You checked your eligibility with the Screen Actors Guild either online at www.sag.org or over the phone, and you confirmed that you are eligible to join SAG. You have decided you are ready to join. Now what? Here are eight things you need to know about the process of joining SAG:
1. The cost/payment. The current national initiation fee rate is $2,277 plus the first semiannual dues. Joining fees are due at the time of applying. You can pay by cashier's check, credit card, or money order, but not by a personal check. If you choose to use a debit card, it must have a MasterCard or Visa logo on it, and you should contact your bank to see if there is a daily withdrawal limit so your card is not declined. There is also an initiation-fee loan that you can apply for through the AFTRA/SAG credit union or Actors Federal Credit Union.
2. Making an appointment. In Los Angeles, an appointment is not needed; you can go to SAG's offices anytime between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. In New York, appointments are required if joining in person and are scheduled Monday through Friday between 10 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. You can opt to mail in your forms, but it will take longer to get processed.
3. The documentation. There are about 20 pages of forms to fill out. Signing up for SAG can take anywhere from 15 minutes to more than an hour. You can save yourself a lot of time by printing out the forms and filling them out beforehand. Plus, there is a lot of information that you may need to look up or think about. Some of the documents look similar and require the same information, but all serve different purposes and you must fill out all of them.
4. The name game. You cannot have the same name as another SAG actor. When registering, you must come up with three names for yourself that you would be okay with using as your "professional name" in case someone registered with SAG is already using your name. Good examples would be "Jessica Gardner, Jessica H. Gardner, or Jessica Helene Gardner." However, don't try putting "Jessica, Jess, or Jessi Gardner." "We do not go by spelling; we go by derivatives and phonetics," explains membership clerk Janeen Kazarian-Dinkel. "Meaning, Jess and Jessi are derivatives of Jessica. If we had a Jessica Gardner as a member, and then we had someone who comes in and wants to join but she wants to use Jess Gardner, sorry, the name's not available." However, if Jess Gardner is your legal name and you are adamant about using it, the guild cannot deny you the use of your legal name. Whatever name you choose professionally, the guild advises that you use it consistently. "That includes your credits, applications, contracts, headshots, résumés, signature-everything between you and the guild."
5. Contact info. You will need to fill out the addresses and phone numbers of your manager and agents. If you don't have representation, you can list your own cell phone number. "Do not write down your home phone number," advises Kazarian-Dinkel.
6. Turnaround time. Once SAG has your completed joining documents, in person or by mail, it has a 24- to 48-hour turnaround time to process your documents before you are an official member. SAG will then mail you your receipt, which is a temporary membership card. "I tell people to treat it like a temporary driver's license and keep it on their person," says Kazarian-Dinkel.
7. New membership. After applying, you will receive a calendar of dates for the New Member Orientation. You are not required to attend, but it is highly recommended and extremely informative.
8. Getting the card. Your SAG card is not produced in-house, so it can take a couple weeks to receive your official, shiny new SAG card.