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How I Joined the Screen Actors Guild by Jacqueline Lovell-Nyahay



In 1994, at 19 years old, after modeling and working on some video projects for about a year I thought I should look into the acting scene.  I had no clue what I was getting into, or what being Union meant.  My first acting job was working as a non-union background player on the movie Forrest Gump.  What I learn was that I needed three SAG vouchers to get into the Screen Actors Guild for better treatment and better pay.  I believed this could easily be accomplished just doing more non-union background work.  Non-union work was easy to find and I could usually book a job every day through call-in agencies, but after two months, I still had no Union vouchers and was no closer to my goal.  My boyfriend at the time was a part time agent and knew some producers, writers, directors, and general people in the industry and lined me up with Prism Entertainment, a subsidiary of Orion, to audition for the lead in their SAG film “Night Eyes 4”.  I was ecstatic at my luck!  I went to the Orion office on Ave of the Stars in Culver City for my 6pm audition with the producer.  As I sat in the waiting room, I watched all the staff clock out for the evening, while pushing down the gnawing feeling that the place was emptying out.  Did I have my appointment time right?  Why weren’t there any other actors here to audition?  Was I the last one of the day?  The producer came and brought me back to his office.  Unprepared for the reality of the situation, I started running the lines from the three scenes with him.  Unaware I should be off script; I kept looking down at my sides the entire time reading off of them.  What kind of impression must I have made, being so young, na´ve and easy to take advantage of.  It wasn’t long before he wanted me to skip to the last scene of the audition in which my character is seducing the man tied up to the chair.  In the scene she kisses him.  So the producer is sitting in a chair across from me and I read the dialog and go over and kiss him.  He then tells me we should try the scene on his couch.  So we play it again and after I kiss him, he tells me we should try the scene again with him lying on the couch and then he unzips his pants.  My insides were trembling at this point.  I read my dialog again and as I leaned down to kiss him he touched me inappropriately.  Shocked I got up and fighting back tears, listened to him tell me we were done.  I silently thanked God he didn’t rape me and was surprised when he said I had a 99% chance of getting the lead.  I went home in tears to my boyfriend who assured me it wasn’t suppose to go that way and he would have a talk with the producer.  Days later I received a call saying the producer had written me in a part in the movie consisting of three lines, so I would get a Principal Day Player Contract.

At the time I didn’t even think of going to SAG about the situation, I was in such shock and humiliated by letting myself get duped.  Years later I contacted SAG to report the producer and was told too much time had past to make it a legal claim.  I was really just hoping to help out anyone else with a similar claim to add credibility to his or her case.  Later I found out the company went out of business.

If I was going to take this acting thing seriously and not have situations like this come up again, I needed to be prepared.  I attended Joanne Barron/D.W. Browns Acting Studio in Santa Monica and learned script reading, improv, scene analysis, memorization of lines, and prep for auditions.  The studio demanded two years of study and I was dedicated to my goal.  While attending the classes, I went on auditions through a new agent and found success at an independent company called Mystique Films.  They shot SAG feature films and wanted to help me join SAG.  At the time I did not know that my previous speaking role had qualified me to join and I was under the impression I still needed to get two more vouchers.  After hiring me for a speaking role, they told me I was a must join at SAG!  I immediately went to the SAG office and paid my initiation fees and joined the union! 

All in all it took me about 3 months to get into the Screen Actors Guild.  I joined the AFTRA union as well, their rules are rather easy, just work an AFTRA job as a non-union and you become a must join 30 days later!  I have been a member of both unions over 11 years, starring in over 30 made for cable/direct to video films, commercials, and Principal parts on Day Time and Prime Time dramas.

My advice to anyone seeking a career in the industry is to research your goal, prepare yourself and follow the passion of your heart. 


For more information about the Screen Actors Guild please visit them on the web at www.sag.org


Though it is unfortunate sexual abuse does exist in any profession.  My advice is to educate yourself and be aware.  Make sure you sign-in on an all SAG sign-in sheets before your audition, these go directly to the SAG offices.  Be leery of any audition held after regular business hours.  I have been to maybe a handful of legit auditions being held after business hours, which were call backs and I knew others going as well.  Try not to make yourself vulnerable, get to know other actors and talk about audition procedures at different studios.  I strongly discourage accepting the ‘let’s do lunch’ gimmick of some directors/producers who may want to meet with you privately outside the studio offices.  If you conduct yourself professionally and they want you, you will be hired.  If something does happen that you do not feel comfortable with report it immediately to SAG.



Jacqueline Lovell demo reel from the Zalman King Production Company
circa late 1990's.

* If you are a SAG actor who would like to share your story on this website, please email us at kts@krushtheserpent.com Thanks!