This article will cover how to join a film union with advice specifically tailored for film producers.As a filmmaker, you are likely going to be self-employed. This will mean working on a job-by-job basis, chasing up payments and filing your own tax returns. As such you won’t have the security or the benefits that come with a regular job. This is where being part of a union can come in handy.
A film union is there to help look after film workers by providing benefits such as health insurance and retirement plans. There is a range of unions and guilds you can join at different stages in your career. Furthermore, you might have no choice but to join a union when you begin to work on more professional productions. Below you can find a list of unions for producers based in the United States.
Why Join a Film Union?
Unions provide benefits such as health care, pensions, and financial advice. Many of them also have additional offerings like networking events, mentorships, job listings and discounts for members. To be part of a union you will need to pay a yearly fee and also meet several requirements to join.
As an independent producer, you might not wish to join a union until you have the budget to provide union rates to crew. When you begin to progress in your career, joining a union will be to your advantage. Many film and television sets even require you to be a union member. Every country has its own set of endorsed unions, and these unions are often grouped by job role or department. For example, if you are a Director of Photography / Cinematographer, there is the American Society of Cinematographers.
Union vs. Guilds
It is worth mentioning that there is occasionally a difference between a union and a guild. Both of which you might consider joining at some point within your career. A union is an official organization that is accountable by law to take care of its workers. A guild is classed as a group of tradespeople who work together to look out for one another.
However, often these groups effectively do the same thing and these days the words can be interchangeable. You can also join a guild and union at the same time. To avoid this confusion make sure to read up on what each membership provides and their participation rules. If you are currently producing a film, we have plenty of resources and free production templates that can help you manage your project.
Film Union List
The Academy, which presents the Oscar awards, is an honorary membership. You need to be sponsored by two other members or have been an academy award nominee in the past. In short, this is an exclusive club for those who are already at the top of their profession.
Likely as a producer you will be joining the PGA in the future. Its mission is to represent, protect and promote the interests of all members of the producing team. This includes line producers, coordinators, and managers. To join you will need to have several professional film or television credits within a production department role.
The Television Academy presents the Emmy awards. Benefits are access to networking events workshops and discounts. Members include a large range of roles from directors to producers, performers, and electricians. You need to have worked in television for at least 4 years or have been nominated for an Emmy award to join.
IFTA is a membership guild for production companies. Their goal is to help companies produce, finance and distribute independent productions and oversee licensing. If you are a producer who owns a film or television company this might be worth looking into.
The CID provides a project management service to producers who create independent documentaries. One of its goals is to support stories not often told in mainstream media. If you’re an independent documentary producer then this guild is specifically for you.
The IATSE is a film union group especially for below-the-line workers within the industries of theater, events, and film. There are 375 local unions under the IATSE with benefits including health and welfare, pensions and networking. If don’t have enough experience to join the PGA then a local union like this could provide you with similar benefits.
This is a California based film community. It is a very affordable group to join with benefits such as networking, workshops, resources and writer groups. If you are an independent California based producer then this might be a good initial film guild to join.
How To Join a Film Union
Each union will have a list of requirements for joining. For example, the largest producers union the PGA has a complex list of membership requirements. You need to have already worked on several professional film or television productions. This can create the problem of not being qualified enough to be part of a union, but needing to be part of a union to advance in your career.
You can join another union or guild whilst you build up your experience credits. Often producers will spend many years working either independently or below-the-line before becoming unionized. There are many other local film groups and societies that you can join to network within the film industry. A list of local film commissions and alternative groups are listed on SAG Indie.
Being part of a film union gives you additional security as a filmmaker. You shouldn’t be tackling your film career alone — take advantage of unions and film groups near you. Whether you are currently working on a personal project or organizing a large scale shoot, SetHero can help. Make sure to check out our library of free production templates.
If you’re an aspiring Producer, you may want to read our article for advice on How to Become a Film Producer in Hollywood.
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