My advice to you when considering your options in regards to unions like SAG and AFTRA is don’t panic, don’t rush, and let the process take course!
So many thinking joining SAG is the answer for an automatic path to success. Although it is very important for a working actor to be a part of the union, it is even more important that you become a member when the time is right.
Obviously you must become eligible first. And while there are a few different ways to become eligible, my fear is that some parents are so eager to get their children into SAG that they go to extremes to make it happen. The problem is, using these "Shortcuts," may get you in to SAG, but what will you do once you're there? The work may actually come less often at first.
The truth is, there are no real shortcuts to joining. I suggest that you devote the same time and energy to finding solid representation and ensuring that when you get an audition you are ready. Once you have booked a few projects (SAG signatory) you will be required to join and things will work their way out. In the process, your child will have become truly ready for SAG.
Think of it like this - if you have a cocoon and are eager to see the butterfly, there are many ways to speed up the opening of a cocoon. You could force it open right? But would the butterfly be ready?
Without a doubt, becoming a member of SAG was a good thing for Dylan and Ellery, but it came on its own. It was not our goal or focus. SAG is very credible and many projects will ask for SAG only casting calls and for this reason, by all means join when your child becomes eligible.
For some, this is easier said than done. The cost is not minuscule. We could have joined much earlier than we did but my thinking was that we were saving $3300.00 to join and also leaving ourselves open forboth SAG and Non-Union auditions which would increase our booking opportunities.
In retrospect, I feel that the SAG-only casting calls way outweighed the non-union opportunities for us and this is most likely because the kids were at the appropriate stage to be joining.
One last point - I believe that becoming SAG says that you have worked and that you have been on a set and you have real filming experience. With young children, this is an important factor and a great resume builder. Being in SAG is an honor and a benefit, but one that is so because it is earned.
Best of luck to all of you - keep me posted on your successes!!