Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Working for Peanuts

Attention filmmakers! "There will be food on set" is not an acceptable substitute for money. There seems to be a recent phenomenon of mentioning that there will be food on set. The food in mind is generally bags of chips, pretzels... Even if it was chicken enchiladas or crab stuffed salmon it would be somewhat insulting. Okay, I admit I would probably be open to a barter deal if the filmmaker is a butcher in his/her other life. Some nice cuts of meat for a day or two on set. Filmmakers seem to think actors will work for peanuts. Actually, filmmakers know they can get actors for less. As actors it is our fault. Seriously, how hard is it for filmmakers to fill roles for no pay or credit/copy projects? (Actors: Ever notice getting a copy seems to be easy when it is a minor role you wouldn't think of including in a demo reel but more difficult when it is reel worthy?) I admit I worked these type of projects first starting out to gain experience and build up my resume. A lot of projects with Art Institute students or Indy filmmakers on the first few films. Similar to interning at a law firm or doing residency at a hospital. The difference? Actors are the only ones that stay at this level. Probably why filmmakers consider food on set to be a pay increase from no pay.

This is why I have stopped doing no pay projects. Occasionally, I might take one just like a lawyer might take on the occasional case that cannot afford the normal fee. After all, it is not always about the money. And it is not about getting on set. Imagine a lawyer mainly doing "if you cannot afford a lawyer one will be appointed to you" cases just to get up in the courtroom. Despite the importance of everyone, regardless of economic means, having legal protection, it would be hard to take a lawyer that does these type of cases 90+% of the time seriously. The same is true for actors that spend their entire careers - I use the word loosely - doing no pay projects seriously.

This is why when I come across a no pay project that I am interested in I inquire about the possibility of pay. So much per day; deferred percentage. Any arrangement is satisfactory and I am not asking for break the bank 35% of the budget amounts. If the filmmaker is unable to move beyond the no pay I politely decline and wish them luck. It is as important for me to develop the habit of working for pay if I want to increase the level of my acting as it is for filmmakers to develop the habit of paying if they want to increase their level of film making. Acting is my career not my hobby. It is time to take it to the next level.

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