Film unions and film guilds help with training, legal rights, and most importantly, making sure you get paid what you are worth. For more information check out our production crew rates section.
In the US, these unions get you onto major film and TV sets. In contrast, you don’t need to be part of a union in the UK, but they do have their benefits.
So, whether you are a student or a veteran filmmaker, unions can help with additional support throughout your career. But which one is right for you?
To make things easier, we have listed US and UK unions below. Now you can clearly see your options and what they offer.
What’s the Difference Between a Union and a Guild?
A film union has to by law take care of its workers. In contrast, a film guild is a group of tradespeople who look out for one another. They both protect their members with benefits such as making sure people get fair contracts and overtime pay.
So, they are both very similar. However, sometimes a union might use the word guild in their name. For example, SAG (Screen Actors Guild) is a union. It doesn’t matter which organization you join so long as it is a good fit for you.
Below we have a list of unions and guilds in the US and UK. Read through and find one in your job role with the benefits you need.
First, we have the largest film union in the US. It covers all job roles apart from acting. Whatever your crew role, you will find representation within this group. Members gain access to wage rates, overtime pay, legal advice, health care, and industry support.
The most important film union in the UK is BECTU. It covers all job roles apart from actors. They can also help you with both freelance and contract full-time work. When you are a member, you have access to career advice, legal support, PLC, and pay rates.
The teamsters are an enormous trade union. They look after a variety of trades, including film, in which they have 14 offices across the US. You can join this union if you work a below the line job role, such as driver, casting assistant, locations, or catering staff.
Another major UK union that covers a range of below the line job roles. They look after many crew roles, including assistant directors, locations, editors, and VFX staff. As a member, you can access training workshops, networking events, job listings, and pay rates.
The Writer’s Guild of America is the largest screenwriter union in the US. They cover the contacts and pay negotiations for film and TV writers. To join, you must have a handful of previous paid experience or have had your feature length script made into a film.
The Writers Guild of Great Britain is the largest writers guild in the UK. It covers all creative writing, from film, TV, animation, and video games. Perks include a pension, work rates, and legal advice. However, to join the guild, you will need to have two paid credits.
The directors union also covers UPM, ADs, and stage managers. Members receive pay rates, contracts, and legal support. However, you need up to 400 days of work experience to join. In addition, directors must have at least one professional film or TV credit.
This union is for all professional film and TV directors based across the UK. As a member, you can access pay rate advice, networking events, and even legal services. However, to join you will need at least one professional director credit on a film and TV show.
This film union is for producers and assistant producer roles. Perks include job alerts, wage advice, and networking. To join as a producer, you need to have either two theatrical released films or made a short film screened at a qualifying festival.
This union is for production managers, coordinators, and secretaries. Membership includes job listings, discounts, training, and networking. To apply, you need at least two years of experience. However, anyone can take part in their online training workshops.
You need to have an invite from an existing member to join this influential union. However, any DOP can receive an invite to the ASC regardless of what country they come from. You can still benefit from the union by signing up for their monthly magazine
You can only access the BSC by invitation from a member. The union covers pay rates and legal advice for members. However, anyone can join their online BSC club. The club provides you access to workshops as well as events held at Pinewood Studios.
The Local 600 is part of the IATSE major film union. They cover a range of camera roles, including film loaders, camera operators, DITs, and ADs. When you join this union, you will receive health and safety support, overtime, pay rates, and health care.
The Guild of British Camera Technicians is for film and TV camera crew. By joining this guild, you can access free training, workshops, discounts, and career support. However, you will need at least four references and previous experience to join.
The editors guild is also part of the IATSE. They cover any post-production job role, including colorists, sound editors, and foley artists. Members have access to wage rates, pensions, and health care. However, to join, you need professional experience in your role.
You can join this union as an editor or assistant editor. Perks include training, networking events, and access to a monthly magazine. To make the most of the union, you must have five credits in your job role. However, they also have a student membership.
You can join this guild as a production designer, art director, illustrator, graphic designer, matte artist, and model maker. When you join, you can access health care, training, and networking. To sign up, you must have professional experience in your role.
This film crew union is for anyone working in the art department. You receive career advice, networking, insurance, and work alerts. To apply, you must have worked in the art department for at least three years and have three professional work credits.
The AFM covers musicians working in film, TV, commercials, and radio. Members receive advice on contracts, pay rates, working conditions, and training. The great thing about the AFM is that anyone can join, from young musicians to unsigned bands.
The AMPS is for anyone working within the sound department. Their perks include free events, training, and discounts. Like many film unions, you can join as a student. However, for the full membership, you need two other members to sponsor you.
This film union covers costume designers, assistants, and illustrators. They support fair wages, healthcare, work safety, and career advice. To join as a costume designer, you must have at least one professional credit and a signed letter with a reference.
Costume in Theater, Entertainment, and Arts is for any costume job role. This group challenges poor working practices and offers support for all its members. They also provide pay rates and career advice. Best of all, anyone can join regardless of experience.
The Makeup Artists and Hair Stylists Guild is part of the IATSE. As with all unions, the members receive support and advice on pay rates, healthcare, and contracts. To qualify for the film union, you must have 3 years of professional experience within your job role.
The major UK union covers all roles in film, including hair and makeup. They provide advice on work rates, working conditions, pensions, and legal support. Plus, you can join BECTU regardless of how much work experience you have in the film industry.
If you are a casting director working in the US, this union has lots of benefits. As well as, healthcare and general support, they also have job alerts and networking events. To join, you must have at least 100 work weeks in your job role within the past year.
In the UK we have film guilds for casting directors. However, you will need at least five years of experience to join. Assistant casting directors can apply too for special membership. Check out their vacancies page if you’re interested in working with the casting team.
You can join the LMGI as a location manager, location scout, and assistant location manager. They cover all film, TV, video commercial, and print industries. To become join the union you need 300 days of paid experience and two references from existing members.
Both of the UK’s major unions cover the locations department. You can join as a student, however, you will need three professional credits to join in full. Members receive access to training, workshops, pay rate advice, and access to a special job listings page.
The Screen Actors Guild of America supports film, TV and radio performers. Members gain access to a health plan, pension, casting database and career support. To join, you should have at least three professional credits in your name and a demo reel.
This is the biggest trade union for British actors, stunt performers and comedians. Membership provides job listings, contract support, training, and pay rate advice. To begin an application, you must have worked at least one paid acting job in the past 12 months.
Spotlight is the biggest online casting site in the UK. It aims to connect actors to casting calls. When you sign up you get a spotlight profile, events, discounts, and career advice. To apply, you must have at least one paid speaking role in film, TV, or Theatre.
These next two film unions are not for individuals but for owners of film or TV production companies. When you register you receive legal advice, workshops, and industry news. However, to join you must be a trading company and not an individual.
You can only join this union as a film or TV production company. As a member, you gain access to events, discounts and advice. To join, you need to have a production, post-production or VFX company based in the UK.
To sum up, unions are an excellent way of protecting you in your job role. However, many of them do require you to have some previous experience.
You can find this experience by networking and by working on independent films. In time you will meet the connections you need to start working on bigger productions.
There are many options available, so ask people you work with what film unions or film guilds they recommend.