How To Become An Equity Membership Candidate
In light of the self-quarantine, I've tried very hard to be productive. One of the things I've been doing is Marie Kondo-ing basically everything I own. Today I organized my drawers in my bedroom with organizers from Amazon. While doing so, I came across two notebooks that I used when I was 21 and participating in the prestigious Acting Apprenticeship at Williamstown Theatre Festival. I used to really struggle with executive functioning skills like remembering my schedule. So, upon the recommendation of my tutor/organizational skills coach at this company (https://signeteducation.com/), the one and only Jay Bacrania, I would write out my schedule every night when I received it for the next day, so that I never missed anything I was supposed to do.
I was lucky enough to attend many seminars with experienced industry professionals willing to impart their wisdom upon us. I took copious notes that summer. Actually, I took so many notes that it filled up two notebooks entirely! Since I'm extremely passionate about sharing my knowledge of the industry with others, I thought I'd go ahead and post this in the event that someone may find this useful. Without further adieu, here is the first batch of notes:
1) Think about your career as an investment. You are a startup, which means you have to make some initial startup costs.
2) Equity Membership Candidate is a points system. Most commonly people join Actor's Equity by working on an Equity show, but you can join through the EMC program. Luckily the entertainment industry is the most highly unionized industries in the world.
3) When you get 25 points, you can join, with it typically being one point a week. If you participate in the Acting Apprentice Program at Williamstown Theatre Festival, you can get one point for certain duties such as running lines with the Equity actors or understudying a lead role. *
4) If you earn EMC points, you need to fill out a form and then mail it to the Equity office in New York. Remember if you join that paying dues are a price to pay (literally and metaphorically) for getting things like insurance.
5) You need a 100$ check* to start becoming union, and then you can mail this with the form at the post office. You have one week after your EMC assignment to send the form.
6) Unless you book something like a Broadway show, if you're joining Actor's Equity through the points system, it usually takes people a long time to join Equity. If you fail to pay your union dues, your union membership can be frozen, but you can re enter by paying a fee. If you're on temporary withdrawal, you can take non Equity work.
7) If you're EMC, you will get priority in getting seen at non union "cattle calls" over non-EMC's. This is true regardless of how many points you have. Remember that to be a union actor, you'll be competing against the best people in your field, so you really need to be at the top of your game.
8) NOTE: Once you're Equity, you can't work in non union houses. If you're not careful, you might end up accumulating all the necessary points and getting closer to your card than you want to be. This is important because if you're like me and you're interested in working internationally, you're unfortunately eliminating a lot of possible jobs.
9) YOU CAN STILL AUDITION FOR ANY NON UNION PROJECT YOU WANT AS AN EMC. Sometimes Broadway still has non-Equity open calls. One important thing to remember, however, is that joining Equity is not a guarantee of a career. On the flip side, there's plenty of non union actors like myself who are fortunate enough to be booking consistent work!
10) One thing to keep in mind is that unfortunately if someone already in Equity has the same name as you, you may have to alter your name slightly. For example, if you name is Sarah Smith, and there's already a Sarah Smith in the union, your union name would have to be different, perhaps something like Sarah (insert middle) Smith.
One final note: Actors unions exist for fair treatment, and because there's strength in numbers in terms of demanding fair working conditions. Equity centralizes standards, including paid rehearsals (which unfortunately is not always a guarantee in non union work).
*Note: this was back in 2017, so it may have changed since then.
*Again, this may have changed since 2017.