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SAG-AFTRA Deal Allows More Time To Prepare For Self-Tape Auditions, Fewer Pages To Read & Simpler Tech Requirements

Producers must give actors at least 48 hours to prepare a self-tape — longer if it’s before a weekend – and not assign more than eight pages to read for the first audition, according to a summary of SAG-AFTRA’s potential three-year contract.

Producers must also provide opportunities for actors to interview virtually or in person if they don’t want to do a self-tape, but it’s only on a first-come, first serve basis with special accommodations made for senior performers, minors and actors with disabilities.

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Producers must also “endeavor” to respond to actors who want to find out if the role has already been cast.

“It is so essential that members avail themselves of that option,” said SAG-AFTRA negotiating committee member and L.A. Local Self Tape Work Group Chair Shaan Sharma (The Chosen). “It’s one of biggest stresses of the self-tape era, not knowing who is working behind the scenes, wanting to work with a casting director or an associate virtually or in person to build a relationship, to get those notes. Being able to connect with casting departments really helps those who have hard time with technology. It’s also for people who don’t want to put friends or family to work for free.”

There’s no compensation for self-tapes, however — something that was heavily desired by many members and could still be thorny issue going forward. Actors had previously been entitled to compensation for auditions (information about the fee structure is available on the SAG-AFTRA website) but it’s unclear whether those who did submit claims for audition pay in the last year will still get paid. Because audition pay had not been strictly enforced, actors had to first approach the production company for compensation but end up having to rely on SAG-AFTRA for help.

The technical requirements of self-taping have also been simplified in the new pact, which still has to be approved by membership. Before, there were a multitude of demands about what type of phone to use, whether to create a green screen and what types of lights to employ. Now the minimum standard is to record the audition at a resolution that’s no higher than 720p. No editing or specific equipment will be required. Actors also can’t be asked to upload the file to a site that demands a fee.

Even better, says Sharma, actors can now do full body shots in portrait orientation. Before, they had to do it in landscape and that made it difficult to get a good shot — especially if someone couldn’t go outside.

“That whole section was my pride and joy,” said Sharma about the group effort that went into negotiating the self-tape guidelines. “We didn’t get everything we wanted. We wanted them to disclose if they have an offer out to another actor, and while we didn’t secure that in the contract, they must endeavor to respond to requests of whether it was offered out.”

Sharma is also thrilled with the “key win” of snagging a 48-hour turnaround for self-tapes and how they can’t be part of a weekend or holiday period. “If you got an audition on Friday and it was due Monday morning, you wouldn’t have a weekend and that would take a toll on members,” he said.

When it comes to general casting calls, actors cannot be charged a fee to access a notice (or information relating to a casting call). Producers can’t give preferential treatment to a performer who paid a fee to a casting service, either.

In other noteworthy additions, producers can’t circulate self-tapes without getting the consent of the performer. And they must be stored in a secure facility that’s only accessible “by persons with a legitimate business purpose.”

SAG-AFTRA leaders like guild president Fran Drescher and chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland will start meeting with members to pitch the deal and answer questions ahead of the scheduled start of ratification voting Tuesday. The first such gathering occurred earlier Monday in an invite-only online meeting. A lot more such get-togethers are being organized before the ratification vote deadline of early December.

The 128-page Memorandum of Agreement, which is the actual $1 billion estimated deal, remains unreleased and likely won’t be available for weeks.

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