As an actor or actress you may have heard some of your fellow performers talking about certain groups, guilds, and unions they are a part of or trying to get into. One big labor union created for the live theater performance world is called The Actors’ Equity Association (AEA), sometimes simply called Equity. Similarly to any other union, they work to improve many aspects of an actor’s work life. But you may have also heard questions like what is EMC?
Also, like most other unions, you have to meet certain requirements in order to join. This is where you may have heard of the term EMC. Now, do not get nervous about having to trudge through Science class again. We are not talking Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. However, there is a bit of work to put in. Before you brush off going through the process because it requires some effort, let’s answer some pertinent questions. This way you can make a better informed decision.
What is EMC? Is it worth joining? This article will help clarify those questions. Also, it aims to outline the requirements needed to become part of the union.
7 Things You Need to Know on Becoming a Member of the AEA
1. What is EMC?
So, here it is, the burning question- what is EMC? Well, EMC stands for Equity Membership Candidate. It is basically the status during your candidacy term before you are accepted into the The Actors’ Equity Association. The Actors’ Equity Association (AEA) (or simply Equity) is the original performers’ union that was established in 1913.
It currently represents around fifty thousand members. There are certain requirements that actors need to meet. This entails some time and money when looking into what is EMC.
2. What Benefits Can You Look Forward To with Equity?
Let us start from square one. In order for you to even consider joining and putting forth the time to get your union card, you will want to know why on Earth would it matter. Well here are a few reasons.
- First off, you have to remember that the AEA is a union. Just like any other union they look out for the benefit of their members.
- They will negotiate and supply actors and stage managers quality living conditions, fair wages, pension, and health benefits.
- Also, they take care of other things you may not even think of. They may organize flu shots for its members.
Pretty much anything that you can think of that can help improve the fairness and quality of your work life is included in answering the question, what is EMC?
3. Some More Benefits
Another huge benefit you may find when looking into what is EMC, is audition preference. Actors that belong to the union are usually seen first during open call. Sometimes they are specifically requested. Furthermore, others that are not a part of them union are not even allowed to try out.
Equity monitors the audition progression to make sure it is fair. It also gives its members a very big lead in the process. This particular advantage is very useful. This applies especially to an adult actor where the competition can be fierce.
4. Even More Benefits
Some benefits rely on an individual’s status or age. For example, if you are applying for your child, the AEA makes sure a child wrangler is there for you as a parent. This is because more than likely you will not be able to be backstage with your child. So this can really help take the stress off a parent and a child actor. Equity will also help regulate age based work contracts so that your child cannot be held to extreme contract lengths.
You can look forward to health insurance and a pension as an adult after you have full membership. You have access to the online database of open calls. There are many benefits to finding out what EMC is and taking the steps to joining. Next we will look at requirements so that you can get your union card.
5. When Should You Join?
This question is really up to you as an individual. It depends on when you can afford to and where you find your career at the moment. If you are an adult, the Equity membership is a necessity to further your career.
As a child, it is not necessary. But it can be of help when negotiating contracts and assuring a safe and fair work environment. Equity does not require you to become a member until you turn 14. This is because many times an Equity show will allow non-union children to fill the roles. This is so that they can give the limited number of Equity slots to adult members. In smaller regions, many theaters will not even consider Equity children with memberships. This happens because they cannot afford to pay them the required stipend because their budgets do not allow for it.
Thus, many younger actors choose to wait to join so that they can apply for more roles and gain experience. Especially because once you do join, you are not allowed to audition at theaters that are non-union. By waiting a child can continue to do work in non-union theater and do Equity shows as a non-member even though they will get paid less.
6. What Are the Requirements to Join?
Ok, so here is the nitty-gritty on getting into Equity. There are three ways you can join.
- First, you can get an Equity contract. When you get cast in an Equity theater, you will receive a membership form. Then you have the opportunity to fill it out to join. However, the opportunity is only on the table through the course of the show. Once it is over you will not be able to decide you want to fill the form out to join.
- The second way is if you are a member of another union within the 4 A’s (Associated Actors and Artistes of America). Also you need to fulfill your required one year membership while holding a principal job with them. Equity will honor a candidacy application after that is fulfilled because they are part of an association.
- Third, you can go through an EMC program. Many stage mangers opt for this option but anyone can do it. This option lets you work professionally while you work towards getting your union membership. To do this option you must get a position within an Equity theater. You will also have to pay a $100 fee to register and then another $400 application fee later. Finally, you are required to work 50 weeks at an appropriate EMC theater. This is reduced to 25 weeks if you already have a SAG membership. If you are a SAG member, this is the only option you are allowed to use to gain Equity union membership.
7. Cost to Become a Member
If you want to be part of a guild, club, private school, or other exclusive organization, let’s face it, you will come across fees and incur some costs.
- We have already mentioned the registration and application fees of $100 and $400 in the section above this one.
- There is also an initiation fee you will come across when finding out what is EMC. This is a one-time fee of $1,100 plus $59 for the annual fee. Thus, your initial total would be $1159. That is a big number, but remember, it is a one-time fee and once paid you will not have to worry about it again.
- Annual fees are recurring and are due in May and November at $59 each.
- You will also pay 2.25% of your total earnings deducted weekly from your payroll check. In reality this is not much different from joining other unions or having taxes and benefits pulled from your check at any other job.
To the Decision
I know, that last section was a little off-putting especially if you are just starting out and have not made much in your acting career yet. Do not let this aspect scare you off. Like anything else you need to weigh the benefits and costs to get a good picture to help you decide.
If you are serious about your acting, the benefits of figuring out what is EMC and deciding to join far outweigh the cost. Also, they can be invaluable to advancing your career. You will be making more money, seeing benefits, and Equity will make sure you are treated fairly. You will see that the cost is very minor compared with reaping the rewards and it is something to seriously consider.
Are you a member of Equity or going through your EMC program currently? What benefits can you say you have enjoyed? Do you have experiences that can help show the need for becoming a part of Equity? Please leave comments below for other aspiring actors who are considering a membership into the union and why they should join.