How I Earned My Screen Actors Guild Card ~~~~~~~~~ by Jennifer Layne Park

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The first performing arts union I joined was AFTRA (The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists).  I was a “must join” because I had worked on the ABC daytime drama, ONE LIFE TO LIVE, for more than the thirty-day grace period.  In that year, I was blessed to receive an “under five” role, meaning five lines or less. My time working on ONE LIFE made me realize that acting was something I could do viably as a career. You can really go to work on a set, do your job, get paid, and have fun! 

I got my “in” at ONE LIFE TO LIVE through taking a class with the casting director, Tori Visgilio. I stayed in touch by sending postcards on a monthly basis, and about a year later, she called me in.

Joining the union really meant a lot to me, as well as my family, because it signified that this was my PROFESSION, not a hobby.

Through AFTRA, I became automatically eligible to join the Screen Actors Guild.  The next question was, “How do I get the money to join?”

I was working on an AFTRA set explaining my predicament to a member of both the unions. He promptly advised me to “Beg, borrow or steal the money. You won’t regret it.” 

Luckily for me, it was the holidays, and my dear father came through with the loot to join. Considering my wonderful mom had helped me with funding my AFTRA card, it was only fair!  They both know I will pay them back plus a “vig” (just got done working on a gangster film, MEATBALLS, TOMATOES, AND MOBSTERS) when I make it big!

  This was a major triumph for me because I had heard all the stories of the agonies actors go through in search of that elusive SAG card.  I remember getting the new members’ postcard saying “IT’S YOUR CAREER…IT’S YOUR UNION…IT’S YOUR MEETING” and being so happy!

I have been offered non-union work while being a SAG/AFTRA member, which I promptly refused.  As a member of any of the performing arts unions, you are obligated not to take work as a non-union employee in any other union jurisdiction. Obviously, a lot of people do not heed these professional courtesies.  That makes me angry. The strength of our unions lies in our unwavering dedication to working together. 

The Screen Actors Guild has worked vigilantly to accommodate films of any budget, so that it makes no sense to work non-union.  My feeling is if you can’t get the paperwork together to insure my payment and safety, how are you going to get a film out? 

Everyone starts out non-union and there is a lot of great work out there being done by non-union people.  I know because I used to work non-union prior to joining AFTRA. However, once you join the union, you must be ready to commit to the rules.

I remember when I was a theater student watching a video about theater back in the days of traveling companies doing morality plays.  The actors were responsible for crew duties, promotions, performing, etc.  My first response when I saw that film was, “This is why we have unions now.”

           My professor at the time was involved with a non-union theater company that puts on Broadway style shows. The look he gave me spoke volumes. It was as cold as ice. 

          My first SAG job was working as an extra in a boxing scene in the feature film, ANNAPOLIS.  The movie was basically an updated version of AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN, starring Richard Gere. 

          Approximately ten months later, I got my first SAG dayplayer role in the feature film, THE HOAX, acting opposite Richard Gere and Alfred Molina. It was such a phenomenal experience to make my feature film debut being directed by Academy Award nominated director Lasse Hallstrom and getting to act and improvise with two of my favorite actors.  Susan Misner, from CHICAGO, was my friend in the film, and ironically enough, she used to be a contract player on ONE LIFE TO LIVE. Show business reaches across the globe, but it is a small industry!

          As a result of my work in THE HOAX, I was recently named one of the “20 Hottest New Stars,” along with Amy Adams, Anne Hathaway and Academy Award nominee Sophie Okonedo in the September 2006 movie themed issue of PENTHOUSE. Yes, I got in PENTHOUSE with my clothes ON!

Shot Used In Penthouse Article
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Getting my SAG card changed my life.  If you want to work in film and most television, as I do and I am, it is a must have.  Being a member of the Screen Actors Guild has given me a sense of satisfaction, personally and a sense of history, professionally. We need to remember the courageous actors that had the good sense and strength to realize that what we do deserves respect, professionalism, and UNITY.  You should only join the union if you are prepared to honor Global Rule Number One!  That means you do not work in a non-union capacity.

I hope my story has given you some insight into the business. If there is anything I have learned, it is that no two paths are the same, but one must be always prepared when opportunities present themselves. I wish you lots of success in your acting career, wherever it may lead you.

Go see THE HOAX when it comes out in April!

To find out more about Jennifer Layne Park please click on the Links below!

***Jennifer Layne Park official website

***Jennifer Layne Park at IMDB

Thanks Jennifer for sharing your story!  If you have a SAG story to share please email us at kts@krushtheserpent.com