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Film’s Financial Earnings: Real Movie Actors’ Salaries and Benefits

Updated on December 23, 2011

© 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.


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.


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    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 

      5 years ago from USA

      It's interesting that extras are considered as moving props. I guess that is as true as it gets. I wonder why stunt performers are paid the same as a regular performer, since they obviously have a more intrinsic part to play. By the way, I enjoyed the video with Dan's tips. He's so right on about practicing in front of other people and getting their feedback, also researching the characters is truly important.

    • ib radmasters profile image

      ib radmasters 

      6 years ago from Southern California

      It was a very interesting and the pay is not bad for the non stars.

      The problem however is actually getting to the paid part. The whole system of getting picked for a part hasn't changed much since the beginning. I am guessing of course, but it doesn't seem to have changed.

      Agents are still very important, because without one you can't get close enough to get to the hiring agent. These agents can't be bothered with any outside contacts. There are not that many of them, the ones that can get the work. The competition between actors is fierce.

      Yet, all in all the movies today defy how they got funded. The stories are weak, the acting is just acting, and after seeing the movie you come away wondering where are the filters. The filters that make the decision for good movies to go ahead, and the bad ones to be terminated.

      There is an identical process in Television.


    • jainismus profile image

      Mahaveer Sanglikar 

      6 years ago from Pune, India

      Interesting Hub, voted up and shared with followers.

    • tapasrecipe profile image


      6 years ago from Spanish tapas land

      I personally know a couple of guys in london who direct crap adverts for companies like tescos and sainsburys, min 3000-5000 sterling per day, most ads will take 3 to 5 days to make, maybe a week in the studio, 'nice work if you can get it' I wouldn´t mind but the end results are usually so mainstream, we do laugh about how much they earn.

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 

      6 years ago from Riga, Latvia

      WOW this is fascinating. Voted up and interesting. I wouldn't mind making some of those salaries but in this day and age sometimes even that isn't enough. Thanks for sharing.

    • myownlife profile image


      6 years ago from london

      It's really a matter of interest to know about their wages, everyone is excited to know it, Thanks for sharing it.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      6 years ago from Florida

      Very interesting! I always wondered what salaries were like for extras. I know actors are paid big bucks. Isn't it amazing how many of them die broke! Bad habits, bad living, etc.etc. I voted this Hub UP, and will share, too.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      I had no idea that actors, and even background actors made that much money with perks including paid meals. Of course the pay is not steady, so except for the highest paid actors who get paid millions of dollars per film, they have to be careful about saving and spending that money. Very interesting hub! Voted up, interesting, useful and will SHARE.

    • thelyricwriter profile image

      Richard Ricky Hale 

      6 years ago from West Virginia

      This is very interesting Alocsin. You always find great information and stats. I loved it. Voted interesting and up.

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 

      6 years ago from Chicago

      This Hub is very interesting. My sister has her SAG Card, of which she is quite proud. She lives in the Village and acts mostly off-off broadway though she did have that one movie with one speaking line. That's how she got the coveted card. :)


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