Thursday, September 3, 2009


Washington-Baltimore Branch Members: Important Information to Clarify the Status of the Union's Agency Franchises, and Union Members' Obligations There Under

Member Alert from the Washington-Baltimore RBD:

Because of the inherent complexities of agency relations today, SAG and AFTRA (the “Unions”) have received numerous requests from members in both the Virginia Beach and Washington, D.C. areas to clarify the status of the Unions’ agency franchises, and Union members’ obligations there under.

Pursuant to SAG and AFTRA Agency Regulations, Union members who choose to secure the services of an agent are, generally, required to choose from a list of franchised representatives [i.e. those that are bound by the Unions’ Agency Regulations, SAG’s Rule 16(g) and AFTRA’s Rule 12-C, respectively]. However, in some areas of the country, such as Virginia, SAG and AFTRA do not have a brick and mortar presence. In such limited circumstances, we are aware that some Union members may sometimes secure representation from agents that are not franchised, with the understanding that they have voluntarily chosen to enter into those arrangements at their own risk. In the latter scenario, SAG and AFTRA nonetheless strongly encourage members who are desirous of having Union protections to seek out franchised agents in the next nearest area where SAG and AFTRA do have a physical presence (such as Washington, D.C., for example). The Unions can only protect you when you are represented by franchised agents.

If you have made the decision to seek out non-franchised agents in areas such as Virginia, the Unions urge you to proceed with extreme caution before entering into any contractual relationship with an entity that may be operating under divided loyalties. For instance, a production company in a position to hire you that also bills itself as a “talent agency” wishing to represent you, should be thoroughly vetted before you sign on the dotted line. Union members are strongly encouraged to fully investigate companies that sell themselves as so-called “one stop shops” to ensure that there are no inherent conflicts of interest in their business models which could ultimately damage an actor’s long term career development/goals/earning capacity. e.g. if a producer you have worked for suddenly announces that it can also “represent” you as a talent agent, ask yourselves, “is this an irreconcilable conflict of interest? Is the production company more interested in keeping the costs of production down, or negotiating the highest possible wages and working conditions for my services as an actor?”

Other warning signals that should be closely heeded include, but are not limited to:
· Entities claiming to be “talent agencies” that seek to charge you upwards of 15% commission;
· Entities claiming to be “talent agencies” that encourage you to abandon your Union status in order to try to secure “non-Union” work;
· Entities claiming to be “talent agencies” that try to tether you to automatically renewing contracts;
· Entities claiming to be “talent agencies” that purport to own any of your work product or property as an artist in perpetuity;
· Entities claiming to be “talent agencies” that seek to have you indemnify them for the cost of doing business or litigation;
· Entities claiming to be “talent agencies” who attempt to get you to agree to non-compete clauses in their contracts, essentially prohibiting you from auditioning for other employers with which they have a pre-existing relationship.

Remember: Simply signing with some entity for the sake of securing an “agent” may, if not done cautiously in conjunction with your Union office/branch and with your long term business interests in mind, cause you and your career possibly irreparable and irreversible damage. In most instances, it is just not worth the risk. Should you have any agency-related questions, or are unclear about the status of entities with which you are seeking to work, please do not hesitate to contact SAG’s National Agency Departments at: (in LA) (323) 549-6729, AFTRA’s National Agency Department (in NY) at 212-532-0800, or the SAG/AFTRA Local Branch office (in Washington, D.C.) at (301) 657-2560. We can also be reached by email at, and, locally, at Thank you.