Ever wonder how much money your favourite soapie actors are paid? Well, the SA Guild of Actors (Saga) publishes minimum rates for the industry, and it’s perhaps not quite as much as you might think.
Currently, junior actors should be on R27 500, and top actors R44 000. Saga also seems to have high hopes that actors will be getting big increases over the next two years, despite the economy not growing at all.
With the proliferation of new channels and shows over the last few years, Saga has said that lower budgets mean actors and production staff are being asked to work harder for less money. To achieve this, they say that fewer “professional” actors have started being cast.
“Productions are not always casting professional actors so that they can pay below the minimum rate guidelines,” says Saga, adding that this undermines the pursuit of professional rates across the industry.
“Broadcasters hold all the power currently and are the final decision makers in casting, so it is not always who is the best actor who gets cast. Many times the producers or directors don’t have a say in their final cast.”
If you thought the life of an actor is all glamour, also keep in mind that a “call” – for which a “star actor” can be paid R6 000 a day, while supporting actors get R1 500 to R5 000 – lasts for 12 hours. It’s one long 12-hour shift that could result in nothing more than a few minutes of actual footage being used on a show.
Reportedly, top actors can earn up to R60 000 per month or more. Many popular actors make more money, though, by organising endorsement deals or getting involved in promotional or emcee work for corporate companies.
Saga has no power to tell the industry what to do – it is not a regulator. But it generates its payment guidelines based on its own research, consultation and what it deems fair and reasonable. These guidelines are not used throughout the local industry. Saga calls itself “a powerful, unified voice for actors in the film, television, stage, commercial and corporate sectors in South Africa”.
In 2014, almost the entire main cast of the then most watched SA soapie, Generations, was fired. The show had to change its entire production schedule and was off air for months after creator Mfundi Vundla booted 16 star actors the door when they failed to heed his call to return to work following a strike.
They were complaining about poor working conditions and uncompetitive salaries. They also cited the absence of pension funds, medical aid and other employment benefits. Some of the fired actors were able to find work elsewhere, but it has been reported that many of them have since struggled to survive.