Residual Reassurance, Group Dynamic

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Dear Jackie::
If my son has a credited principal role in a major motion picture, will he still get residuals if he's nonunion? The welcome letter from the Screen Actors Guild saying that "you have to join before you work your next union role" came after production wrapped. Residuals could be significant. I had the money to pay for my son to join SAG before and was told to hold off. Now I don't. The film is due to be released in a few weeks, and I want him to be paid the residuals.

Is it correct that if my son is offered another union job, in order to work it and be paid residuals he must join the union, but for now he will still get residuals for the project he was waivered in on? I was told he would. I will call SAG about it, I guess, but I wanted to ask another actor first.

—Making Sure
via the Internet

Dear Making::
Yes, your son is entitled to residuals, but I asked SAG to elucidate all the particulars. "Regarding residuals, with very few exceptions, it makes no difference whether an actor is a member of SAG or not or what their membership status is," a SAG representative wrote in an email. "Any actor hired as a principal performer under a SAG contract on a SAG-covered picture—whose performance remains in the picture—is entitled to residuals, and SAG's residuals department serves them exactly the same way. Meaning that our residuals staff makes sure that the residuals are processed and paid to the performer, and if any actor or their beneficiary is not receiving residuals to which they are entitled, SAG's residuals staff will file and pursue a claim for those residuals no matter the performer's union status. As to whether or not an actor would still receive residuals on their first SAG-covered project if they become a member, the answer is an emphatic yes. Residuals are paid, in perpetuity, to the performer for work completed on a covered project regardless of whether the actor has completed their SAG application process or not."

Sounds pretty black-and-white, but there is one tiny sliver of gray, as explained in the email: "There is one exception from the standard residuals rules for a 'nonprofessional' principal performer who works on an Ultra Low Budget picture." Because you described your son's film as a "major motion picture," it doesn't sound as if this applies in your case.

To learn more about SAG membership or residuals, go to

Dear Jackie::
I have always been very motivated to achieve my goals, especially to be a professional actor. I have worked very hard, harder than most of my peers, and have sacrificed a lot. I work on my career at least six hours a day, whether I have any auditions or classes or not. I research, read, work on my instrument, and rehearse monologues to have at the ready, among other things, each day. One of the things I've done to achieve my dream is start a networking group. We meet once a month and share experiences and advice—everything from "So-and-so doesn't like it when you shake hands with her, so just leave after your audition" to tips on upcoming projects. It's been a great group, but I have a real problem with one of the members.

Most of the group comes to each meeting with at least one thing to share. I usually have four or five things to offer. But one girl never brings anything of value to the discussion. She just sits there writing down everyone else's tips and ideas. The whole point of this group is that everyone is supposed to help each other, but I feel like she's only there for herself. It's not fair. I'd like to kick her out of the group, but someone else invited her in to begin with, so I don't know if that would seem too rude. I don't mind helping other people—that's why I started this group, so we could help each other—but I don't really want to be this girl's career coach.

New York

Dear Unfair::
You're wrong. This clueless girl has already given you valuable practice in one of the most underrated skills required of anyone working in the entertainment industry: tolerating injustice. The sooner you make friends with the notion that this whole business is anything but fair, the sooner it will cease to surprise you, and the less time you'll waste worrying about who deserves what as you go forward.

Also, you're right. It's not fair that this actor uses your cooperative group as her personal information piggy bank. But here's my question to you: What does it hurt? Is she disruptive at meetings? Does she ask annoying questions, forcing the rest of you to wait as someone explains to her what a "scene" is? If not, and her only infraction is her lack of helpful input, you might try to get a group consensus on some rules for your meetings. Try starting the meetings socially and then moving into a more formalized setup, where each person shares his or her tips in turn. This will make it pointedly obvious to her—and the group—that she is shirking her responsibilities. Or perhaps if she's shy, this will give her the boost she needs to speak up.

If such formality is unattractive, you might try approaching her directly: "I notice you don't share much at the meetings, and I wanted to check in with you to see if there's anything I can do to help you feel more comfortable. We're all here to learn from each other, and I don't want anyone to be left out. I want to hear what you have to say!"

No dice? Let's go back to my initial question: What does it hurt? You're not directly competing with this girl—the field is far too crowded for you to worry over one person or another—so, contrary to how it might feel, helping her is not harmful to you. Though she's not contributing, she's not taking anything away from your group by being present. Enjoy all the good karma you're earning.

Any questions or comments for The Working Actor? Please email Jackie and Michael at [email protected].