11 May, 2010

SAG New Media: The New, But Not Necessarily Final, Frontier!

I was asked by Julie Crane, the Denver SAG rep, to write a piece for the newsletter on the process of becoming a SAG series under their New Media contract. I figured I could kill two birds with one stone--update my blog with the piece I wrote for Julie! (Why do I have to kill the birds? Why can't I just feed them with one crumb, or something less violent?)

So, here 'tis:

When I decided to create a web series, it was mostly to keep myself working on my craft. In smaller markets like Denver, we don't get quite as many opportunities as we might elsewhere. I'm a short redhead—and no one seems to be needing those 'round these here parts!

As I started looking into the process of making a web series, I discovered that my little project could become a SAG signatory, thus raising the level of production, acting, crew, and maybe even our status in the eyes of those who listen to my occasional babblings.

SAG? Yes, please! Maybe this could be what helps me become SAG eligible! (I was right about that!) So off I went, dragging my friend Jazz Copeland (Jazzy K Productions) along for the ride.

And what a ride it was! First stop: turning in the Preliminary Info Sheet. Okay, that was a breeze to fill out and fax back. We turned it in well before the week before starting production, which is what SAG asks for. Excellent! Now what?

Well, we waited. And waited...and waited. (Reminder to self: pick up the phone to check on the status next time.) But finally we heard back from SAG, and were given our very own New Media Rep, Maria. Marvelous, Magnificent Maria. She let us know we were approved to begin the next step!

Maria emailed us the paperwork needed, which included production company documents (this can also be done by individuals), a pre-production cast list, and a line item budget.

Uh...okay. Part One: just fill out what it says! Great, done. Part Two...same. I needed each actor's name, social security number, and agent info for this list. Part Three: Budget? We don't have a budget! I'll admit I started freaking out at this point. What if I put down a number, but I can't pay anyone? What if I just put “zero?” Will they reject our application?

With New Media contracts, there are no minimums and pay is negotiable. This is both good and bad. Good for self-producers like me, with no money and no rich uncles. Bad for actors (also like me!), because we could technically work for very little pay, though the work involved is no different than any other project.

I ended up putting down what I hoped to be able to pay at some point, which is Ultra Low SAG scale. The actors all understand that we cannot pay this upfront, but that they will be paid.


At any rate (or no rate, as the case may be!), we sent those back to Maria and we eventually got our SAG Contract Packet in the mail. You'll have to forgive me—I'm pretty foggy on the dates—I can't remember how long we waited for each packet. It was a while—so fair warning: when they say start it a week before production, you might want to make that two months.

Back to our packet: Oh, happy day! We'll sign a few papers, send them back, and find out we are now a SAG production!!! Jazz and I got together with our notebooks and our pens, all ready to sign and send. Aaaaand then we went through that packet. At that point all I wanted was a hookah, so I could create a huge question mark in the air, a la Lewis Carroll's Caterpillar.

What did this packet include? Here's the rundown:

  1. New Signatories Instruction Sheet

  2. NM BG Actor

  3. NM Performer

  4. Exhibit G – Time Sheet

  5. Final Cast List

  6. P&H Waiver of Ownership Interest

  7. Pension & Health Adherence Letter

  8. Taft Hartley-Principal

  9. New Media Information Sheet

  10. New Media Transfer of Rights

  11. New Media P&H Weekly Contribution Report

  12. Signed AMPTP Agreement w-Rate Sheet

  13. New Media Agreement

  14. SAG Logo

  15. Taft-Hartley form


Thank goodness for that instruction sheet, which included a Step 1, 2, and 3 to help us fill everything out. We still had questions on a few things, but Maria was always very helpful and fun to work with. A lot of this was Fun Bedtime Reading (I'm looking at you, AMPTP Agreement Tome), but we managed to get everything signed and filled out—and sent back to Maria.

And in another week or so, we got the Big News. We were now officially a SAG production! Despite all the paperwork, and the amount of time between sending in our Preliminary Info sheet and actually getting approved, it was a pretty easy, straightforward process. The reps in the New Media department are there to help you every step of the way.

Next up: Turning in the Taft-Hartley forms for our non-union actors!

New Media projects are a fantastic—and legitimate--way for actors in small markets to continue working. We all know Denver gets dry spells on occasion, but this is a way to not let that affect you anymore. No one's casting me? Okay, fine. I'm going to write my own projects, produce them with some talented friends, negotiate with local businesses, and pitch the series to various websites! I've got Mr. Blue Bird on my shoulder, folks, and he's singing along with me!

We're still in pre-production at the moment. Because of the level of talent we have, we're aiming high on this series, so we have to be the absolute best we can be! The support from the Denver community has been amazing, and we can't wait for those cameras to start rolling!

Now...how to get my Irish short produced, with Cillian Murphy attached (playing opposite me, naturally)? Hmmm... stay tuned. That just may be my next article. :)

For more information on the SAG New Media process, you can go to: www.sag.org/new-media-contracts


  1. Hi! I was just offered a Taft-Hartley on a new media project. There are no SAG actors in it, but the company is a SAG signatory.

    I have heard two very different things; 1) that for taft-hartley to be valid on new media project there must be at least one SAG actor in the project and 2) that no SAG actors are required as long as the company is signatory...

    Which option would your experience indicate is more true?

    I just don't want to get my hopes up on this Taft-Hartley for nothing...


  2. Hey, Karl!

    To become SAG signatory, you DO have to have at least one SAG actor attached to the project--the T-H forms have nothing to do with this part. But if your project and/or company are *already* a signatory, then it doesn't matter. :) Although, I would think it would be harder for a project to become SAG if you don't have a SAG actor... Just speculating on that one, though!

    Once an actor has their very first spoken lines in a project, that's when they get the Taft-Hartley form. You can turn that in immediately, and then you're SAG-eligible. You're not a Must-Join at that point, though, if you're not wanting to join up right away. On the next SAG project you're in, you can do what's called an OK-30, meaning if you do yet *another* SAG project in that 30 days, THEN you must join.

    All that is moot, though, if the very first SAG project you're doing is a long-term project and extends beyond the very first 30 days. (Like mine!)

    I'm not ready to join yet--financially, for one! And because Denver is such a small market, it's almost suicide to go SAG here. I'd never work. But then again, it's not like I'm working now, either. ;)

    Disclaimer: Contact your local SAG rep or the New Media department to double-check on what I've said!

  3. Do you know of anyone that can help fill me fill out the preliminary form in order for it to be accepted by SAG?. For example - does the budget need to be a certain minimum? Does there need to be a product or service associated with it? Does there nedd to be revenue sources? Thanks - Bryan

  4. I had a lot of the same questions, Bryan--give the SAG New Media department a call and they can help you out with everything. They're super-helpful and nice! Buuut--no, there's no budget minimums or maximums for New Media productions. For the purpose of the form, I put what I hoped to be able to pay the actors in the future, which was at least Ultra Low Budget ($100 a day). Nothing needs to be associated with your project, and you don't need revenue services yet. Break a leg!