EXPLAINED: How Much Do South African Soap Actors Earn?

There has been a lot of confusion and misinformation ... including blatant lies, on social media about the salaries of actors in South African soapies. This furor came after 16 principal Generations actors were dismissed following a strike where they demanded an increase in their salary and royalties payment from the show, among other things. 

The Generations 16 initially claimed that they were paid 20% less than the industry rate. Generations producers refuted this in their press conference and claimed that on average the lead cast of Generations earn R55 000

Media reports later revealed that some in the cast are demanding an increase from R16 000 a week to R30 000 a week to  “bring them [salaries] in line with industry standards and norms”. 

Adrian Galley, vice chair of the South African Guild of Actors (SAGA) and spokesman for the organisation, revealed that SAGA has been negotiating with the SABC and the Independent Producers Organisation (IPO) to “include a transparent process for calculating actors’ compensation where programmes are sold to other territories, to which the broadcaster has agreed, and a standardised schedule of minimum rates which, it is proposed, will be renegotiated every three years”.

“Most contracts being bandied about in the industry are veritable ‘patchwork quilts’ cut ‘n’ pasted from previous legislative regimes and they leak like sieves,” Galley told The Media Online.
“The SA Guild of Actors publishes a scale of recommended minimum rates (starting points for negotiation) which both agents and producers find useful when budgeting,” he says.
“There are three categories depending on seniority and experience: junior actor (newbie, just starting out) R20 000 per month; intermediate actor (relatively experienced) R25 000 per month; and senior actor (a seasoned professional who has been around the block) R35 000 per month.”
Galley explained that various factors for negotiation come into play within these guidelines such as the prominence of the role, whether the character is featured in or expected to carry an A, B or C storyline and, of course, length of service.
“As you may know, ‘soap operas’ generally consist of weaving parallel narratives, each driven by a character, and each of which periodically rises or falls in prominence. 
Each ‘soap’ offers a scale of rates based on audience research figures, and these differ quite significantly across the board,” he says.
Galley revealed standard salary figures based on specifics that have been shared with by various agents. 

These are verified specific salaries, he says;

A newcomer: 
  • 7de Laan – R22 000 per month
  • Isibaya – R26 000 per month

An intermediate actor: 
  • Binnelanders – R27 500 per month
  • Isidingo – R28 000 per month
  • Generations – R40 000 per month
An experienced actor in a support role: 
  • Isibaya – R30 000 per month
  • Isidingo – R40 000 per month
  • Generations – R60 000 per month

Variations come based on what the actor's role on the show is and with that certain differences can be observed between different broadcasters. 

Apparently etv is VERY Generous: 
  • An experienced actors on Scandal, earning R60 000 per month 
  • An intermediate actor driving an a storyline on Rhythm City - R60 000 per month 
  • An inexperienced actor on Rhythm City is earning R20 000 per month
Muvhango offers its main cast between R40 000 and R60 000 per month. Galley says M-Net’s Mzansi channels offers rates well below SAGA’s suggested minimums, as does kykNET’s Villa Rosa.

Given the numbers Mzansi Magic soapies pull, it is not surprising that they would be lowest paid, even though from what I deduce from Galley's comments, they deserve a tad more that what they are getting now. 

So in simple terms; 
  • An actor is paid based on his/her experience in the industry
  • An actor is paid based on whether his/her character is involved in the A, B or C part of the show's plot
  • An actor is paid based on the amount of time he/she has been with the show. 

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