Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Financial Core Status "Fi-Core"

Financial Core


The following is an excerpt from my book, SO YOU WANNA BE A NEW YORK ACTOR?:

Deciding whether or not to join the unions is a critical decision in an actor’s career, and we’ve outlined some of the things to think about before joining. Joining the unions may limit the work you can do. There is one loophole, however, with SAG. An actor can become “financial core.” When this happens, he can work for any rate that he thinks is fair—that includes non-union work. Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, there are some drawbacks.

A financial core (Fi-Core) member of SAG is referred to as a “fee paying nonmember,” so he loses some of the rights that SAG members have

Some of the rights you lose when you declare financial core are:

• The right to vote in SAG elections
• The right to hold SAG office
• The right to use iActor, a web service run by SAG
• The right to represent yourself as SAG on your resume or on the Internet
• The right to call yourself a member of SAG or have a SAG card
• The right to re-join SAG without a formal hearing and without repaying the initiation fee

Some of the rights you gain:
• The right to work on non-union projects
• The continued right to work on SAG projects
• The right to pension and health if you qualify under SAG rules

In order to become Fi-Core with SAG, you must first join SAG. You pay your initiation fee, and start paying your dues. (Even after you turn in your card, you still have to pay your dues and fees. Your dues will be 5-10 percent less, however.) Pension and health is completely separate from the SAG office. Don’t worry about losing those benefits.

If you make the decision to become Fi-Core, you have to call SAG, and they will walk you through the steps. SAG desperately wants you NOT to go Fi- Core. In fact, there is someone at each office designated to try to talk you out of it. And their arguments are compelling. They will tell you that SAG does everything it can to keep conditions high and pay high, through collective bargaining. They will tell you that SAG has a rich history, which you will no longer be a part of. They will tell you that Fi-Core SAG members are seen as scabs and anti-union by the industry at large.
The argument for the other side is quite compelling as well. Why limit yourself to work that is SAG-approved? If you are making money, or potentially could make money doing non-union gigs, why shouldn’t you? Can’t the actor decide for himself what he’s willing to work for?

Additionally, from a marketing standpoint, if you become a SAG member with a weak resume, and limited relationships in the industry, you may be sunk. Even if you have a strong agent, you may only get a few auditions a month. If you can take SAG and non-SAG auditions, you could have 20 or 40 auditions per month. Also, the best way to get a powerful agent is to book work and let everyone know that you’re booking work. Your chances of booking work are much higher if you can audition for everything.

The real truth of the commercial market in New York is that non-union commercials are plentiful, and they are here to stay. The very same casting directors that cast the incredibly lucrative SAG commercials often cast non-union commercials. If you come in to audition for small non-SAG commercials and do a great job (maybe even book a few), of course the casting directors will start calling you in for SAG jobs. Then you can tell all of the top agents that you have this great relationship with a casting director, and that’s how you get the great agents. That’s just an example, but the point is: why cut yourself off from money and connections?

It should be noted that in Los Angeles, there is more of a stigma to being Fi-Core. Many actors who are Fi-Core keep it under wraps in New York. However, with only a few exceptions, no one really cares.
This is and should be a tough decision, so consider carefully.


A couple of additional notes:
•Since writing this last year, I have heard from quite a few fi-core actors. They have reported general satisfaction, but I have heard of a few instances when SAG franchised agents rejected them based on their fi-core status. This should be weighed in the decision.
•Here's what SAG has to say: http://www.sag.org/getthefacts/ficore2.html
•Here's a great pro-fi-core article: http://www.coalminecanary.com/SAG.html

•I heard through the grapevine that there is a way to become fi-core without joining SAG. It could save you over $2000. Call SAG, and be adamant. See if this is true.
•Don't be afraid to talk to people you trust in the industry before you make the decision. At least 5 or 10. You want to make an informed decision for your particular situation.

Have any questions or comments? Leave them below!
Guy

26 comments:

  1. Thank you for this enlightening article! I have been struggling weather or not to renew my SAG card as I am missing a lot of great non union opportunities and have only gotten background SAG work for a number of years. If I understand you correctly, I should call SAG, tell them I want to go Fi-Core, they will tell me its a bad idea, I'll say I want to do it anyway, remove the SAG from my resume, They remove me from iActor, and apply for both union & non union roles? You said I wouldn't have a SAG card but I can apply to union jobs--how?

