Payment Deferred

  • Leigh Livingstone

    Actor

    Can I just ask, this is a waaaay stupid question, but what do they ACTUALLY mean by "Payment Deferred"?

    Is that "we will pay you 'eventually'" or "good luck getting any money from us coz we probably won't get any funding after all"?

    • 20th May 2006
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  • Caroline Boulton

    Actor

    Its a polite and optimistic way of saying there Is no way in hell we have any money to pay you. I always think its nice they at least offer to pay you if they make anything from it, but realistically it rarely happens.

    • 1st Jun 2006
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    The term is usually used as the recorded media's version of 'profit share' and it's a fairly standard way of getting a cast and crew together for very low-budget indie films. The plan is usually to try and make a product with enough class to stand a chance of distribution (usually straight-to-DVD) after which any profits are shared out.

    Like the theatrical equivalent, some PD projects pay off but many don't and there's absolutely no point in going into any of them expecting a payback. However, even if you decide to take a flyer there are some details of which you should be satisfied.

    Firstly, is everyone on the non-existent payroll also on DP? In the majority of cases you will find this is the case, with everyone doing their bit in the spirit of adventure, but if other personnel who are being paid, then you need to as "why aren't I?" (To which there is of course no answer.)

    How much is your cut? This has to be sorted out from the start and recorded in black and white in your contract. The sum is usually defined as a percentage of the profit, say between 1 and 5% (it depends on the number of sharers). Some of the nobler types will calculate all this from the first pound earned, but others will specify that the percentage isn't calculated until after the film's costs have been recouped. Here you're on sticky ground, since a good accountant can keep a film 'in the red' practically forever, so you won't see any dosh for a long time, if at all.

    Is it a good role in a good-looking project (i.e. would YOU watch it)? If it is, and you don't have to give up too much time, it might be worth doing for a showreel piece, and even if the film hits the shelves but you don't make much (or any) money, you've still appeared in a commercially distributed film, which can count for a lot.

    Finally, remember if you do a DP indie, you don't need to take any stick. It's a collaborative project, and everyone's in the same boat. The no/lo budget indie network is a growing phenomenon that's not approved of by everyone in the profession, so you'll have to make up your own mind about whether you want to get involved.

    Hope that helps.

    Best, KD.

    • 1st Jun 2006
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    hi,

    I daresay there's enough actors on this site who've done this kind of work in the past to inform you of it's chance of any payment.

    anyone out there who's made any money out of this kind of thing? if so, without wishing to be intrusive, how much? round of drinks? week's rent? new car?

    Keith is absolutely right when he says that any half-decent accountant will be able to conveniently hide any profits, but surely there must be some successful outcomes out there?

    all the best,

    cliff

    • 1st Jun 2006
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    I've done two that have made money. One was bought outright and earned me a little over what would have been the Equity minimum for the period of work involved. The other is on a percentage basis so how much it'll eventually earn I can't say - so far I could go drinking with friends for a few nights on the proceeds. Both shoots were very professionally conducted, great fun and in the end I made some pocket money while networking.

    One thing I forgot to mention - make sure that your contract specifies that all reasonable expenses will be met.

    Best KD.

    • 1st Jun 2006
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    a quick scan of keith's cv, I'm sure he'll forgive my nosiness, shows 3 films - he's made some pocketmoney from 1 of them so far. anyone out there got a better success rate? or a significantly worse?

    genuinely interested.

    all the best.

    cliff

    • 1st Jun 2006
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  • Sally Beaumont

    Actor

    Great advice- I although have problems seeing it through.

    If I'm in an audition, I feel it looks bad if I'm asking about future profits, whether everyone's unpaid, etc. Then if you're offered the part, you know full well if they think you're being sniffy they can find a dozen others who won't even ask for a contract...

    any "nice" ways to find out?

    • 1st Jun 2006
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    Dear Sally

    I think the thing here is not to be a victim. You are a talented actress with experience and you have every right to ask what payment terms will be offered.

