My Top 6 Perks of Being a DGA Member

My Top 6 Perks of Being a DGA Member
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As a long-time DGA member, I’d like to share some of what I think are the top perks of being a member of this leading film industry union.  I’ve seen the guild grow and evolve over the years and watched it become more diverse and inclusive.

I’ve also seen the expansion of continuing education programs and safety training to keep members at the top of their craft.

The most read posts on this blog are about unions and guilds, so to offer more information, this one is about the guild I know best: the Directors Guild of America.

If you’re wondering whether it’s worth joining the DGA, that depends on your career goals and where you plan to work.  But if you’d like to hear what the perks are from someone who’s been a guild member for decades, this post is for you.

Here are my top six perks of being a DGA member:

  1. I got to work on great projects with top people in the industry.

If your goal is to work with the top people in our industry, you’ll have to be in a union.  As a DGA a.d., I worked with some of the best.

If you’re happy working non-union in a smaller market, maybe joining a union isn’t for you.  But I wanted to work on big shows in L.A., and I could only do that as an a.d. by being a DGA member.

Even on smaller commercials I worked on, the director was usually a DGA member, which meant the a.d. team was, too.  So I’ve also worked on dozens of commercials as a DGA a.d., both in and outside of Los Angeles.

As a DGA member, I’ve been part of a community of major industry players and have been fortunate enough to work with quite a few of them.

  1. I got educational and networking opportunities through DGA events.

Every month the guild has seminars, webinars, and panel discussions for members with people at the pinnacle of their craft.  Even members with decades of experience always learn something new.

DGA events also offer invaluable opportunities to network with our peers.  In some instances, casual conversations at events have led me to jobs.

I can’t imagine where else I’d be able to attend a live moderated panel discussion with the five high-profile directors nominated for the DGA award for best feature film director.  The event occurs every year and is always a highlight of the DGA calendar.

There’s nothing like learning from the best.

  1. I received many negotiated DGA member benefits on each job.

A few benefits of the contract include overtime, cost of living pay increases, meal money, per diem, vacation-holiday pay, and completion of assignment pay.

I can’t begin calculating what these benefits amount to over several decades of work.

Employers are signatories to the DGA contract, so they know they’ll be paying for these benefits, and you’ll never have to negotiate them.

I’ve only had one dispute with an employer about overtime pay in my thirty-plus years in the DGA, and it was resolved in my favor.

I count that as a significant perk.

  1. Employers contribute to healthcare and pension benefits.

With our unstable healthcare situation in the U.S., having a decent healthcare plan is invaluable.  And the DGA plan, like the IATSE plan, includes dental, vision, and prescription drug coverage.

Health plans generally have worsened over the years as healthcare prices have skyrocketed, and the union plans are no exception.

However, union plans remain the gold standard, and I’m grateful to be covered by one.

The DGA pension plan was always in the background until I got close to retirement.  Now I realize how valuable the defined benefit plan the guild offers is in the era of 401-Ks.

You won’t get top-notch healthcare and pension plans working non-union, so they’re a major perk.

  1. I had the opportunity to serve on DGA committees and help organize events.

Member committees help influence the direction of the guild and our industry, and I found it gratifying to serve on them.  It helped me better understand the DGA and the industry in which we work.

It’s also a way to be seen as a leader who isn’t afraid to get involved and work for the greater good.  It was also a terrific avenue to meet more people when I was a new member.

It’s great to be seen as a doer willing to contribute their time and talents, rather than just another person looking for a job.  People got to know me as more than merely another name on the qualification list.

  1. I always knew I’d get paid.

While the non-union world has many productions with honest, experienced producers who can be relied upon to pay their crews promptly, others are shadier, and there’s sometimes little assurance that you’ll be paid.

I know I'll be paid if a company is a signatory to the DGA contract.  As hard as we work in our industry, that’s reassuring, and it’s a significant perk.

Bonus perk of being in the DGA:

I was able to attend free screenings of newly released films at the guild and receive screeners to watch for DGA awards voting.  It’s always fun seeing movies with serious movie-watching professional peers.

And there are no distractions of food, drinks, or coming attractions.

Screenings aren’t a reason to join the DGA, but they’re undoubtedly a membership perk I’ve fully enjoyed.


Joining the DGA is not an inexpensive proposition, but the benefits can be tremendous if you’re working or planning to work in the highly unionized markets of Los Angeles or New York.

I’d advise weighing your options carefully and having specific career goals in mind before investing in guild membership.

Below is some helpful information on DGA initiation fees:

Feature film/Television

Director:  $13,818.00

UPM:  $12,424.00

1st A.D.:  $11,814.00

2nd A.D.:  $7,916.00

AD/UPM Low Budget:  2x weekly salary

Associate Director:  $7119.00

Stage Manager:  $6567.00


Director:  $3,500.00

UPM:  $7,258.00

1st A.D.:  $8,819.00

2nd A.D.:  $4,794.00

Here’s the link to the page on the DGA website for more information on joining the guild.






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