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Extra Extra: How to get a SAG voucher

by  Orit Arfa

August 5, 2008 | 5:16 pm

So I was sitting in “holding” barely shaded by the hot sun in Long Beach where they were filming the TV show Dexter. I had woken up at 5 a.m. again, very tired, when some guy asks the AD (assistant director), “what’s the secret to getting SAG vouchers?” He’s been working for two years as an extra and got no SAG voucher. I wipe my red eyes and listen attentively.

The AD answers, “There are so many extras who think they deserve SAG vouchers when they’re not doing anything to become better actors. A lot of them are more interested in ‘craft services’ than their craft.”  (‘Craft services’ describes the refreshments available on set.)

For those who don’t know, SAG vouchers (Screen Actors Guild) are given out to background actors (artists, as some like to call it, which is actually more pejorative), usually if they get bumped to a special part or become friends with the crew. The SAG voucher is like a receipt for work done that day, and once a background actor collects three of the SAG vouchers, they are eligible to join SAG. The next challenge is to come up with the dues—just over $2K.

And the AD went on and on—looking at me quite a few times—don’t know why—saying how background “artists” have to take their work seriously.

“Find something interested to do with the role, make interesting choices, don’t think it’s degrading. You can make something of it. The people on set remember you.”

He personally doesn’t like the voucher system—belonging to SAG is an achievement based on ones commitment and talent. The guys around me complained how all the pretty girls get SAG vouchers more quickly than men. They flirt with the crew and work their magic. (Again, why was he looking at me?)

I have been too tired to flirt on set…but, maybe I should I take his words to heart and try to approach extra work with a better attitude. That means putting my camera away and not filming myself in “holding”. To be a professional—and, of course, drop in some Visine so I’m a little prettier. And flirt. And hopefully, make friends.

Any AD’s out there who want to be my friend?

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