Profit Share - is it to be believed!

  • Bob Dobson

    Actor

    When does a profit share become unpaid work or vice versa, it seems after speaking with other actors that some productions advertised as 'profit share' don't advise on their accounts (or is it the responsibility of the actor to monitor spend and ticket sales) and unpaid work which sells out and has made an obvious profit doesn't seem to feel obliged to share amongst the actors who have in many cases spent to make the production happen. Does anyone else seem confused and dismayed by this false promising or rip off by producers? Would casting call pro be able to put in place a checking system to make sure producers are advertising correctly?

    • 4th Jan 2009
    • 5574
    • 17
  • User Deleted

    This profile has been archived

    I agree ~ there is one particular company that advertise on here every year. I was involved with them just over a year ago, and although the production made several thousand pounds (way more than covering the costs the company had put in), and although we had all worked about twelve hours a day (non stop for six weeks) and had paid for travel, accomodation etc, we got nothing. I really wish there was some kind of vetting process, because it does mean that people are getting constantly screwed over.

    • 15th Dec 2008
    • 1
  • Matthew Wade

    Actor

    Good profit share companies should really offer a contract. Maybe CCP could provide or link to a sort of standard Actor / Company Pro-Forma that could be adapted and utilised.

    I've been burnt and equally treated very well, so its always hard to know. Lets jsut say that the biggest profits are ivariably made by those companies who later decide not to share....

    • 15th Dec 2008
    • 2
  • Lee Ravitz

    Actor

    I would always assume, as a default, that 'profit share' is tantamount to 'working unpaid' because, in my experience, even the profit share company that claws a profit back (through intelligent marketing and accounting) will not pay you a substantial amount. Indeed, if you are in a situation similar to my own, where actually travelling to the rehearsal isn't remimbursed, the sheer expense of travel is likely to negate any profit you may make. There are perhaps other reasons than sheerly the issue of making money from it that an actor will take on a profit share - and these may include the forum the production gives the actor, the kudos accorded to performing in a specific venue, the chance to work on a promising text etc.

    By and large, being promised to be repaid expenses may well be a better bet if you wish to be kept in pocket.

    Having said all this, the issues you are raising about companies who actually make a profit, and then refuse to pay out to those who agreed to work on the basis of profit share are a different issue. There should be accountability on this basis, as Matt states and all good companies should either pay out if profit was made, or inform you of the amount of loss and thereby absolve themselves of paying out. No-one can actually help it if the production loses money hand over fist, and you can always argue that you gamble on this happening every time you sign on to a profit share. But the deliberate witholding of profit to benefit the company is actionable, I think - without doubt, it is the sort of thing you could get Equity to advise on.

    • 15th Dec 2008
    • 3
  • User Deleted

    This profile has been archived

    Profit share means no money!

    I've just finished a run and the play went down fairly well. Not huge audiences and I doubt if much money was made.

    The cast spent months of their time in rehearsals and on stage adn notone us received a bean. Not even tube or bus fares or a few sandwiches. Nada!

    I'd committed myself to the play and enjoyed the work we did but as soon as it was over I was outta there.

    We were expected to give our all and we did but received bugger all in return. All good experience but I doubt if I shall be doing any more "profit sharing"

    • 15th Dec 2008
    • 4
  • User Deleted

    This profile has been archived

    I am currently working with two companies who are producing 'A Christmas Carol' at The Kings Head, Islington. This is an off West-End production and offers profitshare. Off West-End meaning that they have a tiny budget but outstanding production values. Definately not 'Fringe'. I don't want to get into a fringe/off west end debate thingy here, but most of you will know what I mean.

    Profitshare, in this case, means that they give a share of the profits.

    They have made a breakdown of percentages and how much each individual will make with every percentage of box office taking. For example, an 80 percent box office taking means that you get x amount etc...

    Every member of the company, beit actor or production team has a breakdown. Therefore, we know what we are getting.

    Considering 'A Christmas Carol' is already selling out, we are all expecting something and are guaranteed it if the show makes a profit.

    There are companies out there who work their asses off to fully and professionally produce a show and sell it and make their team money. There are also companies that work totally unprofessionally and treat this profession as a hobby. They may as well ask you to work for free rather than call it profit-share.

    But I would recommend getting either a contract or a breakdown of what they actually mean when they call it profitshare. You have a right to know the budget of the show and you have a right to know the likelihood of profit and also what percentage that you will be getting. You have a right to get this in writing.

