If you’re a member of SAG-AFTRA, chances are that you are overwhelmed by the myriad of rules and guidelines outlined by the union, especially for auditions. However, it is very important for you to understand your protected rights to ensure that you are being treated well when working and are getting the most out of your union. Below is a list of important audition rights as outlined by the union.

Before we jump into the rules, let’s address the elephant in the room: self tapes.

As most of us know, self tapes have gotten out of control in our COVID and post-COVID world. Stories abound of people having to submit audition tapes within hours of receiving the audition, being asked to do stunts for the tape (such as driving, working with fire, and swimming in lakes), being asked to go on location, waiting for hours on end during virtual auditions, and not being provided with a sign in sheet, among many other problematic requirements. As much as I’d love to be able to give you a glorious list of protections regarding self tapes audition rights, there currently aren’t any, unfortunately.

But, fear not!

We have representatives in talks with SAG-AFTRA to come up with a reasonable set of audition rights regarding self tapes. In fact, you were probably sent a survey to fill out to help these people understand the problems at hand and create the list of rules. Hopefully, these rights will be released soon, and, once they are, this article will be updated.

In the meantime, here are other audition rights mandated by SAG-AFTRA that you should know about. If you encounter an audition where casting is in violation of these rights, do not hesitate to call SAG-AFTRA at (855) 724-2387 or email them at [email protected].

Here is your easy-to-understand guide to your audition rights with SAG-AFTRA. It is a good idea to bookmark this page for future reference.

General Audition Information

Discrimination

Casting is not allowed to ask about your ethnicity, sexuality, age, sex, race, creed, color, marital status, disability, or gender identity in any part of the casting process. This includes in casting breakdowns.

  • Examples: “the character is Nigerian, so you must be Nigerian to audition for this role”, or “only submit for this if you are gay in real life”, etc.
  • Many casting offices/producers have been in violation of this in order to cast actors according to whether or not they match the character in real life. While their intentions may be good, these practices are inherently discriminatory. 
  • Additionally, this is very sensitive information and actors may not always feel safe or comfortable disclosing it.

Casting is also not allowed to ask for proof of your ethnic background, sexuality, etc.

  • Examples: “You’ve stated that you are Native American in real life, so please provide us with proof and what tribe you’re a part of”, or, “please show us that you are gay in real life”.
  • According to SAG-AFTRA, “it’s not what you are, it’s what you can play”.
  • This is in accordance with city, state, and federal law.
  • If you are asked to disclose information like this, you are within your right to refuse to answer. You can point out to casting that these are inappropriate questions.

Accessibility

The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) requires reasonable accommodations to be provided.

  • Examples: if you get to an audition and there is no ramp, or the room is too tiny to accommodate instruments such as wheelchairs.
  • If you are disabled and arrive at an audition only to find that there are no reasonable accommodations, contact SAG-AFTRA to report the violation and get it rectified.

Translating Dialogue

Actors can not be required to translate any dialogue into another language.

  • Examples: casting provides you with a script and asks you to do one take in the written language and another take in a different language that you have to translate yourself.
  • While actors can not be required to translate, they are within their rights to negotiate a separate rate to translate dialogue.

Improvising and Ad-Libbing

If actors are required to improvise/ad lib/create dialogue for an audition, they must be paid the creative session rate of at least $268.68 for the first hour and $134.34 for each additional half hour.

  • Examples: if you are in a commercial audition and casting provides you with a scenario and asks you to improvise a scene based on that scenario, or they ask you to provide three separate versions of the same ad-libbed scene, etc., they need to negotiate a creative session rate with you.
  • Casting is required to provide the actor with clear instructions ahead of time on what they need to ad-lib. This includes setting the tone, what the scene is, and any other pertinent information, such as the product, brand, names, etc.
  • If the actor feels like adding additional words, efforts, or devise dialogue, it does not need to be compensated.
  • Be aware that the creative session rate applies very heavily to commercials. Actors are very often asked to improvise, sometimes even entire scenes.

Payment for Late Sessions

When actors have to wait an hour or more to enter the audition room, they are entitled to compensation.

  • Example: you arrive at your 11am audition at 10:45am and sign in, but casting does not call you into the room until 12:30, they owe you compensation for the extra half hour.
  • 1st & 2nd Sessions: For the first audition and the callback, the actor is required to be compensated an hour after either their call time or arrival time, whichever is later. The compensation is $42.00 for each half hour of waiting after the initial hour.
  • 3rd Session: The actor is entitled to $42.00 compensation every half hour after the first two hours if only three or less people are called to the session. 
  • If more than three people are called, the actor is entitled to $167.97 for the first two hours. Then, $42.00 for each additional half hour.
  • 4th and Subsequent Sessions: The actor is entitled to $42.00 each half hour after the first two hours, as long as three or less actors are called. 
  • If more than three actors are called, the actor is entitled to $335.87 for the first four hours. After that, $42.00 for each additional half hour.