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  2. You get jobs the same way as you would with your card. You can self-submit or have an agent/manager submit for you.

    I encourage people to talk to everyone they can about this decision because policies that agents/managers/casting directors have about dealing with fi-core actors are kept quiet.

    From the research I've done, casting directors don't care at all, but some agencies simply won't work with fi-core actors. And there is more of a stigma in LA.

    Keep your old SAG-AFTRA number because it still works should you get a union job - once you book the job, fi-core actors are treated exactly the same as union members.

    It's a difficult decision. Good luck.

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  3. How can I submit for financial core?

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    Replies
    1. Just send a letter to SAG office there is no need to explain much. An example of letter just google it nothing complicated. It was weird but nobody from the SAG office even called me to change my decision to stay in SAG they don't care. Especially if you do BG as many union people do. You won't believe how many agents would love to have you do both non union and union projects. If you are an actor what the hack limit yourself working as an actor?! IDK why SAG limit all the actors work as an actor? Directors and producers can do both, they don't care they negotiate with SAG. We know how its called right? New Media contract! $115 (the amount may be vary) - shut up and go work or otherwise you will get suspension/termination. Why everybody is keeping silence?! Right afraid for future wrk. Let me tell you Union guys they (SAG) don't really care! Yes i am Fi Core and don't want to limit myself to work as an actor.

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  4. What happens when they ask for an updated SAG card? The number may be ok but expiration date is on card

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  5. As of April 2016, what is the fee for joining as fi-core having not joined SAG as yet? For that matter, what is the fee for joining SAG straight out?

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  6. As a paying through the nose member of Sag-Aftra I would suggest staying out of the unions as long as possible. The only reason I joined was because I was thrown on a TV show 10 years ago and I was forced to. I was very lucky for 2 years but it was after that I had to suffer. I have had a reverse actors career and now I am paying my dues (not Union) to consider myself legit. At the worst of times, Sag-Aftra is like a homeless man who has your house key and knows your address. You can't get rid of him and he's taking everything from you he can. When things are good he's going to meetings, staying sober and bringing you your mail sometimes with a ridiculous residual check for anywhere from 8 cents to 8 grand. That's my thoughts about it for the day. More to come

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    Replies
    1. I agree with Anthony. I was also a Must Join. That means you can not have a certain part until you pay $3000 and join the Union. Ok, not exactly but def a lot of truth to that statement. The Union will say they don't control casting but you can't have speaking roles or "real," part if you don't have $3000 laying around. So- they have come influence over casting. If you are handed a leading role on the HBO series great. Join the Union but if you are not established- try to stay out as long as you can.

      Joining means you are competing for a small number of spots on a show for example and those (12) spots are split between BG, 5 and under and Stand ins.

      Joining the Union cuts your work in half - you will no longer be able to book commercials (very lucrative), Industrials or small Indie Projects that will give you footage you need to market yourself to agencies.
      The people who should join have agents, connections and MONEY.

      The Union will bleed you dry if you don't have support or other stable income.

      They bully people into not speaking out about the actual situation in the Union but if you talk to other non famous actors- they all have the same story.
      They are struggling to make ends meet. Esp in very expensive cities like NY and LA. They do not make the min required to reap any of the benefits like Pension/ Health Benfits and Tax write offs for that $800 audition suit. So what are you paying for...think of it like the MOB.
      And if you have the misfortune of being mistreated by the Union (that is supposed to protect you) you have no recourse.
      THERE IS NO ACCOUNTABILITY.
      I know a young woman who left the business to attend grad school .When she tried to return to the business her paperwork was MIA. The Union graciously reduced her re- join fine from $3,000 to $2500 because she had old emails as proof that she applied for Honorable Leave. That means she would be able to come back at anytime without penalty.
      They have no complaint dept and you will have no recourse. Her choices were to swallow the cost (on top of school loans), Drop out or join Fi Core? They have no accountability at all.

      Another Guy was told that his account was clear and active. He was working, everything was fine and then out of nowhere they tell him he owes 800 because he moved from Georgia to New York where the rate to join is higher. Should this have been disclosed prior to his first check- sure ....should they have sent a letter or an email...yep... but instead they held his checks, barred him for working until they got their $800.
      So, on a basic business level they are awful.
      They have tremendous turn over and one hand doesn't know what the other hand is doing.
      Just be aware of that. When it all goes well it's great but missing paperwork, forms not being filed in time for benefits and not being able to get a direct answer or a live person are very common within the Union.
      The Union does many good things - I support the Union but they are not about the little guy. People protest the One Percent...well? The wealthy protect the wealthy.

