SAG means Screen Actors Guild. Non-SAG means that you are non-union.
SAG and AFTRA are two of the major unions that you will eventually have to be a part of if you want to be a serious film/tv actor. SAG deals with film, most of the TV shows, and commercials. AFTRA deals with TV shows, namely Sitcoms and Soaps, Game shows, and radio.
AFTRA is an open union in that you can join just by giving them $1600. However, I do NOT recommend joining AFTRA until you have to. If you book an AFTRA job you will have 30 days to work as many AFTRA jobs as you want without having to pay $1600. After the 30 days, you are a must join the next time you book an AFTRA job. Join then.
You can be SAG eligible by one of these ways:
1. As a non-union actor, you can audition for a SAG project and if you nail the audition, you can be SAG elgiible.
2. If you join a sister union like AFTRA or Equity and get at least one principal speaking role in an AFTRA project or appear on a gameshow, you are now eligible a year after joining AFTRA.
NOTE: Just joining AFTRA and being a member for a year alone does NOT make you SAG eligible! You HAVE to get at least one speaking part on an AFTRA show within the year of joining.
3. You can get lucky and get 3 SAG vouchers from doing Extra Work.
SAG Eligible means that you can now join by giving SAG around $2400 (it's this much in California)
-All of the major films, most of the major tv shows, and commercials are SAG. You must be SAG to regularly work those shows. AFTRA deals with a lot of the TV shows and anything Radio.
-higher pay and residuals.
-Can vote on union issues
-Protection from the union. ie. poor set conditions/treatment, etc.
-Health insurance benefits
-If you join too early, it will be very difficult for you as an actor.
-Can't do any non-union stuff
LA Actor who is giving you the REAL DEAL