Extras earn surprisingly little money for working on film and TV sets, despite the early starts, long hours and many outgoings. Yet you’ll still be lucky to take part.
If you aren’t sure what an extra, supporting artiste or background artiste is, and want to know more about the process, head over to our article about How To Become An Extra In the UK.
How Much Do Extras Earn?
Extras get paid according to where and when filming takes place under an industry agreement. The extras cover the cost of travel, clothing, agency representation fees and headshots. Agency commission (plus 20% VAT) is deducted from each job payment.
Most TV and Film productions across the UK pay rates to extras in accordance with the FAA/PACT Agreement, the BBC Equity Agreement, and the ITV Equity Agreement.
FAA PACT Rates
The Film Artistes’ Association (FAA) is a section of the Broadcasting, Entertainment, Communications and Theatre Union (BECTU).
The Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television (PACT) is the UK trade association for independent content producers in film, digital, children’s and animation media companies.
The FAA and PACT negotiate a three year rate card. The last one ran from 1 March 2017 to 29 February 2020.
To gain access to these rates on the BECTU site, you must be a union member. However, many of the large extras casting agency sites publish the up to date rate cards.
What Do FAA/PACT Rates Include?
A standard day call is between 7am and 10pm. You are paid a set engagement fee for 9 hours including meal breaks, or 7 hours without a meal break. A slightly higher rate is paid for filming on a public holiday.
Should filming end early, you still receive the full set engagement fee.
If you go over the 7 or 9 hours before 10pm, you are paid overtime for each half hour. Alternatively, you receive the set engagement fee for nightime filming if called as a continuous working night.
The set night rate applies from 10pm where filming is continuing beyond midnight. Additionally, an early morning start before 4am attracts the night rate.
The night rate covers up to 9 hours including a meal break. If you’re on set longer than 9 hours, you’ll receive the agreed overtime payment for every half hour.
Another ratecard is for shift calls. That’s where you’re booked for only four hours or less between 6am and 11pm.
If you’re still on set after 4 hours, you’ll accrue 15 minutes of overtime, and after that you’ll receive a double shift call. Not surprisingly, if you get a shift call, you’ll normally finish within four hours.
FAA/PACT Holiday Pay
Each standard day call, night call and shift call attracts a small sum for holiday pay and is included on the ratecard.
Under UK law every employee is entitled to paid time off. The minimum rate is 2 days per month, with a pro rata for part time workers.
As extras are self employed and not employees, appreciate the union’s skills in negotiating this holiday pay. Furthermore, if you find regular work as an extra, join BECTU to help protect your future income.
FAA/PACT Supplementary Fees & Travel Allowances
A FAA/PACT rate card exists for supplementary fees.
It’s a contribution towards your clothing, specialised clothing, use of vehicles or equipment. In addition, special skills attract a payment as do on set additional duties such as doubling or dialogue.
Travel Allowances depend on location and time.
If you’re called to a location in TFL Zones 1-3, or to one of the studio locations just beyond TFL Zone 3, you’ll receive an allowance.
Start times before 6am Monday to Saturday, or before 7am Sundays and Bank Holidays also accrue an additional payment.
FAA/PACT Food Allowances
Professional sets engage catering services, or with a lower budget have food delivered.
Sometimes meal breaks can be broken or it isn’t possible to provide catering to extras. In these circumstances you’re compensated with an additional payment.
Do extras get paid for fittings?
Extras do get paid for fittings under the FAA/PACT set rate for non-performance attendance. It covers up to four hours, even if you only stay for a short while.
However, most extras don’t have fittings. Instead, they bring at least two sets of clothing on set with them to show the production team before filming.
BBC Equity Agreement
The BBC Equity Agreement is online for anyone to view or download.
Look for PART FIVE: TERMS THAT APPLY TO THE ENGAGEMENT OF WALK-ONS AND SUPPORTING ARTISTS (pages 57-59). It covers the payments extras and walk-ons are entitled to, including supplementary items.
ITV Equity Agreement
Public service broadcaster ITV and the union Equity together negotiated The ITV Equity Agreement.
Three specified levels of walk-ons (extras) determine the duties, set fee, overtime rates and additional payments.
You’ll find the rate cards on the websites of major UK extras agencies.
Extras Get Paid After Hefty Deductions
The sting in the tail for many television extras and film extras are the deductions to their pay. It can be difficult to earn even the National Minimum Wage for time on set.
Firstly, you need a range of photos. Some extras agencies accept good, clear home photos which don’t cost you anything. But others require headshots from a professional photographer.
Secondly, you’re expected to have a wide variety of clothing available. Everything from formal evening dress, business suits and office wear through to nightclub or street wear can be requested. Plus, each item must be free of stripes, dots and logos.
Fantasy and historic clothing is usually provided by the production. Unfortunately, the bulk of tv and movie jobs demand extras bring their own clothing. Plus a suitable alternative should the first look not be quite right.
Next, most extras pay a representation fee to their agency. It was frowned upon ten years ago, but the industry has moved on significantly since then.
In areas where extra work is sporadic, representation is often free. But for top extras agencies in London supplying every large budget production, an annual fee is the norm.
Agencies often deduct the fee from the year’s first earnings, rather than demand an up-front payment. You then know you’re paying a genuine agency. But it makes the majority of day 1’s income disappear before you even saw it.
Finally, each agency deducts a commission. Rates vary, but it hovers between 20-25%, and you’ll pay 20% VAT on top of that commission too.
Can you make a living as an extra?
In the UK, it’s not generally possible to make a living as an extra. London and the nearby studios offer the bulk of work but it won’t be full time. Outside London, you’ll be lucky to get work for a few days each month. Plus, agency commissions are deducted from all your earnings.
Tax Returns For TV And Film Extras
In the UK, film and tv extras are self-employed. The presence of holiday pay, a lack of ability to send someone in your place and the lack of control you have over when you’ll be present could suggest otherwise when you look at HMRC guidance about self employment, but that’s the official status.
As a self-employed worker, you must register for (and submit) annual tax returns.
Your agency won’t pay you through Paye As You Earn (PAYE) tax as they do for their office employees.
Don’t panic! Tax Returns are online and made user friendly for novices. Staying organised and submitting the return before the deadlines means you have nothing to worry about.
Keep all your receipts throughout the year to show what costs you incurred to do extra work. Headshots, representation fees, commission and travel costs are acceptable.
Clothing is not an allowable expense because you can wear the items for non-work purposes.
Recent changes to tax rules mean you can enter up to £1,000 as the deduction on your tax return without having to produce receipts.
However, if you are a busy tv and film extra, you may incur costs above the £1,000 and will need to prove it.
Depending on your earnings as an extra and for other work, you may have to pay tax and national insurance for your work on set.
Now Find An Extras Agency
If you were wondering how much do extras earn to work on film & TV sets, you now know it is complicated depending on a number of factors. Furthermore, the deductions mean earning the National Minimum Wage for each hour can be difficult to earn.
If you’re sure this is a source of casual employment you’d enjoy and, moreover, that you’d be suitable for, your next step is to find the best Extras Agency near you.