How to Join an Entertainment Industry Union
If you work in the entertainment industry as a writer, director, actor, producer, editor, cinematographer, camera operator, writers assistant or script coordinator, you may want to join a union. In some cases, you may have to join a union – or you may be eligible to join after you accept a certain job offer. Unions negotiate for their members’ minimum compensation and provide health insurance, retirement plans, pensions and other benefits such as networking, mentoring, job lists, free screenings, discounts and special events. They also ensure that contracts are enforced. The unions are also involved in political advocacy based on issues that affect their members. An initiation fee to join the union may apply. Read more about each major entertainment industry union below.
Writers Guild of America
With both east and west branches, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) is comprised of film screenwriters, TV writers, news writers and other kinds of scribes. If you work for a signatory company (a company that has signed the Guild’s collective bargaining agreement), then you will earn units that count toward eligibility for guild membership. Depending upon the number of units earned, a writer may be eligible for either Current (full) membership, or Associate (partial) membership.
More information: http://www.wga.org/the-guild/going-guild/join-the-guild
Directors Guild of America
Similar to the Writers Guild, the Directors Guild of America offers membership based on directing and other work done for signatory companies. In addition to directors, the DGA is an entertainment industry union that covers Unit Production Managers (UPMs), Assistant Directors (1st and 2nd ADs), Associate Directors, Stage Managers, Production Associates and Program Production Assistants.
Once the DGA is informed of your contract via a commercial project listing form (“CPLF”) from a DGA signatory employer, it will send you an application for membership that will include the required initiation fee and other information. The DGA does not provide applications for membership upon request.
More information: https://www.dga.org/The-Guild/Departments/Membership/Joining-the-DGA.aspx
Producers Guild of America
The Producers Guild of America (PGA) is an entertainment industry union for people who work in film, television and new media (streaming, web content, video and mobile games, animation and more). Members include producers, line producers, co-producers, supervising producers, production supervisors, production managers, production coordinators, associate producers, field producers, story producers, segment producers, post-production producers, post-production supervisors, post-production managers, post-production coordinators, visual effects supervisors, visual effects coordinators and more. To be eligible, you must have received PGA-approved credits and/or performed the job functions under those credits, within the last 7 years for feature films, or the last 5 years for all other formats.
More information: https://www.producersguild.org/page/membership_reqs?
IASTE Local 600 (International Cinematographers Guild)
The entertainment industry union for cinematographers, camera operators, camera assistants and publicists is called the IATSE Local 600. It is separated into Western Region, Central Region and Eastern Region branches. Each branch has different requirements to join – you may need to send a resume or letter of intent by email or contact the guild by phone. Check out its Membership Booklet to learn more about the structure, history and requirements of the union.
More information: https://www.icg600.com/
IASTE Local 871
IASTE Local 871 is an entertainment industry union representing art department coordinators, accountants, script supervisors, production coordinators, teleprompter operators, stage managers, graphics coordinators and, most recently, writers’ assistants and script coordinators. Like the other unions, Local 871 negotiates for competitive wages, hours, retirement benefits and health benefits. It also ensures that contracts are enforced.
The union has set up a special FAQ page for script coordinators and writers’ assistants who are thinking of joining, even if they hope to become full-time paid writers, and thus members of the WGA, at a later date. (Joining IASTE local 871 does not preclude you from becoming a Writers Guild of America member in the future.)
More information: https://www.ialocal871.org/Join-the-Union
Because working in the entertainment industry often means you’ll work many short-term jobs for many different employers, unions are important for ensuring that you have the same fair working conditions, hours, wages, health benefits and retirement benefits that people in more traditional occupations are afforded. Read up on union requirements and benefits carefully so that you understand which union is the right one for you!