ot - SAG question

curious mom
curious mom

August 9th, 2008, 5:37 pm #1

what does a "SAG catagory I" mean? Thank you -

Julie Stevens
Julie Stevens

August 9th, 2008, 6:52 pm #2

Category 1 and 2 are pay rates within a SAG Industrial/Educational contract. The "Category" is the initial, primary use of the non-broadcast program. Category 1 is for Industrials or Educational programs. Category 2 is for Point of Purchase and may also include Category 1. Here is an article I found discussing it.


Roberta Reardon is an actor who not only does numerous industrials; she also co-chaired American Federation of Television and Radio Artist's negotiating team for the 2002-05 industrial and educational contract (which was extended this year to 2008). AFTRA and Screen Actors Guild share jurisdiction in
this area, so producers can work with either union and receive identical terms. But if the work is audio-only, it is strictly an AFTRA job.

Otherwise, "the contract covers all the work that is nonbroadcast," says Reardon. "A lot of people call it the industrial contract. It's a clearer designation to call it nonbroadcast, because that literally is what it is. For instance, it can go anywhere from talking dolls, to information kiosks, to training videos in-house, [to videos] teaching people how to set up IRAs, to the counter at Bloomingdale's where they have a video on how to tie your scarf."

An often-misunderstood provision of this contract is the distinction between Category I and Category II work (Page 2, Paragraph 5, Sections A and B: Minimum Rates, Categories, of the AFTRA National Code of Fair Practice for Non-Broadcast/Industrial/Educational/Recorded Material. AFTRA will mail members a hard copy of the contract upon request; call your local AFTRA office. The contract can also be found in its entirety at www.sag.org).

"The difference is that Category II is 'unrestricted exhibition to the general public,' " says Reardon. "For instance, locations where products are sold, or public spaces like shopping centers. Category I is restricted, usually within a company. You can have any number of dealerships within a company who view a video and it's still a Category I, but if it's seen in a railroad station in Washington, D.C., it's Category II, because anybody can see it…. If you have questions, call the union, because it's confusing."

The payment structure is different, too (Page 3, Paragraph 5, Section C: Minimum Compensation): "The reason Category II is a higher rate is because you have unrestricted access to the public, and in Category I there is no end date, [while] in Category II there is a five-year cutoff [Page 2, Paragraph 5, Section B]."

Reardon goes on to explain an attractive option for both producers and performers: "There is a discount when producers buy subsidiary rights within 90 days of the shoot [Page 11, Paragraph 7: Supplemental Use]. It's to encourage producers to buy it up front." That's desirable because when it comes to subsidiary rights, she says, "the further away you get from the actual shoot, the harder it is for us to enforce [payment]. It's difficult to monitor."

Supplemental use gives producers a laundry list of things they can do with the end product, such as running it over a closed-circuit television network for 75% of the ordinary rate or streaming it over the Internet for only 33% of the ordinary rate (for the first 90 days). "Members should ask their agents to [persuade] producers to buy [subsidiary rights] up front at the reduced rate," Reardon advises.

"Know the difference between an on-camera narrator and a day performer [Page 3, Section C]," says Reardon. "The narrator/spokesperson speaks directly to the camera and is not a character. A day performer is a character—the drug rep for Merck, the doctor. They may occasionally turn and talk to the camera, but as a character. The narrator delivers the message for the client straight to the camera."

A second issue, unique to this contract, involves a union performer working on a nonunion project. Though controversial, the practice is allowed—if you can sell the idea to the producer.

"In this particular contract," Reardon explains, "we have provisions that allow a third-party signatory, usually a paymaster, who agrees to be the signatory of record. The paymaster agrees to take the responsibility of guaranteeing the contractual terms, so the actual producer doesn't have to sign the contract and the member can do the work." In other words, the paymaster signs a contract that specifies union terms, but the producer avoids becoming signatory to a union contract, allowing the project to remain nonunion. Union members should get specific instructions on how this works from AFTRA or SAG, along with a list of signatory paymasters.

Some argue that this provision, while giving jobs to union performers, makes it difficult for the unions to organize this type of work. Why should producers become signatory to the contract if they can get union actors without signing? One union exec, who asked for anonymity, said, "It's really koshering a nonunion job."

That doesn't mean union actors should avoid taking this kind of work. After all, it is permitted by the unions and, most importantly, it pays the bills. <