    • 16th Dec 2008
    • 5
  • Monty Burgess

    Actor

    Has anyone been in a production that uses the Equity Fringe agreement?

    • 16th Dec 2008
    • 6
  • Mark Kempner

    Actor

    Ask for a set of accounts. You are perfectly entitled to this...and if not WHY NOT?

    Book the theatre = a set fee for the run against the box office split or whatever has been agreed between the venue and the Co.

    Publicity = easy set of costs to show

    Costumes and set = another very easy figure to show and prove

    How many people came to see the show minus comps of course.

    This will reveal what is left in the kitty or not.

    At the start of the job an honest Co will say what they are paying by way of a set percentage of the profit....if there is one.

    I think if you agree to a "PROFIT SHARE" by contract law...you must be entitled to a share of the PROFIT....however, you might also be entitled to a share of the LOSS if it can be proven?!!

    In my experience with these sorts of shows, the accounts are honest enough but there is never enough control over stage and set costs from the stage managers. Wasting a lot of money on unneeded materials or purchasing the materials from the most expensive sources.

    I recently looked into a set of accounts from a friends show, and the stage manager had shown costs for loads of new tools for himself!!

    Another big drain is the publicity when a bit of forethought could have saved a fortune.

    Profit share should = a share of the profits. As ever, certain Co's will play on the fact that some actors are so desperate to work….they just accept that they will receive nothing! If you sell yourself short, you will never get anywhere in this business. Imagine asking a garage to provide your fuel for nothing, unless you make a profit that month!! Or paying a plumber nothing for his services unless you have a good year!!

    I understand the sentiment of doing it to be seen……but think very carefully before assuming you will be paid anything at all just because a Co says its profit share.

    At least with a Low Budget film….you know you can at least get the footage as your payment. As long as you can get the DVD…..Oh no... not that debate again!

    • 16th Dec 2008
    • 7
  • Charlie Sanderson

    Actor

    I work with a my own theatre company on this basis and thats ok, we choose what shows to do and have a good lease of artistic freedom each time we do something. I don't think I would do a profit share with anyone I didn't know unless it meant I got to work with an amazing director, actors or a brilliant writer. If you are going to do a profit share I'd do it with actors and directors that you already know, otherwise it's just another way for the humble actor to be paid nothing for his/ her art. Mind I don't know whats more offensive on the whole profit share or when people palm you of with really shoddy wages and then make out they aren't doing anything wrong, how many of us have worked for a lot less than the minimum wage I wonder? It's illegal to pay anyone less than five seventy an hour in any other business but hey if you're an actor it seems the law doesn't apply. I think I have more concerns over how some of the jobs advertised on castingcall are actually paying way bellow this minimum wage. Off for some bread and dripping, C

    • 16th Dec 2008
    • 8
  • Lee Ravitz

    Actor

    A valid point from Mark, I think - it is necessary for companies who must audit their own accounts at the end of the tax year to keep good records of incomings/outgoings, and I am sure that the vast majority of reputable theatre companies (who have some validated existence as such) do so. The fact that we, as performers, rarely ask to be shown the accounts is a different issue.

    But I think Mark hit the nail on the head when he suggested that many profit shares, in fact, start with the highest of intentions, have things like the number of ticket sales needed etc. worked out in detail, can give a fair estimate as to how much profit they potentially stand to make...and then go and waste all the money on a ridiculous prop/piece of set they didn't realise would cost as much as it did. Or fail to advertise the show properly, and fail to attract audiences. Or get taken for a ride by the publicity people. Or put the show on at the wrong time in the day for the target audience. Or get rained off in the open air. Or...anyway the list is endless, and is most frequently that which destroys the hope of profit share for most companies whose original intentions were honest. Of course, this is precisely what being paid a regular wage protects against - it doesn't matter, in itself, that you end up paying to half full houses, or that a performance has to be cancelled because members of the cast are sick or whatever, because you stand to come away with the same money, regardless. But profit share stands or falls dependent on the budget.

    My point remains that no profit share is ever going to make you a king's ransom, but I do agree with Mark: if you have signed on for a profit share, then the company should be doing their absolute damnedest to make sure you make some money back, or are told the reason why.

    • 16th Dec 2008
    • 9
  • Bob Dobson

    Actor

    Thanks to all who have spoken so far, it seems to be a very interesting topic. I guess that 'Profit Share' has a wide and varied meaning within the profession - an eye opener for me. Pleased to hear that it does in cases work in the way which you would expect, judging by comments posted. I guess a contract is the best answer but do you push a company before agreeing to do a production for this?? And of course we all work for free for the experience, value of production etc but companies should state that as unpaid, actors should get the real situation and not a producers wooly bonnet!!

