Indie Films and SAG
The Screen Actors Guild has consistently monitored and adjusted pay scales in response to the growing number of independent low-budget films being produced. Depending on the actual budget and the intentions and affiliations of film producers, using SAG actors is often within financial reach.
For films produced by enrolled film school students, SAG union actors can defer 100 percent of their salary. While few name actors will bother working on a student film for zero compensation, it's possible to find talented union actors who are willing to help out with a project they like and a screenplay that they love. Most actors are eager to broaden their acting horizons, and if your script is well written, there's no reason not to pursue union talent.
For short films of thirty-five minutes or less, and with budgets of less than $50,000, SAG actors can also defer 100 percent of their salaries. The same cautions apply here that apply to student films. The benefit is that you don't have to be enrolled in a film school to take advantage of the opportunity.
For feature films with budgets of less than $200,000, SAG union pay scales are $100 per day. Unemployed union actors would rather find work on low-budget films than flip burgers, so there's no reason not to explore this avenue. You can get very good, professional actors for a reasonable fee, and most of them can prove to be extremely helpful on a film set. Particularly if you are a relatively inexperienced filmmaker, union actors can bring a lot of valuable knowledge and expertise to a production.