Union (SAG-AFTRA) or Non-Union?

We are getting ready to shoot the first short film for the feature. It’ll take place in mid December. This means we’ve got a few decisions to make. One is the union/non-union stance.

Our business plan markets to our potential investors what the scenario looks like from both ends. It details each from a financial and artistic background. For instance, financially an entire union contract will cost us about 50% more than an entire non-union contract. This has do to with needing to provide a few things such as insurance/health-care (not worker’s comp – everyone will be provided that whether they are union or not) that isn’t necessarily provided in a non-union shoot. Also there are rules about working more than 8 hours or more than 12 hours (basically time and a half, double time for the day or week.)  It’s also a heck of a lot more paperwork.

On the other hand, with a union shoot you can generally hedge your bets that you’ll get an employee who conducts themselves in a professional manner, shows up on time (cause if it costs me double to pay you over 12 hours and you show up late, you can bet I won’t be happy and you can bet you won’t get hired by me again) does at the least the work that is required of them and has a history/resume that reflects this. Now granted, there is no guarantee of this but given what you have to do to join the union you can at least lay good odds on it. Another thing, a union actor can’t decide 12 days into a shoot they don’t want to do the show and just not show up. Well, they can but the union will not be too happy about this when they find out. I’ve had people who have decided the next day they wanted to go to the beach with their friends instead. Nothing I could do. With the union you get more support.

There are pluses and minuses on both ends.  What I think is going to end up happening is we’ll most likely do a mix of union and non-union roles, based more on what I see in casting than anything else.

So, if you’re a producer, what helped you decide?