Working in the movie industry often means working with film unions and guilds.
Become familiar yourself with them– and their many acronyms! – to better prepare for when you’ll be working with these film and TV professionals.
The following provides a breakdown of some of the major film and TV unions and guilds within the United States, but is by no means exhaustive. There will be a focus however, on Los Angeles, though many of these extend nationwide or even have international jurisdiction.
So if you’re considering becoming a member of a film union, this list is a solid jumping off point for determining which organization you might join.
What’s the difference?
A film union is a collective bargaining organization for employees.
A film guild is a collective bargaining organization for independent contractors.
Makes sense, but it’s not always that simple.
Bear with us for just a sec…
You may come across an organization with “guild” in its name, but actually isn’t a guild by standard definition.
For instance, SAG and the International Cinematographers Guild are actually and technically, unions.
Is it a touch confusing? Yes. Does it change the fundamental nature of the organization? Not at all. They’re still advocating for fair representation and pay rates all the same.
And since both film unions and film guilds have a significant presence in Hollywood, we’re including all organizations that are defined as either union or guild there. Though keep in mind, many of these also occupy other jurisdictions.
Okay, let’s jump in.
The biggest organization across the globe to represent professional musicians, the American Federation of Musicians acts on behalf of instrumental musicians in the United States and Canada who work in film and television. AFM secures benefits like pensions and healthcare for its members and protects the ownership of their recorded music.
Contact: (323) 462-2161
With a member directory of approximately 18,000 individuals, the Directors Guild of America is a well-known entertainment guild first founded as the Screen Directors Guild in 1936.
Currently, it represents both directors and other members of the directorial team, such as assistant directors and unit production managers, who work in film, television, new media, commercials, documentaries, news, and sports in the United States and across the globe (there is also a Directors Guild of Canada).
Contact: (310) 289-2000
There are few film and TV unions bigger than the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, otherwise known as the IATSE. It’s a labor union that represents more than 140,000 technicians, artists, and craftspersons across the entertainment industry.
Contact: (818) 281-2300
The IATSE is broken up into many smaller film unions, approximately 500 of them. While several of these organizations have global reach, they often are referred to as a “Local” according to a particular geographical jurisdiction with an associated number representing the specific job type of the group.
Below are several--but certainly not all!--IATSE Locals within Los Angeles:
With a member base of 6,000 individuals, the Affiliated Property Craftspersons, also known as the IATSE Local 44 in Los Angeles, represents the interests of those who work in various capacities in set decoration for film and television.
Contact: (818) 769-2500
The Animation Guild, also known as the IATSE Local 839 in Los Angeles, represents the interests of animation artists, writers, and technicians.
Contact: (818) 845‑7500
The Art Directors Guild, also known as the IATSE Local 800 in Los Angeles, represents approximately 2,800 individuals who work in art direction within the film and television industries, such as art directors, model makers, set designers, and scenic artists. It also includes additional non-art direction artist categories such as title and graphic artists.
As mentioned, the descriptor of “Local” refers to a specific geographical jurisdiction. So while those working in Los Angeles are part of Local 800, professionals in the same categories who work in New York City fall under their own Local 829 jurisdiction.
Contact: (818) 762-9995
The Costume Designers Guild, also known as the IATSE Local 892 in Los Angeles, represents more than 750 members who work in the United States and around the world as costume designers and costume illustrators for film, television, and commercials.
Contact: (818) 848-2800
The International Cinematographers Guild, also known as the IATSE Local 600, includes approximately 8,400 individuals among its members. As the name implies, the ICG acts on behalf of cinematography professionals, including directors of photography, camera operators, camera assistants, and digital imaging technicians. As mentioned above, it’s technically not a guild, but instead, a union.
Contact: (323) 876-0160
The Make-Up Artists & Hair Stylists Guild, also known as the IATSE Local 706 in Los Angeles, represents the interests of those working in those fields for film and television, as well as commercials, theater, and live events.
Contact: (818) 295-3933
The Motion Picture Editors Guild, also known as the IATSE Local 700, has over 6,000 members. It represents the interests of both editors and other post-production professionals who work in film and television in Los Angeles, but they also have national jurisdiction.
Contact: (323) 876-4770
The Production Sound and Video Engineers Guild, also known as the IATSE Local 695 in Los Angeles, represents the interests of those working as production sound technicians, which encompasses a large cross-section of individuals.
PSVEG members include boom operators, data capture operators, playback operators, projection engineers, projectionists, recordists, sound mixers, television broadcast engineers, utility sound technicians, and video engineers.
Contact: (818) 985-9204
Note: There are many more IATSE affiliates all over the country (and Canada). IATSE 479 is another prominent affiliate based in Atlanta, GA.
All right, we’re moving on from the IATSE and its many affiliates to another prominent film union.
Even if you are only vaguely familiar with film and TV unions, you likely have heard of SAG-AFTRA. A merged organization of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, SAG-AFTRA represents approximately 160,000 individuals.
SAG-AFTRA members include not only film and television actors, but also other media professionals like voice actors, singers, recording artists, radio personalities, and journalists.
