Part of growing and evolving as a filmmaker is doing bigger projects with bigger talent. To work with such actors, you have to register your production with the Screen Actors Guild. If this is your first time tackling the process of becoming a SAG signatory, the mountain of SAG paperwork required can seem daunting.
There are SAG signatory forms and corresponding paperwork like scripts and budget forms that will determine your SAG minimum. But there are also the general talent forms, such as the SAG Exhibit G and Taft-Hartley form, that you must submit to SAG-AFTRA during production.
Worry not, friend.
We’re going to explain exactly what you need to know about the most commonly used SAG paperwork so you can spend less time researching and more time producing your project.
A “SAG signatory” is any individual, company, or legal entity that signs a written agreement with the Screen Actors Guild. This could be a production company or even an individual film.
SAG signatories enter into a legal agreement with the SAG-AFTRA talent union. This allows the talent and production to enjoy the benefits and protections of the Screen Actors Guild. It also requires your production to adhere to legal requirements such as union payment scales.
This will add costs for many productions, especially the larger ones. Projects with lower budgets will have fewer requirements and can pay reduced rates. Student projects can even defer payments.
Perhaps you’ve already completed your signatory process and are looking for information on properly completing SAG paperwork like a SAG Exhibit G or transitional talent forms like a Taft-Hartley report. If this is the case, you can skip to the SAG paperwork and talent forms section below.
Otherwise, you might be wondering what the benefit of being a SAG signatory IS.
Seeking union status for your project allows you to access the best talent who often are established members of SAG-AFTRA. Technically, the Guild doesn’t allow members to work on non-union productions.
This is especially the case for productions with a decent budget or an established studio attached. For smaller productions, this may not be necessary.
So, does this mean my smaller production can’t work with union actors? Not necessarily.
Union actors can audition and act in non-union films. This is technically against the rules for the actors, but not for the productions. It’s a risk, but the actor will be the one bearing the brunt of it.
SAG is very stringent. They will make you pay for rehearsal days even if they take up a few hours. They will also require payments for ADR sessions.
Ask yourself: is my production ready to pay the union overtime rate? Can this project work without SAG-quality actors?
The value of your project is not dependent on a SAG agreement and your specific project may work better as a non-union production.
Okay, sounds great. Now let’s move onto how you can become a SAG-AFTRA signatory.
If you’ve decided that your project should become a Screen Actor’s Guild signatory, you will want to begin the process as early as four to six weeks before principal photography.
In fact, SAG-AFTRA suggests that you submit your preliminary paperwork a full six weeks in advance of your first day of work. This might include travel, rehearsal, and principal photography for any employees with SAG agreements included in their contract.
This means your writers can still write the script and the art department can still build sets, but you’ll need your SAG agreement processed before you can start working with talent. You cannot begin any paid work with SAG talent before your film or production company is registered as a signatory.
Here’s how to go through the process step by step:
Part of the SAG signatory process is submitting a completed script to the union so they can see your overall production plans. Therefore, your first step should be to finalize your script as it will determine your budget, which you must also submit to SAG.
This includes the plans for your talent but also the sum of your entire budget. That’s because the amount of money in your production budget and your intended distribution will determine the level of your SAG agreement. They’re looking at not only what you can pay, but also the number of principal characters and speaking roles.
If your budget is large enough, you’ll even have to pay SAG rates for a portion of your background actors.
Providing a completed script isn’t just for the benefit of SAG-AFTRA. It will be incredibly beneficial to you, as a producer, to help you hone in on your overall production plans.
Do you need 50 background actors for the big finale?
Do you need a technocrane to capture the big musical number?
Do you have child actors and pyrotechnics?
Every question like this should have the answer somewhere in the script, or between the lines, as they say. Each consideration comes with a price tag and probably a bit of a headache. Luckily, we have ibuprofen and helpful SAG agreement guides.
One of the most important determining factors of your signatory process, and the SAG paperwork that follows, will be your production budget.
SAG-AFTRA sorts each production into agreements based on the overall cost of production. These agreements range from micro-budget (USD$20,000 or less) to standard theatrical agreements (USD$2,000,000 or more).
SAG-AFTRA talent agreements cover a wide range of works. Too wide to get into the differences in this article. Instead, we’ve provided a directory where you can examine each agreement and determine how it applies to you.
As mentioned before, your budget and your intended distribution will determine your SAG agreement. Your agreement will then determine your SAG rates and SAG residual payments.
Keep in mind that becoming a SAG signatory does not require every production to pay the SAG minimum. Each agreement will stipulate rates that work with the budget.
Certain categories such as short projects can defer payment until a work is acquired for distribution. Similarly student films can negotiate rates directly with talent.
You wouldn't travel to a new location without directions. Especially not if there were several locations in the mix. You need a roadmap specifically tailored to your situation. In this case, you need a roadmap specifically tailored to your project. Once you have finalized a script and created a corresponding budget, you have to select a category that your project falls under.
As yourself, which of these categories does my project most resemble?
You can also use Wrapbook’s SAG contract finder and answer a few questions to determine which agreement best suits your project.
Each of these categories have different requirements that fit the production schedule and circumstances. Once you’ve determined the category for your project, you’ll be able to find the requirements for your specific agreement.
Each agreement will determine what legal stipulations you must follow to remain in compliance. Things like covering background actors and in which countries you can film. Any deviation from your legal duties can result in lawsuits, delayed releases, and inflated budgets.
