Initial level background performer earns minimal wage plus 4% vacation fee. One way to get paid more money is to become a member of Union of BC Performers (UBCP).

UBCP established three levels of Union members. First level is “Background Member”. To reach that level Background performer must have worked at least 15 days in the last 12 months preceding application.

Second UBCP member level is “Apprentice Member”. To be eligible to apply for that level background performer should get one “Union Credit” or be a “Background Member” and work 200 days or 1600 hours prior application. Last path is ok – you can work 200 days and then apply, but how to cut that and become eligible for Apprentice earlier? Here is the answer – get “Union Credit”. By the way – the third Union membership level is – “Full Member” and you need to have three “Union Credits”.

So why Background Performer need to worry about all those levels? Because of money! Union member who works on UBCP permit earns $23.85 per hour – $190.83 per day. If you have 8 hr. call – you will get $190.83 even if you worked just 5 or 6 hrs.! If overtime occurs payment will increase respectively (rate@1.5 – $35.78, rate@2 – $47.40). As you can see Background Performer can earn pretty decent money working on UBCP permit. So how to work on UBCP permit all the time? – Become an Apprentice UBCP Member. What is the fastest way become UBCP Apprentice member – earn “Union Credit”.


UBCP established three ways to get Credit:

  • Graduating with a post-secondary degree or diploma in Acting from a qualifying institution which included at least 1000 hours of performance based work;
  • Working 200 days or 1600 hours as a card carrying Background Member (this only applies for a first credit toward Apprentice of Full Membership);
  • Landing one professional engagement in a residual category for which you paid a “permit” to UBCP.

First way – graduate – is not really can be applied for most of background performers.

Second way – work 200 days or 1600 hours (which comes first) – pretty long way, which is still need to be followed.

The fastest way is third one – “Landing one professional engagement in a residual category for which you paid a “permit” to UBCP”.

What does it mean? The easiest explanation – if Film Director ask you to perform some action with Principal Actor involved – this, in some case, can be interpreted as “professional engagement in a residual category”.

Lets talk about what can be considered as “professional engagement in a residual category”. Answer can be found in “2015-2018 Master Production Agreement” between UBCP and Productions.

Article 21 states: “Performer engaged as a Background Performer who is subsequently directed to speak at least one line not as part of a group or crowd shall be paid, depending on the number of lines spoken, the Actor or Principal Actor rate”. “When a Background Performer by virtue of an Individual Characterization or the addition of unscripted dialogue is upgraded to a Principal Actor or Actor, the Performer shall be contracted and receive payment in accordance with the fees and rates for the higher category for the day on which he or she is upgraded”.

So what does it mean for us? How we can define out action can bring us to Actor (Principal actor) level? What is it Individual Characterization?

Let’s find definitions in “2015-2018 Master Production Agreement”. Actor means a Performer engaged to speak or mime five (5) lines or less of dialogue or an actor whose performance constitutes an Individual Characterization.
Individual Characterization means that the Performer is:

(a) either addressed individually by a Principal Actor or is alone in the scene; and

(b) is given substantial individual direction which requires action or reaction that goes beyond the expected range of normal behavior; and

(c) such action is central to the story line.

The mere fact that the conspicuous behavior so requested has not been scripted in advance or that the individual performing such behavior is given a “character,” name, title, a uniform or special make-up shall not of itself constitute individual characterization.

Looks like everything were defined! Basically if Director involves Background performer into the scene where he should say something or perform something involving Principal actor AND this is a part of story line – Background Performer should be upgraded to Actor.

Real life Story: “Scene in a room. Few Background performers and Principal Actor on set. Director instructed one of Background Performers enter the door, walk towards Principal Actor, say “Sir” to Principal Actor and give him a note. Principal actor reads the note, says: “Excuse me” and exit the room”. Background performer was immediately upgraded to Actor (with payment $57.22 per hour). Now he is eligible to get a “Union Credit” and become UBCP “Apprentice Member”. Have three such credits you eligible to become UBCP “Full Member”

Good Luck!

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