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Adi Ortner ~ How I Joined SAG


 I was born and raised in New York, so was approached at several points in my life to model and act.  I always took acting classes as a kid, and enjoyed being in theater both in school and in camp.  Over the years, my acting ambition seemed unrealistic, until a modeling/talent agent for Margaret Models (which I researched that was a legit modeling agency at the time) approached me.  I took pictures while still in high school, but being that I lived in Queens I didn't pursue it much.  When I decided to enroll at NYU for Communications, I started modeling part time between classes.  Agents were leaving from agency to agency frequently at the time and I followed my favorite agents and somehow wound up at A+ management by junior year of college.  Simulataneously, I was minoring in Educational Theatre and taking acting classes. At that point, I worked on several print advertisements and editorial work.  I also worked on many non-union commercials.  I followed an agent at A plus to Wilhelmina Creative Management, where I booked a principal role on "Cosby", the new series.  This was an AFTRA show and since I was a member of AFTRA for a year already, I would have been eligible to join SAG then (if you have a speaking role on an AFTRA show and are in good standing with AFTRA for a year, which anyone can join, you can then join SAG).  I knew this was true, but was recommended by several agencies I was freelancing with that I should wait until I have to join.  When I decided to get my MA in Educational Theater at NYU, I began to delve more into the theater and education world.  I ran the education department of The American Place Theatre and modeled/acted occasionally.  At this point, I was also booking recurring U/5's on One Life to Live as the Waitress (which I got through meeting the CD at Actor's Connection).  I found that the good commercial agents who I met advised me not to join SAG until I had to but at the same time never sent me to SAG auditions.  It was a Catch 22.  By the time I wanted to join SAG it became an ordeal- finding the CD to write a letter, etc.  Finally, a C level agent sent me to a SAG commercial audition.  I received a call back on the same day that I was supposed to be working on a well paying print job and running a workshop at my theatre company where I was supposed to train teachers on using drama in education.  What a mess! I had to be at three places at the same time.  I don't pride myself on lying, but this was one time where I had to use my acting skills.  So what did I do?  I went to the theatre early that morning and pretended I didn't feel well and asked another teaching artist to please cover for me.  In the mean time, I had called the production number I had for the print job to tell them I was unable to take the courtesy van and would be driving.  I then called to say that I am running late because I have car problems (in reality I was at the theatre in the morning just to show my face). I took a cab to New Jersey (and had to bargain heavily with the cab driver to take me for the 50 bucks I had) where they were shooting.  I asked if there was anyway I could be one of the first to shoot because of the car problems I supposedly had.  Luckily, they were easy going and I was already early in the lineup.  I was pacing all day until I shot my spot which turned out to be a great print ad.  I asked them if I could call a cab since i was done because I was afraid my car would be towed.  I called a NJ cab, put it on my credit card, and called the agent and CD to say I was on my way to the callback.  I made it with two minutes left to the callback.  Literally just made it.  They knew that I had rushed from NJ just to make it to the callback, which impressed the director.  I also blew them away with my improvisation (I played an Italian girl for an SOS commercial, but I knew from the initial audition that the director liked improv and I had all day to think about a funny skit).  They loved me, I booked the commercial, and by choice joined SAG right away. So happy I did, because I was already registered with Background Inc. which books most of the commercial background work in New York.  At the time, I didn't know how well commercial SAG background paid.  When I called Background Inc to tell them I was SAG they started sending me out all the time.  I got upgraded and made my insurance that year.  Apparently, Background had only kept a few non-SAG on their list who always called back and were responsible.  Since then, they are a major component in my receiving my SAG insurance.  Last year, I was upgraded on a huge Verizon commercial through them.  Bottom line is that you have to keep contact and be professional whenever you can, because you never know when you will cross paths with anyone in the industry again.  Most of my good jobs in TV, film, etc are through connections even though I now have a legit and commercial agent.  And don't lie unless you absolutely have to and can make it work the way I did.  I save my lies for when I absolutely want another job.  If you lie when you don't need to, it will catch up to you when you really do need to.  Or maybe I just got lucky, but somehow that was the most anxiety driven and tremendous day I can remember.  Now I would probably just be professional and work on the first job that booked me; but at the time I was ambitious, young, full of drive, and it felt great! Try not to lose your drive!





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