Under-Five work is regarded as both desirable and undesirable. Getting an under-five can be a stepping stone to bigger roles. Some however, see it as mere grunt work or beneath their standing as an actor. One year after performing under-fives in the capacity of a recurring character, as a member of AFTRA, the actor becomes eligible for Screen Actors Guild (SAG) membership. This is a backdoor for getting the difficult-to-obtain SAG card.
AFTRA pay-rate rules
According to AFTRA union rules a speaking part exceeding five lines in a day triggers a substantial rise in pay. To remain an under-five the total number of words in the five lines or less must be below 50. Under-five roles have therefore been an integral consideration in script development, especially in regards to episodic budgeting.
As of November 16, 2009: The minimum pay rate for a day player on a soap opera was $913.00 for a one-hour show, and $683.00 for a 1⁄2-hour show. The minimum pay rate for an under-five actor on a soap opera was $397.00 for a one-hour show, and $324.00 for a 1⁄2-hour show. The minimum pay rate for a background actor on a soap opera was $144.00 for a 1-hour show, and $111 for a 1⁄2-hour show.
With the general decline of American soap operas, the number of under-fives, extras, and even day players employed has declined, due to reductions of production budgets.
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