No Pay for Actors

  • Heronimo Sehmi

    Actor

    Could someone please tell me why actors seem to be last to be paid? I've had a lot of work realted inquires from production companies-they all extoll the use of latest cameras/equipment but when it comes to actors, it's "sorry we can only pay expenses and we will through in a DVD" student productions I can understand but not professional production companies. Someone please enlighten me.

    • 2nd Mar 2010
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  • User Deleted

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    I know exactly what you mean...I am sick of it myself. Us actors work bloody hard rain or shine and it's actually insulting that we are not being offered money...I have done my share of expenses work, which is fair enough in some cases, but when there is a budget to speak of there should be some thrown the actors way...the thing is there is always an actor willing to sell themselves short so if we say 'no thanks' there will be others willing to fill your shoes grrr

    • 26th Feb 2010
    • 1
  • Farah Sardar

    Actor

    Film companies take advantage of the fact that so many people are trying to get into acting.

    But if they're time wasters you should tell them. I've done this before - and they're not used to it.

    • 26th Feb 2010
    • 2
  • David Laurence

    Actor

    Mm,tricky thing really.

    As you say people want to work and get experience,but it often means taking jobs on without money.

    Ive done some really interesting jobs with no money involved,which have resulted in gaining contacts for the future as well as nice footage.

    Every job has to be taken on its own merits.

    If a film will be seen at film festivals all over the planet,would you strop about being paid?

    Also the point about equipment is intersting.

    Just remember if you arent paid ,but the extra money is put towards a better camera,which in turn makes for a more professional looking film,then how do you put a price on footage good enough to be used for showreel.

    A showreel that will impress the next director,who has a proper budget.So much so that hes willing to give you a job.

    Of course you cant pay bills with expeience,and wed all all love to be paid a reasonable wage for our work.

    I have only ever recieved call back money once.Ive been ripped off to the tune of £££££ over a period of 13 years of work.

    But would you rather a normal job,with regular pay and normal hours.That is a scary thought ....

    • 26th Feb 2010
    • 3
  • Heather Rome

    Actor

    If you want to get material for a showreel these days, unless you are lucky the only way your going to get it is by doing "expenses only" jobs, mostly with students or directors financing their own projects.

    Personally I have no problem with this as long as I feel I am being treated fairly. I don't like it if say the camerman is getting paid and I'm not just because he brings kit. I bring my training, experience and usually my own costume(s, makeup and hair products as well!

    To protect yourself ask all filmakers you work with to sign your own contracts which asks for contact details in depth (permanent address, landline not just mobile, etc.). Ask if they have liability insurance for the shoot (students should be covered by their college). If they don't ask why not. Think seriously of not doing it, especially if you have do anything that might injure you. Remember doing a take over and over can put strains on your body that you didn't expect. If you wrench your back or knee you won't be able to claim sick pay.

    I've just done about half a dozen short films in the last six months and mostly worked with people who were organised and professional, students or not.

    • 26th Feb 2010
    • 4
  • David Laurence

    Actor

    Oh I dont sit back and take it every time.Just in case anyone belived i condoned the people who take the mickey out of actors.

    Ive had my fair share of run ins.

    I could ,Im sure,ruin my chances on projects by being truthful.I have in the past been left out in the cold on projects because I objected to the way people were treated.

    But strangely enough these producers/directors have ended up in trouble.

    Because further down the line everyone who was mistreated by them has walked.

    It pays to be good at your job,but it pays to be nice as well.Because this business thrives and survives on not only money,but kindness and good will.

    Without that its lost before it starts.

    • 26th Feb 2010
    • 5
  • Farah Sardar

    Actor

    Yes. We should be treated fairly. Some film companies have the impression that we are all desperate and will do anything.

    • 26th Feb 2010
    • 6
  • Farah Sardar

    Actor

    In my experience I have seen more professionalism and been treated very well in the work which is paid.

    • 26th Feb 2010
    • 7
  • Farah Sardar

    Actor

    And don't forget as actors we play a valuable role. We bring things to life inorder to educate, enlighten and express things through drama which would not have the same impact had they simply been spoken about.

    But as with everyone else, we have other comitments, have to pay our bills and deserve respect.

    • 26th Feb 2010
    • 8
  • User Deleted

    This profile has been archived

    This is a tricky one..I think actors are bottom of the payment heirarchy because if you don't have decent camera equipment how do you make the film? If you don't have theatre space how do you put on a show? Actors are ten a penny. Now, if the crew/director etc are actually receiving payment (no matter how little) then that's when I would rattle my cage!

    However, unpaid work usually means just that.. everyone involved is doing it for free.

    • 26th Feb 2010
    • 9
  • Jonathan Goodwin

    Actor

    All this said, if not for the non-paid work on the site, hardly any of us would ever work again! The scene is hardly awash with fiscally-rewarding gigs, is it?!

    • 26th Feb 2010
    • 10
  • User Deleted

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    But is unpaid work actually "work"?

    • 26th Feb 2010
    • 11
  • Jonathan Goodwin

    Actor

    Fair point, Helen. I think it is in terms of energy spent, effort/skill employed, et al... Maybe it's nobler to "work" for the sheer thrill of it... though my bank manager always raises an arched eye-brow whenever I fling that philosophy her way....

