SAG vs. Non-Members of SAG
You are free of SAG’s requirements if your entire cast is comprised of non-SAG members. Nonetheless, keep in mind that you always have to comply with labor laws which, among other things, require that you pay at least minimum wage, overtime, and provide workers compensation insurance. Your line producer/ unit production manager and/or you must be familiar with federal labor laws, in addition to the labor laws of the jurisdiction(s) where you employ personnel.
If you hire SAG actors and are a signatory, then you have to pay SAG members no less than the sums prescribed in the SAG schedule of minimums. Plus you must comply with the rules and regulations of the SAG Basic Agreement. For example, you cannot make a SAG member sign their agreement on the set, you have to feed SAG members within 6 hours of first call, the daily rest period is no less than 12 hours from the end of day until call time, etc.27 You will be financially penalized for not complying with SAG’s rules. As such, it is imperative that both your line producer/unit production manager and you become familiar with SAG’s rules and regulations prior to the commencement of principal photography. SAG’s 2011 Contract Summary Theatrical Motion pictures and Television is a great resource.
If you are a SAG signatory, hiring a non-SAG actor, you will have to complete a Taft Hartley Report, which you have to submit to SAG with the actor’s headshot and resume. You have to prove to SAG that this non-member possesses the skills necessary and that you cannot find a SAG member that does. None of my client’s Taft Hartley requests have ever been declined—probably because casting is so subjective.
You have to be aware of the legal and SAG requirements that must be satisfied when you hire minor child actors (children under 18 years of age): The child’s parent or legal guardian must be present on set until they are 15 years old, both permits to work and employ are required, works hours are limited depending on the child’s age, and a studio teacher is necessary for children that have not completed high school (1 teacher per 10 children on weekdays, 1 teacher per 20 children on weekends).28 There are special considerations for infants: they must be at least 15 days old, require one or more nurses and studio teachers be present (1 nurse per 3 infants under six weeks of age, 1 nurse per 10 infants over 6 weeks), and they cannot be exposed to excessive lighting.28 For more information on minors, please refer to the SAG/AFTRA 2005 Basic Agreement, Section 50, pages 108-115.
Children under the age of 18 cannot validly contract so their parents sign their Work-for-Hire Agreements. You have to be cautious when hiring a minor aged child because that child can disaffirm the Work-for-Hire agreement when the child reaches the age of majority (18 years). You will be forced to cease exploitation of your picture if the child disaffirms and you cannot edit out the child’s performance. You may avoid a potential catastrophic outcome by having the production company’s agreements with minors affirmed by a court when you enter into the Work-for-Hire Agreement. You affirm the minor’s Work-For-Hire Agreement by petitioning the court for that purpose. The court affirms the Work-For-Hire Agreement if the court determines that it is fair to the minor. The court will require that a minimum of 15% of the gross monies earned be set aside in trust for the child in a bank account or savings plan (“Coogan Account”). Furthermore, the court will appoint a parent or legal guardian as trustee of the child’s Coogan Account. The production company has to disburse funds into the minor’s account within 15 days of receiving the pertinent account information from the minor’s trustee.