      So, if you have sure fire opportunities like a three year contract on AMC great. You will not feel the pinch of the Union. If you are trying to build a reel and make contacts wait as long as possible.

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  7. Having worked around the business a little bit, a lot of SAG actors....

    -work on non-union projects, but don't say anything. Kind of a "you don't tell, I won't tell" situation. Benefit is two fold: SAG actor gets work, a non-union production can skip the SAG paperwork and keep costs down.

    They won't throw you out cause of it. After all, SAG is in the business of collecting fees and they want to collect fees from as many people as possible. At worst, you'll get fined, but that's only if it gets to a SAG office, goes through an investigation, etc. etc. Most of the time, they don't have the time & resources for that.

    -If anything, make a copy of your card if you're going to go Fi-Core. A lot of auditions say "bring your SAG card", but I've never seen one audition where they ask you to whip out a SAG card. If its a SAG gig, I would just lie and list SAG on my resume. No one would really know the difference.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Having worked around the business a little bit, a lot of SAG actors....

    -work on non-union projects, but don't say anything. Kind of a "you don't tell, I won't tell" situation. Benefit is two fold: SAG actor gets work, a non-union production can skip the SAG paperwork and keep costs down.

    They won't throw you out cause of it. After all, SAG is in the business of collecting fees and they want to collect fees from as many people as possible. At worst, you'll get fined, but that's only if it gets to a SAG office, goes through an investigation, etc. etc. Most of the time, they don't have the time & resources for that.

    -If anything, make a copy of your card if you're going to go Fi-Core. A lot of auditions say "bring your SAG card", but I've never seen one audition where they ask you to whip out a SAG card. If its a SAG gig, I would just lie and list SAG on my resume. No one would really know the difference.

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  9. Fi Core actors - if you are out there please speak out. I would like to hear your stories.

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    Replies
    1. FI CORE LETTER.
      Just send a letter to SAG office there is no need to explain much. An example of letter just google it nothing complicated. It was weird but nobody from the SAG office even called me to change my decision to stay in SAG they don't care. Especially if you do BG as many union people do. You won't believe how many agents would love to have you do both non union and union projects. If you are an actor what the hack limit yourself working as an actor?! IDK why SAG limit all the actors work as an actor? Directors and producers can do both, they don't care they negotiate with SAG. We know how its called right? New Media contract! $115 (the amount may be vary) - shut up and go work or otherwise you will get suspension/termination. Why everybody is keeping silence?! Right afraid for future wrk. Let me tell you Union guys they (SAG) don't really care! Yes i am Fi Core and don't want to limit myself to work as an actor.

      sorry copy/paste my text

      Delete
  10. Hi, I'm getting back into the business and am now fi-core. If I work on a project with both union and non union people, am I now considered non union?

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    1. If you work on a union project with non union actors as in a right to work state you are absolutely considered union and will be on the sag paperwork as union and get the same rate as union.

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  11. If you are Fi-Core you are non union. Period. No ifs ands or buts about it.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. NOPE YOU ARE IN UNION. KEPT ALL THE BENEFITS.
      Some of the rights you gain:
      • The right to work on non-union projects
      • The continued right to work on SAG projects
      • The right to pension and health if you qualify under SAG rules

      Delete
    3. If someone that chooses Fi Core is considered non union, why can they work union jobs, why do they still pay dues, why do they still get pension and health benefits? It's not quite so clear cut, do you work for the union Richard?

      Delete
  12. What are the fees to be active again after going fi-core?

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  13. In my observation, hobbyist actors and short-sighted people who do not consider acting a true profession scramble for non-union and FiCore scraps. I wouldn't feel good about myself as a scabby second class actor, it was never my goal. I understand this is my opinion, and there are certainly others, but ask yourself, who is your favorite FiCore actor working consistently in film and tv today?

