Jun 26
THE RATING GAME OF THE EXTRAS by Mon Nepomuceno Orbeta  |  Posted in Articles  |  on Wed, Jun 26, 2013

They’re doing everything to be on top, trying to outsmart and outwit one another with their TV shows, grabbing bankable talents whom they thought may help them boost their rating score, and up to the extreme of bashing accusations towards one another that “money” is being used to get the highest rating possible! This is the reality of the Network Wars! The objective is to get the highest rating possible, and for what? The answer is simple, high rating means more advertisers and profit of course follows.

But another rating game is happening in the lowermost echelon of the TV shows production amidst the Network Wars, and it is also one of the least being given importance in the showbiz industry. This rating game is so different from the rating game mention above because this is about the “support actors” or “bit players” (commonly known as “extras”), and the “game” which determine how much rate they should be getting every time they will participate and show their “acting prowess” in “TOP RATING TV shows”.

Not everyone knows (especially those who haven’t been in an actual TV or movie show production) the plight of support actors in Philippine Showbiz, that it takes so much patience and perseverance , sacrifices just to be part of the “background” of a TV/Movie production (Please read my previous article here in FAPWeb “Confession of an Extra “ to know more. http://filmacademyphil.org/?p=2137 ) and yet, only to receive inadequate amount of talent fee which sometimes is not given right away after the shoot.

It is a given knowledge, that “extras are extras”, and that they neither have the power to dictate nor to demand the rate or talent fees they should be receiving. But what is so alarming recently, is that with the proliferation of “talent agents” in the web social media especially on Facebook, apparently, the “rating game” objective is to push the rate to rock bottom, up to the point that no talent fee at all, but merely gift packages.

Various rates for talent fees are being offered in the web for support actors. Some agents are offering as much as seven hundred to a thousand pesos gross pay (which for me is fair enough because 20 to 30% agent’s commission will still be deducted), while others are offering as low as five hundred to three hundred pesos gross pay, but still there are some agents who are offering no talent fees at all but only gift packs or sometimes exchange deals such as gift certificates. Some poor talents are blindly accepting the latter deal for the sake of exposure! (Whoa! What about the transportation expenses?)

According to the research I’ve made, in the United States, although there’s no prevailing rate for support actors, the positive point is that Talent Agents are not merely agent booking projects for an artist, but people or companies who also defend, support and promote the welfare and interest of the artist as well.

And when it comes to commission, the typical rate is 10%, the reason why agents are also called “10 percenters”, unlike here in the Philippines, where commissions being deducted is typically 30% from the actor’s actual earnings.

Another good thing for the support actors in the U.S. is that talent agents are being professionalized since there are different regulations that govern different types of talent agents that are established by artist’s unions, and there are also professional organizations that give license to talent agencies.

In the state of California, since talent agents are dealing with huge lucrative projects for their artists, the government has professionalized talent agencies to a higher level, by requiring agencies to be licensed under special sections of the California Labor Code, which defines an agent as a “person or corporation who engages in the occupation of procuring, offering, promising, or attempting to procure employment for artist or artists.”

In the Philippines, based on the conversations in the social media, there are attempts to form union such as Artists’ Union which aimed to protect the rights and welfare of the support actors. But, unfortunately, most of the support actors themselves are hesitant and pessimistic about the idea since for them, instead of favors, this might become a hindrance for them to continuously book projects especially from the big three TV networks. Some even asked and stated “Who’ll listen to us? I’m sure the government will favor the TV networks over us. We’re just “extras”!”

“We’re just extras!” plainly and hopelessly said but so meaningful. It’s true, extras are always in the least priority not only in the world of entertainment but in the world of the lawmakers as well, but it definitely doesn’t end there. Support actors should never stop being optimistic because who knows, someone or some people might start the first step to fight for their rights and welfare.

And speaking of first step, this could be the very first step every extra is waiting for. For the first time, in Philippine Movie, a story, a movie about support actors is produced. It is entitled “EKSTRA”, an entry for the full-length film category in Cinemalaya 2013 which will be held on July 26 to August 4, 2013 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines and Ayala Cinemas such as Trinoma, Greenbelt 3 and Alabang Town Center.

“EKSTRA” is a slice-of-life, Socio-realist Drama- Comedy and a story about the life of a woman who works as a bit player. The main character is a simple woman named Loida Malabanan, played by no other than the “Star For All Seasons” Ms. Vilma Santos- Recto. Ekstra is the very first Indie Film of Ms. Vilma Santos-Recto, and it was produced by Atty. Joji Alonso.

It is noticeable, that although it is an Indie Film, Ekstra has a powerhouse guests list in cameo roles such as Ms. Cherie Gil, Ms. Eula Valdes, Ms. Pilar Pilapil, Mr. Richard Yap, Mr. Piolo Pascual and Ms. Marian Rivera. The scripts are written by Jeffrey Jeturian, Antoinette Jadaone and Zig Dulay. It is also directed by Jeffrey Jeturian.

Hopefully, “Ekstra” will be a realistic portrayal of the real plight and status of bit players in the Philippines Movie Industry. May it serve as an eye-opener for those who are in the position to make changes especially the lawmakers and the Movie and TV show producers.

There’s no guaranty that this movie will make significant changes but somehow it will definitely be a first step for the support actors to be noticed, and by the title itself “EKSTRA”, it will serve as a tool to convey the message that “ Hey, we exist and we need your attention and assistance to improve our welfare! And remember, we are as important as the lead stars, because without us as the background, the stars will not illuminate and shine brighter!”

And on a final note, hopefully, in the “not so distant” future, talent agents will be professionalized here in the Philippines not only for the sake of the “extras” but for the protection and welfare of the talent agents as well. Who knows, it might happen sooner than you think. We just need to stay optimistic for in Show Business, everything is possible just like “An extra today, suddenly a big star tomorrow!”


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