Non Union short

Hi,
I’m working on an ultra-low budget short for which I need to hire a sag actor. The film is going to be submitted to film festivals later on. Do I need to get any waiver from SAG?

There’s really no such thing as a “SAG waiver” the way most people think of it. If you hire a SAG actor, you should sign up with SAG.

Fortunately, SAG has a Short Film Agreement, which allows you to pay your actors whatever you want up front, as long as you don’t have a commercial release down the road. So you can submit to festivals, show it for free, release it for free anywhere. Once you get a commercial distribution deal where money is involved (like where it’s behind a paywall), you will have to compensate the actors their deferred salary.

Keep in mind that if you pay the actors anything greater than $0 you’ll have to also pay a separate check to the SAG Health, Pension & Welfare fund for 19% or so of the total amount you’re paying the actors (I can’t remember the exact percentage but it’s listed in their paperwork).

There’s more paperwork involved when going to SAG but nothing that you woudn’t have anyway - you have to send them the script, the budget, the cast list, your shooting schedule, and some more forms that you have to fill out during production.

One thing that can be annoying - is that they will take a while to get back to you and approve your project, so start early. Don’t wait until the week before you shoot.

How to Become a SAG-AFTRA Signatory - SAGindie has some more information. about this. But don’t worry! It’s not so bad.