Casting 101: Common Rates For Actors, Talent, And Influencers

By | Published June 4th, 2020 | in FILMMAKING

Casting 101: Common Rates For Actors, Talent, And Influencers

One of the first lines in your production budget will be for front of camera performers. Whether you’re booking David Duchovny or Dave Debutant your production is going to need to conform to Screen Actors Guild rules and SAG rates. These are the minimum amounts of money talent must make for a given production. However, calculating your production’s SAG rates can be harder than casting.

Pay rates vary based on the agreement in play and that depends on the type of production and the total budget (and sometimes the distribution plan). There are both daily and weekly scales with discounts usually on offer for weekly rates. In addition, different classes of performer will command different fees.

Before you can even roll the camera, you’ll have to submit both a budget and copy of your screenplay to SAG for approval.

The following will give you a general idea of what to expect to budget for your cast but you should also check out which has further detail and the rate cards at source

We’ve also included here, common rates for budgeting the marketing of your show with social influencers.


What are SAG AFTRA rates?

SAG AFTRA rates are the minimum amounts of money the Screen Actors Guild will allow its members to work for on a given project.  

Hiring talent on SAG weekly rates will get you a discount. However, that does mean you’ll have to pay for the rest of production on those days too.

It’s important to note that that you’ll have to pay an additional 18 to 18.5% on your SAG payroll for health and benefits, called ‘fringes.’

Additionally, you’ll need to ensure that you have an insurance policy that’s SAG-friendly. Luckily insurance providers like Wrapbook can spin up a policy that is SAG compliant, while lowest cost to you.


SAG AFTRA Theatrical Rates 

SAG Theatrical Rates apply to actors performing in films across a variety of budgets and where the film has had an initial theatrical release. For a production destined straight for a streaming platform where the budget is over $1 million then you’ll need the New Media agreement

SAG breaks theatrical agreements down by budget. Within that, the rates vary according to whether the actor is a principal (lead) which carries the same pay weighting a stunt performer/coordinator or extra. As a couple of examples:

SAG Basic Theatrical Agreement  is for feature productions over $2.5 million. The SAG day rate for main performers $1,005, and $3,488 per week. 

It’s only a minimum. Agents will negotiate rates far in excess of the basic for leading talent on the biggest budget movies. Background actors are paid $174 a day.

The SAG Moderate Low Budget Agreement applies to non-episodic shows with budgets between $300,000 and $700,000 and has a day rate of $335 and weekly rate of $1166.  

The SAG Ultra Low Budget Agreement for films that are $250,000 or less. There is no weekly SAG scale for these projects, but the day rate is $125. 

SAG Short Project Agreements cover films that have total budgets less than $50,000 and a maximum running time of 40 minutes. Unlike other SAG day rates, actor salaries are completely negotiable and you don’t need to ensure a theatrical screening. Films made under this agreement can be released at film festivals and on free-streaming sites like Vimeo. 


SAG AFTRA Television rates 

Calculating your SAG rates for TV is by far the most confusing since rates here are determined by the number of episodes, and more often than not, the episode’s length. They are in detail here:

Here’s a couple as guidelines.

If you need an actor for just one episode of your series to say a few lines you’re looking at $1,005 a day, $2,545 for three days, or $3,488 for the entire week.

SAG actors who appear in half or more of a season’s given episodes are paid weekly for their time, with $3,488 per week for appearing in every episode, $3,993 per week for appearing in more than half, and $4,656 per week for appearing in half.

Note that these rates are for performers of cable and streaming shows. For network shows, producers should plan to budget an additional 15 percent.

Casting 101: Common Rates For Actors, Talent, And Influencers

SAG AFTRA Commercial rates 

SAG commercial rates depend on where and how many times the commercial is aired. Instead of a weekly or day rate, principal actors in SAG commercials earn $89 dollars an hour. However, a producer must pay a fee to air the ad, followed by additional charges each time it airs. However, SAG offers different agreements (marked A, B or C) that allow producers to essentially ‘buy in bulk,’ depending on where the commercial will be airing.

The vast majority of SAG commercials are Class A, meaning that the commercial will air in over twenty cities. This is your bracket if you are shooting a national commercial that will air on four major networks (FOX, NBC, ABC, CBS). 

For further details:

SAG AFTRA New Media rates 

If your project is going straight to the web and your budget is less than $1,000,000, even it’s for Netflix, then this is the rate sheet to look at.

For New Media projects less than $250,000 (but greater than $50k), expect to pay performers a minimum rate of $125 per day and background/stand-ins $96. Shows with budgets up to $700k should expect to pay major performers either $335 per day, or $1,116 per week and extras $130 a day. If your project falls between $700,000 and $1,000,000, the minimum you’ll have to pay SAG talent is either $630 per day, or $2,190 per week with extras $166 daily.

SAG Music Promo rates

Performer fees are negotiable (they will be the band members so would presumably wave a fee). The day rate minimum for dancers is $562 on promos costing $200k or more. The day rate for background actors is at least 10% above the applicable jurisdictional minimum wage. The rate card is here:

Casting 101: Common Rates For Actors, Talent, And Influencers

How much do influencers charge?

If you are going to put some heft into marketing your project you’d be remiss not to include social media influencers. Celebrities, professionals, critics, and commentators make waves connecting with legions of fans across multiple platforms and in an array of formats from simple Tweets to Insta Stories.

An influencer’s social media post is essentially an ad placement but there’s no standardisation around pricing. Indeed, it’s the wild west of advertising. Some influencers may be underpaid for their services, while others will over charge.  

Some actually charge nothing at all; you may be able to work out a quid pro quo kind of incentive that gives them something in return for free publicity.

A starting point is the one cent per follower rule (or $100 per 10,000 follower). From there, you can adjust and take other factors into consideration, such as engagement rate, budget, campaign length, and other partnership specifics.

According to one report, on average influencers will charge:

Facebook influencer: $25 per 1000 followers

Instagram Influencer: $10 per 1000 followers

Snapchat Influencer: $10 per 1000 followers

YouTube Influencer: $20 per 1000 followers

You don’t have to book a Kardashian to amplify your audience. Influencers are usually placed into three categories based on audience size: Micro influencers, Power and Macro influencers. For a breakdown of these head to  

Regardless of what social media influencer rates are, however, it’s important to look at them from a purely financial standpoint – just like you would an ad placement. Good questions to ask are, what’s the potential reach and return and investment? Does their audience line up with your target market, Could you reach that audience another way? Have they done something similar and what have the results been?

About The Author:

Adrian Pennington


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