Talent of all genres have struggled for years to get better paying rates for jobs. Unfortunately the rates have been sliding downward for some time. What can we do to fix them? You as the people who get paid for the jobs need to put your foot down and state you will only work the job you’re being offered for a higher rate. You need to make the change first so the production companies, clients and producers see they need to adjust rates so you benefit. For on camera talent, you have been hit the hardest. You have to pay more for gasoline, you have to test, test and test again for Covid. All of this entails driving around which is using up gas and your time.
Let’s address a variety of situations one at a time.
SAG-AFTRA background jobs
For any talent who prefer to just be background or those who have gone SAG-AFTRA who don’t feel comfortable going Ficore, you are making below what you should be making sitting as a background talent. Do you honestly feel you are gaining anything to potentially be seen on screen a few seconds if that while sitting on set for 10+ hours a day for less than $200.00 a day? The most disturbing thing about SAG-AFTRA is they did not adjust their rates at all when Covid hit. The amount of union jobs is decreasing every year. When Covid hit, there was zero work. The majority of my SAG-AFTRA talent either rely on another person’s income to make a decent living or they have a flexible full time job or they live with their parents. Being a successful SAG-AFTRA talent is not easy to do. SAG should adjust their rates and their must join requirements to fit with the times.
Non Union Local jobs
When a talent works in an area, whether it is 200 or 500 miles, they frequently work smaller local projects. If you are requested to work a job for a commercial for a restaurant located in a mid sized city, you shouldn’t accept any rate until you find out the following information:
- Where is the job shooting (so you now how far you need to drive and use gas)
- Is this shoot indoors or outdoor and is it daytime or night time? (outdoor shoots needed to provide shelter/bathrooms/accommodations depending on the weather. Night time shoots always pay more than daytime shoots)
- What is the USAGE. This is the biggest thing you need to find out. What media will said commercial run? Broadcast(tv), Radio, Social media, Digital radio, Web, (If web you MUST ask if they will be running it on social media platforms. If the answer is yes then they need to up your rate more. More ads are watched today on social media than on regular television). How long will this ad be running on each platform? How many commercials is your role going to be seen in? All of this equates to a higher rate. Example: If a local commercial for a beauty salon is running on local tv, on YouTube and being place on Instagram and Snapchat, I’d break down the pricing like this: For one year’s usage, the tv rate alone should be at least $800.00 in Maryland, higher in NY and Philly. To place on YouTube I’d add $1000.00, the union rate for one year on web is $2000.00, to run on two social platforms, add another $1300.00. Why? Because anywhere you are seen or heard you should be compensated.
- What is the brand. If you do not know the brand, you do not have to accept the job. In these days of social issues, you as the paid actor have the right to make a decision if you wish to represent the brand stated.
- Make sure you will receive payments within 30 days of your invoice date and or paperwork filled out for a paymaster. (note paymaster jobs pull taxes out, be prepared for this. Also for any and all paymaster jobs you will be required to fill out a W4 tax form, and The I9 form, the Homeland Security form. With the I9 form you must provide actual proof of ID with regulations to what you need to provide.
- If you are hired for a bilingual role, work to get a higher rate. Many people cannot speak two languages fluently. If you are able to and completely understandable in both languages then you should get a higher rate for your special ability.
Non-Union National Jobs
If you know you are working a national commercial, you need to make sure you are compensated for this visibility. You may find that some of the biggest brands are some of the lowest rates. Stand your ground. If a production really wants you as an actor, they should be able to negotiate with you. Please refer to the above Non Union Local jobs for the same questions for the production. The rates I referred to for a local job are not high enough for national and or worldwide jobs.
SAG-AFTRA National Jobs
You think you’ve won the lottery when you book a national Union job. Those $$$ signs go through your head, you’ve made it! NOT. The set up of typical union jobs is you are paid first a session fee. Typically that’s a bit over $500.00, less taxes. Then you will receive usage checks, depending on the category of usage, each as a separate payment in a variety of time length cycles, the most popular being 13 week cycles. But you could be replaced, for any reason in the world. Even if you are sure you did an amazing performance for the job, everyone is replaceable. If this happens, you will receive your session fee with a letter stating another talent replaced you. That’s it, you’re payment is complete. If you are not eliminated, then you will receive payment for the runs of your spots for the job. If the job is planned to run one year but it brings success, you may receive smaller checks after the year for holding fees. It could start back up or the client may decide to end the campaign.
In the end, doing low rate or free jobs not only hurts your pockets, it hurts the industry as a whole. If you wish to be paid more, stick to dissecting the rates. Keep your social media clean, as many talent are checked out online and anything that may flag you could eliminate you from being hired. Let’s work together to get rates higher for everyone.