SAG Salary Rates for a Lead Actress

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Lights, camera, payment.
Lights, camera, payment. (Image: Movie girls image by Vojsek from Fotolia.com)

In June 2009, after a protracted nine-month labor dispute between the Hollywood studios and the Screen Actors Guild, a new two-year contract was ratified by 78 percent of the approximately 40,000 SAG members voting on the deal. Although the union chose to negotiate nine months past the expiration date of the previous agreement, most observers concluded that in the end, few new concessions were gained from the Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).

Theatrical Minimums

An actress with a one-day speaking part in a movie, or Day Player, is guaranteed a minimum scale payment of $782 as of June 1, 2009, and $809 as of June 1, 2010. These amounts represent, respectively, a raise of 3 percent and 3.5 percent from the previous Day Player rate of $759. If the actress is on board a movie project a period of weeks, then her Weekly Performer rate is $2,713 (as of June 1, 2009) or $2,808 (as of June 1, 2010).

Television Lead Performer Minimums

The formulas for actresses who play a recurring lead role on a TV series are one of the more complicated provisions of the SAG contract, reflecting the different blocks of guaranteed episodes the networks and studios tend to favor. For example, an actress on a half-hour program guaranteed for 13 episodes or more is assured a weekly rate of $2,713, while a similar engagement on a one-hour series will earn the performer $3,263 per week. Many of the top lead actresses on TV series, such as Glenn Close in "Damages" or Kyra Sedgwick on "The Closer," earn far more than the mandated minimum.

Television Guest Star Minimums

The scale minimum rates for a lead actress on the small screen are the same as those for work on the big screen (see above). Additionally, there is a special overscale designation for small screen work of a Major Role Performer. Actresses who work five days on a half-hour program in this capacity earn a total of $4,301, or 10 percent above the aggregate day rate, while a similar eight-day engagement on a one-hour TV program shoot will earn an actress $6,882.

Television Prime Time Reruns

Every broadcast permutation must essentially be accounted for in a SAG contract to ensure the fair and proper payment for a featured performer. For reruns of a program during the prime time TV hours of 8 p.m. to 11 p.m., a lead actress can earn up to a ceiling of $2,369 for a half-hour program and $3,372 for a one-hour show. These rates are set to rise in summer 2010 to $2,428 and $3,456, respectively.

Television Residuals

The TV salaries paid to lead actresses include the provision for one full rerun in each broadcast city in the United States and Canada. Subsequent reruns generate royalty payments, or residuals, that are calculated on the basis of the rerun iteration. The first repeat of a half-hour show pays $2,369, while the residual for a second through fifth repeat is calculated on a sliding scale of 50 to 25 percent of the current first rerun minimum of $2,369. Foreign broadcast residuals are calculated using separate formulas.

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