This page is a resource for performers working in a background category.

It aims to put most of what Background Performers are looking for on one page, but it is not exhaustive.

Your Agent should provide you with all the information pertinent to your booking. If you have a question regarding the application of the collective agreement, the ACTRA staff can assist.

The name and contact info for the Film, Television and Digital Media Business Reps are found on the What’s Shooting Page. The contact info for the Commercial Business Reps is found in the Staff Directory.

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INTRODUCTION & OVERVIEW

A background (BG) performer is a performer not required to provide dialogue who adds “atmosphere” to a scene, either alone or as a member of a group. The responsibilities and exact definitions of a Background Performer are outlined differently in our two largest collective agreements, the Independent Production Agreement (IPA) C201 and the National Commercial Agreement (NCA) 207.

All ACTRA members are professional performers who are protected by ACTRA’s various agreements when they work. For their part, ACTRA members agree to conduct themselves professionally and to abide by ACTRA’s Constitution and By-Laws.

Much of the information on this page is specific to working on productions governed by the IPA, such as films, television, and digital media. If you have a question about working on a commercial, please contact a Commercial Business Rep.

This page will be updated regularly.

ARE YOU ON SET RIGHT NOW?
    1. Have copies of everything! You should have electronic copies of your ACTRA card (front and back), your Workplace Safety Awareness Certificate and your proof of residency paperwork readily available.
    2. Do not take any pictures on-set without permission, and do not post anything on social media that would reveal production details. Notice what’s in the background of your photos. If in doubt, ask.
    3. The workday is divided into 6-minute increments (IPA). (See the conversion chart below)

6 Minute (one-tenth (1/10) hour) Increment Chart

Minutes Percentage of an hour
6 0.10
12 0.20
18 0.30
24 0.40
30 0.50
36 0.60
42 0.70
48 0.80
54 0.90
60 1.00

GETTING WORK

AGENTS

Finding an Agent

ACTRA Toronto has an Agents Directory. But be forewarned, inclusion in the directory does not imply that ACTRA Toronto recommends agents or agencies. Agents on the directory are there because at one time they have joined the Entertainment Industry Coalition (EIC) and signed a Code of Ethical Conduct. (Note, the EIC is different from the EICAA, which is another association of agencies.) Although the list is updated frequently, the information provided on the directory may be out of date. ACTRA Toronto does not have a contractual relationship with agents and is not in a position to verify whether an agent continues to abide by a Code of Ethical Conduct. There are good agents who are not on the directory. Unfortunately, scam agencies do exist. Prior to deciding on an agent, research them online and get advice through local online acting groups. Ask your fellow performers for recommendations. That said, the Agents Directory is a good place to start.

At present, in Ontario, you can have more than one background agent. To learn more about your rights in Ontario and how to avoid scams, please visit this resource from the Ontario government.

Agent Contracts

Read and understand the agent’s contract before you sign it. You may want to compare the Code of Ethical Conduct to the terms of a representation agreement you are considering. You have a right to negotiate the terms of a contract before signing. Some agents do not offer a contract.

Signing Fees

Background agents who’ve signed on to the Code of Ethical Conduct can charge a one-time registration fee, to a maximum of $100.00, only in the first year of representation. Be wary of fees that seem outsized. Agents should earn their money by getting you work, not by signing you up.

Commissions

Agents set their commission percentage. Find out what their commission schedule is for you. You owe your agent HST on their commission if they have a registered HST number. Obtain their registered HST number when you sign up with them. You can verify it. HST in Ontario is 13 per cent.

Record Keeping

Keep a receipt/record of every transaction, including booking emails. Keeping track of paperwork and transactions is part of your job as an independent contractor, and it will help you calculate your expenses at tax time.

Complaints

You can fill out our Talent Agent Complaint Form. Be aware, though, that ACTRA may not have any recourse. But we still want to know about it. If you fear you are the victim of a scam or fraud, you should contact the police. You can also detail your experiences anonymously with the Ministry of Labour or file a consumer complaint against the talent agent.

