“How do I get my SAG card?” asked every actor ever.
If you want to make a career out of being an actor, at some point you need to join the union. The only problem is, it’s hard to book a gig without being in the union, but without booking a gig, it’s impossible to get in the union. So what’s an actor to do?
One option is to sit on a street corner and cry until someone notices you, thinks you’re brilliant, and casts you as Ryan Gosling’s co-star in an upcoming rom-com. The other is to create a project and star in it alongside a current SAG actor. Sound easy? Well, it’s not. But it is possible, and it’s exactly what actress Megan Williams did.
Megan guested on AfterBuzz TV’s Acting Class Weekly with Sean Whalen and step by step explained how she created her own short that ultimately allowed her to join SAG. Oh, and did we mention becoming SAG eligible also got her an agent, and the short ended up in festivals? So let’s rewind and go back to the dreadful days before Megan went on her SAG journey…
Megan was hitting a similar wall most struggling actors hit.
“I felt super stuck,” she shared. “I couldn’t get a good agent, because I wasn’t SAG eligible and I didn’t have, ya know, any big credits on my resume, so people–they just weren’t even looking at me.”
She had moved across the country, was training in the best classes all over town, and yet she was having no luck booking work. That’s when Megan decided to write her own short.
She then visited the SAG website and began the process, which has gotten more challenging overtime as SAG has cracked down on which submissions they allow. She said the most important thing is finding the exact new media form for you, which contrary to what a lot of people were trying, isn’t a YouTube Video.
“A 3 minute YouTube video in comparison to a short film is not the same. So I had to go in through the new media, prove it was a short film, a legitimate project, so I had to send them the script I had to–you have to have SAG members cast in it in order for it to be eligible,” said Megan.
But it’s not just the script and the cast that Megan had to submit, there’s additional paperwork required including a line item budget.
“You have to have all of this before they’ll approve you,” Megan clarified.
After she was approved, she had to create her actual project. Megan ambitiously created The H Word, a 12 page, 22 minute long short that shot in 4 different locations with 9 credited cast members. She admits if you’re just trying to get your SAG card, you don’t need to go that far and could probably create a much shorter short with 2 actors (one of them already being SAG), and only 1or 2 locations. This would majorly cut back on your costs as Megan learned that every additional SAG actor cost $125 a day plus an additional 19% issuance fee.
In order to cut costs, Megan took on several jobs herself, including hair and make-up, directing, producing, writing and of course starring in the project. She rented a RED camera, hired a cinematographer, and made sure every day on set the cast filled out their official SAG paperwork. She followed all protocol to a tee and didn’t cut any corners.
Once her three day shoot was over though, her work was far from done. SAG needs proof of the project, so they require you to send them footage. Megan did this in the form of a trailer explaining that SAG doesn’t need to see the final project, only enough to know it exists and is legitimate.
Alright this car ride is taking awhile, are we there yet? No? Why not!?
Megan said, “so that’s it for the short film agreement. Now to become SAG eligible you have to reach out to them again and be like ‘hi, I was on this project here is the production number. I would like to join SAG through this.’”
The short film agreement doesn’t make you SAG eligible, it makes you a must join.
She waited two weeks, followed up again, and finally was approved!
Way to go, Megan! You earned it. Seriously.
For more on Megan’s SAG journey, how much her short cost and how it got her an agent, check out the full video or download the show on apple podcast.