The casting call went out to union actors for a project shooting next month in Los Angeles. Billed as a “feature film,” Blind Sided will be shot under a SAG-AFTRA contract, but there’s a catch: The pay is only $10 an hour, the state’s minimum wage.
The notice from Casting Frontier, an online casting service, said the producers are looking for an actor to play Blackwood, a blind magician, and two actors to play Jim and Nick, described as “upscale doctor/lawyer types.” The film will be shot under the union’s New Media Agreement, and the pay rate will be “minimum wage.”
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According to the union, an actor’s initial compensation “can be negotiable under the basic SAG-AFTRA New Media Agreement for productions that do not meet the high-budget thresholds; however, local, state and federal minimum wage laws still apply.”
New media, described by the union as projects “intended for initial exhibition via the Internet,mobile device or any other New Media platform now known or hereinafter devised,” is a growing sector of the entertainment market. But, like Blind Sided, many of the shows pay their unionized actors no more than nonunion busboys and dishwashers.
Unlike busboys and dishwashers, however, actors working under the guild’s New Media Agreement get residuals for their work, but only if the program’s final cost is $25,000 or more per minute and it is exhibited on a consumer-pay-platform beyond 26 weeks.
And unlike most busboys and dishwashers, actors working under the New Media Agreement receive employer contributions to their union’s pension and health plan – 17% of their wages. For minimum-wage actors, that comes to $1.70 an hour.
The pay and benefits are even less for actors working under the New Media Agreement in 20 other states – such as Georgia, Texas and North Carolina – where the minimum wage is only $7.25 an hour.
The union’s New Media Agreement excludes motion pictures made for an initial theatrical release, including film festivals, programs made for an initial television or DVD release, video games, commercials and public service announcements.