BOOKINGS

Confirmation
  • An availability check is not a booking.
  • Be completely sure that you are available for the dates your agent asks about. If you back out after being booked, it may reflect negatively upon you.
  • There is no such thing as a tentative hold.
  • You are not booked until you are confirmed. Once your agent informs you that you are confirmed, you are booked
Committment
  • If you are booked for a day, you are booked for the entire 24-hour period. Never double-book yourself or cancel with short notice to accept a “better” booking. You are obligated to honour the original engagement.
  • Production will tell you when you are needed within that day, but they may go over. Do not be tempted to try to work on two different productions in one day. You can create expensive problems for both productions, damage your professional reputation and can be disciplined under ACTRA’s Constitution and By-Laws.
  • Keep in mind there is always the possibility of a night shoot.
  • Production should tell you whether the shoot will be indoors or outdoors, provide a location map, information on parking, wardrobe requests, and shuttle availability.
  • Production must tell you about wardrobe requirements, date, time, place, work category, night shoots and use of rain towers at the time of booking.
Covid Testing
  • Production will assign you to be COVID tested on a day you have noted you are available. You must be available for all testing days, as well as all shooting days. You will be compensated for COVID testing based on the minimum calls in the agreement (currently a minimum of 2 hours).
  • More on COVID protocols here: Coronavirus Updates, COVID-19 Best Practices, Vaccination FAQs
Postponements & Cancellations
  • Force Majeure: This means when a Production is interrupted beyond the reasonable control of the Producer (e.g., Government enforced COVID lockdowns, extreme weather events that cause mass cancellations and closures). If cancelled for reasons other than Force Majeure, booked performers will be paid. If postponed, re-scheduling arrangements will be made.
  • Change in Scheduled Days: If for any reason other than weather, a production changes a performer’s booking or engagement to another day, certain conditions apply, depending on the amount of notice you’re given. A change in your scheduled day requires that a new date be provided.

DOCUMENTATION REQUIRED ON SET

All performers need to provide documentation not only to work but to get paid. Have physical copies as well as electronic copies downloaded to your phone or available “in the cloud.” Don’t count on the shooting location having good WiFi or reception.

Documentation:

You receive a Proof of Completion Certificate when you have completed the online training module. You must save and/or print the certificate before exiting the module. Keep copies for your records. The Ministry does not store your certificate or keep a record. Nor does ACTRA Toronto have a copy of your certificate. Health and safety awareness training is MANDATORY for all Ontario workers.

Documentation to prove your residency is required for the Producer to receive labour tax credits for you. A few different documents are accepted:

    • Notice of Assessment for the previous tax year to show where you pay your taxes. You can black out your financial information.
    • Personal Identification Cards
    • ACTRA Membership Card
    • Driver’s License
    • Optional: You can upload your documents to Entertainment Partners’ Canada if the production is using it: EP Residency application

Consider a single sheet of paper with back and front images of your cards.

  • COVID Test Results (if you received them) Likely, Production will have it electronically.
  • COVID Training Certificate If you are given one, have it with you. Each Production may have a different certificate they consider valid.

Tip: Before you go to set, download your confirmation booking email, showing the instructions you were given.

PROMOTE YOURSELF

ACTRAonline | Background Performers is a searchable database of professional background talent. Build your profile! It’s quick and easy. Make sure to keep your availability calendar updated.

ON SET

FOOD

Productions are not required to feed us but often do. If they don’t, it is your responsibility to bring your own lunch, as there may be insufficient time or access to food at the location. Production is required to provide each of us with a chair and water.

First Meal” is usually a 1-hour unpaid break.

If your lunch break, from break to resuming work is 30-59 minutes, it is a "paythrough lunch".

A “rolling lunch” means there is not a scheduled meal break for everyone and Cast and Crew will be broken when they are not required on set.

Plateau Continu”, “Ontario Hours” and “French Hours” are different names for the same thing - a maximum 11 hour work day which starts with EITHER a 1 hour paid meal break and access to continuing hot buffet for the remaining 10 hours OR starts with a 30 minute paythrough meal plus 2 x 15 minute meal breaks during the rest of the 11 hour day to access the continuing hot buffet.

