Everything You’d Ever Need to Know About the SAG Awards

Photo Source: The cast of “Stranger Things”: YouTube / TNT

Actors are the face of the celebrations in Hollywood around awards season; they are the most visible representations of the movies being honored. But the Screen Actors Guild Awards—more than any other event—are their night and their night only.

Though the guild only began handing out trophies known as “Actors” to, well, actors 23 years ago, the ceremony has become a crucial stop for anyone gunning for Oscar. And while it’s plenty glitzy, there’s also often a charming camaraderie on display; the show opens with testimonials from the attendees about their early acting experiences. (The official website credits Angela Lansbury, who opened the inaugural evening, with this invention.)

Given that both film and television work is considered, certain stars on the broadcast side have historically cleaned up. Some trivia: If Julia Louis-Dreyfus wins for “Veep” again at this year’s 24th annual ceremony, she could tie or exceed Alec Baldwin and Julianna Margulies’ record of eight wins. (Next year she could tie with Edie Falco for most nominations ever.)

To celebrate and get ready for this awards season, Backstage is rounding up all the basics you need to know when it comes time for each individual awards ceremony. Here’s everything you’ve ever wondered about the wonderful SAG Awards.

Who votes on them? Why, the actors, of course! These festivities are all about the performers, hence the fact that the winners usually thank their peers. It’s self-explanatory, yes, but all SAG-AFTRA members who have paid all their dues are allowed to cast their ballots.

When did they start? You might be surprised to learn that the SAGs are actually relatively new. The first celebration only took place in 1995, with trophies going to Tom Hanks for “Forrest Gump” and Jodie Foster for “Nell,” among others.

How do they vote? While everyone (who has paid up) can vote for the winners, the nominating process is a little more exclusive. To choose who will be up for the prizes, nominating committees in film and television are randomly selected from SAG-AFTRA members. The same people can’t choose the nominees every year: Those who sit on a committee must wait eight years before being on the same one again.

When are they this year? January 21, 2018.

Where do they take place? The Los Angeles Shrine Exposition Center.

Where can you watch them? TNT or TBS.

Who hosts? The SAGs are getting a host for the first time ever in 2018: “The Good Place” star Kristen Bell. She’ll be joined by a team of all-female presenters.

Who do they honor? Performers across film and television. That means for film SAG presents the standard honors for women and men in leading and supporting roles, but also for casts as a whole. That’s where eligibility can get a little tricky. To get on stage as part of the prestigious Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture award, rules state that a performer must have been credited on a separate title card. So some in memorable but smaller roles that share billing are left out. (Those who are in the cast crawl get certificates.)

To be considered part of the ensemble of a TV series, a contender must appear in more than half of the episodes within the nominating time frame and be a either series regular or guest star. Certificates are doled out to those who have appeared in at least three episodes in the calendar year.

Film:
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role
Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture

TV:
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Limited Series Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Limited Series Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series
Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series
Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series
Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Comedy or Drama Series

This is one of the few awards bodies that pays attention to stunt performers. Every year SAG also names a recipient of the lifetime achievement award. Morgan Freeman will be celebrated for his body of work at the show this year. He follows Lily Tomlin, Carol Burnett, Debbie Reynolds, and Rita Moreno.

How can I join? Getting your SAG card is a right of passage for any actor, so knowing how to join the union is crucial. The first step: Getting hired. Then you can supply your paycheck stubs or the “original activity print-out or report from the payroll company that states your name, social security number, the name of the production company, the title of the production, the salary paid in dollar amount, and the specific date(s) worked” to SAG-AFTRA. You can also apply for membership in SAG-AFTRA if you’ve been a member for a year in another affiliated organization. Those include Actor’s Equity and the Canadian ACTRA, among others. For more practical tips, click here!

What is their relation to other major awards shows? People looking to dominate their Oscar pools tend to watch the SAGs pretty closely because their nominees and winners often align. That’s because—as scholars of this type of thing like to repeat—actors make up the largest branch of the Academy. Thus, people voting in the SAGs also have a say in who becomes the season’s ultimate victors. Eleven out of 22 of the last winning films for the outstanding ensemble performance Actor statue ended up with the Oscar for Best Picture.

READ: ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’ Leads 24th SAG Award Nominations

Tune into the 24th Annual SAG Awards live on TNT and TBS Jan. 21. And get those voting ballots ready!

Check out Backstage’s Los Angeles audition listings!