Casting and budgeting for Background Actors is an essential part of the pre-production process for every Producer. Whether you're putting together a union or non-union project, determining which rate applies to the various types of collective bargaining agreements can be a difficult and tedious process.
On SAG-AFTRA projects Background Actors are all paid according to SAG-AFTRA rates. On non-union projects, rates are typically determined by the filming location and the State’s minimum wage. However, how much a certain Background Actor gets paid also depends the classification of the project (theatrical, commercial, new media, etc.), as well as upon the extra's union status, what they do on set, and any pay bumps they may be awarded.
It can be tricky to keep track of the various levels of compensation so we’ve compiled the background rates for the different segments of background talent possible in on film production.
Rates are the minimum amounts of money talent must make for a given production. For union projects, the Screen Actors Guild determines the rate. For non-union projects the rate is determined by the State’s minimum wage in which the production is filming. A rate sheet is a centralized document that lists what the appropriate rates are.
Unlike principal actor SAG rates which are often determined by the project type, budget constraints, and distribution plan, SAG-AFTRA rates for Background Actors are thankfully more straightforward and are based on the role the Background Actor plays, as well as any additional requirements - known as bumps - that the Background Actor might incur.
It’s important to note that even for Background Actors you’ll have to pay an additional 18% to 18.5% on top of the SAG actors' pay and fringes for Pension & Health (P&H) benefits.
Bumps are additional payments the Background Actor receives for certain things. Common examples of bumps include:
The following are the theatrical rates for Union and Non-Union Background Actors for 2020 as according to SAG’s Basic Theatrical Agreement. SAG Theatrical Rates apply to all actors performing in films across a variety of budgets. For the SAG Basic Theatrical Agreement to apply, the production must have a planned initial theatrical release and a minimum budget of $2,500,000.
Below are the theatrical bump rates for Union and Non-Union Background Actors for 2020.
When hiring Background Actors, it’s not just the theatrical rates and pay bumps you need to consider. For both union and non-union extras there are additional elements that can cost your production money.
You have up until 4PM of the following workday to cancel the booking. After 4PM the actor is entitled to their full rate of pay for that day.
California labor law requires that employees must be given a meal period after every six work hours. For any time over that allotted six-hour period, Background Actors are entitled to a Meal Penalty Violation (MPVs).
Union Background Actors receive $7.50 for the first half-hour, $10 for the second half-hour, and $12.50 for the third half-hour and thereafter.
Non-union are entitled to one meal penalty per day equivalent to one hour’s pay. Industry practice has been to pay non-union extras $5.00 per hour for each hour delay for this violation of this requirement.
Union Background Actors that receive a request to bring wardrobe with them for a specific job will receive half the applicable allowance rate as an additional payment.
Union Background Actors that receive a request to bring pets, automobiles, or props with them for a specific job will receive half the applicable allowance rate as an additional payment. In some scenarios, if you a bring a specific prop, a 1960s vehicle used for a scene based in the 60s, you can get a separate bump altogether for bringing
Interview fees do not apply to non-union Background Actors.
Porsche Picture-Pick Car for TNT's "I Am The Knight" where BackgroundActors where given a $250 bump for their vehicle
Union Background Actors will be paid by the Thursday following the week of employment. Late payment damages will be assessed at $3.00 per day (excluding Saturday, Sunday, & holidays) not to exceed 25 days or $75.00
Payment requirement deadlines do not apply to non-union Background Actors.
For union Background Actors a regular workday is classified as 8 consecutive hours, excluding meal periods. Any time over that is payable at a higher rate. The 9th and 10th hours are payable at time-and-a-half in 6-minute units. Work that takes place beyond the 10th hour is payable at double time in 6-minute units.
Non-union Background Actors are also entitled to overtime. For any work over 8 hours, non-union Background Actors should be paid time-and-a-half for the 9th and 10th hours work and double time for all hours worked after the 10th hour up until the 16th hour. It is illegal to employ a non-union background actor for more than 16 hours from call time to wrap.
For any work time that exceeds that of 16 hours, union Background Actors are entitled to special compensation. This applies in all situations except those deemed beyond the control of the producer. Production considerations or conditions are not considered beyond the scope of the producer’s control.
When work time exceeds 16 hours, union Background Actors should receive one day’s pay for each hour (or fraction thereof) beyond 16 hours. Meal breaks, wardrobe, prop return, and travel time are included in calculating the 16 hours.
The Sixteen-hour violation rule does not apply to non-union Background Actors.
When budgeting for rates it's important to understand what classification your project falls under as theatrical, television, commercial, and new media projects are all held to different standards under the various SAG-AFTRA agreements. For instance, on SAG-AFTRA feature films producers are required to hire 57 SAG members per day, in addition to one stand in. It's important to understand the basics of the SAG-AFTRA agreement that applies to your project to avoid violations and subsequent fines.
Extras Casting is an important (and stressful) component to every production. For each role that is played, or depending on what happens during production on any given day, different compensation may need to be granted. Castifi's system allows Extras Casting Directors not only source from over a pool of 50,000 actors nationwide but also provides production a real-time estimate of how much money they're spending with regards to what was budgeted on that production day.
Castifi Background Actors on the set of CBS "Seal Team"