Working with SAG-AFTRA: the signatory application

The first step to working with SAG-AFTRA or hiring SAG talent is applying for signatory status.  Becoming signatory means you are signing the applicable collective bargaining agreement with SAG-AFTRA, depending on your production type and budget size, and agreeing to the union’s terms and conditions.  This includes compliance with employment terms such as minimum rates, overtime rules, and providing employee benefits including workers compensation coverage, unemployment, and pension and health fund contributions.  The signatory application is free and can be done over the phone or online via SAG-AFTRA’s website.

What is the SAG bond?

A SAG-AFTRA deposit (also known as a SAG bond) is a refundable security deposit paid to SAG prior to the start of production for theatrical agreements. The SAG bond is usually equal to the amount of the estimated performers’ payroll wages for the first two weeks of the production, plus the applicable SAG-AFTRA Pension and Health contributions. Your SAG-AFTRA business representative can provide a more specific deposit amount once you begin the signatory process.

It is important to note that the SAG bond is not the same as the payroll deposit that will be due to the payroll company. The SAG bond is held by SAG-AFTRA through the end of production, and is then released back to the production company once all of SAG’s requirements have been met.  The bond can put a constraint on cash flow, and is often overlooked when working with SAG-AFTRA for the first time.

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Can the SAG bond be used for payments to the performers?

No, the SAG bond is not meant to be used for performer payments or for covering any payroll costs. It is merely held as a security measure should the production company fail to comply with their SAG-AFTRA agreement. This means you will want to budget for your SAG bond on top of your budgeted SAG payroll costs.

What is the current rate for SAG-AFTRA Pension and Health contributions?

The current rate for SAG-AFTRA Pension and Health contributions is 18.50% of gross pay under theatrical signatory agreements. Rates under other signatory agreements will vary, so speak with your SAG representative or your ABS contact for specific rates.

What is a SAG-AFTRA non-pensionable item?

Non-pensionable pay items are any compensation owed to the performer for which SAG-AFTRA Pension and Health is not applicable.

Example: if you had an employee who earned $125.00 for the day plus a wardrobe allowance of $12.00 (a non-pensionable item), the Pension and Health contribution would be $23.13 ($125.00 x 18.50%). The pension contribution is NOT calculated on the wardrobe allowance portion of the employees’ earnings.

The following is a list of SAG-AFTRA non-pensionable items:

  • Forced Call
  • Late Payment Penalty
  • Meal Penalty
  • Mileage
  • Reimbursements
  • Wardrobe Allowance

What is a SAG-AFTRA non-commissionable item?

Non-commissionable pay items are items of gross pay earned by performers for which Agency Fees (commissions) are not applicable.

Example: a performer with an agency fee of 10% makes $1,000.00 in regular earnings and $250.00 in meal penalties (a non-commissionable item), for a total of $1,250.00. The agency fee would only be $100.00 ($1,000.00 x 10%). The following is a list of SAG-AFTRA non-commissionable items:

  • Forced Call
  • Late Payment Penalty
  • Living Expenses
  • Meal Allowance
  • Meal Penalty
  • Mileage
  • Per Diem
  • Prop Allowance
  • Reimbursements
  • Rest Period Violation
  • Turn-Around Pay
  • Wardrobe Allowance

What is a SAG Exhibit-G form?

A SAG Exhibit G Form is the official form used by SAG-AFTRA to record hours worked by SAG-AFTRA performers. This is a daily form and is signed by all cast members who work on any given day, indicating their hours worked.

Who is responsible for making SAG-AFTRA Pension and Health contributions?

The Producer is always ultimately responsible for making Pension and Health contributions, but ABS handles both the contributions and the required reporting on behalf of the production company when processing payroll.

What is the SAG-AFTRA Final Cast List?

Each signatory company must provide SAG-AFTRA with a Final Cast List at the end of their theatrical production. This report contains each performers’ information and a total of their pensionable earnings. Total reported contributions for a project must match up with the totals on the Final Cast List, otherwise the return of the SAG bond may be delayed.

ABS can prepare the Final Cast List on behalf of the signatory company—speak with your ABS contact to find out more about this service.

When is payroll due to SAG-AFTRA?

For most productions, payroll is due on the Thursday following each work week. The standard studio work week runs Sunday through Saturday, and all work performed during that time will need to be paid out the following Thursday.

At the beginning of each week on Monday, performer paperwork is turned in to ABS so there is time for processing and payroll approval before the SAG-AFTRA deadline. Your ABS payroll representative will be in contact with your SAG-AFTRA representative throughout production, to ensure a smooth submission process.