SAG-AFTRA also happens to be a member of the AFL-CIO, which is the biggest federation of unions in the United States. And as we mentioned earlier, even though “guild” is in its name, it is, most definitely, a union.
Contact: (855) 724-2387
The Teamsters, also known as the Teamsters Union, is an organization with reach beyond that of a film union. Formed in 1903, it represents approximately 1.3 million members across multiple industries with film and television being a segment of them.
Because of its size, the Teamsters is composed of smaller organizations much like the IATSE. In Los Angeles, where many Teamsters members are employed in the entertainment industry, this group is referred to as the Local 399.
The Local 399 represents a range of professionals, including drivers, location managers, and casting directors.
Contact: (818) 985-7374
The Writers Guild of America is an interesting organization. While many refer to it simply as the WGA, it’s actually composed of two different film unions that represent film, television, and new media writers. The Writers Guild of America East is based in New York City while the Writers Guild of America West is based in Los Angeles.
Contact: (323) 951-4000
There are many prominent organizations that while not film and TV unions or guilds, are well known in the industry. For clarity’s sake, we have listed several of these associations below to give you a better idea of what and whom they actually represent.
As mentioned above, film and TV unions have the primary job of representing their members in collective bargaining negotiations.
The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers is an organization that negotiates with some of these film unions like the Directors Guild of America, SAG-AFTRA, and the Writers Guild of America on behalf of its more than 350 American film and television production company members.
Contact: (818) 995-3600
Though not a film union, the American Society of Cinematographers is a very well-known organization. Organized to advance the science and art of cinematography, the ASC has nearly 400 members who together work to promote this vital part of the production process.
Contact: (323) 969-4333
Again, not a film union or guild, but the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers is both a hugely prominent organization and one that has a strong presence in the film and television worlds.
ASCAP collects licensing fees from those--potentially working in film or television--who use music created by ASCAP members.
Contact: (323) 883-1000
Talent agents might represent actors, directors, writers, and other artists in film and television, but who represents the talent agents? The Association of Talent Agents, that’s who. The ATA is a non-profit trade association that speaks and acts on behalf of entertainment talent agencies.
Contact: (310) 274-0628
The Location Managers Guild International is not a film union, but it does have among its members those belonging to other unions and guilds such as the Teamsters and DGA.
This professional organization includes location managers, location scouts, and others such as assistant location managers who work in this aspect of the film and television industries.
Contact: (310) 967-2007
Given its generally well-known status, some people might be surprised to learn that Motion Picture Sound Editors is not in fact a film union. Rather, it’s an honorary society whose goal is to educate and advocate for those who work in sound editing.
Contact: (818) 616-3142
Yes, we know. This one actually has the word “guild” in its title, so why wasn’t it mentioned under the section about unions and guilds? Alas, it doesn’t qualify as a guild by definition, but its presence is one of the most well-known in the entertainment industry.
The Producers Guild of America is actually a trade organization that includes more than 7,000 members across the globe and represents their interests as film, television, and new media producers.
And just like a traditional labor union or guild, the PGA does provide multiple benefits for members such as health insurance and pensions, as well as mentor opportunities and the advocacy of proper working conditions.
Contact: (310) 358-9020
Another organization that is not a film union or guild but enjoys a prominent presence in the entertainment industry is the Set Decorators Society of America, which is closely affiliated with the IATSE Local 44.
Like the MPSE, its goal is to educate and advocate on behalf of its members who work in set decoration for both film and television.
Contact: (818) 255-2425
Let’s not forget the camera operators!
The Society of Camera Operators is another honorary society that focuses on both supporting its members and driving development of the technology and production methods that provide the foundation for their work.
Contact: (818) 563-9117
Another non-profit organization with notoriety in the entertainment industry is the Society of Motion Picture & TV Engineers. This particular association allows for open membership, so anyone with an interest in audio recording, broadcast, digital cinema, filmmaking, or even information technology is welcomed to join.
Founded more than 100 years ago in 1916 as the Society of Motion Picture Engineers, the current SMPTE offers both networking and educational opportunities for its members.
Contact: (914) 761-1100
If they’re doing their job right, you will never realize they’re not the actor they’re playing.
The Stuntmen’s Association of Motion Pictures is another honorary society that includes among its members stuntmen, film stunt coordinators, and even second unit directors.
However, unlike some of the non-film unions we’ve already mentioned, this one is strictly invitation only and all members must already be part of SAG-AFTRA.
Contact: (818) 766-4334
That’s right! There’s also a Stuntwomen’s Association of Motion Pictures.
Much like its male-only counterpart, this organization formed to advocate on behalf of its members who work in film, television, and even video game production.
Contact: (818) 762-0907
While you don’t have to be an expert on film unions and guilds, knowing what they are and who they represent can make for better communication with them, as well as more productive collaborations with their members.
If you do find yourself working mostly with unions, take advantage of Wrapbook’s services for film and television. Learn how to use Wrapbook to calculate union time cards for IATSE and Teamster Local 399 or just reach out to us if and when you have any other compliance questions.
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