My Upsetting Feature Film Debut

So I'm scrolling through my netflix instant queue when I come across a movie that I shot in late 2008 that was the very first speaking role that I ever had! I'm debating on whether or not to tell you guys the name of this movie because it's one of those terrible, embarrassing made-for-SciFi Channel flicks and I can totally imagine this clip resurfacing years down the line only to haunt me.

So, I'm watching the movie, looking for my scene, and sure enough, 56:30 minutes into it, there I am, delivering my glorious TWO whole lines to one of the main characters. "My goodness this is awesomely bad!", I think to myself. Then it hits me as to how much bigger this movie turned out than I had originally expected and I got kind of upset.

At the time, I had thought it was a really small independent flick shot by a really small production company. Of course at the time I didn't think of how relevant the words "really small" would be when you realize that any movie with a budget under $10 million is considered "really small". Hell, I worked on student films that looked like they had a bigger budget than this fricken movie! So stupid me, thinking that this was a "really small", non union, low budget film (like how me and my boy Lull used to do for fun in college), I thought nothing when the Assistant Director approached me while I was in makeup and wardrobe to ask me if it was alright if they threw me some lines. I even asked him if this movie was a SAG production and he replied with, "Well, we have some SAG actors in it." Which, stupid me, I didn't second guess his weak attempt to avoid my question and that was somehow a good enough answer for me.

Now I'm sure that many of you reading this is probably thinking, "I don't get it. What's the matter? Why would you be upset?" This is why.

Right now, my status as an actor is non union and it is extremely hard to get into the union, or SAG (Screen Actors Guild) and is continually getting increasingly difficult. First you have to qualify for SAG eligibility (which is fricken hard) and once you qualify, you have to pay a $2500 enrollment fee! How does one become SAG eligible? You ask great questions.

The two main ways are:
1) Do extra/background work and collect three SAG vouchers. I know, only three, sounds easy.

What's a SAG voucher and how do you get one? Again you ask great questions.

When you go to set and check in, you get a non union work voucher with your name on it. It's kind of like your punch in-punch out card. You give it to wardrobe, they give you your clothes, and at the end of the day, they give you back your voucher when you give them back their clothes. This assures that you don't steal any of the wardrobe. Then you fill out your voucher with your mailing info and the production assistant collects them and you get your paycheck in the mail a week later.

So what do you do to get them to give you union (SAG) work voucher instead of a non union one? So many great questions!

Unless you're booked on a show for something out of ordinary (ie tattoos, special props that you can provide like music instruments or skateboards/bikes) there's NOTHING you can do. There's no rhyme or reason for them to give you one. You may get one if they have extra, which they rarely have. I've seen so many girls flirt with the production assistants in hopes that they get one. Frick, I only have one and I got it because I worked as a production assistant on The Office so when I did background for the show, my friend gave me the voucher of someone who didn't show up. But in any case, it's extremely hard to even get three SAG vouchers and I've met people who have been doing background for SIX YEARS and haven't even gotten one! So as far as getting one, you have to be really really lucky.

Which leads me to the second main way to become SAG eligable: Taft Hartley.

Taft Hartley is the term they use for when you automatically bypass the rat race of voucher hunting and jump right up to SAG eligible. And how do you do that? I'll tell you how, YOU HAVE DIALOGUE IN A SAG PRODUCTION!! And that's why I started to get upset when I saw the movie and I thought of how the production assistant avoided my question about me having lines and if the production was a SAG production. They totally screwed me over and paid me as fricken non union background when I had lines with one of the main characters! I should've been Taft Hartleyed and there was no fricken wonder why that guy avoided my question!

You're probably thinking, can they do that? Technically no, but this whole business could be shady like that especially when dealing with people who don't know. So as long as I didn't know, then they could get away with it.

You're also probably thinking, "'Boohoo, they paid me non union when I'm supposed to be union!' Fricken Conrad, getting all Hollywood on us already!"

No, it's not that. It's just that if you realized and experienced how hard it is to get SAG vouchers and how much harder it is to get Taft Hartleyed, you'd be pissed too if you were screwed out of either opportunity. AND, not that it's about the money (anyone who knows me knows I'm not a materialistic guy), but I got screwed out of a little bit of change in this deal too. To give you an idea, as non union background you get paid minimum, which is $64/8hr (which is what I got paid for this movie and I only worked it for one day) versus minimum for a SAG speaking role which is $800 a day (which is what I should've gotten!) Yeah, just a little bit of change I got screwed out of. Bastards.

So needless to say, while it's cool and all to see myself in this awesomely horrible B-level sci-fi flick, I'll be bringing this to SAG and hopefully my scene is good enough and I have a good case in getting my status upgraded to SAG eligable.

Whew! That was a long one. Wish me luck!

And for those of you who took the time to read this long ass post, I got a thank you gift for you. The movie I'm talking about is called "Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus" and my scene is 56:30min into it. Netflix it and enjoy!