    Just ask at the interview if every one involved with the making of the film is also working on DP terms. What's wrong with that? For goodness sake have a bit of confidence and belief in yourself. Yes there is a lot of competition out there but don't be a door mat. The people who succeed in this business are the ones who come across as very confident.

    If the producers of the film are genuine artistic people they will not mind you asking nor will they be offended if you ask for a contract when you are offered the job. If they are troubled by your request for an appropriate contract then they are not genuine and best to be avoided.

    Personally I would not touch a DP film with a barge pole but there seem to be lots of people on CCP who have had positive experiences. KD gives good advice in this field of work and so do lots of others. So if you are going to work on a DP film pick your project carefully and remember even though this is a DP film you can still ask your agent and Equity for advice on the wording of a contract.

    Best wishes

    Sovay

    • 1st Jun 2006
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    Cliff knows he's always welcome to look at my CV.

    Sally, the difference between a DP and a paid job is precisely the financial aspect, so don't be afraid of seeming a little pushy if you go for one, otherwise you're falling into the trap of assuming that you need them more than they need you.

    Best, KD.

    • 1st Jun 2006
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  • Sally Beaumont

    Actor

    Only asking.

    Just for the record- I'm not a doormat, as you'll have probably read from my other posts.

    My point was that, in the past I have asked, and the attitude has been that I am money-grabbing or a trouble maker. I'm a very polite, professional person, and no matter how I seem to phrase it, they seem to take umbridge. Now, I want new showreel pieces as much as anyone, but I'm not prepared to be used, and a company to profit from me.

    It's more an indication of the attitude of DP filmmakers- that we should be happy to accept whatever they dish out...

    However, the difficulty is that it's all well and good to say that if they don't like a confident performer asking for what is rightfully theirs, then aren't worth working with- but I don't have as much choice as to be asked to every DP film I apply for, so if I'm auditioned/ offered a part I'd really rather not blow it. It makes for a wasted journey and means my showreel takes even longer to put together.

    It seems to me that the situation is a touch one-sided in favour of the employer, which makes me uncomfortable- but it's in my nature to try to find a pleasant way to get through it (without getting conned)

    I thought I might get some useful feedback, however I feel a bit got at- there have been much more worrying queries on this forum that have been responded to more kindly.

    • 1st Jun 2006
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    Just seen Sovay's post and her point about getting the contract vetted by your agent or looked at by Equity is spot on.

    There's a fairly standard indie film contract that's been doing the rounds for some time now and a properly organised project will be using it. Either they will present you with, or you will mutually agree your DP fee and this can then be entered into the wording of the contract. Don't sign or commit to anything before this has been done, and as Sovay says, if you sense anything other than total enthusiasm from the producers during this period, think again.

    I'm up for a DP next week and I'll let you know how the meeting goes.

    Best, KD.

    • 1st Jun 2006
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    Sally,

    I don't think anyone has meant to get at you. Certainly if I came across that way I apologise.

    However, if when meeting these people you're made to feel you're going too far by discussing money, why work for them? They've put DP so money has to be a valid discussion point. In the face of that kind of attitude, I'd walk. Surely it's better to keep putting yourself up until you meet a bunch of people you're happy with. Chances are they'll be happy with you.

    I can only say I've had good experiences meeting indie film makers, even for the parts I didn't get. Maybe I'm just lucky.

    Best, KD.

    • 1st Jun 2006
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    Dear Sally

    Please don't feel "got at". And I am sorry if I did not come across as kind. I just get very cross with the way some producers treat actors, especially when there is no payment involved.

    My agent is a petite softly spoken young woman. Yet she does not take any crap from any potential employer. I admire her greatly. She often ups my fee and always makes sure I am well looked after. If she was afraid to ask for things none of her actors would go very far.

    I think we all need some of the qualities of my agent.

    Sorry if I upset you that was not my intention.

    Cheers

    Sovay

    • 1st Jun 2006
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  • Sally Beaumont

    Actor

    No worries- thin skin today!

    It's quite interesting, because I get to see things from the other perspective when I cast things.

