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Actors on Acting page 3

There are of course requirements to join a union such as the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). SAG in particular covers motion pictures, filmed television and not commercials. There are various ways in which one may become eligible to join SAG. The first is by presenting a letter from a SAG producer stating that the actor is wanted for a principal or speaking role for a particular project. An actor may also be eligible for SAG if they accumulate three days of employment as an extra on a SAG project and have a SAG voucher. 

In either case, once eligible, the actor must then pay the $1,200 SAG joining fee. Other unions include The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), and The Actors Equity Association (AEA or Equity), each union having its own standards and joining fees. 

In general, if a person is dead-set on making acting their career, it is essential at some point to join a union. When an actor is hired for a role in a SAG film, they must then join the union or there is the potential of them loosing the part. In this case, there is somewhat of a catch 22. You will have to be in the union to get a job, and to get into the union, you must first have a job. Unions do of course provide many benefits including standard pay rates.

For an actor, one of the most important steps in starting out a career is signing with an agent. Law in California protects agents, and they are the only ones who can legally solicit employment and negotiate actor's fees. The unions franchise agents. Generally agents are restricted under union guidelines to only accept union actors, although exceptions have been made.
The smaller agencies are able to provide close personal attention to each of their clients
The talent agent wields much power in the motion picture industry today. The agent plays a pivotal role for everyone involved from producers to directors to actors. Generally, without the services of an agent, few pictures are put together today. The talent agent is privy to specialized information about what is happening, where it is happening, and who is making it happen. 

The heads of the motion picture departments of the major talent agencies- International Creative Management (ICM), the William Morris Agency, TRIAD, and Creative Artists Agency (CAA)-through their relationships with the top echelon of studio executives and independent producers, are the most potent force in Hollywood in getting pictures made. 

Other than the major agencies, there are smaller talent agencies that provide unique opportunities to their clients as well. Generally, the smaller agencies are able to provide close personal attention to each of their clients. It is difficult to say whether a large or a small agency is more beneficial to an actor. 

Basically, the particular needs of an actor should govern the decision of whether to choose a small agency or large one. Actors are known to change agencies frequently throughout the course of their careers for one reason or another. There are numerous reasons for this, including an agent leaving an agency, or an actor being unsatisfied with the agency in general. Agents are very helpful in the marketing of an actor. This means that the agent makes sure that the actors pictures and resume are representative of the particular role that the actor is auditioning for. 

Actors and their agents can (and hopefully will) develop very close, trusting relationships that will benefit them both throughout their career. For example, when excepting his Academy Award in 1998 for Best Actor in the film As Good As it Gets, Jack Nicholson thanked his agent, whom had been with him throughout his career. Other important career team members for an actor are such people as Personal Managers, Entertainment Attorneys, Business Managers, Public Relations, Publicists and Career and Life Coaches.
Working as an Extra
All actors should do at least several days of extra work at the beginning of their careers. New actors have no idea what it is like to be on an actual film set. No person or book can explain what it is like to be on location or on a sound stage. While working as an extra, there is the possibility of obtaining your SAG card. Through this work you may be given SAG vouchers, and once you obtain three of these you are eligible to join SAG. A voucher is your pay record; a three-page, multicolored form. As a SAG extra, an actor is paid a minimum of $596, plus any residuals that come from the film in the future.

Many of today's well-known actors started their careers as extras. Brad Pitt's first acting role was as an extra in the film Cutting Class. Bruce Willis was an extra in the film The Verdict, along with being a photo-double and extra in Frank Sinatra's film First Deadly Sin. Other actors such as Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Sharon Stone, Bette Midler, Dustin Hoffman and Nicholas Cage all worked as extras at the beginning of their careers. Being an extra is the first step towards an acting career. In this position, you are able to gain knowledge, insight and experience into the film making process that is not obtainable through just sitting in a classroom or reading a book.
 
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