Welcome everyone, this is “Ask Bob Blume”, a weekly visual column with summary that discuss’ issues pertinent to today’s entertainment industry and appears exclusively here on Times Square Chronicles. I’m your host Bob Blume and president of Step Forward Entertainment, a talent management and production company located in both New York and Los Angeles.
In today’s column #89, I want to discuss some of the differences between Union and Non-Union within the entertainment industry and some of the misconceptions.
In the theatre, if a full union show (Broadway), everyone is usually a union member from the actors (Actors Equity) to stagehands (IATSE) and all backstage and front of house crew. The rules, pay, etc. are all set by the unions and the working members have general protection.
There is a misconception that union workers are always “better” than non-union. In a general sense this would be true; however, there are people working in non-union jobs that are just as skilled if not more so but have not become members of their union for specific reasons.
Union wages are usually much higher than non-union but again, not always the case.
Union members will have items, depending on the union to which they belong, such as health plans, other benefits, possible 401K, etc. Non-union rarely has this.
If you are on a non-union show or tour, your pay is much less, traveling conditions are not as nice, housing and per diem less than if you were in a non-union show.
In general, my advice to my clients is to become an AEA actor as soon as you can, especially if you are in NYC, because a non-union actor is a 2nd class citizen of the theatre in comparison.
In the media, film, TV, commercials, voiceovers, etc. there is a significant body of good paying and rewarding work available should you be non-union.
Most shows from the major networks of ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX are union and most, if not all, employees are union members as SAG-AFTRA for talent or NABET and IATSE for behind the scenes.
However, many of the streaming networks buy product such as documentaries, indie film features & shorts and original series that are done non-union. Also, the subsidiaries of the major big 4 networks may also have a lot of non-union product.
For actors, pay on a non-union feature may be more than a low budget SAG film. SAG has an ultra-low budget contract that pays $125/day, whereas many non-union features will pay $335/day or more to their actors. It is a case by case.
In general, I advise my clients to only join the union when they are a must join, so as not to eliminate the nonunion work opportunities that may be available to them. Of course, each case is specific but that is my general thinking.
Another point worth noting is that SAG actors have protection that productions honor the deals made and pay in full. Bonds are posted by the productions and the union has legal means to rectify issues that may arise.
If you are on a nonunion film or TV project, and your contracted payments or perks are not given, it is very difficult to rectify. My advice is to do your due diligence on any nonunion project you are looking to be part of the project.
I hope this information has helped you and wish you a great week.
Thank you for watching and reading. Bye for now!
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