Acting : How do you guys feel about this? by Christopher Poet

Christopher Poet

How do you guys feel about this?

So I have a question for everyone and I would like your honest thoughts. Here is the hypothetical situation:

A guy new to the film industry wants to do a series of videos on youtube as a precursor to bigger budget projects. He is looking for actors and decides that, to keep the cost affordable at this stake, he will only work with people willing to take part in the project as volunteers. Thus would be done under the agreed promise that once the project either starts to earn some kind of return revenue (say it gets popular on youtube) or the project is latter picked up by an official company or bigger investors, everyone will get paid. Would you work under those terms?

What are your thoughts?

I heard from a friend that this was something that has happened before in the industry with those new or un-established but how open are you, as actors, to the situation?

John L & Jamie S

I used to work on projects at local film schools. In my area, there were three established ones. I have shot a few shorts and a feature where everyone was volunteer. But, I was pretty realistic on both sides of the camera and the contract. Basically, I treated people as well as I would want to be treated and I told them how unlikely it was to make any money on a project but that I was more than willing to set up the paperwork where if it did, we all benefited. I've now moved into an area in life where I don't do much in volunteer work myself and I no longer ask others to volunteer. There have been some swaps at times. I'll crew someone's show if they'll be in my short or work crew for my short, etc.

Matthew Cornwell

Working for "deferred pay" is common, especially when you are starting out as an actor. However, you need it in writing if he's promised to pay you later for work done today. And I don't mean just an email chain. You need a written contract stating the condition under which you will receive payment. Keep in mind that if this guy is shady, then it's really easy for him to conceal "profits" by claiming that any money he makes is just offsetting his expenses. It's a gamble even if he's on the up and up. Hopefully, at the very least, you end up with some usable footage for a demo reel.

Christopher Poet

Erik Jacobsen The concept of this interests me honestly. If it is as functional as it is in theory, it seems odd that I do not hear about it or see it more often with new blood in the industry. I mean, if you got a head for every department needed to make a film to work under those terms in the early stages, put out some small pieces on YouTube or something and build the crew from that, you basically set up a foundation to a filming company/studio. Granted, yes there are other variables to account for in such an endeavor being successful, but it still sets the foundations.

Matthew Cornwell Fair point. I defiantly see this having to be a legal contract to ensure everyone's safety. How do you personally feel about the concept through? Is this something you would consider doing?

Jorge J Prieto

I worked on a short a couple of years now, through a writer/director I met through S32, it was a one day shoot, great experience, I learned my lines, but...but till this day, I have got to see the finished product or even my four minute scene. Why do I share this? Because, the least someone who you provided your time and talent, is to get a copy of your work or see the project in any venue. Go for it. I...would do another, always hoping I get to see it, even if no one does.

Christopher Poet

Erik Jacobsen No worries, on that we can both agree.

Jorge J Prieto See that would just make me sad. To go though all that only for nothing to come of it. But then that is the risk of all such projects developed under these terms. To be sure I did not misread, did you mean to say you did not get to see your four minute part?

Colin Hussey

Given the circumstances mentioned, I'm more inclined to do something like that, if it's voice-acting in an animation piece, since I can record my lines from my apartment and is usually something I can knock out quickly.

Elizabeth D Coburn

I was considering the very same approach with actors, a percentage of any profits earned would benefit everyone involved.

As an actor the love of acting, for those dedicated to the art, is enough to be attracted to roles that challenge my abilities, the experience credit alone is great compensation if the production is in the upper drawer.

Christopher Poet

Elizabeth D Coburn It appears many have some like-minded thoughts. It honestly surprises me. I don't hear or see this happening nearly as often as it could. That or it does happen quite often and the only reason I never hear or see anything about it is because I am never in the right place too.

Colin Hussey I assume then this is not the kind of projects you would take on if it required you to travel? Even if part of the agreement has the production host paying for the travel and lodging expenses?

Elizabeth D Coburn

Christopher, something else I thought of recently, although streaming marketing engineers suggest you have a map or theme to your streaming series; I've just started writing screenplays for various individuals interested in being in a film (no acting experience, so it is necessary that they be coached), based on their creative preferences. Doing that, I imagine, using their direct network of people and directing the production myself, might make the access to actors a little easier.

Make it "their idea", is a possibility.

Christopher Poet

Elizabeth D Coburn Now that just sounds clever. Congrats? If I might ask though, why mention streaming marketing engineers? That part has me just a little lost.

Elizabeth D Coburn

There's a new trend of independent marketers who advertise class like video series that teach you how to increase your audience traffic in the channel platform like YouTube.

They all have the same or similar formula to format, Eos input, key word, content focus things of that nature, and they sell themselves as independent entrepreneurs in the streaming data platforms.

Specifically, they suggest a focus for your channel to target your audience in search engines.

So when creating a channel that is a bunch of different film types it may affect the audience... but then again if its cinematic entertainment I don't see how that's ambiguous.

I was considering the many different outcomes of multiple creatives input in one channel and having the focus all willy nilly.

I don't know if that makes it more clear.

Jorge J Prieto

No, Christopher Poet , I didn't get to see nothing, well except for a short intro trailer, where my name appears in the credits. Don't really want to be a pest, and ask more than twice, how long does post-production takes on a 45 minutes short? I gave up. The project is probably canned. Who knows. I moved on. Working on my own short films, as writer, actor, director and there's YouTube and Vimeo for great exposure, all you need is a smartphone/good editing app, you got a movie!!! HOPE never quits. Peace.

Steve James

Would you work for free? Perhaps. Do you need a contract stating the pay comes later? Definitely

Colin Hussey

Christopher Poet, if the producers are going to go through all the trouble of paying for my travel and lodging for a project, they might as well pay a little extra for my labor. After all, what if I get offered a gig that pays, while I'm away working on a spec project? If I'm going to act for free, I'd prefer to just do it from my apartment.

