Signing a SAG Ultra Low Budget Film Agreement

After all the auditions, the call-backs, the “holds”, the stomach-churning excitement/nerves that lead up to booking a job comes the business of signing the contract. As with almost any other job in the world contracts have to be signed to ensure that all parties are on-board and will show up to see the project through to completion. This is true for the entertainment industry.

Yuck! I HATE this part.

I don’t have a legit agent, so I currently do this bit on my own. Which is fine, although I have to say two of my biggest fears about this are a) scaring the producers/directors off by being too demanding and b) being completely taken advantage of on set and in some cases not getting paid because I am inexperienced.

I’ve spent many an hour pouring over contracts as a non-union actor where what I sign is completely and utterly legally binding. But having recently made the transition to SAG I’ve learned some fascinating and relieving things.

If you have been offered a job on a SAG movie there will be a specific SAG rep assigned to the film and the film itself will be listed in the SAG database (could I say SAG anymore?!?). When the producers have paid their deposit to SAG (which is a small amount relative to the film and there to protect the actor incase the plug gets pulled or they run out of money to pay you, etc) they will be issued a SAG actors agreement/contract which will then be given to you to sign.

Now, to get on the same page as the producers for an Ultra Low budget film you will probably have to negotiate a few things. Technically, they are supposed to pay you $100/day and feed you on the set. If the shoot is out of town you should also get $100/travel day (plus a $60 per-diem for each day you travel). In addition, you should receive a per-diem in cash for meals that you won’t be fed on set. The producer should also pay for all travel and accommodation. Before you get the SAG contract the producer will probably send you other contracts or as the Screen Actors Guild likes to call them “Deal Memos” which will help to clarify what exactly you are all agreeing to. You can negotiate any elements here such as waiving the per-diem, putting the cost of the flight in the final pay-check, waiving the hotel because you know someone locally you can stay with, etc, etc. But ultimately, no matter what you sign, the final SAG Ultra Low Budget Actors Agreement is the deal that is legally binding – superseding anything else you sign.**

This was a great relief to me when it came time to sign a recent contract. I am not well-versed in legalese and was finding the whole thing awkward and intimidating. I LOVE the people I am about to work with, am aware of how much stress and strain they are under getting the thing into production and wanted to ensure that I was not a burden by being one of the only SAG actors on the cast. But I was not interested in putting myself in a compromising position and selling myself out, either. So I researched the project, made sure that it was listed with SAG and that it was “legal” for me to do it (you can lose your union status if you agree to do a film that is not union) and signed the proposed deal memo. There were a few funny/grey areas in the 10+ pages of legalese I signed, but I knew I would ultimately be protected by the SAG contract – that if there was anything in the agreement not in my favor, either due to an oversight on my part or the part of the producer, it would default to the SAG contract.

**Please note that I have only heard this from one representative from the SAG offices. And as with any information, there is ALWAYS room for mis-interpretation. I promise to write an update if I learn otherwise – and as always, if you know better, please don’t hesitate to contact me or comment below.

About The NYC Actor

Angela Dee is a professional actress working in Film, Theatre, TV, Commercials and Voiceovers. She currently lives in New York.

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