SAG Actors Will Soon Cost 25% More for Ultra Low, Modified, & Low Budget Films

If you're shooting a feature with SAG actors after July 1, 2015 and your budget is under $2.5 million (which for most of us will be the case), it's going to cost a bit more.

At SAG-AFTRA's first meeting of 2015, they unanimously voted to approve a 25% raise for productions that qualify under the Ultra Low Budget, Modified Low Budget, and Low Budget Theatrical agreements. In addition, the union initiation fee will remain at $3,000. 

Here's the bit about pay increases from their meeting:

The national board unanimously voted to increase the rates provided in the Ultra Low Budget, Modified Low Budget and the Low Budget Theatrical Agreements. Rates for these contracts have not increased in a decade. New rates will reflect a catch-up adjustment of 25 percent effective July 1, 2015, and may be adjusted periodically as needed with a one-year notice of any such increase.

This is how the new rates break down once they come into effect in July (from Deadline and Filmmaker):

Ultra Low Budget: Under $200,000

  • Day Rate: $125

Modified Low Budget: Under $625,000

  • Day Rate: $335
  • Weekly Rate: $1,166

Low Budget: Under $2.5 million

  • Day Rate: $630
  • Weekly Rate: $2,190

It's worth noting that you must shoot in the US with these agreements, and the rates don't include pension and health benefits, which are paid to the union on top of the actor's rate. When you look at the fact that these rates have remained the same for a decade, you realize that this pay increase is more or less just keeping with inflation. Right now with the Ultra Low Budget agreement, an actor costs $100 a day for 8 hours, but when this new rate comes into effect, that will increase to $125.

People on both sides of these agreements will have valid points about what the pay increase will mean for future productions, but if you're a filmmaker, it's something you'll need to consider for future productions. You can find more information about the current theatrical agreements over on the SAG-AFTRA page here. A great resource to check out regarding union contracts would also be SAGIndie.      

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Your Comment


As a director, I'm glad they're bumping up the rates. The race to the bottom mentality on top of inflation is brutal. If you want to earn a living, you should be paid for the work you do.

January 12, 2015 at 12:16PM


I agree. From a director/producer standpoint in this budget bracket the temptation is to think that "the lower the price, the better the deal". But honestly? People deserve to be paid, and an extra $25 per day is that little bit extra deserved for hard work, and still a very minor fee...especially considering most actors have to do extensive prep for the work discussed herein!

January 12, 2015 at 11:00PM

Samu Amunét

A few quick thoughts...
-Don't forget the ULB contract lets you use SAG and non-SAG actors under that contract. Which can be helpful, if you can find a good non-SAG actor, in keeping union costs down.
-In the current contract, a SAG actor on a ULB contract costs production about $160/day. That'll be up to at least $185/day, possibly more, depending on how P&H is calculated in the new contract.
-Also important to note that SAG requires a bond against the number of actors in the production which is calculated from the days worked multiplied by the day rate. So we can expect an increase in the required bond as well.

January 12, 2015 at 1:11PM

Jeff Barry

That's a good point, since the rates are up, the bond will also be higher. All of it together means shows will have to cut costs in other ways in order to keep their budgets the same as before.

January 12, 2015 at 1:39PM, Edited January 12, 1:39PM

Joe Marine
Camera Department

Wait is $125 really the usual rate for Ultra Low Budget? that's nothing for a working actor.

January 19, 2015 at 3:28PM

Victor Nguyen

Yep...with the new higher minimum wages coming in WA, that's still only .65cents over that.

January 22, 2015 at 4:10AM

Daniel Mimura
DP, cam op, steadicam op