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To the struggling pregnant actress looking to keep her SAG/AFTRA health insurance,

Let’s go over our options: You need to make your base earnings stat! You need to make up to $18,000+ in a record amount of time. You need help.

  1. Call, text, and email your colleagues. Tell them you are seeking work and need to hit your base earnings minimum to keep your insurance. People you’ve worked with will keep you in mind. They want to help. Keep it light and send them photos (cute photos of how great you look, not ultrasound photos and naked bellies, ya weirdo).
  2. Talk to your agent. You and your agent can come up with a game plan on when and how to discuss the switch from casting as usual to when your type transitions to preggo. This is different for everyone and requires complete transparency with your team in order to save everyone from embarrassing/emotionally taxing situations.
  3. Go to auditions. With confidence! Please do yourself a favor and go buy (new or used or borrow) fabulous and flattering maternity clothing. You need to look great in order to feel great when your body & hormones are changing and you are much more vulnerable to things that can throw off your groove and take away from the audition at hand.
  4. Voice Over. It doesn’t matter what you look like in a voice over booth. Prepare for parenthood properly by getting your VO ducks in a row and hustle hustle hustle. Contact every filmmaker you’ve worked with in the past and ask for an opportunity to come in for post-production work in VO (background voices, looping, anything that isn’t cast as of yet). Just ask. I have had several filmmakers make room for me in the schedule or even take a part that hadn’t been allocated yet so I could add some VO work to my base earnings goal.
  5. Residuals. I know a few ULB producers may be a little behind on their residuals. It happens. Some might even forget its a part of their job. Call every single feature director you know whose film has been distributed for more than 6 months (60 days is roughly the distribution max for quarterly reporting, allow for another 60-90 for the producer to get checks out). There is nothing wrong with chasing down a few residual checks to make sure they get added appropriately to your health & pension numbers.
  6. SAG student films. Go to your submission sites and go to those SAG student films you may have ignored for a few years now. Use your best photo, put up your reel footage, and nail those damn student film auditions. Blow them out of the water. Heck, offer to donate your home as a location if the shoot is long enough and it’ll get things moving. Do it. If you can’t hit your base earnings, get those days- you only need 78 days for the year, so you can always try and grab a few of those early on if you’re planning a pregnancy!
  7. Collaborate and Produce. Ya know that film you’ve been talking about with your friends from Groundlings? You know that fun web series idea you and your friends from acting class have been laughing about? Ya know that experimental short film you’ve secretly wanted to write? Do all of them. Do them now. Call SAG today and get the signatory work started. Raise some funds, ask some favors, get a small crew, and figure it out. You need to book good, paying, SAG, respectable work- YOU can help collaborate on that work. You can get things started. You can produce. It might be the best thing you did for your career anyway! I can write 10 more articles on this… oh wait, I have… google me. Also, you’d be the one putting more baby-baking people on the screen, you’d be doing the industry a service.
  8. Community. Find your fellow pre preggos, preggers, new Moms, new Dads, family advocates, social media groups, and artists trying to make a difference. Gather. Listen. Ask. Support. The Actors Fund just had their first seminar that catered to working professionals in this time of transition (“Navigating Health Insurance Options for Pregnant Women & New Moms” by Brigid Sweeney and “Maternity Leave & Wellness for Mom and Baby” by Emily Seagraves- The Actors Fund contact info below), you can join with others and learn about how to help each other together. It’s out there, go find it. And when you do- print and share the *ACTION PLAN* below— if we bring the numbers, the system can change!
  9. Be an advocate for other under represented groups. This is a long game. You now know what it feels like to have hard time getting work. You are not special in this. There is a long list of people who are skirted by the film industry and need more screen time. Gather around those people, lift them up, and help get them on the screen. This type of advocacy will not only help people (which is more important for the world at large), but it will also help put you in circles of people who know what you’re going through and will have better ways to help each other hustle. This may be a paradigm changing experience for you- use it.
  10. Don’t stress, there is help. Below, you’ll find an extensive list of resources that will help you decide how to get through this tough transition- Victoria Ballesteros of SAG-AFTRA Health generously helped curate a fabulous rescue guide. And, outside of the industry, If you’ve made your base earnings and paid into the system properly, then you qualify for state support. Up to 55% of your highest earning quarter, see more on the EDD website (http://www.edd.ca.gov/Disability/FAQ_DI_Pregnancy.htm). Every little bit helps. Google and ask for help.
I want to hear from you about other ways we can help each other during times of struggle and ways we can specifically support procreating people in this industry!

Thank you for your time.
BONUS CONTENT BELOW (Action Plan & Resource Guide)

Jennica Schwartzman
Executive Producer, Purpose Pictures
writer, producer, actress- filmmaker
@JennicaRenee #iwahpf #momproducer

Let the SAG/AFTRA Health Plan Board of Trustees know that the reality of strict entertainment industry earnings goals while procreating needs to change. The jobs don’t exist, the discrimination is impossible to overcome, & the base earnings are not realistic during this time of transition— and procreating is important! Adding family advocacy to every facet of filmmaking will change the reputation of this industry and make it safer for all. Leaving women behind is no longer an option.

Write a letter TODAY: file an appeal by mailing a letter to the Board of Trustees as notated on the sagaftraplans.org website (same info as filing a claim). The letters of appeal will be presented to the board of Trustees for review. Decisions are based on many contributing factors including the fiscal health of the plans- but making your voice heard WILL make a difference. According to sagaftraplans.org’s FAQs, “Under federal law, Trustees have the authority to change the eligibility requirements and benefits provided under the Plan.” The board has full discretionary authority. But we need YOU to speak up. Today. And ask 3 friends to join you. See example below. And feel free to print out this article and include it with your letter.

“Attn: The Board of Trustees
SAG-AFTRA Health Plan
P.O. Box 7830
Burbank, CA 91510-7830

Dear Board of Trustees (and its respective authorized agents),

I’m not happy with the current minimum/base quarterly earnings required of pregnant women in SAG/AFTRA to continue coverage with the SAG/AFTRA Health Plan. There is evidence to suggest that the available work, the discrimination, and the demands of set life make it extra difficult to maintain coverage when a woman needs it most. Simply losing coverage and beginning again will leave women and their families without continuity and quality of care when they are most vulnerable- and this is unacceptable. Please consider a 6-12 month extension or alternative minimum for pregnancy and postpartum care. Thank you for your time.”

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MS. JENNICA SCHWARTZMAN, Actress, Writer, Producer, Mother

Jennica's author page and articles