April 22, 2015

How much would it cost to pay a cast minimum wage?

This is an exercise I've done for the Community Dish, waaaaay back when, and now that Actor's Equity has updated the 99-seat plans for LA theaters (aka, theatre for the little guys).

It's not meant to be an argument for or against imposing minimum wage rules. It's more a gauge of how our budgeting would have to change if we want to pay actors a fair wage.

So, when taking into account the $9 per hour minimum wage, how much would it take to hire actors for one of my plays? Say, Encanta.

It goes without saying that a good chunk of the price would depend heavily upon how much each actor needs to rehearse. However, for a rule of thumb, I'm going to use a guideline of 1 hour per minute of running time.

As a play, Encanta can run anywhere from 80 to 100 minutes, so let's aim for the middle at 90 minutes. There need to be 90 total hours of rehearsal. And, if we are adding tech rehearsal, that can easily get to 100 minutes. That's a nice, round number we can use without cutting it too close.

Now, Encanta has 6 named roles and 3 to however many background roles, meaning at least 9 actors. They are:

  1. Penzima
  2. Katrina
  3. Juan
  4. Rico
  5. Maria
  6. Mob Leader
  7. Mob of Haters

The scene breakdowns with estimated running times and characters are below:

  1. Scene 1.1 (10 minutes, 10 hours of rehearsal): Penzima, Juan, Rico
  2. Scene 1.2 (10 minutes, 10 hours of rehearsal): Penzima, Juan, Rico, Katrina, Maria
  3. Scene 2.1 (10 minutes, 10 hours of rehearsal): Penzima, Katrina, Maria
  4. Scene 2.2 (10 minutes, 10 hours of rehearsal): Penzima, Katrina, Juan, Rico, Maria
  5. Scene 2.3 (10 minutes, 10 hours of rehearsal): Penzima, Katrina
  6. Scene 3.1 (5 minutes, 5 hours of rehearsal): Penzima, Maria
  7. Scene 3.2 (10 minutes, 10 hours of rehearsal): Juan, Rico, Mob Leader, Penzima, Mob of Haters
  8. Scene 3.3 (10 minutes, 10 hours of rehearsal): Katrina, Penzima, Juan, Rico, Mob Leader

With those scene breakdowns, the total rehearsal time (roughly) for each part is:

  1. Penzima = 75 hours of rehearsal
  2. Katrina = 50 hours of rehearsal
  3. Juan = 50 hours of rehearsal
  4. Rico = 50 hours of rehearsal
  5. Maria = 45 hours of rehearsal
  6. Mob Leader = 20 hours of rehearsal
  7. Mob of Haters = 10 hours of rehearsal

So, with the $9 per hour minimum wage, this means that each actor should get paid at least the following just for rehearsals alone:

  • Penzima = $675
  • Katrina = $450
  • Juan = $450
  • Rico = $450
  • Maria = $405
  • Mob Leader = $180
  • Mob of Haters = $90 each (minimum 3, so $270)

For performance days, the same minimum wage applies. For 12 performances of 2 hours each (including setup and strike), this means that each actor gets $216 for being on stage, which brings the minimum pay for each actor to...

  • Penzima: $891
  • Katrina: $666 (ha!)
  • Juan: $666
  • Rico: $666
  • Maria: $621
  • Mob Leader: $396
  • Mob of Haters: $306 (minimum 3, so $918 total)

This makes a grand total of  $4,599, so rounding up to $4,600 (or $5,000 to give wiggle room) on top of all other production costs.

For a small production, that...isn't actually so bad.

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