    Often I get actors who have obviously been mucked about in the past and come across like the spanish inquisition- and it makes them seem aggressive and difficult to work with. Which is a shame as this business can jade you.

    Good stuff about your agent- true, we all need to be ballsy.

    It's just difficult with the unpaid stuff, as you're often dealing with people who have less experience in filmmaking than yourself!

    I find the unpaid aspects of this business slightly irritating, although it is necessary for me to get a new showreel.

    Just about to ask my mechanic if he'll change my exhaust "for deferred payment, copy of the film and an excellent experience". Not sure that's going to wash! ;)

    • 1st Jun 2006
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  • Leigh Livingstone

    Actor

    Thanks everyone for that valuable advice, it really helps to form my own opinion on the matter.

    I have to say I whole heartedly agree with both Keith AND Sally. It is generally best to hold your head up high and (politely) demand what you are worth to a project, however I can definitely sympathise with needing the credits, be it for showreel or experience.

    In the end there are not many rules in this game, look at all the successful actors we have in this industry, they didn't all get there the same way and they don't all have the same ideals as far as work is concerned. It is whatever works for you.

    As is always said, just be yourself and try your own ways, if you try to fit someone else's mould to get work then its generally obvious that is what you are doing and you'll be caught out. If you're right for the role and, in turn, it is right for you, then it will work and be great!

    Maybe that is very optimistic, but sometimes you have to be!

    Thanks again everyone, really appreciate it.

    ps: Keith, definitely let us know how you get on with that DP Job!

    Leigh

    • 1st Jun 2006
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    Just a thought - Some friends of mine met in an Actors Centre workshop taken by Chrys Salt last year. The workshop was about marketing ones self as an actor and how to make a showreel.

    Some time after the workshop these actors got together wrote their own short scenes and employed very good recent film school graduates. The showreels they ended up with were very good especially when mix with their bits and bobs from "Doctors" the "Bill" or "Crime Watch".

    I don't think they paid the film school graduates very much just enough for equipment hire and time in an editing suit. Like many actors recent film school graduates are also looking to build their show case of work and gain new credits for their CV's.

    So maybe the next time some of you meet up at the last Friday club, you could think about banding together pooling a wee bit of cash and being in the driving seat to produce your own showreels. Lots of us band together to do profit share theatre when times are lean, so why not do the same when we need a showreel. As long as it filmed to broadcast quality, I think it would be a very empowering thing to do.

    Cheers

    Sovay

    • 1st Jun 2006
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  • Sally Beaumont

    Actor

    I did that class with Chrys Salt- and teamed up with a couple of actors (the rest were very slow to get moving on it- 18 months later they still haven't recorded anything!)

    Some of my showreel stuff is from that (in fact my best)

    so can thoroughly recommend it...you get creative control, and particularly as an actress you get to write a great part, rather than the ubiquitous girlfriend in the background...

    • 1st Jun 2006
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    I would have to say that I agree with Sally's comment re 'Barge Poles' but that is my personal choice.

    My philosophy in respect of the profession is not to touch anything where there is risk attached to payment - Profit Share generally (not 100% of the time) means you won't get paid. Deferred Payment follows the same guidelines.

    If a company has to seek actors for nothing then they have not worked hard enough to find the right budget or, there is a possible risk in the material that any sensible backer would not wish to be involved with. If the project is a student film, ask the student if their course tutor is being paid. Should the answer be 'yes' then ask them why their tutor thinks it fair that a fellow professional should work for nothing.

    As others have already said, be pushy. It's the only way to find out. The genuine will respect you and the shammers... well, you wouldn't want to be working for them anyway.

    Consider this - would you expect a plumber to fix your taps for nothing? or the garage mechanic to repair your engine for free? Then why should you be expected to provide your professional experience for nowt?

    Another thing - your agent would not let you do anything on DP unless they themselves knew that there was going to be something in it for them. Ask for a contract on DP stuff and then pass it to the agent. Let them take the pressure off your making that decision.

