Before Joining the Union
Union fees are expensive. Like any employee, you are taxed and fees range from $2,500 and up. You can still work in the Industry without being a Union member but in order to work for network television or established production companies consistently, you will not be able to get hired until you are a member of the union.
A union offers medical, dental, and overall health benefits, pension plans, and laws that protect you and save you from in-depth negotiations. Anyone hired as a union member qualifies for union rates and all of the contractual laws and time permits and restraints apply. An example of that is any union member cannot legally be asked to work more than 16 hours straight. Keep in mind that it doesn’t mean you won’t be asked to and it’s really up to you to stay longer. On a tight production, days can go as long as 20 hours, in spite of union rules. It is frowned upon but that doesn’t stop it from happening.
When you’re working on non-union jobs, a Producer can ask you to stay as long as needed until the day’s shooting is wrapped for the night. It is a lot of merely getting your feet wet and finding your groove. Some people work really well under strenuous circumstance and most do not. As mentioned time and time again, the best way to know if working in film and entertainment is for you is to do it. You may find yourself fascinated by all of the tiny little aspects of filmmaking and shooting and it may intrigue you enough to deal with long hours and stern demands. On the other hand, it may not be the right avenue of work for you. It will be based on a person-by-person basis and the only one that knows if you can do it, is you.