Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Not Relevant to Models

Acting and modeling are similar and related. Modeling has been called "acting without words." Aaron Marcus, a successful model, said: "Commercial modeling is a still picture of a commercial. It is acting without words."

There are successful actors who were models. A number of famous actresses, for example, started as models, including Cameron Diaz, Andie MacDowell, and Halle Berry; and occasionally some supermodels venture into acting, like Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer, and Laetitia Casta.

Also there are many actresses who have done modeling, such as Heather Locklear.

The relationship between acting and modeling is further evidenced by the high number of agencies which are modeling and talent agencies, and their name reflects the dual focus, because they represent both actors and models.

There are agencies which are simply modeling agencies or talent agencies, not both modeling and talent agencies. Similarly, there are aspiring models who only want to model, and have no interest in acting; just as there are aspiring actors who only want to act, and are never going to pursue modeling.

Yet many times acting and modeling meet, where prospective models also want to act; they start with an interest in a modeling career and an acting career, or, after starting in one field, their interest grows in the other. The new interest can be the result of success, lack of success, limited work, new offers, and new opportunities.

From the beginning or before a transition to modeling, knowing and understanding the similarities and differences between the modeling industry and the acting industry can help to avoid modeling scams.

Two areas to study for both industries are regulations and unions.


The regulations for most states, where regulations exist, group modeling and talent agencies together as if they are employment agencies. This is logical because both types of agencies have the same role of getting people employment. Modeling agencies and talent agencies therefore are subject to the regulations of employment agencies. This is, for example, how it is done in New York State.

In other states, modeling and talent agencies are not regulated so generally; it is more specific; there are regulations for "theatrical employment agencies." Illinois, for example, has laws which specifically apply to "theatrical employment agencies."


SAG, the Screen Actors Guild, is the union of the acting industry. It is very significant in the acting industry, but it has no significance to the modeling industry. As the name itself implies, it is only relevant to acting. It is the Screen Actors Guild, not the Screen Actors and Models Guild.

Despite the clear name, aspiring models have been confused either on their own or through deceptive agencies about the lack of relevance of SAG to modeling. SAG itself is upfront: "SAG does not have jurisdiction over print work or modeling."

SAG, according to its website, was created to deal with the abuses in the industry:

Both idealism and outrage motivated the Founding Fathers and Mothers who created the Screen Actors Guild. Idealism, in that they believed they could succeed in doing, as Ralph Morgan once said, "the greatest good for the greatest number" by building a respected organization to protect actors. And outrage primarily over gruelingly long hours and workweeks that they found intolerable in Hollywood. No other actors organization had as yet proved able to see justice done, and the founders took matters into their own hands.

Unfortunately, there is no equivalent union of the size and significance of SAG for models. There is The Models Guild, but it is new, and small. The Screen Actors Guild was started in 1933; The Models Guild was started in 1995.

The Models Guild may have had a rocky start in terms of the number of changes in its leadership. Amy Bongay, the founder, was replaced shortly after it started by Donna Eller; who was herself replaced by Rhonda Hudson in 1999.

According to The Modeling Handbook: "A model and aspiring actress herself, she [Rhonda Hudson] hopes that The Models Guild can do for models what the Screen Actors Guild does for actors."

The Models Guild has had some success, and it does intend to help draft laws to protect models, but its role has been limited, and it has a long way to go to catch up with the Screen Actors Guild in terms of what it can do for individual models and the industry as a whole.

The most important point is to recognize that SAG does not play a role and is not relevant to the modeling industry, so that if an agency or agent claims it is SAG franchised to an aspiring model, it means nothing. It does not prove it is legitimate.

There are union dues for actors, payable to SAG, but there are no union dues for models. If a new model is asked by an agency "franchised by SAG" to pay union dues when the model wants to model, not act, it is bogus. Again, as SAG itself said: "SAG does not have jurisdiction over print work or modeling."

Another thing to look out for is an agency which tries to cross you over from modeling to acting. You may have expressed no interest in acting, and have no interest in acting, but the agency or school suddenly asks you to read a script, and before you know it, you are paying for acting classes.

The important things to keep in mind are where your interests lie, acting or modeling, or both, and which regulations and unions are relevant to the modeling jobs you want to get.