The Screen Actors Guild Awards, a swanky but intimate star-studded evening typically held in January in Los Angeles, feels a bit like the coolest party in town—and for one night in winter, it is. Focusing exclusively on the acting component of the television and movie industries, these awards, presented by a key actors’ union, adds a nice twist by honoring not only individual performances and performers, but also awarding entire casts and ensembles for collaborative work in TV and the movies.
What really sets these awards apart from other industry honors though is that the winners are selected entirely by performers’ peers in SAG-AFTRA actors’ union, not studio moguls, marketers, or other industry execs. Artists that go home with a SAG award in hand are often seen as favorites for an Oscar, as they often end up being strong contenders for that award as well.
Another defining feature of the awards is the “I Am an Actor” series of stories. Every year, the show starts off with several actors from a range of ages and backgrounds sharing brief, personal anecdotes about what being an actor means to them. The identities of the participants are kept secret every year, so it’s always a thrill to see which stars will pop up with their own unique tales to tell.
Held in downtown Los Angeles at the iconic Shrine Auditorium, it’s an exclusive affair—invitations are limited to nominees, presenters, SAG-AFTRA officials, and precious few others—but there is a lottery you can enter to score one of the few seats set aside for unaffiliated guests. Otherwise, get there early enough to nab a spot along approach routes to the site, and you might see the stars, dressed to the nines, as they head for the event.