Don't be afraid of this process. It’s in the best interests of the unions to make the process as easy as possible. SAG-AFTRA will also want paperwork filled out correctly, so even if you make a mistake, they'll likely explain what needs fixing.
SAG agreements can help you fill in the blanks for best practices on set. Union representation can help people be more comfortable, even if they aren’t yet part of a union.
A SAG incentive is an adjustment to your SAG agreement. Incentives are meant to reward your production with lower costs based on some element within your production.
As an example, there might be an incentive that rewards you by lowering your minimums if you build a diverse cast. These incentives help to promote inclusion and social equity. Your production can save money while contributing to a stronger and more diverse entertainment industry.
SAG incentives are the easter eggs of talent agreements. They can allow for some wiggle room in your budgets. You can lower the cost of your talent payroll by qualifying for these incentives.
Certain incentives can result in a raise on your budget cap, allowing your SAG minimum rates to be lower even if your higher budget would normally bump you up into a more expensive agreement.
Some examples of incentives include the Diversity-in-Casting Incentive, which offers benefits for low-budget movies that allocate most of the roles to protected groups. The Background Performer Incentive, which works to get SAG-AFTRA Background Performers regular work. Certain local/state governments also coordinate with the unions to offer Screen Actors Guild incentives based on shooting locations.
These incentives can result in thousands of dollars in savings. You should always check to see if your production qualifies for incentives just in case. It may even be smart to plan ahead and tailor your production to enjoy these cost reductions.
Once you’ve completed all of the steps above, you will be ready to fill out your SAG signatory application and submit for approval from SAG-AFTRA.
You will be required to fill out corresponding forms that fit your agreement. These forms are all similar but not identical in their requirements. Information will include your project title, shooting locations, and company structure.
To make this process easier, SAG has a Preliminary Information Form on their website. This is a great starting point if you’re unsure on where to begin. Upon submission of this form, a SAG-AFTRA representative will reach out to you to complete the signatory application process.
Please note that if your project has a micro-budget or student budget, you can use your individual name in place of an established corporation. If your project fits into a higher budget agreement, you will be required to attach a registered company to your production.
Once the Screen Actors Guild has approved you, it will be time to fill out the following talent forms that make up common SAG paperwork.
Perhaps you’re already at the stage where the Screen Actors Guild has approved your project. Now you’d like to know more about the talent forms required for submission to the guild during your actual production.
Let’s go over the most common SAG talent forms.
The SAG Exhibit G Form is the timesheet for your actors. It will be used to track their working hours for purposes of pay, safety, and union records.
Sometimes referred to as the ‘G’, it is a talent form used by the Screen Actors Guild to track how many hours talent spends on the clock. It is the most basic and most important piece of SAG paperwork you will use on set.
We have a comprehensive guide to filling out the SAG Exhibit G along with the official SAG G form download to get your production on its way.
What if I want to cast non-union talent in your SAG-registered production?
This is where a Taft-Hartley form comes into play. A SAG-AFTRA Taft Hartley Report is a document used to file non-union talent who work on a SAG-AFTRA production.
There are several situations where hiring non-union talent will make sense for your production. For example, hiring a military specialist that has no previous acting work experience. In fact, some of the most common cases for filing a Taft-Hartley will occur when you’ve hired upcoming non-union actors for a principal role.
The Taft-Hartley talent form includes basic employment and production questions. One section includes the “Reason For Hire” list that will help narrow down your specific use case.
If you’d like to learn more about the Taft Hartley Report, you can find everything you need in our Complete Guide to the Taft-Hartley Talent Form.
There are a few common SAG talent forms you’ll run into once you’ve completed your SAG signatory process, many of which Wrapbook can help in providing the requisite information and overseeing any compliance needs.
SAG requires copies for low-budget projects. Through Wrapbook’s payroll services, though, these contracts can be monitored for union/agreement compliance.
Likewise, this form is required for low-budget and micro-budget agreements. The submission of it is necessary prior to approval in determining budget for the SAG cast and the amount of the SAG security deposit, which is jointly controlled by the project’s producer and SAG-AFTRA.
The producer on a project must complete, sign, and submit to accompany any applicable P&H contributions.
Wrapbook’s payroll services can complete this form. However, it is the producer’s responsibility to provide to SAG. It is also required for the release of any SAG security deposit.
On top of your production budget, you’ll also need to account for the cost of any SAG-required health benefits.
With larger productions, you likewise will need to have workers comp insurance for your production to be compliant with the Screen Actors Guild.
You may have shooting locations outside a major city that will have more competitive prices. Still, consider that your production may incur additional costs if you have to transport SAG talent to sets that are outside the “SAG studio zones.”
The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers has also created a set of safety measures that will keep your productions safe. While not technically under the SAG-AFTRA umbrella, all entertainment unions recognize these rules, and you are obliged to have a copy on set.
These documents are incredibly valuable for any production to examine, even if you decide to take the non-union route.
Filling out your SAG paperwork can be as simple as it is important. There’s no reason to fear it. It’s there to help you and get you the best cast you can.
Now that you’ve taken the big step of becoming a SAG Signatory, you should start thinking about budgeting your SAG payroll. You can also head over to our SAG-AFTRA resource center for more production information relating to the talent union.
Be brave, be confident, and make the most of each project. Best of luck on your shoot!
At Wrapbook, we pride ourselves on providing outstanding free resources to producers and their crews, but this post is for informational purposes only as of the date above. The content on our website is not intended to provide and should not be relied on for legal, accounting, or tax advice. You should consult with your own legal, accounting, or tax advisors to determine how this general information may apply to your specific circumstances.