Industry Training: Guilds, Unions and Organizations

While universities and educational institutions provide the groundwork for production, there are many professional organizations that foster career development and advancement.  Let’s take a look at four major entities.

Industry Training

There are also programs set up by the industry for building the industry. One example is provided by the Directors Guild of America. They have an Assistant Directors Trainee Program that has been refined and expanded over several decades. You may view an outline of the program by visiting this website: Many major studios offer internships and take on trainees, as do smaller, well-established indie studios. While these programs are highly competitive, they are a valuable option for individuals enrolled in a college-level film program.


In the US, below-the-line workers are almost always members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), (Full name: International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts of the United States, Its Territories, and Canada) There are over 400 local chapters including separate chapters for costumers and costume designers, for illustrators and scenic artists and art directors and set designers, for painters and plumbers and plasterers, for sound technicians and laboratory technicians, for cinematographers and editors, even for studio teachers (tutors and social workers for kids), publicists and emergency medics. Each chapter sets its own daily and weekly rates for its workers.


There are hundreds of Teamster local unions across North America. The local unions and their members are the heart and backbone of the union. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, with 1.4 million members, is one of the largest labor unions in the world. It is also the most diverse union in the U.S. Today. The union represents everyone from A to Z – from airline pilots to zookeepers. One out of every ten union workers is a member of the Teamsters.

Unlike other labor unions, the Teamsters Union is structured to promote strong local unions and strong local leaders. Since the locals negotiate most Teamsters contracts and provide most of the services to the members, they keep most of the dues money paid by its members. Locals retain their own expert labor lawyers, certified public accountants, full-time business agents, organizers, and clerical staff.

The members of each local elect their own officers, devise their own structure, and vote on their own bylaws, compatible with the International Constitution and Bylaws. While enjoying their independence, the locals benefit from the expertise and assistance of the international union, and of the various conferences and councils in the union’s structure.


Screen Actors Guild (SAG) is the nation’s largest labor union representing working actors. Established in 1933, SAG has a rich history in the American labor movement, from standing up to studios to breaking long-term engagement contracts in the 1940s to fighting for artists’ rights amid the digital revolution sweeping the entertainment industry in the 21st century. With 20 branches nationwide, SAG represents more than 160,000 actors, announcers, broadcasters, journalists, dancers, DJs, news writers, news editors, program hosts, puppeteers, recording artists, singers, stunt performers, voiceover artists and other media professionals. In 2012, SAG and AFTRA merged and collectively exists to enhance actors’ working conditions, compensation, and benefits and to be a powerful, unified voice on behalf of artists’ rights. Headquartered in Los Angeles, SAG/AFTRA is an affiliate of the AFL-CIO.