This research is being carried out to show that non-union actors suffer from low self-esteem after working as an extra for a long period due to the significantly lower pay rate they receive as opposed to union actors who work as extras…
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The thesis of this paper is: When an actor is non-union long-term, self-esteem is often low because he or she rarely makes more than a union actor’s minimum wage. Furthermore, opportunities to audition are limited, and non-union workers do not receive the respect or benefits provided to those who are in unions. "Ever since the first Hollywood director yelled, 'Action!' on the set of a motion picture, the anonymous corps of performers known as 'extras' formed an integral element of the film capital's working society". This powerful opening leads directly to the crux of this paper. Actors who work as walk-ons, diner patrons, soldiers, and the like are called extras. These are the actors that do not have a spoken part in the production; they are there to provide the full ambiance of the scene. If the production is to convey a busy street scene, that scene requires a host of extras to make the scene believable, therefore, the presence of each and every extra constitutes a completed realistic scene that the viewer finds credible. Yet, many extras are not paid in a manner consistent with their important function within the industry. In fact, if the extra happens to lack union status, that extra's pay is decimated by as much as 50% of what a union member would be paid for the same work. Non-union extras should be paid for the work they perform as handsomely as union workers. There are two reasons why the researcher postulate this idea: 1) non-union members who do not receive pay on par with their union counterparts fall into a situation of low self-esteem, and if continued over an extended period of time leads directly to 2) non-union members becoming disenchanted with the industry and performing at lower standards which is not good for the individual extra, nor for the industry as a whole. The author will use the rest of this paper to prove his thesis which will rest upon three foundational points: 1. an extra's pay level denotes their value to the production company; 2. challenges in obtaining union membership and, 3. "ordinariness", and the fear of it. In 1995-1996, there were a series of articles that dealt with the issue of union versus non-union pay rates for extras. In one such article, it was stated that a union extra earned $99 a day, or $128 a day for a soap opera job, yet a non-union extra only earned between $30-70 a day for doing the same work. Not only do non-union extra receive lesser pay than union members, the non-union extras also receive lesser amenities, if given any at all. The Horwitz article states, "a SAG extra in The Associate recalls '300 extras in a basement with one bathroom'[and another] 'extra in Sylvester Stallone's Daylight describes several hundred extras in a dimly lit, cold warehouse with winds gusting in off the Hudson. "There were two Portosans". Not as glamorous as one would suppose. In a recent journal article, pay level and self-esteem were studied and it was found that 'consistent with reinforcement and expectancy theories, most of this research concludes that when high performance results in high pay increases, performance is reinforced and more likely to be repeated in the future'. This study states what most people intuitively expect - you earn based on how well you perform. Yet, in the world of the extra, this almost truism does not exist. In their world, you earn based on union membership.
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The intent of this paper by its very nature is analytical and not conclusive. Ultimately it depends on a workers choice as to join a union or not. Unions do promise a collective bargaining power and support during a crisis.
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