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Film’s Financial Earnings: Real Movie Actors’ Salaries and Benefits
© Copyright 2011 by Aurelio Locsin.
While it is true that major movie stars can make millions of dollars per film, not counting royalties, rank-and-file actors make far less. Their minimum wages are defined by the Screen Actors Guild, a labor union founded in 1933 that negotiates performer contracts with the studios.
The low end of the rates listed here represent the minimum wages as of 2011. Rates go up by 2 percent per year until they hit the high end of the rates, which is valid until June 30, 2014. These rates only apply for the stated day or week period. They rarely translate to long-term income because actor pay is only by the job,
The following daily minimums apply to actors hired to work for the day. These rates are also used for those who work three days or less per week.
- Performers are standard actors with lines and actions. They make $825 to $859.
- Stunt performers do dangerous stunts in place of regular actors. They do not have lines and earn $825 to $859.
- Stunt coordinators plan the activities of a stunt team and may perform stunts themselves. They make $825 to $859.
- Airplane pilot fly air vehicles. They make $1,103 to $1,148 for studio work and $1,434 to $1,492 for location work.
The following weekly minimums apply to actors hired to work for four days or more.
- Performers: $2,864 to $2,979
- Stunt performers: $3,075 to $3,200
- Stunt coordinators: $3,075 to $3,200
- Airplane pilots in studio and on-location: $3,075 to $3,200. They get an additional $946 to $984 per day for flying or taxiing.
Background actors, who are also called extras, appear behind principal actors to make a scene look realistic. They may appear as travelers in an airport, a crowd in a baseball game or workers in an office. They do not have lines. The acting community and studios do not consider them to be true actors. Instead, they are seen as moving props. In some cases, extras cost less than other props such as vehicles or animals.
- Non-union extras earn minimum wage and overtime rates. Studios may grant them bonuses based on their activities.
- Union extras receive from $142 to $148 per day, but may earn overtime above this. If they show special skills such as square dancing, riding horses or playing basketball, their rate rises to between $152 and $158. Stand-ins, who substitute for regular performers when shots are planned or photographed for tests, get $157 to $163. Swimmers and skaters make $328 to $342, except in New York City, where they earn $369 to $384.
As part of their compensation, actors must receive a meal break within six hours from the time of their first call. The second meal break must be within six hours from return from the first meal break. Otherwise, they are entitled to payments ranging from $25 to $50 per half-hour of break missed. For meals not provided by the producer, actors receive $12 for breakfast, $18 for lunch and $30 for dinner.
- Screen Actors Guild
With 20 branches nationwide, SAG represents nearly 120,000 actors who work in motion pictures, television, commercials, industrials, video games, Internet and all new media formats.
- Central Casting
Central Casting has been providing the entertainment industry with background talent for more than 80 years.
Actors who must fly to locations at the request of the producer, must do so in business class. If this is not available, they must fly in first class. Coach class is acceptable only for non-stop domestic flights under 1,000 air miles; non-stop between Los Angeles and Vancouver; if six or more performers are flying together on the same flight; if a large number of company staff is flying; and for auditions and interviews. When possible, elevated or extended coach class must be used.