NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – A state representative wants to ensure background artists working on New Mexico movie sets are treated better, especially when it comes to getting paid.
Movie extras and stand ins work long hours and often in tough conditions to help film a movie. Now as the industry grows in New Mexico, lawmakers may vote on a bill that could ensure actors are paid in a timely manner.
“It’s an actual job and there are people that do it for a living and we shouldn’t have to be starving to do it,” said a movie stand in who wants to remain anonymous, “Personally I think that we all need to just start taking better care of each other and ourselves in the film industry.”
The anonymous background actor believes movie extras and stand ins need better treatment. She added the industry has changed for the better in the last few years but mentions in the past she’s waited months and even years to get a check for her work on set. Her hope is extras will one day be paid routinely and in a timely manner.
This is something the bill pre filed by Democratic Representative Miguel Garcia of Bernalillo County claims it will do. Ruby Garcia, President of “Background Actors Association of New Mexico,” a non-profit that fights for artists’ rights, said the group spent years helping craft this bill. The bill would require background workers to have regular pay days no more than 16 days apart.
The bill would also allow background artists the right to organize and protest if needed. However, one casting company who helps place extras on sets says many productions already follow the rules.
“I think that what we should be doing is striving to follow what the performers union sets as guidelines that I mentioned earlier. I do think that this bill is a little aggressive in the way that it is formed. I would hate for that to hurt production as it comes to the state,” said Shayne Hartigan, Owner of Alessi Hartigan Casting.
Hartigan added while the bill is good, it is harsh in the way it is worded. He said most productions follow rules, treat their crew fairly, and maintain a safe workplace. Adding it’s often independent films that don’t treat their employees fairly.
The bill would require an employer to provide a background artist a safe workplace including shade, water, heating, and cooling. The bill sets penalties for companies who don’t follow the rules including fines of up to $1,000 for each offense.