-Union work here, too.

A little known secret is that not all kinds of VO fall under Global Rule 1. If you're Union, you can do all the non-Union elearning, audiobooks, promo, and telephony that you want without running afoul of the Union.

And a lot of the non-Union work can be converted to union by running it through a paymaster, if you're charging enough.

Since joining the union a year ago, I have fired one client. One.

So joining the union is a personal choice based on your needs, the type of work you do, and where you see your career going.
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Philip Banks
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PostPosted: Sun May 03, 2015 12:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is not a pro-Union argument, this is business.

You face a future of unemployment with or without a "Union Card"; that is a 95% certainty.

Going where you are going (LA) I would suggest joining the Union. Most jobs for VO people are INDEED non-union jobs but "non-union" simply means "not subject to agreed terms and conditions set out by SAG-AFTRA". What non-union REALLY means in the majority of cases is "The greedy exploiting the hungry". These jobs are people looking for a voice, not your voice. They want to be treated like a customer buying a Ferrari but expect to pay the price of a 1988 Chevvy Nova.

The Large Corporation launches its 2500 Series Poog App with a TV campaign run nationally across the USA. They buy 6 bags of airtime (gift wrapped, of course). The ad agency gets the price of airtime and shouts "Ouch!" so they explain that the spot is a NON-UNION spot. The price for air time is not so much the same as identical.

Dave Sag and Mike Aftra, long before they married, got some really, really clever guys to calculate how much an actor should get paid for a job. They did this because most actors have the brains and business sense of a Senate Military Appropriations Committee. You do not have to like the bean counters but you should trust 'em until you know better.

Most VO people launch themselves into the grey market and see how wonderful it is! The best approach is to walk towards the light, see colours, zillions of them. Never start climbing a mountain from the dark, damp depths of a coal mine.

You're just starting to climb on the route to VO Heaven, take the right path.
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Eddie Eagle
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Joined: 23 Apr 2008
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PostPosted: Sun May 03, 2015 7:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jeffrey Kafer wrote:


A little known secret is that not all kinds of VO fall under Global Rule 1. If you're Union, you can do all the non-Union elearning, audiobooks, promo, and telephony that you want without running afoul of the Union.

And a lot of the non-Union work can be converted to union by running it through a paymaster, if you're charging enough.



Great stuff Jeff! Little known indeed.
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Eddie Eagle
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Bob Bergen
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PostPosted: Sun May 03, 2015 7:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

OY, can of worms is right! I will try to be a nice can opener.

First of all, Jeffrey, need you to clarify. Each job you mentioned has a union contract. I've worked em all. Well, all but telephony. But all the rest indeed have Union jurisdiction.

Many out there have no idea why Union actors feel so slapped in the face when others work non Union, go fi core, work off the card. It's not your fault for not knowing much of this. It's outside your world. Just like the non Union community is so removed from the union and Union actors, they don't relate to you all.

Here's the deal. A Union actor must earn a certain amount annually to qualify for benefits. From pension to health insurance, to qualify you must earn a certain amount. (And forgive me, I have no idea what that minimum is)

Every time you work, the producer pays into your P&H. That goes into a huge fund shard by all qualifying Union actors. Even if you yourself don't make enough to qualify, what you do earn still goes into this pool of benefits for your fellow actors.

With the erosion of Union work over the past several years, the benefit pool has dwindled. Each time a Union actors sees a job that used to be Union go non Union, or sees an actor go fi core, or work off the card, this Union actor knows that's less in the retirement and health benefit pool for them and their fellow actors. Union actors who take off time in their career to help negotiate better contracts, who risk allienating themselves with their employers to fight at negotiations for better benefits for all, all of which they do for free, feel betrayed and literally punched by those who work non Union.

Now, I see both sides of the fence. The past 15 years, where vo has been spread techninally to everyone has created a generation very much removed from what used to be the union norm. The norm and majority who, when they found out the damage done by accepting non Union work, would stop. Not so much anymore. They just don't relate to this kind of solidarity. They see opportunity, not relating to Union benefits. And they see very few Union opportunities. The union doesn't relate to the non Union actor's day to day, or how few Union opportunites there really are for them. It was a different landscape 20 years ago.

We just have two generations or cultures that just don't relate to each other. But that doesn't take away from the fact that the non Union workers damage their fellow Union actors. Yet these non Union actors would all kill if their work was all Union, gave them one hellova pension at 65, some of the best health care in the country for tiny monthly premiums, and residuals that keep you going during the slow periods.

Ok, so, Rena, should you go Union?? Just depends what you want out of your career. You won't stand a chance to play with the big boys without taking risks. One of those risks is to join the union and hold out for Union jobs. The better agents,who get the better jobs in LA demand this. It means you wait tables at night, have a day job, etc., to pay your bills which allows you to pursue vo as a professional actor. If this just doesn't float your boat, you have other options. But it's how professional actors have lived their lives for decades.
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captain54
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Joined: 30 Jan 2006
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PostPosted: Sun May 03, 2015 9:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It all looks great on paper, but the disconnect here is that the vast majority of union members sniff a union job once in a blue moon.. Once or twice in their lifetime, and some maybe never.. yet continue to pay dues.. Those vast unwashed are asked to make sacrifices for the privileged few.. I just doesn't hold water anymore..

