Working as an extra gives actors an opportunity to make money while spending time on a television or movie set. But, is working as an extra really worth it?
Just how much do extras earn per day? Currently, SAG-AFTRA extras who are general background actors earn a base pay of $174 per 8-hour day. Non-union extras earn an average of $75 to $125 for an 8-hour work day.
Although background actors earn the base rate mentioned above, they are also entitled to overtime pay and can earn additional fees (called bumps) for many reasons such as hazard pay, fess for bringing their own wardrobe and props, and pay for wearing body makeup or a glued-on skull cap.
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Can You Make A Living As An Extra?
If you want to make a living as an extra, you will need to take advantage of the bumps you can earn.
- Wardrobe – If extras are required to bring additional complete wardrobe changes, they are entitled to receive additional compensation.
- Body makeup/Skull caps/Hair goods/Haircuts – Background actors are paid additional compensation when they are asked to wear body makeup on more than 50% of their body; when they wear hair goods (such as wigs or a mustache) affixed with spirit gum; when they are required to wear a natural full-grown beard; when they supply their own hair pieces; and when they are required to get a haircut.
- Wet/Smoke/Snow/Dust – If background actors are required to get wet (including during rain), work in smoke, snow or dust, they receive additional compensation.
- Props – Sometimes extras are asked to bring their own props. This will make them entitled to an additional fee. Some common props are pets, golf clubs, tennis racquets, luggage, cameras, skis, and automobiles.
- Hazard pay – Background actors will sometimes be asked to do rough or dangerous work. Producers are required to inform actors of this work at the time of booking. Actors receive additional compensation for hazardous work. The amount of additional compensation is negotiated between the producer and actor.
Also, extras can earn late fees, a night premium, and a mileage reimbursement. Additionally, extras are paid for costume fittings, interviews, and rehearsal time. Be sure to choose the jobs where you can receive the most money and make certain that you are fully compensated for those jobs.
In addition, SAG background talent receive overtime pay for working more than 8 hours; holiday pay for working on designated holidays; and consecutive-days pay for working 6 consecutive days and 7 consecutive days for the same employer.
For the highest pay, you want to be sure to audition for background work in commercials. The rates for background actors on commercials are much higher than rates on film and television.
Of course, union actors are paid more than non-union actors. If you want to make a living as an extra, consider joining SAG-AFTRA once you are eligible and can afford to do so.
How Long Does It Take To Get Paid As An Extra?
Background actors are paid by check. Generally checks are mailed to background actors the Thursday after the week of employment. Since these are sent through the mail, expect your check to take at least a couple of additional days to arrive to you.
How Much Are Union Background Actors’ Rates?
Union rates for background actors are set forth and explained in the SAG-AFTRA’s Background Actors Contracts Digest. Here are some of the basic rates for SAG background actors:
|General Background Actor||$174/day||$174/day||$338.40/day|
|Special Ability Actor [Stand-in on commercials]||$184/day||$184/day||$427.20/day|
|Stand-In [Photo double in commercials]||$204/day||$204/day||$388.40/day|
|Choreographed swimmers/skaters [Hand models in commercials]||$402/day||$450/day||$592.60/day|
All of these rates are based on an 8-hour work-day. In the 9th and 10th hours of work, actors are paid at one and one-half times the actor’s daily rate. Beyond the 10th hour, the rate is double the actor’s daily rate.
Bumps in pay are added to the basic daily rate. Some of these rates which you should be familiar with are listed below.
|Wardrobe||$9/day for first complete |
$6.25/day for each additional wardrobe change
|Body makeup/Skull caps/Hair goods/Haircuts||$19/day|
Golf Clubs (set with bag): $12/day
Tennis Racquet: $5.50/day
Luggage (per piece): $5.50/day
Skis and Poles: $12/day
|Autos, etc.||Auto: $37.50/day|
Police Motorcycle: $50/day
How Do Payment Vouchers Work?
To get paid for a job, background actors are required to fill out a payment voucher. Payment vouchers serve as the extras time sheet and a report of the additional services provided that entitles them to receive a bump in pay. Here are a couple of tips to help ensure you are paid the correct amount.
- Fill out the form completely.
- Write legibly.
- Bring your own pen to set.
- Make sure all of your bump payments are documented.
- Double check the form before you sign it and turn it in.
- Keep a copy of your voucher just in case there is an error on your check. The simplest way to do this is to take a picture of your completed voucher before you turn it in.
5 Non-Monetary Benefits Of Working As An Extra
Although the pay for being an extra is not a huge amount, there are other non-monetary benefits for working as an extra.
- Working as an extra is an opportunity to become SAG eligible.
- You get to eat free food on set as an extra
- As an extra you can learn the inner-workings of a television or movie set.
- Being an extra gives you the opportunity to network with other creatives and industry professionals.
- Being cast as an extra can lead to a stand-in role or an upgrade to a speak role, which can eventually lead to a principal role.
How much are non-union background rates?
Non-union background actors don’t have set rates. Casting calls often set out the amount of compensation that will be paid for each role that’s being cast.
Do stand-ins get paid?
Yes, stand-ins get paid at a slightly higher rate than other background actors.