Earning a Living as an Extra

By Webmaster

  • Earning a Living as an Extra

    Here’s everything you need to know about getting paid

    (By Javier Guerra)

    (Cottonbro Studio | Pexels)

    Background acting, also known as being an extra or supporting artist, offers a glimpse into the inner workings of the film and television industry. These individuals fill the spaces that bring life and authenticity to the worlds created by directors and producers. Yet, behind the scenes, many extras grapple with the reality of making ends meet solely through this line of work.


    Can you make a living as an extra?

    (Photo: Ron Lach | Pexels)

    Location serves as a critical determinant of the feasibility of pursuing a career as an extra. Cities renowned for their bustling entertainment industries, such as Los Angeles, New York, and Atlanta, offer a plethora of opportunities for those seeking background work. However, even in these hubs, success is not guaranteed. Competition can be fierce, with countless hopefuls vying for coveted spots in productions.

    Availability is another crucial factor. Flexibility is not merely a luxury but a necessity for background actors. Productions often operate on unpredictable schedules, requiring extras to be available at a moment’s notice. Balancing auditions, shoots, and other commitments demands a high level of adaptability.


    How much money do you make as a movie extra?

    (Photo: Monstera Production | Pexels)

    The pay rate for movie extras can vary widely depending on factors such as the production budget, location, duration of the shoot, and the policies of the casting agency or production company. Generally, movie extras can expect to earn anywhere from minimum wage to a few hundred dollars per day.

    In the United States, the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) sets minimum pay rates for background actors working on union productions. The basic daily rate for background actors under SAG-AFTRA contracts was around $170 per day, with additional compensation for overtime, special skills, or hazardous work conditions. However, non-union productions may offer lower rates.

    Some extras casting agencies or productions may offer flat rates for shorter shoots or independent projects, while others may offer higher pay for specialized roles or featured extra positions. Stand-ins or photo doubles may also receive higher compensation due to the specific requirements of their roles.


    How long does it take for extras to get paid?

    (Photo: Shane | Unsplash)

    The time it takes for extras to get paid can vary depending on several factors, including the production company’s payment policies, the terms of the contract or agreement, and the payroll processing procedures of the casting agency or production. Here’s a general outline of what to expect:

    Payment Terms: When you’re hired as an extra, the payment terms should be outlined in the contract or agreement you sign with the casting agency or production company. This document typically specifies the rate of pay, the frequency of payment (e.g., weekly, bi-weekly), and any other relevant payment details.

    Production Schedule: The timing of when extras get paid can also depend on the production schedule. Some productions may pay extras at the end of each day or week worked, while others may have a delay between the time you work and when you receive payment.

    Payroll Processing: After you’ve completed your work as an extra, the casting agency or production company will typically process your payment through their payroll system. This process can take some time, especially for larger productions with numerous cast and crew members.

    Payment Method: Payment may be issued via direct deposit, paper check, or electronic payment system, depending on the preferences of the casting agency or production company. Be sure to provide accurate and up-to-date payment information to ensure timely receipt of your earnings.

    Communication: If you have any questions or concerns about payment, it’s essential to communicate with the casting agency or production company promptly. They should be able to provide information about the status of your payment and address any issues that may arise.


    Do extras get paid more if they speak?

    (Photo: Kristina Flour/Unsplash)

    Yes, extras typically receive higher pay if they have speaking lines or are featured in a more prominent way within a scene. When extras are upgraded to “featured extras” or “background actors with lines,” they often receive higher compensation to reflect the increased level of responsibility and contribution to the production.

    The specific pay increase for speaking roles can vary depending on the production budget, the policies of the casting agency or production company, and any union agreements that may be in place. In unionized environments such as those governed by SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists), there are standardized pay rates for background actors with lines or featured extras.

    In addition to receiving higher pay, extras with speaking roles may also be eligible for other benefits such as residuals (additional payments for reruns or distribution of the production) and union protections such as access to healthcare and pension benefits, depending on their union status and the terms of the production agreement.


    Do extras make royalties?

    (Photo: Michael Longmire/Unsplash)

    In general, extras do not receive royalties for their work in films or television shows. Royalties, also known as residuals, are typically paid to actors based on factors such as the distribution and performance of the production, as well as any union agreements or contracts they have in place.

    However, extras are typically paid a flat fee for their work, which is negotiated at the time of hiring. This fee may vary depending on factors such as the production budget, the duration of the shoot, and any union agreements that may be in place. Once extras are paid for their work, they do not typically receive additional compensation based on the performance or distribution of the production.

    It’s worth noting that some exceptions may exist for extras who are upgraded to featured roles or who perform specific tasks that go beyond typical background work. In these cases, they may be entitled to additional compensation or residuals based on the terms of their contract or any applicable union agreements.

    Overall, while extras do not typically receive royalties for their work, they are still compensated for their time and contributions to the production.


    Do extras get paid for reruns?

    In most cases, extras do not receive additional compensation for reruns or subsequent broadcasts of the film or television show in which they appeared.

    Royalties for reruns typically apply to principal actors, directors, writers, and other key personnel who negotiated specific contracts that entitle them to a percentage of the profits generated by the ongoing distribution or syndication of the work.

    Extras are typically paid a flat fee for their time on set, often referred to as a day rate or session fee, and do not typically have the same negotiating power or contractual arrangements as principal actors.

    However, there may be rare instances where an extra’s appearance is particularly significant or memorable, and they may have negotiated additional compensation or residuals as part of their contract. But this is not common practice for most extras.


    Do extras get paid overtime?

    The payment structure for extras regarding overtime can vary depending on the production and the jurisdiction in which the filming takes place.

    In some cases, extras may receive overtime pay if they work more than a certain number of hours in a day or week, similar to other crew members and actors. However, it’s important to note that not all productions offer overtime pay to extras, and some may have different policies or agreements in place.

    Additionally, labor laws and union agreements can also influence whether extras are entitled to overtime pay and under what circumstances. Productions that are signatories to agreements with entertainment industry labor unions such as SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) may have specific provisions regarding overtime pay for extras.

    Overall, it’s advisable for extras to clarify payment terms, including overtime policies, with the production company or casting agency before accepting a job to ensure they understand what compensation they will receive for their time on set.


     

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