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Back Stage Casting/Job Notices: Help With Union Contracts


How Union Contracts Are Referenced in Back Stage Casting/Job Notices:

The following article is designed to help you understand how Back Stage verifies union information and the union-, union/nonunion-, and nonunion-specific language used by Back Stage in its casting and job notices.

For instance, read below to find out why phrases such as "pending" and "plans to apply for" are used in some union-contract descriptions, and view a comprehensive list of SAG, AFTRA, Equity (AEA), AGMA, AGVA, AFM, and ACTRA contracts and agreements, along with helpful union website links and other related info.

Important Union/Nonunion Notes:

  • If a casting/job notice is specifically calling for only union performers or both union and nonunion performers, the specific union contract and status must be stated in the notice. Example: “SAG Ultra Low Budget Film Agreement.”
  • If a producer has not yet applied for a union contract, he/she should state this in the casting notice as well. Example: “Producer plans to apply for a SAG Ultra Low Budget Film Agreement.”
  • A contract must be listed as pending if the union has not yet approved the project’s union status. (e.g., SAG Modified Low-Budget Agreement, pending.)
  • If a casting/job notice is specifically calling for only union performers or both union and nonunion performers but the producers are not currently planning on applying for a union contract or agreement, then the notice should not mention any particular union names and must state the full situation clearly in the notice. Example statement: "The producers are seeking both union and nonunion performers for this production, but no union contract is currently planned. Union performers should check with their union before accepting any work."
  • A casting notice calling for both union and nonunion performers should note if nonunion performers will have the opportunity to join the union, and under what terms (if any).
  • Back Stage attempts to verify the union status of productions with the unions, so if you're submitting a new notice for print and/or online publication, please make sure the information you enter in your casting notice is accurate or a delay could result.


The following information may change at any time; check with Back Stage and the appropriate union for updated details:


AFTRA Contracts

  • AFTRA Network Television Contract
  • AFTRA Television Commercial Contract
  • AFTRA Interactive Media Contract
  • AFTRA Internet Radio Contract
  • AFTRA Non-Broadcast/Industrial Contract (covers educational and training programs)
  • AFTRA Radio Contract
  • AFTRA Sound Recordings Contract (for recordings on vinyl, CDs, cassettes, etc.)

Equity Contracts

National Equity Agreements:

  • ANTC (Association of Nonprofit Theatre Companies)
  • Business Theatre and Events
  • Cabaret
  • Casino
  • CORST (Council of Resident Stock Theatres)
  • COST (Council of Stock Theatres)
  • COST Special
  • Dinner Theatre
  • Guest Artist
  • LOA (Letter of Agreement)
  • LORT (League of Resident Theatres)
  • Midsize Theatre
  • MSUA (Musical Stock/Unit Attraction)
  • One-Night Touring
  • Outdoor Drama
  • Production (This is usually the top Equity contract, covering Broadway, national tours, and other large venues. The Equity Production Contract is sometimes negotiated with particular producers to produce variant contract names, such as the Equity BVTVI Production Contract used by Disney for Broadway shows).
  • RMTA (Resident Musical Theatre Association)
  • SPT (Small Professional Theatre)
  • Special Appearance
  • Special Production
  • Transition (The Equity Transition Contract is used for 99-seat Off-Broadway theatres that may have a lower budget than other Off-Broadway houses).
  • TYA (Theatre For Young Audiences)
  • URTA (University/Resident Theatre Association)
  • Workshop
  • XTP Production (the Equity Experimental Touring Program based on the Equity Production contract but with reduced rates and different tiers)

Regional Equity Agreements:

  • Bay Area Theatre
  • Chicago Area Theatre
  • Disneyworld
  • Hollywood Area Theatre
  • Mini
  • New England Area Theatres
  • New Orleans
  • Off-Broadway (There are five categories for this contract, labeled A-E. Level A is for smaller theatres and pays less than B, etc. Example: Equity Off-Broadway E Contract.)
  • Orlando Area Theatre
  • WCLO (Western Civic Light Opera agreement for Western community nonprofit musical theatres)

Equity Codes & Plans (all 99-seats, max):

  • Equity Chicago Showcase Code
  • Equity L.A. 99-Seat Plan
  • Equity NYC Basic Showcase Code (for commercial productions with a limited run)
  • Equity NYC Seasonal Showcase Code (for funded nonprofit theatres)
  • Equity Tiered Showcase Code (based on the Seasonal Showcase Code; only for nonprofit theatres).

