i went to a SAG workshop on their different contracts about a month ago. here are my delayed notes.
i was mostly interested in the short film agreement and not the feature film agreements (yet). the short film agreement doesn’t cover a tv pilot or a spec commerical. SAG has different agreements for those, and i don’t think they have anything comparable that’s friendly for the independent filmmaker.
the short film agreement is deferred pay, meaning the actors work for free and only get paid if and when you sell it. so if you sell the short film to a dvd compilation or some tv show or something, you owe the actors money. you pay them a flat $100/day for an 8 hour day, plus any overtime, plus pension and health which is about 15%. but in the short film agreement, there are no residuals. so if your short is a huge hit and somehow you keep making money from it, you don’t owe the actors a percentage of that money.
you can use union and non-union actors under the short film agreement, so that gives you flexibility in casting. also, if you shoot them on friday and sunday, you don’t have to pay them for saturday. in some of the feature agreements, you do have to pay them for consecutive days even if they don’t work.
i thought this was interesting. if you are a SAG actor and you want to shoot a little short (or any movie) with your friends and be in it, you are not allowed to unless you first sign one of the SAG contracts. they joked it was to protect you from yourself.
i asked them what if you want to put the short film online? they said there is a new internet contract, and if all the SAG actors sign it, then you can post it online. there is no SAG requirement for payment which is great. i’m not sure what happens if you post the movie on a website where you get paid, though, and whether that counts as selling the movie which means you would have to pay the actors their deferred salaries.
there is also a separate internet series agreement that is similar to the short film agreement, but there is no pay for the SAG actors, not even deferred pay from what i understand. there is no minimum pay set by SAG for this contract, but after 6 months, “if the producer is receiving revenue for the continuing use, then the performers receive a pro-rata share of 6% of such revenue plus pension and health contributions.” if you also wanted to submit the movie you made under the internet series agreement into a festival, then you also have to fill out the short film agreement afterwards. SAG goes by where the movie will be shown first and makes you start out under that agreement which makes sense. however, they said this is a very new agreement and gave the impression it will probably change and be updated frequently.
here is a link for the new media agreement – http://www.sag.org/new-media-contracts