I've been a union member since 1978, and I don't expect things to be the same in 2015 as they were back then.. Yet, that's how the union wants to operate..

The punitive.."You'd better not work a non-union job or we'll kick you out of the union" needs to change… All union's began with the notion of power to the collective.. Non union workers need to be educated as to what fair rates actually are.. This is where the union is totally dropping the ball.. By assembling all non-union workers and building a collective The gap between non-union and union work with close, I guarantee...
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Jeffrey Kafer
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PostPosted: Sun May 03, 2015 9:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bob Bergen wrote:

First of all, Jeffrey, need you to clarify. Each job you mentioned has a union contract. I've worked em all. Well, all but telephony. But all the rest indeed have Union jurisdiction.


No contract no work states "The No Contract No Work Rule applies in jurisdictions where there are multi-employer, industry wide agreements."

There are no industry wide agreements in place for audiobooks, elearning and telephony. I'm not 100% sure about promo, so I'll leave that out.

Heck, call up SAG-AFTRA and ask about elearning. 9 times out of 10 they won't even know what that is. I had lunch with my union rep a few months back and asked specifically about elearning. I was told that rule one does not apply because they've made no effort in organizing in that area. And how could they? There are THOUSANDS of elearning companies out there. It would be like herding cats.

And audiobooks, I know for a fact aren't covered, because I'm a pretty deeply entrenched in that area.
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Frank F
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Joined: 10 Nov 2004
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PostPosted: Sun May 03, 2015 3:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Since I am no one of consequence I will make a observation. IF I were in you shoes and I am not, they would not look good on me, I would consider this for thought.
Do you have any contacts in LA?
Do you have any work lined up?
Do you have an agent lined up and ready to go? If not, get one NOW!
Are you thinking the magic will start when you get to LA?
Do you need to be union to get work now, prior to moving there?
Do you need to be union to start looking for work now and get the "feelers" out?
Why have you not started the process before you get to LA?

You can join the union (or not) at any time and when you are ready.

I can give you ten's of thousands of reasons to join the union and even more reasons to not; but my opinion does not count. YOU need to find out if joining the club is a good idea for YOU. This choice cannot be made by listening to others opinion of your life and where you want to take it.

You are starting a life long journey and it is best to be as informed before you get to the starting line as you are able.

The union/non-union choice is very divisive and has many facets. Do not hurry this choice. Even in LA, starting our non-union is a good idea; at least as long as you have no contacts, no agent, and no work in your pocket. When you have relationships in place you will be able to make a wise decision about a union or not.

Frank F
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Deirdre
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Joined: 10 Nov 2004
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PostPosted: Sun May 03, 2015 8:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
What non-union REALLY means in the majority of cases is "The greedy exploiting the hungry".


Or not. Most of the time the rate floor (scale) for work is set absurdly high for any market outside a gigantic city.


All across the US, it's a no brainer to make a job non union because you can have an agreement between client and talent, period. You agree on a rate, and the client pays that rate, not that rate plus 50% which is what a union job will cost.

The Byzantine way union jobs work is to satisfy labor laws which allow for collective bargaining only of WAGES. These agreements and their enforcement work well when you are actually employed by a TV show or film. With freelancing, you're just bending sideways to jam things into place to it appears to fit the employment model. Each union "job" you do is an episode of "employment".

(Codified agreements among craftsmen are deemed "price fixing" which is againt the law.)

But YOU aren't allowed to be the one who is "signatory" to the union agreements, you aren't allowed to represent yourself. You must pay someone to be a signatory, you must pay someone do do your billing and collection of fees. That's where the paymaster comes in.
Plus now, you have to pay worker's comp on work you do in your own house.

Union jobs are great. They pay into your pension and health funds. But if you are self-employed and making your own contracts with clients, they cost plenty.

Incidentally, there are some mighty strong non-codified (that is, non-published but widely known) agreements in place governing non union work in the bigger cities of California. The agencies set the rates for the most part. And groups of actors agree to a rate floor and inform the casting directors.
Sure you can get cheaper actors, but you don't want 'em.
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Deirdre
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PostPosted: Sun May 03, 2015 8:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

And for what it's worth, Audiobooks DO have union contracts , I know this because I'm on the audiobook steering committee.

But it's not the only way you can legally do audiobooks.
Same with working on-air radio or promo work. There are contracts, but the unions don't have complete hegmony over all work done in that area.
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Jeffrey Kafer
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PostPosted: Sun May 03, 2015 8:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, of course there are union contracts for audiobooks, but rule one still doesn't apply.
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melissa eX
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PostPosted: Sun May 03, 2015 9:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Because it's not a multi-employer industry wide agreement. Each publisher is organized separately.

And there IS a contract for telephony - IVR under the co-ed (corporate/industrial) contract.

For audiobooks, on-air radio, promo and documentary it really depends upon whether the network/station is signatory to the contract.