Equity Staged Readings:

  • Equity Staged Reading Guidelines: Using this code, producers can cast Equity actors for a limited staged reading. As with all Equity projects, producers should check with Equity for approval and guidance before putting on their show, and must obey the requirements detailed in the Equity guidelines.
  • Equity Staged Reading Contract: Using this special contract, which references the Equity Off-Broadway Agreement, producers are given more options than with the basic Equity Staged Reading Guidelines code, but Equity Principal Auditions (EPAs) and professional pay are required.

 For additional info about all of the above contracts, plans, and codes, visit the Actors' Equity Association's Contracts and Codes page.


SAG Signatory Contracts & Agreements

SAG Production Contracts:

  • SAG Theatrical Contract (For feature-length films)
  • SAG Television Contract (For TV programs)
  • SAG Commercials Contract
  • SAG Industrial and Educational Contract
  • SAG Interactive Media Contract
  • SAG Background Actors Contract

SAG Indie Agreements:

  • SAG Student Film Agreement (AKA a “student waiver”; student films only; deferred pay allowed)

  • SAG Short Film Agreement (for budgets under $50,000; film must be under 35 minutes; deferred pay allowed; only limited exhibition allowed; replaces the old SAG Experimental Film Agreement)

  • SAG Ultra Low Budget Film Agreement (for budgets under $200,000; a minimum of $100 a day must be paid to all SAG performers; replaces the old SAG Limited Exhibition Agreement)

  • SAG Modified Low Budget Film Agreement (for budgets under $625,000; minimum rates are significantly lower than scale)

  • SAG Low Budget Film Agreement (for budgets under $2,500,000; minimum rates are lower than scale)

SAG New Media Contracts:

  • SAG New Media Agreement (aka SAG Special Internet Agreement or SAG Online Agreement) -- projects made for initial exhibition on the Internet may fall under the terms of the New Media Agreement.
  • SAG Interactive Media Agreement; "Interactive Media" refers to any media through which the user may interact with the program, including software for personal computers, games, machines, arcade games, all CD Interactive machines and any other microprocessor-based units and the digitized, electronic or any other formats, e.g., products which enables the viewer to manipulate, affect or alter the presentation of the content simultaneous with its use.


Additional Union Contracts:

Other union contracts frequently referenced in Back Stage include the following:

  • ACTRA Contract (multiple contract types are available, covering film, television, and radio productions).
  • AGMA, AGVA, and AFM contracts are usually negotiated with a specific theatre, club, or company, and the resulting contract usually bears the name of the theatre/company as part of the official contract name. In addition, the type of venue or job (touring, recording, etc.) will often be part of the contract name. The basic contracts are the AGVA Performance Contract, AGMA Opera Contract, AGMA Dance Contract, AGMA Concert Contract, and AFM Contract.


"Financial Core" (FiCore) Contracts:

Union actors can act in nonunion projects without a union contract if they declare "financial core" status, but this decision must be made by each individual performer and not by individual projects, since changing to "Financial Core" status has many drawbacks for the actors:

  • "The TRUTH about the SAG Ultra Low Budget Agreement" -- an article describing why indie filmmakers should carefully examine the fine-print in the SAG low-budget contracts, and why "SAG Financial Core" might be an alternative option in some cases. Note, however, that SAG is happy to work with indie filmmakers and performers to find contracts that fit their projects' budgets and needs, so you should always meet with your union reps before taking action.
  • "Financial Core VS Union : The Real Deal" -- A discussion about the benefits and drawbacks of "going FiCore."
  • "Get the Facts about Financial Core" -- SAG describes the many problems actors will face if they choose to declare FiCore status, which seriously harms the strength of the unions.

Union Acronyms and Websites

For full union contract details and applications, contact the following:

SAG: Screen Actors Guild, sag.org 

SAG indie: sagindie.com

Equity: Actors’ Equity Association (aka AEA), actorsequity.org

AGVA: American Guild of Variety Artists, www.aflcio.org

AGMA: American Guild of Musical Artists, musicalartists.org 

AFM: American Federation of Musicians, afm.org

AFTRA: American Federation of TV & Radio Artists, aftra.com

ACTRA: Association of Canadian Television and Radio Artists; www.actra.ca

British Equity: Represents UK film, TV, and theatre performers; www.equity.org.uk

For a list of other a list of other guilds, associations, and unions located in the U.S., visit www.backstage.com/backstage/rossreports/unions.jsp


Related Links:


Luke Crowe, National Casting Editor, Back Stage

Equity Reading Guidelines: Using this code, producers can cast Equity actors for a limited staged reading. As with all Equity projects, producers should check with Equity for approval before putting on their show, and must obey the details of the guidelines .
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