The SAG-AFTRA Micro-Budget Project Agreement

The SAG-AFTRA Micro-Budget Project Agreement

Deciding whether to make your film project non-union or union is a pivotal choice that can significantly impact the scope, budget, and potential reach of your production. Opting for a non-union route often provides more flexibility in terms of budget constraints and casting options, potentially making it suitable for independent or smaller-scale projects. Conversely, going union, such as aligning with SAG-AFTRA, can open doors to a wider pool of professional talent, ensure adherence to industry-standard working conditions, and potentially enhance the marketability and distribution prospects of your film. It’s essential to weigh these factors carefully in line with your project’s specific goals, resources, and aspirations.

The SAG-AFTRA Micro-Budget Project Agreement is a contract designed by SAG-AFTRA to facilitate indie producers working on projects with extremely limited budgets. This agreement, effective from December 1, 2020, aims to streamline the signatory process for such producers​​.

Projects that qualify for this agreement include:

  • Entertainment content with a budget of $20,000 or less per picture or episode.
  • Projects must be shot entirely in the United States.
  • They can be either live-action, scripted, or unscripted.
  • Allowed exhibition platforms include film festivals, free-to-consumer new media platforms, screenings for Academy Award consideration, public access TV, for demo purposes, and classroom screenings​​.

However, certain types of projects do not qualify under this agreement. These include:

  • Animation, branded/influencer content, commercials, corporate/educational videos, and music videos.
  • Audio-only content like audiobooks, podcasts, radio plays, etc.
  • Video games, news/broadcast content.
  • Projects involving nudity/simulated sex or hazardous stunts.
  • Projects where the producer has received compensation in exchange for distribution or exhibition rights​​.

The terms of the Micro-Budget Project Agreement are mostly negotiable between the producer and the performer. It’s important to note that this agreement does not grant eligibility to join the union​​.

For producers looking to utilize this agreement, understanding these guidelines is crucial. They should ensure their project fits within the specified budget and content criteria and be prepared to negotiate terms with performers under the guidelines of this agreement.

To become a signatory producer and use the SAG-AFTRA Micro-Budget Project Agreement, a producer should follow these steps:

  1. Start Early: Begin the process 4-6 weeks before shooting is set to begin, as it can take time to get all the necessary paperwork in order​​.
  2. Complete Your Budget: Have a completed budget for your project. The budget not only helps determine if the Micro-Budget Project Agreement is applicable (it must be $20,000 or less per picture or episode) but also influences which specific SAG-AFTRA contract applies to your project​​​​.
  3. Finalize Your Script: Ensure you have a completed script. SAG-AFTRA requires information on how many characters and speaking roles are in the project​​.
  4. U.S. Filming Location: Your project must be filmed entirely in the United States, as this is a requirement for SAG-AFTRA low budget productions​​.

By following these steps, a producer can become a signatory to the Micro-Budget Project Agreement, enabling them to hire SAG-AFTRA performers under the terms of this specific agreement. Remember, this agreement also allows for flexible negotiation of terms and salaries and permits the project to be screened at various platforms like film festivals, new media platforms, and for Academy Awards consideration, among others​​.

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