Downton producer vows to pay extras in full following BECTU pressure

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Downton Abbey producer Carnival Films has been forced to make a U-turn over plans to underpay extras in the popular ITV series.

The production company had been offering extras working on the fourth series a rate of £120 for a 12-hour day, which falls short of the rate performers are entitled to under the Film Artistes’ Association’s agreement with producers’ body PACT, of which Carnival is a member.

Under this, performers get a basic daily rate of £83.72 for a nine-hour day, plus holiday, overtime and travel money, meaning a 12-hour shoot should earn a performer closer to £150.

When it heard about Carnival’s rate, union BECTU – of which the FAA is part – challenged the production company, which has since said it will now pay according to the FAA/PACT agreement.

BECTU national official Gerry Carr said: “We welcome the quick U-turn by the production as the only sensible response. And we’re now happy that BECTU/FAA members will be paid the agreed rate when working on Downton Abbey. But we hope that this shows the way forward to all self-respecting production companies, and that they continue to apply the agreed industry rates contained in the PACT/FAA agreement.”

Carnival had been offering its £120 rate through agency Casting Collective, which confirmed that the FAA/PACT agreement would now be used instead.

However, Casting Collective’s decision to offer work on Downton Abbey to its members at Carnival’s initial lower rate raises issues about the pressure that casting companies are under to accept work from producers that pays below industry rates. Increasingly, agencies are fearful they will lose work to other organisations if they challenge a production company’s fees.

A spokeswoman for Carnival said: “Downton Abbey has always paid the FAA rate, and we continue to do so on series four. We are more than satisfied that we are meeting all our obligations to our supporting artists under the PACT/FAA agreement.”