As a casting director, a question I hear often from producers is “How much should I pay for non-union talent in a commercial?” This is asked on nearly every non-union job I bid on. The simple answer is there are no standard rates for non-union work, the choice is yours. But in a more nuanced consideration, here are 5 things to consider when budgeting that can help you determine how much to pay for non-union talent.

1. Brand
What is the product/brand? If it falls into a popular or competitive category like telecommunications or soft drinks you’ll need to offer more money than if it is something more obscure like a mattress company or an unknown toy product.

2. Usage
Where is it running? Broadcast TV, Web, Print, Industrial? How long is it running? One year, two years, five years? All these options factor into what you should consider when budgeting. If it’s going to run nationally, on all media, you’re going to have to pay more than if it’s going to run on just the web or in a local market. Obviously the longer you plan on using it the more it will cost. I usually suggest employing the “option to renew” clause in your contract. So you pay for 1 year but have the option to renew year 2 and 3 for a slight increase each year, say 10-20%. Then you only pay for what you are sure you want to use. And, don’t even consider “usage in perpetuity” unless you plan on enticing the talent with a huge figure.

3. Talent
Who are you looking for? A beautiful model is going to cost more than 5-year old kids or the classic soccer mom. And will your talent be reading copy? If you are looking for a spokesperson you’ll want to offer a bit more money than if you are looking for non-speaking parts. As the saying goes, you get what you pay for.

4. Agent Fees
Don’t forget about possible agent fees. Whatever you budget for talent you need to consider adding an additional 10% agent fee to the rate for all TV, Web, Industrial, and voice-over work. An additional 20% agency fee is the standard for print. To get an idea of what SAG/AFTRA rates are click here.

5. Shoot Details
If you are shooting for more than one day, transporting talent out of town or planning a 12-hour day expect to pay a bit more. For shoots that are out of town you must put talent up and provide travel to-and-from the shoot as well as per diem. If you are shooting for more than one day plan on paying talent on a per day basis. Try to incorporate a fitting fee into your budget. Asking talent to take the time to attend a fitting is worth at least $50.00.

I hope this helps! If you have any questions, please contact me.

- Brooke