I’ve written several articles on my thoughts about going Fi-Core, so I decided to sit down and have a discussion with an actor who actually went Fi-Core. I wanted to hear an opinion from the other side, and he was willing to tell me about his experience. He prefers to remain anonymous.
He had gotten his SAG-AFTRA card from doing extra work. He admitted “I should not have joined the union at the time. I wasn’t ready and I didn’t know how to be a professional yet.” Nine years into his membership, he signed with a new agent. She convinced him to go Fi-Core, telling him that it was a win-win situation: he would have more opportunities because he could be hired for both union and non-union jobs. “I was working very hard on my acting at the time, and I was so ready to work, that I figured going Fi-Core would be the right step for my career.”
What most actors often don’t realize, and what this agent failed to tell him, is that the intended use of Financial Core is for actors experiencing financial hardship (for example, if they just had a baby or medical emergency.) He was not having financial hardship, but he figured that with the plethora of non-union work he had been told was out there, it would help him to better support his family. He and that agent soon parted ways, and he started to feel the backlash. He was having difficulty signing with other reps, and it was much harder than he had been led to believe to get union auditions. It became glaringly obvious to him that many in the industry just did not want to work with Fi-Core actors.
He was experiencing what many people refer to as the Fi-Core blacklist. It is my understanding that casting directors on union jobs are generally not allowed to call in non-union or Fi-Core actors because many union contracts do not allow it. The producers of union projects have to justify to SAG-AFTRA why they are choosing to hire a non-union actor over a union actor and do extra paperwork. It’s too much of a hassle that they could avoid by just hiring a union actor. The only theatrical work that he has been able to do has been on one soap opera and some smaller, non-union network shows. He has realized that being Fi-Core is not going to get him the career that he was told he would have. The agent who convinced him to go Fi-Core was correct that there is more non-union work out there, but it’s a very low glass ceiling.
He also started learning about how undesirable non-union working conditions are. He talked about one experience in particular, where he acted in an industrial. “I had to make the [two hour] drive to be in Santa Barbara at six in the morning. I then waited on set for ten hours before I got to act, and then they changed my lines at the last moment. I was paid $400 from this job and they did not reimburse me for mileage, nor did they pay me overtime.” If this had been under the the SAG Corporate Scale Category 1, he would have been paid $519.50, plus overtime, plus travel.
This was just the tip of the dung heap; he has been asked to do and pay for his own makeup and prosthetics, and do his own stunts. None of this would fly had these projects been under a SAG-AFTRA contract. Going further into union contract specifications, you would get a bump in pay for doing your own stunts, or for nudity. Union contracts require that you be paid a certain minimum, overtime if it’s over an eight hour day, reimbursement for travel, and protection with workers compensation.
10 years later, having realized his mistake, he urges non-union actors to stay non-union until they’re ready to join the union, and only join if you’re willing to make the commitment. He has started the arduous process of trying to get back into SAG-AFTRA with the first step of writing them a letter of deep apology, explaining why he went Fi-Core and why he wants to come back. He is still awaiting a response; next, he will have to go up in front of a panel. He said that he’s torn about the process; “it feels like bullying tactics, but when I put myself in their shoes, I understand. I feel like giving up hope because I face so much rejection in the business every day, and I don’t want to be rejected from SAG-AFTRA as well. But I’m now ready to work and be a professional.”
If you are considering going Fi-Core, please heed his warnings. Going Fi-Core is meant to be a permanent choice; it is a resignation from the union, which is why it’s so tough to get back in. Many actors decide to go Fi-Core without realizing this, thinking it’ll be easy to be reinstated. I see why SAG-AFTRA does not want to let these people back in, but I think that the way to get the union strong again is to maybe create a one-time forgiveness policy, or have these actors do some volunteer work for the union. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: know your worth. Know what you deserve to get paid and how you deserve to be treated. SAG-AFTRA will help you meet those standards.
My name is Andrea and I live in Los Angeles, California. By day, I am in actor and by night I am working towards a degree in nutritional science.