But you CAN convert some non-union work to union work. Especially work under the corporate contract. It's not difficult at all - you use a signatory paymaster. The money has to be there. The job has to pay scale plus 16% H&R/PH plus the paymaster fee, if you're a company (LLC Corp. etc.)

If you're working as an independent contractor you become an employee and then aside from the above it also has to cover payroll taxes - so while the +50% is a bit high, it can be +35% easily in that case.

It can be a tough decision. You can make a good living doing strictly non-union work IF IF IF you're good at the work and at the business. You won't get the high profile opportunities unless you're union. NYC and LA are big union towns.

Why not talk - I mean, pick up the phone kind of talk - to some non-union talent IN LA as well as some talent, both union and non union here on the board? I'm sure everyone who's commented here would be happy to chat. I would.
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Deirdre
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PostPosted: Sun May 03, 2015 10:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I need to clarify that I'm speaking from my own experience which is mostly non-broadcast work— narration and games and IVR— and extremely time sensitive radio ads which only play for one cycle.

The commercial work I do for CBS radio is a union job, but it's an hourly staff position, so it's not knocking down buildings with sacks o' cash. I get more from my casual work for the Arabian Radio Network than I do with CBS radio.

Melissa is right— you CAN "convert" non-union work to jam it into a union contract "employment" model if you're willing to throw away a bookkeeping fee and worker's comp fees.

Being a union member in Los Angeles is meaningless unless you have a mind-blowingly fabulous agent. You not only can't play in the pool, you can't even stand in the parking lot if you're not well represented. So opportunities for high profile work are more a factor of your representation than your union membership. You'll need to be in the union all right, but LA's streets are littered with union actors.

And Bob— few people adore you as much as I do, but I really must disabuse you of the idea that there is merit to waiting tables while you wait around for union work rather than using your talent to support yourself. That paradigm is extinct.
It's even more absurd when so many of us have a home studio. I despise the idea that my union would prefer that I be a Wal-Mart greeter rather than use my skill and gear to make a living.
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Philip Banks
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PostPosted: Mon May 04, 2015 12:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Philip Banks wrote:
This is not a pro-Union argument, this is business.

You face a future of unemployment with or without a "Union Card"; that is a 95% certainty.


I fully understand the arguments for and against Union membership but for us poor down-trodden Voiceoverists it really does boil down to the above, particularly the second sentence.

In the UK VO people have been throwing flying fits about the rate for local radio ads. After two years the union got us an extra 50p (about 75c) per script. Everybody missed the point, everybody. The discussion should've been about how many scripts a VO should be asked to do in a session NOT about a nickel and dime rate pay rise. One average local radio commercial per day would earn you around $35 POST PAY RISE! That rate was negotiated by an employee of the union earning in excess of $70,000 per year.

In the "below the radar market" it really is about the "The greedy exploiting the hungry". People with 2 weeks experience bowing down and worshipping the VOs with 2 years experience make up that market. The best jobs in that market are NOT really the best jobs and the best VO people are not known to most people who work with the "best" VO people on a daily basis.

Idol Worship is really idle worship. The reason most of the TOP BEST AWESOME STAR VO Union actors teach VO classes is because they need the money!

Now, back to business - I am unable to join SAG-AFTRA which impacts on my income.... In a sense ...in a completely made up, untrue sense. In the last 12 months my best VO job paid me $149,500 and I am owed by one production company around $19,500. Average SAG-AFTRA member earns about $29,550 a year. Please do not misunderstand this is NOT a p*ssing contest. I acknowledge that I am extremely lucky. All I do every day is run my business like a business. The only person who can run my business is me and the only person who can run your business is someone who does a downloadable Skype coaching session series on "Your unbranded marketing VO business optimised using the Bulgarian Organised Criminals P2P sites". No, wait that's probably wrong isn't it? I know let's talk about the best mic and pre combination for people who are slightly FiCore.
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Frank F
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PostPosted: Mon May 04, 2015 12:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

And DB, I have to disagree with you.

Quote:
Deirdre wrote: "If you're working as an independent contractor you become an employee and..."


An Independent Contractor must meet certain clauses in employment law to gain such status. Once the criteria is met an IC is NOT an employee and IS a "contractor" of the company he or she has a short term contract with. He/She must set his or her own hours, wages, provide his or her own equipment (voice in our cases), pay their own taxes and other benefits, have a legally registered business name and support to show he/she meets this and other criteria.

As a short term employee, the company sets the hours, sets the wages, sets what equipment you can or will work with (in cases of a home studio the company usually allows you to provide your own recording gear), may or may not give you business cards with THEIR name on it, you do not have or need a business name or to be registered as a business, In essence the company OWNS you and your work for a certain amount of time at the wages they choose to pay or have negotiated,

A union talent in many/some/an awful lot of cases is considered an employee of the Paymaster and the company owned as such. As an IC taxes, retirement and other benefits are paid by the IC, as a union talent taxes are already taken from your check(s) and other benefits are also automatically disbursed as required of any employer.

Oh and remember as you negotiate your wages for both short term employee status and independent contractor status, your equipment is being "rented" by the hour with your work, Charge accordingly.

Frank F
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