    • 26th Feb 2010
    • 12
  • Farah Sardar

    Actor

    Going down the philosophical route, there is another theory 'Show me the money or I ain't doin it mate!'

    I find this one particularly profound if you are someone who likes to eat the following week.

    • 26th Feb 2010
    • 13
  • Jenna Sharpe

    Actor

    I am pretty much in agreement with everything here but would like to add something to the argument. It probably won't be popular but the truth rarely is!

    Some actors don't deserve to be paid because they simply are not good enough.

    There. I said it.

    And even the people that can act sometimes turn up to jobs unprepared, with a big ego, a bad attitude and generally unprofessional behaviour.

    These groups of people tend to ruin it for the rest of us as it devalues the whole profession. Acting is also a rather unique profession...

    * There is no quality control or benchmark for talent. You might have been to drama school but that doesn't mean you have talent, in fact it can mean the opposite. We have all watched those awful cliched performances that scream "look at me, I went to drama school" and sometimes you wonder if they have forgotten how people actually talk and behave in real life...

    * One of the benchmarks for talent was if you had an agent but now there are too many agents! Anyone can set up an agency and some of them are there to make a quick buck and will submit too many people for too few roles (often people that do not even meet the casting brief!).

    * People that can't act may get selected to audition over ones that can (perhaps because they have the right look in their headshot or were one of the first submissions the CD received)

    * Employment laws e.g. minimum wage don't seem to apply to us so people almost expect and accept being treated poorly. And if you don't value the service you provide you can't expect anyone else to either.

    * Actors are sometimes very bad business people! I can't think of any other business (voluntary sector and students aside) where it is acceptable for someone to work for free even though other people working on the same project might be getting paid! It is even worse when the company will be making money as a direct result of your work and even worse than that if they were already making profit and could actually afford to pay you anyway. Yes this is a reflection of their lack of professionalism but you don't have to take it.

    * What makes a good performance is quite subjective. You might do one role very well but struggle in another. Your monologue might be great because you have rehearsed/performed it 1000 times, because you know the character or have copied someone else's performance but give that actor a script they have never seen or ask them to develop their own character and they might not be able to.

    * A lot of people who can't act don't seem to realize it! Maybe they assume someone would have told them, maybe they are in denial... but whatever the reason they don't tend to call it a day and quit the business even when they never get any roles. So with no labour turnover the number of actors competing with each other increases over time but the average level of talent actually decreases! The core group of talented people become harder to pick out. It's like panning for gold… most of the time you'll just get rocks and pyrite!

    * Bizarrely there are many people on stage and screen that aren't that talented. People then end up lowering their expectations of what is actually a good performance...and if most of the people you are auditioning are from the 'talentless' group (and statistically this is likely) then it is not surprising that employers start wondering if they are getting good value for money. If someone comes into the audition and blows you away then you'd want to pay them in order to have them appear in your production but if everyone is performing at much the same level and everyone is desperate for a part then perhaps you would try and get away with paying as little as possible. If the actor refuses well there are plenty of others you can substitute them with as they didn't display anything particularly special.

    Gosh I sound like an economist don't I. Maybe I should release a "budget" and set out plans to deal with the expenses scandal and how to bail out the acting industry. I think some savage cuts,

    fiscal stimulus, audition tax, quantitative easing and sure start centres for actors are in order ;)

    • 27th Feb 2010
    • 14
  • User Deleted

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    Sometimes when nothing is forthcoming,working for expenses only does keep us practicing & honing our craft.It also helps our confidence & feeling better about ourselves.Some projects can also be very exciting.

    • 28th Feb 2010
    • 15
  • User Deleted

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    hear, hear Jenna xx

    • 28th Feb 2010
    • 16
  • Susan Moisan

    Actor

    One that baffles me, is that a highly talented friend of mine is doing a "low" budget feature film for expenses only. She happened to mention that she was a make-up artist as well.

    They said "Oh great, and you'll get paid for that."

    So they can afford to pay someone who makes the actors look good, but not the actors who make the film.

    • 28th Feb 2010
    • 17
  • Fiz Marcus

    Actor

    I agree with you Jemma, although I do think that there are some amazing actors out there who do not get the work they should. Recently went to see a show that I couldn't even get seen for, the performances with the exception of one, were dire, not just the part I wanted to be seen for, but the whole lot, I wouldn't have wanted to be in the show. There was no excuse when there are so many great actors out of work.

    The whole no pay thing is being discussed at length on the Equity Forum at the moment. My own view is that until it becomes illegal to advertise unpaid work it will continue to be offered and people will do it. To make it illegal to advertise particularly in the current climate is going to be virtually impossible. What worries me more is the paid work for commercials etc by major companies which is paying way less than it should be eg £800 buyout for a year on UK TV. That is disgraceful, but again people will do the job.

    • 1st Mar 2010
    • 18
  • User Deleted

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    I went to an open audition,last week,for a commercial.10 of us stood in a line & they asked us to put up our hands if we had trained professionally.8 of us did.The Director chose the 2 in the line that hadn't.Says it all.doesn't it!

    • 1st Mar 2010
    • 19