It’s the ultimate “Catch-22” in our industry. “I need to be a member of a union to get this editor gig, but I need to have union editing gigs to get in the union.” Huh?!?!?!
Here is a quote from the American Cinema Editors guild page, while not a union per se, it is a good example of entry requirements:
An applicant for membership must be sponsored by at least two active members, have at least 60 months of editing experience on Features or Television, and must be approved by the Board of Directors and then accepted by the general membership.
Okay, how exactly do I get that union experience? Anyone who gives me work on a union show while I’m not a union member will be in BIG trouble!
All the unions in our industry have similar inane requirements to join. Back in the days of the Studio System, this may have made some sort of sense, but not in this age of “every computer user is an editor.”
So what is a new up and coming editor supposed to do? Hmmm… I think I can answer that. It really comes down to skill and networking. Here is the great key. The secret answer that no one should ever give under penalty of… well, I’m not sure what the penalty is, but hopefully you get the idea.
(drum roll please)
If someone who is running a union gig REALLY wants you, they will get you in. And then you too can start paying union dues.
Huh? It’s that simple? Naaah, can’t be.
Yes it can. Getting someone running a union gig to want you that badly is the hard part. The rest is easy.
Don’t use union membership as an excuse to stop you from moving forward if this is the career you really want.
There are ways to work around “the rules” also. Way back when I was a student, I cast a SAG actor in one of the student films I did. As a result I had to sign a very long contract with SAG that basically said if I ever made a penny on this project, they would take my first born. I didn’t care, it was a student film. I just wanted a passing grade.
The funny thing was that all the other actors in the film, mostly students at the same school, received invitations to join SAG since they were cast in a “SAG project.” That was when I realized I could probably make a fortune creating small fake films and charging the actors to get into SAG.
I NEVER DID THAT!! Don’t call the lawyers. It was just a realization.
My point here is just that union membership is an after thought to your career. If you end up in a union, enjoy the benefits, after all they cost you dearly. If not, don’t worry about getting in. Just pursue the work that you enjoy, and all will be well in the end.