Tip: Bring a food kit with snacks suitable for your dietary needs and preferences.

BREAKS

Rest periods or breaks for performers are required:

WARDROBE
  • Bring two (head-to-toe) wardrobe choices: Wear one and bring the other.
  • If you are asked to bring a 3rd outfit, you will be compensated for each additional outfit over 2. See the IPA for current rates.
  • If you are asked to bring a specialty outfit (e.g., tuxedo, ballgown), you will be compensated.
  • There is no harm in being prepared by bringing additional outfits! However, you will only be compensated if you were asked to bring a third or more additional outfits.
  • Ensure you follow any wardrobe notes carefully and avoid any colours or patterns that Production has specifically asked you not to wear or bring to set.
  • If Wardrobe loans you an item, they may keep your voucher to ensure it is returned. They will expect the wardrobe item to be in the same condition as when you received it. Make sure you retrieve your voucher at the end of the day when you return the item.
  • If you’re required to be in uncomfortable footwear on set, you are permitted to bring an extra pair of travel shoes to wear from Holding to Set. Keep comfortable shoes handy and easily accessible.
VOUCHERS

Your voucher could be green, digital or white.

Smaller white vouchers are for background performers “outside the count.”

(“The Count” is the minimum number of background performers required to be paid at full rates per day, not including Stand-Ins, Photodoubles or 2 Special Skills/SSE.

The Count varies from Production to Production, according to the budget and option chosen by the production.

You can find the count for your production on What’s Shooting.)

Any member or non-member can work on a “white voucher” outside The Count, but the rates are lower. Jobs in The Count go first to suitable and available Full Members, then Apprentices, then ACTRA Additional Background Performers, then non-union folks, based on the needs of the production.

There is a new voucher, the Green Voucher! It replaces the old blue, pink and yellow vouchers. It can be a paper copy or could be filled out digitally. The white voucher remains unchanged but can also be supplied digitally.

To protect your privacy, keep your voucher details secure while on set. It contains your personal identification.

Wait until you return the voucher at the end of the day to fill out your SIN.

If wardrobe is keeping your voucher because they have loaned you a costume, ensure that they have it stored in a secure location. If it is visible, mention that it needs to be secured.

FILLING OUT THE VOUCHER
  • If you were asked to bring three or more wardrobe choices, write the number of changes in the “Regular Wardrobe # of changes” box of your voucher.
  • If you were asked to bring a specialty wardrobe item, make sure to note this in the “Specialty Wardrobe # of changes” box of your voucher. Use the Comments Section if you need more space.
  • If you were asked to bring in a prop, vehicle, bike, musical instrument, or any other specialty item, make sure to note this on your voucher in the “Specialty Item/Car” box. Again, use the Comments Section if you need more space to detail specifics.
  • If you were required to drive yourself to a location outside The Zone, note your kilometres one way to set, double it, and write that in the mileage box.
SIGNING OUT
  • Take your time. Try not to feel pressured. Your voucher is your contract with the Production. Once you sign it, it means you agree to the information on the voucher. Ensure all information is entered correctly. Do not agree to, nor write, anything that is not accurate.
  • Ensure the wrap time is accurate. Time spent waiting in the sign-out line is work time.
  • Ensure your performance category is correct in the Category section of your voucher.
  • If you have been upgraded on set, ensure this change is reflected on your voucher in the Upgrade box. If you have been given a contract for the upgrade, ensure it is filled out correctly and that the role is correct (e.g., restaurant patron).
  • Lunch: “30-minute lunch”/“Paid Through lunch” or “Rolling lunch” will be noted at the top of the call sheet and should also be noted on your voucher.
  • Meal penalty: if applicable, MP1 box or MP2 should be checked. The rules for when a meal penalty applies can be complicated.
  • Leave the Agree or Disagree section to the very end.
    • Disagreeing does not get you blacklisted from a production.
    • If you are told something was agreed upon between Production and ACTRA, you can check Disagree and verify with ACTRA later.
    • If you check “Disagree,” immediately email your agent and the Business Representative with the reason. This is important, as ACTRA Toronto may not receive vouchers from Production for some time, and there are time limits for disputes. Your agent should pursue the reasons for marking disagree immediately with Production.
  • If given permission, take a photo of your voucher after completion. If pictures are not allowed, it is your right to maintain a separate written log that Production should sign if you request it.

