"They strong armed me - so I HAD to join!"
How I did it: When I came to New York City, I was basically a theater performer, so AFTRA was kind of low on the totem pole for me. I was obsessed with getting my Equity card. Obsessed, I tell you! I didn't want to be on television. I wanted to be on Broadway. I really didn't understand why every actor wouldn't want that, too - but that's another conversation.
I was told that I was a "must join" because of an under five that I got on the soap opera As The World Turns last fall. I thought I could get around it because I was in SAG, but no such luck. The rep actually told me that they could keep me from doing the part and make things very difficult for the soap if I didn't join, which was perfectly true. What's good is that they gave me a pass. But I can't say my arm wasn't sore from the sudden strong arming he gave me, even if it was over the phone.
Hm. Now that I think about it, SAG happened because I did B-roll on a musical (RENT), so that was a must join situation, too. I wasn't thinking about movies then, either. And whaddya know - film and tv and commercials are most of what I'm auditioning for these days. I love theater, but it doesn't pay enough to live on. Not in this city. Not anymore.
After I did the soap, I remember thinking, wow - I'm a working professional in every genre. I'm an active member in all three unions. For a moment, I felt like I accomplished something wonderful - but really, all I did was work.
Lessons & tips:
- learn how to act and know what you're doing before you start working on camera or you'll never stop figure it out - mainly because there's an avalanche of money in film/tv.
- don't join AFTRA until you have to, so you can build a solid reel.
- keep your goals and priorities before you at all times and don't lose focus, and it will only be a matter of time until you're in all 3 unions - if that's what you want.
Resources: Get a really good consiglieri - and this is a priceless thing, really - that smart industry person that knows you and cares about you, knows your work and can give you strong, insightful, pithy advice that you can actually use.
It took me 5 years.
It made me gleeful