    One of the most unionized workplaces in the country is a tv set. Do you really think CDs and producers are going to risk WW3 by hiring FiCore actors to work with well-known (always strongly union) tv stars and Teamster/IATSE crews where such shenanigans would NEVER be tolerated? No. FiCore actors pay $3000 in order to tear up their SAG card so they can fight like dogs for an $800 national commercial which would have earned them $30 grand if under a SAG contract, while also destroying the solidarity and power of real career actors. No thanks. I shun those who weaken the union that allows me to support myself as a professional actor. Don't join SAG if you want to stay a non-pro.

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    Replies
    1. You must be from the SAG office. You call Jon Voight a hobbyist? George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino hobbyists? The director only cares to get the best person for the role. Sag ficore requires no extra paperwork on the part of casting unlike a Taft Hartley. If you aren't in the Sag office, you have been sorely brainwashed by them. In reality most professionals in the industry don't even think that highly of sag due to all of the "crazy sag actors" and "unemployed sag actors".

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  14. I'm intrigued to hear how the Sag-Aftra versus Fi-Core status affects overseas actors, particularly those who are involved in voiceovers whose work opportunities, both Sag-Aftra, other union and non-union, are often found online.

    As a voiceover actor, I work from my own home studio for clients worldwide. Yet as a screen actor, I work exclusively in my own country and am a member of our actors union because I am pro-union where I live.

    Occasionally I see an online opportunity to audition for a Sag-Aftra VO job looking for my specific accent,so to be eligible to apply, I would be prepared to pay to be Fi-Core only. Joining as a full Sag-Aftra member would effectively end my acting career in my country. There are no Sag-Aftra acting jobs here.

    So for folk like me, surely the common sense decision has to be Fi-Core so we can audition for the Sag-Aftra online jobs as and when we see them?

    I do work for union jobs in my own country because that union represents the actors in my country only, and it's not Sag-Aftra.

    I'm not anti union. I just don't live in North America so full Sag-Aftra union status would not only be pointless but sadly also career-ending!

    Any others living overseas who have had these decisions to make?

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  15. I'm intrigued to hear how the Sag-Aftra versus Fi-Core status affects overseas actors, particularly those who are involved in voiceovers whose work opportunities, both Sag-Aftra, other union and non-union, are often found online.

    As a voiceover actor, I work from my own home studio for clients worldwide. Yet as a screen actor, I work exclusively in my own country and am a member of our actors union because I am pro-union where I live.

    Occasionally I see an online opportunity to audition for a Sag-Aftra VO job looking for my specific accent,so to be eligible to apply, I would be prepared to pay to be Fi-Core only. Joining as a full Sag-Aftra member would effectively end my acting career in my country. There are no Sag-Aftra acting jobs here.

    So for folk like me, surely the common sense decision has to be Fi-Core so we can audition for the Sag-Aftra online jobs as and when we see them?

    I do work for union jobs in my own country because that union represents the actors in my country only, and it's not Sag-Aftra.

    I'm not anti union. I just don't live in North America so full Sag-Aftra union status would not only be pointless but sadly also career-ending!

    Any others living overseas who have had these decisions to make?

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  16. Someone brought up a good point about sag holding Taft hartleyed people hostage. You get barred from working union until you pay $3000 and the entry fee is always going up!!!! So then you are barred from union work and then if you are fi core you aren't barred from anything. This is why I ulitmately joined aftra and then went fi-core after the merger. I've created non-union projects, hired on union actors who were more than happy to come aboard. I've worked non-union jobs where 1/3 of the actors were union. Not fi-core union. Yet these "union actors who work off card" are quick to call you a scab for being honest. I don't care if stupid people look down on me for doing BUSINESS. I don't want to associate with stupid brainwashed people. These traps that sag lay out for Taft Hartley and fi-core people saying there is so much stigma, the only people who care are actors. Most of the producers, casting directors, and directors REALLY doing it, are not actors. The other reality is that sadly out of all the Unions in the industry, SAG has really slipped to the bottom of the totem pole. PGA and DGA members are usually working and or under apprenticeship. SAG to a lot of people behind the scenes seems like a load of unemployed and crazy "wanna bes". Trust me as someone who has worked behind the scenes, sure it's assumed an actor at a certain level is sag but most movies and TV parts will not be up fora SAG award! They only care about if you are a wonderful actor and if you are right for the part. If a studio wants you to rejoin sag for any reason they will fork out the money for you to do so!

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  17. How does going Fi-Core (SAG/AFTRA) affect AEA status, which is NOT Fi-Core?

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