    • 1st Jun 2006
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    First of all let me say that I've worked on deferred payment projects before, and I'll do so again; it's a great way for micro-budget productions to shoot above their weight, and sharing the increased rewards if they get away with doing so.

    I'm a producer rather than a performer, so I've got a rather different perspective -- although I wouldn't like to say whether my opinion is typical of the species...

    But if I were casting (or crewing) for any project, an applicant who actually expressed an interest in the project's future would score extra points with me for doing so.

    If it's a commercial project then I'd far rather hire someone who wanted to know what its chances of success were, how much success was expected, what the plan was for generating that success.

    The alternative is a jobsworth with no real interest in what I want to achieve, they're just there for a day's pay or another credit; or someone who's blanket applied for everything and hasn't asked the question because they haven't even been bothered to read that far through the advert. There are more of them out there than you might think, and I for one aim to avoid them.

    Sure, there are right & wrong ways to ask -- but as an actor one would hope that basic communication skills can be taken for granted. But not to ask about deferral if it's been stated, suggests that either:

    * you haven't paid any attention to the info you've been given;

    * or that you assume my baby is doomed to failure (or that I'm a crook) & therefore the deferral is worthless;

    * or at best that you just have no interest in what is supposed to be a team effort, beyond your own part.

    None of the above stands you in as much stead as the enthusiasm implied by asking.

    That's my story anyway, and I'm sticking to it :-)

    Incidentally, separate point: I know not everyone makes the distinction, but I'd suggest there are two different things being blurred together here.

    One is fixed fees, put off until sufficient revenue has come in to pay them (which is what I normally mean by "deferral"). That still depends on the project generating sales (and in many cases, enough to repay the investors first), but it's safer in that there are fewer accounting tricks to hide behind, and you've got a specific cash figure on the table. Safer, but capped.

    The other is profit sharing. This is usually a percentage of Producers' Nett Profits -- ie (being cynical) the part of what the project makes that the accountants can't be bothered trying to hide anywhere in the cost budget. This is a lot more tenuous, far more likely to come out at a big fat zero... but if the stars are aligned and the project makes a huge profit, your points can be worth tons (Alec Guinness made more from 'Star Wars' than from the whole of the rest of his career, because he was one of the very few who was "foolish" enough to give up his fixed fee in favour of a percentage).

    Points (and to a lesser extent, deferrals) are a gamble; the chance of the gamble paying off depends on the project's financial structure (DON'T confuse "Gross", "Producers' Gross", and "Nett"!); how good the script, cast & crew are; how good the sales strategy is; and whether the gods smile upon you, among other things. How big a risk you're prepared to acccept is obviously up to you to decide (but as I say many productions simply can't afford to offer you anything like as much, if you want 100% guarantees or cash up-front; that's just the way it is).

    Back to the beginning again: by asking you to take a deferral (or points), we (the producers) are asking you to join our gamble, to speculate on our project's success along with us -- in effect to invest your earnings in our business venture. To suggest that it would be impolite for a potential investor to ask a little about the business plan is faintly absurd.

    And if you're ever offered such a "blind" investment opportunity, by an entrepreneur who's disappointed or offended when you ask them about what your investment actually buys you... get the hell out of Dodge!

    Just a suggestion, of course.

    Luv'n'Hugs

    David

    • 1st Jun 2006
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    Thanks, David. Nice to hear a voice from the production side.

    • 1st Jun 2006
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    dear david,

    thanks for an enlightening post, hope you can help me with one query regarding it. when you say:

    "One is fixed fees, put off until sufficient revenue has come in to pay them (which is what I normally mean by "deferral"). That still depends on the project generating sales (and in many cases, enough to repay the investors first), but it's safer in that there are fewer accounting tricks to hide behind, and you've got a specific cash figure on the table. Safer, but capped".

    does that mean that financial investors in the film are paid before the creative elements - ie. director, camera, sound, editing, actors etc? I'm assuming that the actors are treated the same as the other creative elements.

    regards,

    cliff

    • 1st Jun 2006
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