Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Latest tip: SAG Ultra-low salaries

The SAG Ultra Low Contract has a base salary scale for actors at just $100 (for an 8 hour day... if they work a standard 12 hour day it comes out to $175). If you can afford it, and if your project has a small handful (four or five) leads with mostly just day players below that, I recommend that you pay your leads at the next level. The next level is SAG Low Budget Modified and the pay rate is $268 a day (for a ten hour day). When you send out your casting breakdowns, you'll get a much better selection of people submitting. Most agencies won't submit to a ULB project, but many will to a LBM. You can still pay day players $100 a day, and you don't HAVE to pay non-SAG actors at all (though you probably should). If your project is Low Budget Modified, you may consider hiring your leads at the Low Budget scale ($504 a day)... in fact, you might consider hiring your top two or three at the Low Budget rate for a ULB project.

For my movie Last Kind Words (directed by Kevin Barker) we did this and were glad we did. A few last minute changes pushed our budget into the Low Budget Modified range and we went ahead and made the adjustment with SAG (though we may not have had to). Because we'd already hired at the higher rate we didn't have to negotiate contracts with anyone except our few day players.

Hiring at Low Budget Modified scale allowed us to hire super talented Spencer Daniels for our lead. I'm sure his agent wouldn't have submitted him at the Ultra Low Budget rate.
We were also able to make offers to Canadian teen actress Alexia Fast (above), as well as Sarah Steele. Their agents were willing to consider the offers at $268 a day. It is unlikely they would have for $100.

That said, if you're shooting super small don't feel ashamed to offer only $100, but be aware that your best casting opportunities will come through your connections, as not a lot of agencies will submit.

Updated rates: In 2015 SAG raised the rates of the SAGIndie contracts to: Ultra Low Budget: $125; Low Budget Modified: $335 daily or $1,166 weekly; Low Budget $630 daily or $2,190 weekly.


  1. Interesting, and very informative, the latter being synonymous with the former.

  2. Thank you for this post. I'm having students at the University of New Hampshire read it as they prepare a budget for their short scripts. You've given us something to discuss!