SC Lannom
January 20, 2023

The Essential Guide to SAG Paperwork in 2023

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You have considered registering your production with the Screen Actors Guild.  It’s probably your first time tackling the process of becoming a SAG signatory. The mountain of SAG paperwork required probably seems a bit daunting. 

There are SAG signatory forms, and corresponding paperwork like scripts and budget forms that will determine your SAG minimum. But there also also the general talent forms that will be submitted to SAG-AFTRA during production, which include the SAG Exhibit G and Taft-Hartley form. 

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.

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What is a SAG signatory?

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 cost for many productions, especially the larger ones. Projects with a lower budget will have fewer requirements and can pay reduced rates. Student projects can even defer payments. 

Once you’ve become a SAG-AFTRA union signatory, you’ll need to pay the appropriate SAG minimum rates and maintain any SAG residual 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.

If this is the case, you can skip to Types of SAG Paperwork below. Otherwise, you might be wondering what the benefit of being a signatory IS.

Why should I be a SAG-AFTRA production?

It’s often wise to seek union status for your project since the best talent will be established members of SAG-AFTRA. Technically, the Guild doesn’t allow them 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 require payments for ADR (Automated Dialog Replacement) 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. How do I become a SAG-AFTRA signatory?

How to 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 4-6 weeks before principal photography.

In fact, SAG-AFTRA suggests that you submit your preliminary paperwork a full 6 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. 

Here’s how to go through the process step-by-step:

Determine your project category

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, it’s your project. 

Which of these categories does your project most resemble?

  • Commercials
  • Corporate/Educational
  • Dubbing
  • Interactive
  • Music Videos
  • New Media
  • Sound Recordings
  • Television
  • Theatrical

These categories all have different requirements that fit the production schedule and circumstances. Once you’ve determined the category for your project, you’re 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 what countries you can film in. 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 make people more comfortable, even if they aren’t yet part of a union. There are definite benefits to union agreements. 

Finalize your script

Part of the SAG signatory process is submitting a completed script to the union so they can see your overall production plans. 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 will determine the level of your SAG agreement. They’re not only looking at 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.

Additionally, you really won’t be able to complete a thorough budget for your production without a completed script. 

Locations, props, crew size, payroll – all of these aspects will determine your budget. You can’t accurately analyze these needs without an understanding of what you’re trying to achieve.

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.

Create a detailed and accurate budget for your production

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 the production. These agreements range from micro-budgets ($20 thousand or less) to standard theatrical agreements ($2 million 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 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. 

SAG short project agreements can defer payment until a work is acquired for distribution. Student films can negotiate rates with talent.

Determine if your project qualifies for incentives

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.

Some 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 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. And various Screen Actors Guild incentives based on locations that coordinate with the unions.

Many of the Screen Actor’s Guild Incentives are based on locations that have taken the steps to coordinate with unions.

These incentives can result in thousands of dollars in savings for your production. You should always check to see if your production qualifies for incentives just in case. It may even be smart to tailor your production plans to enjoy these cost reductions.

Fill out and submit a signatory application

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.

If your project has a micro-buget 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 Actor’s Guild has approved you, it will be time to fill out the following talent forms that make up common SAG paperwork.

SAG paperwork and talent forms

Perhaps you’re already at the stage where the Screen Actor’s 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:

SAG Exhibit G

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 Actor’s 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 a the official SAG ‘G’ form download to get your production on its way.

Taft-Hartley Reports

What if I want to cast a 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.

Another instance could be for a stunt coordinator or an individual who owns and operates a special vehicle.

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. Or your production may need to upgrade background actors to fill quotas for your specific SAG-AFTRA agreement.

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.

Additional SAG talent forms

There are a few common SAG talent forms you’ll run into once you’ve completed your SAG signatory process. On top of your production budget, you’ll need to account for the cost of any SAG-required health benefits. 

With larger productions you will need to have workers comp insurance for your production to be compliant with the Screen Actor’s 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 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.

Wrapping up

Now you understand that 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. Be brave, be confident, and make the most of each project. Best of luck on your shoot!

Disclaimer

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.

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About the Author

SC Lannom
Writer

SC works as a Producer and Director in Los Angeles, CA. Apart from visual storytelling he enjoys football, snowboarding, and spicy food.

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