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Should I use SAG actors on my low-budget film?

Internet Filmmakers' FAQ

This is a common and complex question facing many low-budget filmmakers. SAG is of course the Screen Actors Guild (of America). There are certain advantages of going down the SAG route, but at the same time there are certain disadvantages. The following response to a "SAG whinge" was posted anonymously to RAMP. It provides quite a balanced view...

"Having produced a very low budget independent film with a SAG contract, I have to take exception to some of your comments. Not only has SAG paid back the bond (with interest) but they have generally been very polite and helpful in all situations.

While I did hate the amount of paperwork created which was enormous for a very low budget production, it was well worth it as we ended up working with great actor, a lot of them with "names" and usually very dedicated to their craft and helpful to the project. While some were more difficult to work with, most were very understanding of our financial conditions and only one of them insisted on getting late pay when we took two weeks to get the payroll started.

To answer the question that started the thread ["To SAG or Not to SAG"], it really depends on who you want in the movie. If you can get anybody with any name you will have to go SAG, if you have a cast of mostly unknown non-SAG actors, it probably is too much trouble both for you and them (as they have to pay about $1,000 to join)."

All of that said, in recent times SAG have made a concerted effort to simplify the rules (and reduce the costs) for independent filmmakers working with their members. There are now a range of low-budget agreements to suit different budget and exhibition levels. More information is available at the SAGIndie web site.

Answer by Benjamin Craig  |  Last updated 23-Nov-2004


Older Comments

johnt55  |  04-Jun-2009
Be VERY CAREFUL if you're considering signing the SAG Low Budget Agreement. You'll find extensive information on this subject at: