When you are occasionally standing in but also collecting unemployment, having a good sense of a day’s earnings will help you know whether you may collect unemployment this week.

For example, currently in New York State, if you make more than $405 for a particular week, you are disqualified from collecting unemployment for the week, so you’ll want to know whether the sum of your stand-in wages for the week exceeds $405.  If they exceed $405, you can’t file for the week.

Misrepresenting your wages may have serious consequences; therefore, it is helpful to have assistance in accurately figuring your wages.  Recently I searched for a tool to help me determine my daily wages as a stand-in.  I found a website called Actor’s Calc, located at http://www.actorscalc.com.  Currently in version 2.0 beta, this free website shows a lot of promise in becoming the go-to for figuring your daily wages as a stand-in.

Using Actor’s Calc

Actor’s Calc will determine your wages as a stand-in for both SAG and AFTRA projects.  To use the tool, you plug in information from your shoot day.  Primarily, you will need to know your start and finish times and your meal time(s).  You will also need to know how many meal penalties you accumulated (if any), and whether you worked at times that qualified you for night premiums.

If you worked in wet or smoke conditions, there are places on Actor’s Calc to check off “wet pay” and “smoke pay.”  Should you have also worked background that day and provided your own uniform(s) or prop(s), or qualified for hair, makeup, or beard pay, you can enter those details.  Finally, if you had a miscellaneous bump in pay, you can enter the dollar amount (without the $ sign).  Hit the “Calculate!” button, and Actor’s Calc figures your day’s wages in a split second.

Note that Actor’s Calc calculates your gross wages.  That is, these are your wages without taxes deducted.  Your paycheck will likely be less than what displays.  However, the gross wages are what’s needed for figuring your unemployment eligibility for the week.

Additional Uses for Actor’s Calc

Actor’s Calc is not just for stand-ins.  It can also figure the wages for SAG and AFTRA background actors and special-ability background actors, stunt performers and stunt coordinators, not to mention principal actors.

One of the site’s developers tells me that Actor’s Calc is currently planning to expand to include photo doubles, the CW rates, as well as non-union rates.

Mobile App

Currently, Actor’s Calc doesn’t have a mobile app, but the website is soliciting donations in order to complete its development for the iPhone.  If you would like to donate toward the development of an Actor’s Calc iPhone app, you can use the PayPal button located on the Actor’s Calc website.


Actor’s Calc is by Brad Naprixas and Eliezer Meyer (aka “Elli the King of Broadway”).  As the site claims openly, “This is not an official Screen Actor’s Guild or [American Federation of Television and Radio Artists] service. This program is designed to help working actors understand the SAG [and AFTRA] rules and calculate their earnings on a film shoot. We are continually working on this application and welcome any comments or critiques you have.”

And welcome they do.  When I first discovered the website in January, I noticed a bug when I punched in a night shoot with a lunchtime straddling the midnight hour.  Brad Naprixas, one of the site’s developers, was quick to respond to a comment I posted reporting the bug.  He was friendly and responsive to my feedback, and within a couple weeks he fixed the bug as well as a second one I found.

In February, a Stand-In Central contributor discovered another bug, this one with respect to meal penalty calculation.  Actor’s Calc calculated a paycheck slightly less than her actual paycheck when a dinner penalty was involved.  When I brought the bug to Brad Naprixas’s attention, he happily said he’d check it out.  As of press time, Brad says he should soon have a fix for the bug in calculating meal penalties.  UPDATE 3/16/2011: Brad says he has made changes to distinguish between lunch and dinner penalties.

Brad also says there is still a bit of an issue with respect to calculating night premiums, and this is because he hasn’t yet found a solid definition for calculating night premiums.  If you happen to know the rules for night premium calculation, visit Actor’s Calc and send them a note.

Of course, in beta or no, you should use Actor’s Calc wisely.  You should not be dependent on the site’s calculations for determining your day’s wages as a stand-in and figuring your wages for unemployment.  Instead, you probably best use the site to supplement your own understanding of your day’s wages.

Furthermore, keep in mind that wages theoretically increase on July 1st (2011), and Actor’s Calc may or may not reflect those changes.  Brad says, though, he anticipates Actor’s Calc will evolve as SAG and AFTRA contracts do.

Actor’s Calc Recommended by Stand-In Central

Overall, I am excited that this free website could prove to be a valuable tool for stand-ins in figuring their daily and weekly wages, especially when considering filing for unemployment.  I hope you will give Actor’s Calc a try, and if you have any feedback, drop Brad a message via his site.

Actor’s Calc

Have you tried Actor’s Calc?  How has the website helped you?  Post your experiences below!