When Should you Join SAG? – How I Got My Taft Hartley

Written by | The Business of Acting

Actor Will Wallace shares his advice as to when you should join SAG and shares his own story when he joined.

As an acting teacher of many years, and as the director of the Screen Actor’s Guild Conservatory Scene Video Workshops, I  feel strongly about this subject because I have heard this question many times over the years. My belief is that, unfortunately for the actors, agents and managers (who either don’t have the “clout” to get a non-SAG actor in a door or are just not interested in repping an actor) tell actors to “come back when they have their SAG card.” Actors then race off to try and find any way they can to join as fast as possible (normally this involves doing background work to get vouchers). Once the actor returns as a member, the agent or manager frequently has a new excuse.

As a producer and director of films, it is relatively easy for me to get someone into SAG. I am normally willing to do it for them, but I always inform them first that I believe what is MOST important to their careers is building their demo reels. With a strong reel, they can get in many of the doors that they are hoping to get in….then they will be FORCED to join (as was I back in the day).

If an actor joins SAG too soon, they will be prohibiting themselves from doing all non-union roles (which is, at that point in their career, probably the best way to build the demo reel). Oftentimes an actor gets into SAG too early, and now they have limited themselves from the majority of what they could be called in for. With no other credits, that same manager and/or agent will still have difficulties getting them any SAG auditions with no credit and no demo tape.

You asked about my first role. I got a small part opposite Shirley MacLaine in The Evening Star. Because I was in Texas, and because it is a right-to-work state, I was able to stay out of SAG. I then did a TNT movie of the week with Tom Berenger called Rough Riders and still stayed only “eligible” with regards to SAG. Even after shooting five months in Australia for The Thin Red Line, I still had not joined. The day I stepped on the 20th Century Fox lot back in LA (to do some ADR work for the same film), I had to join immediately and did.

I love my union, and I am proud to serve on the SAG Conservatory committee, but I do believe that there is a proper time to join and that doing so prematurely can actually hamper an actor’s progress.

– Will Wallace


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Last modified: August 13, 2017

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