    • 17th Dec 2008
    • 10
  • Charlie Sanderson

    Actor

    I think you hit the nail on the head there Mark, if people are really honest from the word go then everything is clear and you know where you are with people. I think you can't help but feel there is deception in every area if someone your working for says one thing followed by something else completely different and when people are plain vague, it makes you wonder what secrets they have hiddee elsewhere. Good luck with it all, have enjoyed the rant!

    • 17th Dec 2008
    • 11
  • Gilda Waugh

    Actor

    This is something that makes my blood boil. What i feel is if you cannot afford to pay your actors any expenses or anything then don't put the play on. Why should people work for nothing. I have put 2 show on, I paid expenses for the first show and shared the profits every night. I did lose money but i expected that, i took that into consideration before i did the show. The second show we made good money for every performance. I would work extra to pay my actors. Its about respect and i wish actors would stop taking work that pays nothing. Even student films should pay the actor something above expenses. We do give up paid work to do these films , for the experience, but even so, even if it is £10 that is something. gilda waugh

    • 17th Dec 2008
    • 12
  • User Deleted

    This profile has been archived

    I wish everyone was as fair as you, Gilda. The only answer is for all performing artistes in whatever medium to stand firm and work only for the minimum wage paid daily, student film or not. To be on websites, have photographs taken, provide showreels, etc. is a great expense before any travel and food expenses are taken into account. I have had student producers offer me jobs in far-off places with no expenses even. I suppose they imagine I will sleep in my car. I decline to work for nothing now, after taking one short film job for expenses only and DVD to keep. The film was never finished and I had to pay for food and petrol except for £5. My car was used in one scene, too!

    • 25th Dec 2008
    • 13
  • Gilda Waugh

    Actor

    I think if actors are to be respected then a stand has to be made about this so called profit share where the actor never sees a bean for expenses or whatever. Also for student films i think a minimum of £10 per day plus expenses is not unreasonable. It seems to be taken for granted that actors will work for nothing for the experience and that is open to exploitation. It has to stop. No other profession i know works for nothing.

    • 29th Dec 2008
    • 14
  • John-Christian Bateman

    Actor

    I think the only way for us to get rid of any ambiguity around "profit share" is for all of us collectively to take action. This could mean simply refusing to take part in these productions or insisting on detailed accounts as some of you have suggested.

    It's time to stop relying on legislation to get rid of these kind of scams and start working collectively to improve our working conditions.

    • 30th Dec 2008
    • 15
  • Gilda Waugh

    Actor

    I have just turned down an audition for a student film casting in Portsmouth without covering any expenses. I think it would be good if people made a stand and the exploitation might stop. I am also going to write to Farnham college about paying actors for work done for end of year students. They have a good budget and could afford to pay their actors as well as expenses (which we did get). I think the fact that they probably tell their students that they can get actors for expenses only oh and yes feed them is just demoralising for us all. Like to hear comments on this.

    • 3rd Jan 2009
    • 16
  • User Deleted

    This profile has been archived

    An excellent idea, Gilda. Perhaps you could also phone or e mail the National Union of Students (see Contacts on their website)about actors concerns. I think the NUS Head Office can e mail simultaneously to all NUS offices in the UK. There perhaps is a Letters page on NUS newsletters at the various colleges for those on appropriate courses to read, so they can be made aware about these matters.

    In recent times I had correspondence with one student who approached me through CCP. Obviously he hadn't much idea about the process of enlisting chosen actors, even for free! Although I was not interested in the job, I advised about what I should have been told initially. I was thanked for my advice, advice which college tutors had neglected to impart, including the fact that it was not wise for him to e mail scripts to just anybody!

    He had genuinely thought I would turn up for audition without first querying remuneration if I got the job, costs of travel, food and accommodation (the job was in a far-off place).

    I do not know what the answer is, as there will always be those who want some experience via unpaid jobs. What needs to be pinned down are the expenses promised. Everyone would have to stick out for those being paid upfront.

    Surely there used to be a space on our CCP profiles to put whether we would accept paid or unpaid work. I thought mine specified 'paid work only' but I have just viewed my profile and there is nothing relevant. Perhaps I was mistaken.

    • 4th Jan 2009
    • 17