Living in the digital age puts a lot of information at your fingertips, but it’s hard to know what to believe.
There’s a lot of misinformation floating around online, and even things you hear from friends and colleagues may not be accurate. It’s difficult to know if you’re headed in the right direction. Read on!
- Truth: SAG-AFTRA members make over a billion dollars working on commercials every year.
- In recent years, there has been an increase in non-union commercial work, but there are still tons of union commercials being made. More of our members work under the Commercials Contracts than any other SAG-AFTRA contract. If someone tells you to stay non-union because of all the non-union “opportunities,” you might want to think about what they get out of you staying non-union…
- Truth: Some exposure can be very, very bad exposure.
- Exposure can be your best friend or your worst enemy. For film and TV work, the more the better. When it comes to commercials, overexposure can damage your career because advertisers won’t hire performers associated with competitive products. That’s why union contracts come with protections and residuals. You get regular payments for not working on competitive brands, and union ads have a “maximum period of use.” If an advertiser wants to use your spot for more than 21 months, you have the right to renegotiate your fee or even refuse to let them continue to use your performance.
- There are no protections when you do non-union commercials. They can run forever and cause uncontrollable product conflicts that keep you away from union commercial opportunities. ”In perpetuity” can handcuff you to a brand forever. For example, if you do one non-union beer commercial, it could run forever without further payment and you’ll never do a union commercial for any beverage. Ever.
- Working on a non-union spot might get you a few bucks in your pocket right now, but you may sacrifice a lot of union work for the rest of your career.
- Truth: Working off the card hurts you and all your peers.
- Every time union actors undercut their union sisters and brothers by accepting less than union wages, it drives the entire industry down and makes it harder for performers to be paid fairly and have a stable, healthy career. If you work “off the card,” you rob yourself and the entire community of pension and health benefits, collective bargaining power and good union work opportunities. Working non-union is taking a step backward in your career and sacrificing your image as a professional – casting directors don’t think of actors who work non-union as union actors and they are less likely to bring them in for union jobs.
- SAG-AFTRA is cracking down on members who don’t honor the commitment they made to their union sisters and brothers to only work union. In the last year, over 100 members have been caught and sent through the disciplinary process where a committee of their peers can fine, suspend or expel them from the union.
- The Truth: Working on union commercials is entirely different from working on non-union ads.
- *Union commercials pay residuals, which means you get regular payments for your exposure, for as long as your commercial is airing. Residuals account for most of the earnings in union commercials, and they can add up to a very nice chunk of change. Non-union commercials don’t pay residuals.
- *When you work on a SAG-AFTRA contract, the producer has to contribute money to your pension and health plan in addition to your wages and residuals. With union commercials, you can get access to fantastic health insurance. You can also qualify for a pension (guaranteed retirement income) when you retire (yes, someday you will be old enough to retire). With non-union ads you get zero benefits.
- *Safety is a top priority of SAG-AFTRA, whether it’s ensuring proper protections and protocol when you’re doing a stunt or making sure your working conditions aren’t hazardous. The union will always have your back. Non-union sets can often be dangerous and in remote locations, with no one to call if things go sideways.
- *On a union set, you’re guaranteed meal breaks and food to eat in those breaks. On a non-union set, you may work very long hours with no breaks, at all.
- * SAG-AFTRA contracts set standards of pay and protections that enable our members to make the performing arts a viable career. Non-union rates range from “exposure and a sandwich” to a few thousand dollars and are almost always far below union rates.
Benefits of Working SAG-AFTRA Commercials
- You're compensated for your skill and talent – The union establishes rates and guarantees that you receive fair wages.
- You're paid for your exposure – With a union job, you get residuals, which means you get paid for as long as the advertiser wants to run your commercial.
- You get benefits – Your earnings under a SAG-AFTRA contract help you qualify for great health benefits and pension.
- You're safe – Under a SAG-AFTRA contract, safe working conditions are required.
- You’re paid on time – Your payment must be timely, or your employer pays penalties.
- You're not alone – A team of experts has your back if you run into any trouble on set or after the shoot.
- You have control over your brand – You have a say over how long you’re associated with a product: Advertisers need your permission and must negotiate with you to run your commercial for more than 21 months.
- You get respect – Membership in SAG-AFTRA is the mark of a professional performer.
Dangers of Working on Non-Union Commercials
- Exploitation – You may not be paid fairly, on time, or at all for your talent and skill when you shoot a non-union ad, and that ad might run for years without compensation.
- Physical Danger – You can get hurt working non-union. There are no guarantees that you’ll be on a safe set.
- Overexposure – You can lose control over your brand by doing ads that run in perpetuity. This makes it impossible for casting directors to consider you for good union jobs, which can also make it harder to land or keep a great agent.
- Vicious Circle – You contribute to the loss of good paying union jobs and the growth of non-union commercials by allowing producers access to professional talent for less than you’re worth.
- Dog-Eat-Dog – If you accept less than union minimums, you undercut your peers and create an environment where wages will be driven lower and lower. Divided we fall.
- Low Self Esteem – If you’re a professional performer, you deserve professional pay and professional working conditions. Accepting less diminishes your value to the industry and to yourself.
Do you have information about a non-union commercial? We want to hear from you.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (877) 280-6705.
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