GETTING PAID

RATES

IPA: Jump to page 4 of this PDF, C101 for the current year.

NCA: Section 12

PAYMENTS

Production will send cheques directly to you. We recommend you put your own address on your IPA voucher. Some BG agents may ask you to put their mailing address on your voucher, but you do not have to! It’s your choice.

Understand your cheque, including:

  • The daily fee
  • Overtime rate
  • Travel Time rate (always the hourly rate in 6-minute increments; does not contribute to overtime)
  • Extra charges (e.g., prop fee, additional wardrobe changes, specialty item, etc.)
  • Penalties (e.g., meal penalties and turnaround penalties)
MISSING A PAYMENT?
  • Respond to all requests from Production for documentation you may have failed to provide on set.
  • If you were upgraded, ensure you have been provided with and filled in the appropriate paperwork and send it to your agent. If you have not received a contract for the upgrade, please ask your agent to follow up with Production.
  • Still missing your payment? Your agent should be your first call. Follow these steps.
  • When all monies owed have been received, pay your agent their commission as agreed in your contract, verbal agreement or booking email, plus HST if they collect it
  • If you have provided all the required information to the Producer in a timely manner your payment should be sent out within 14 calendar days of your work (IPA article A3601) or 15 business days after the work day (NCA article 2602). Use payments are owed 20 days from first play or new cycle start date for the NCA.
  • Late payment penalties are as follows:
    IPA – 24% of Gross Fee per year = 2% of Gross Fee per month after the 14-day payment period.
    NCA - Late payment penalty is $6.00/day from the date of default up to 30 business days. If payment is not received and ACTRA has notified the Engager of such, penalty payments resume at a rate of $10.00/day without limitation.

MORE

RESOURCES

ACTRAonline Member Zone: The online interface with your union. This is where you can update your address, email, agent, etc.

Appendix 30 of the IPA is a good quick reference to the Employer’s responsibilities to provide suitable working conditions for performers.

Child Performers

COVID Information: Coronavirus Updates, COVID-19 Best Practices, Vaccination FAQs

Factsheets (ACTRA Toronto)

Glossary of Production Terms

IPA Agreement

Member Education: ACTRA Toronto has many courses to help you learn more, such as:

  • ACTRA Additional Background Performer (AABP) Orientation
  • Apprentice Orientation
  • Full Member Session
    • Respect on Set Workshops
    • Set Etiquette and Call Sheets
    • It’s Not Part of the Job: Preventing and Dealing with Harassment
    • IPA Refresher
    • NCA Refresher
    • Money Matters

Mental Health Support

NCA Agreement

Nudity: Best Practices for Scenes involving Nudity, Intimacy, Simulated Sex and Sexual Violence

HAVEN Helpline (Harassment, Anti-racism and Violence Emergency Network) is a national, bilingual critical incident reporting line available to members of ACTRA (excluding UBCP/ACTRA members), Canadian Actors’ Equity Association and the Directors Guild of Canada (DGC).

Pay Your Dues Online

Personal Care Kit Tips

  • It is especially essential during COVID to bring your own items. If you are going to Hair & Makeup, they will use your own items.
  • Sunscreen
  • Lip balm
  • Hand cream
  • Makeup
    • Primer (to keep makeup set)
    • Foundation (consider powder-free, as powder can pile on throughout the shoot day)
    • Neutral lipstick
    • Makeup brushes.
  • Haircare items.

Problems on Set

Reporting Harassment

Radius Map is a zoomable map ACTRA Toronto and Production use to set travel times to different locations outside “the zone.” The Zone is a 40 km radius calculated from ACTRA Toronto’s office near the centre of the city at 625 Church Street, Toronto, ON.

CONTACT INFO