Schedule G

Every casting office is required to provide a Schedule G Sign In Sheet at every union audition.

  • Example: if you arrive at an audition and they do not have a sign in sheet or they provide you with a sign in sheet that is not a Schedule G, contact your agent and/or union.
  • Make sure that you fill out and sign the Schedule G at every audition.
  • This ensures that you have a paper trail and can claim any compensation that is owed.
  • Don’t feel bad about asking for compensation! There is an allotment in the casting director’s budget for providing the actor with compensation if casting is running late!
  • If a casting office does not provide a Schedule G or if they have any other sign-in sheet, do not sign it. Call your agent and/or the union. They will call the casting office and require them to provide the correct sign in sheet.

Script/Sides Availability

Sides and scripts must both be available to the actor.

  • Sides must be available no less than 24 hours before the audition
  • The latest full script must be available at least in the casting office.
  • The casting director may require that the script not be brought home. They also may require actors to sign an NDA.
  • Example: if you are notified that you have an audition and realize that the audition is the same day or less than 24 hours from the time you receive your sides, casting is in violation.

Parking

If a parking space is not provided/available, the producer must either validate or reimburse any parking costs.

  • Example: if you arrive at a casting office and there is no space available for you so you have to park three blocks away, or if you have to pay for parking and they do not reimburse you and/or validate your parking, casting is in violation.

Actor’s Looks

Casting may not ask actors to change their look for the audition.

  • Hair: It is prohibited to require that actors change or style their hair in a specific way, including braiding/unbraiding, dying, cutting, etc.
  • Wardrobe: Casting may not require specific wardrobe, wardrobe changes, or disrobing during the audition; however, they can request it. If disrobing, the actor must be given advance notice and be provided with the proper modesty pieces.
  • Examples: if casting says that you are required to shave your beard for an audition, dye your hair, braid/unbraid your hair, change wardrobe for your second scene, take your shirt off, etc., they are in violation.

Nudity

The actor must never be required to fully disrobe at the audition. They must also be given advance notice.

  • The actor must be supplied with modesty garments, such as a robe, pasties, and a G-string.

Location

Auditions may not be held at private hotel rooms, apartments, or places where the performer is alone with casting/production representatives.

  • If doing a virtual audition, casting may request that the actor change rooms, especially if the lighting or sound is not good. But, they may not require it.
  • Example: if casting asks you to audition at their apartment, this is a violation.

Audition Erasure

If the actor submits a written request, the producer must delete a taped audition.

Stunts

If asked to perform a stunt at an audition:

  • Actors must be: notified in advance.
  • The producers must provide a stunt coordinator.

Commercials

3rd and Subsequent Auditions May Not Be Self-Taped

If you are asked to do a self-tape for a 3rd audition, contact the union.

Script Memorization

Cue cards and/or printed out scripts must be allowed and it is not allowed to require actors to memorize.

  • If the actor is required to memorize, they must be compensated for half of the relevant session fee.
  • Casting must provide cue cards and hardcopies of the script at the time of audition.

Mass Auditions

So-called “cattle call” auditions are now prohibited.

All of the above audition rights and guidelines are outlined in these contracts:

SAG-AFTRA “Know Your Rights”: https://www.sagaftra.org/membership-benefits/equity-inclusion/know-your-rights

SAG-AFTRA Commercials Contracts: https://www.sagaftra.org/production-center/contract/802/all-forms/document

Improv/Ad Libbing, SAG-AFTRA : https://www.sagaftra.org/files/tips_tools_-_ad_lib_and_improvs_at_auditions_0_1.pdf

SAG-AFTRA “Do performers get paid for auditions?”: https://www.sagaftra.org/do-performers-get-paid-auditions

2022 SAG-AFTRA Commercials Contract Memorandum of Agreement: http://www.jointpolicycommittee.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/2022-Commercials-Contract-Memorandum-of-Agreement.pdf

SAG-AFTRA Theatrical Contracts: https://www.sagaftra.org/production-center/contract/818/agreement/document

Audition Sign-In Sheets, SAG-AFTRA : https://www.sagaftra.org/files/audition_sign_in_sheet_theatrical_television_5_3.pdf

SAG-AFTRA Collective Bargaining Agreement: https://www.sagaftra.org/files/2014_sag-aftra_cba_1.pdf

 

Photo by Amar Preciado: https://www.pexels.com/photo/black-digital-camera-set-on-a-tripod-8389702/

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