As a voice and screen performer for more than 40 years, Susan Boyd Joyce knows how important residual income is for working actors in Hollywood. She also knows the annoyance of dealing with countless residual checks sent by traditional mail — even those that add up to a few pennies or less.
“I know people who’ve papered their walls with zero-amount checks,” says Boyd Joyce.
Under a new system that SAG-AFTRA is expected to launch this year, those physical checks will vanish. They will be replaced by a direct deposit service that will bring the union’s residuals payment method into the modern era.
Although direct deposit has been a staple of corporate life for decades, the modernization of residual payments has long stymied the film and TV industry. SAG-AFTRA has been requesting a move toward direct deposit since the ‘90s, David White, the union’s national executive director, said in an interview.
“It has been a tremendous challenge to get all of the different companies in the industry and systems in the industry to agree to a single process,” White said. “There are multiple systems in the industry that do not talk with one another. The residual processing system for a company like Disney is very different than the processing system for Warner Bros., CBS or for any other system where they have their own internal processing unit.”
The union didn’t specify when it is planning to launch the service this year.
“We’re currently testing it and piloting it with real-life users,” said Daniel Inukai, the union’s chief information officer.
Initially, only 40% to 50% of residual payments will go through the new system as SAG-AFTRA works to ramp up adoption by studios and other employers.
It is expected to save SAG-AFTRA a significant amount in postage. The union, which processed nearly 3.8 million residuals paper checks last year, pays a bulk postage rate of 40 cents per item. That would translate to savings of nearly $1.5 million a year if all residuals are processed through direct deposit.
SAG-AFTRA is partnering with Exactuals, an L.A.-based payments company, and City National Bank on the initiative.
“As a performer, it’s great to know something is going straight from my employer to my bank account,” said Boyd Joyce, who sits on the union’s national board. “A lost check is a real drag.”