Christopher Poet

Steve James Depends on what I can get out of it. I mean, to be fair, paid or not you do get your name more exposure just by taking part in the project and being listed in the credit. Not a complete loss. I would think the contract would go without saying though. For everyone's safety.

Jorge J Prieto Wow, well sorry to hear that but fair point. Good luck on your future/current endeavors.

Colin Hussey I would normally agree apart from the simple fact that if a project took this path, it is likely because they can't afford to pay for labor up front. I mean, when you are limited, well you are limited and unless something comes along to provide a larger budget to properly pay people on the spot or at the expected time, sacrifices have to be made. I see your point thought.

Nhlanhla Thabang Khabisi

I would Act for free, I love it.

Jacob Buterbaugh

I think the key would be to find people who are at the same level as you. In my opinion, it's not cool to expect an experienced cast or crew to work for free, or for exposure, or deferred if you prefer to call it that, or whatever.

But, if you make friends with people who are working their way up just like you (people still learning their craft, people still learning the industry, people who want to make a life out of this stuff someday but aren't quite there yet), and the experience will benefit them as much as it will benefit you, then I think it's cool.

Sara Dee

The value of your time and effort must equal the value of the experience to you as a performer personally and or 'positive' exposure. Holding trust that you will be involved in future work I've found not to be so reliable. Either the director is a success and has to play the' bigger name cast to get revenue' game (although this is becoming less of a problem) OR is not successful and continually needs to do more of the same quality of work to gain required experience and connections, which becomes frustrating for the performers. The middle ground, 'growing together' is the ideal. That takes us full circle, read my first sentence.

Christopher Poet

Nhlanhla Thabang Khabisi Haha, nice xP Not often I hear or see someone say that. But its great that you love it.

Jacob Buterbaugh True, I can agree with you there. I would not even expect it of anyone established or integrated into the industry. Even if they were close friends.

Sara Dee Yea, I honestly expected this would be an issue where everyone was risking being discarded by the director as soon as they become successful. Personally I would not do it even if I had no choice. Morally its not fair to just discard those who you started with as they are also responsible for your success. I get the industry does not always favor those with such moral standings but, no. No I would not be so quick as to abandon them. It would be great to get the middle ground and grow together. I mentioned earlier that I was seeing a possibility of a group building their own studo from the ground up starting this way if all went well.

Sara Dee

I'm with you Chris. I never forget who got me where I am today and whose support in tougher times was so valuable. I do my utmost to champion them, as and when I can, and totally agree with your moral principals. Nice one! I do suspect the industry is changing and directors, with integrity, are pushing more and more to keep their 'team' together.

With deals in finance relying on post production tie ins and such, that's when things get tricky. Here in the UK I also know of sales agents that have talent agents on retainers! So, as an actor, if you're not in the right agency but the director wants you on the film, the pre-sales finance could be lost up front. I've lost one job because of that and it cost me a great deal in terms of boosting my bookability. The director knows but was powerless. No blame, I totally get it. Corporate stuff sucks. I believe the producers shoulder the guilt in this system BUT, I think the directors that hold their ground early on can make a difference and change things.

Right now, given my experience and just in case, I can only say be prepared to fight for it !! Meanwhile, I'm finding ways to slip in through the back door now I know what's happening out there.

I could go on but I learned a lot taking the free on-line course in UK Distribution offered on Getting distribution here is not easy and these business heads want it easy. So, how may twitter followers does your cast and crew have will make all the difference. Honestly! Crazy idealism if you ask me and if it doesn't support 'talent' over 'popularity' - personally I'm not interested. Blumhouse who did 'Get Out' share your vision and are one of a few on the east coast of America that are changing things and putting 'talent' before star rating in all categories of work. Hollywood don't like it much, it takes away 'control' and upsets fixed marketing strategies but it shows things are changing. Also 'YourScreen' gets my vote (I think that's the link)

Sorry for rattling on but it's an issue I have looked into because, I agree, your team, your talent and what you can offer, if well received, should come way before the corporate idea of business and marketing strategies and financial businesses that think they rule us creatives. Pah!

JD Hartman

"agreed promise that once the project either starts to earn some kind of return revenue or the project is latter picked up by an official company or bigger investors, everyone will get paid.", those sort of terms mean nothing unless put into writing and signed by all those involved. Deferred payment is usually no payment.

Thomas Lopez

If I had a contract that stated exactly what you said above AND we were all working for next to nothing I would absolutely work under those terms. If you have a budget of say $3 million dollars and asked similarly no one would take you up on that offer.

Christopher Poet

Thomas Lopez Totally understandable and agreeable. I wish I had a budget of 3 mill hahaha. Oh boy the things I could do. But naw, I totally agree.

Steve James

Christopher Poet - you must understand, you aren't talking to people, here, that are desperate to be in your project. We are a group of professional performers looking for reasons to share our professionalism with like-minded pro's. Part of this agreement is how do we monetize the project? After all, A Plumber may get 'exposure' for working on a tower block's pipes in a snow-storm, but would you expect him to do it for free?

Christopher Poet

Steve James You completely misunderstand the intent of my post. I did not say nor did I hint at the idea of even asking anyone here to work for me on my project. Am I currently building a project that is subject to this sort of arrangement with the crew. Sure. Am I asking people here to take part in it or trying to advertise open positions. Absolutely not.

The whole point of this entire post was to get a feel to how people view the concept. As most members here are already, to some degree established, they are likely to have possibly been introduced to the concept at some point in their lives or just have an option on it based on experiences they have heard about or discussed in their past.

If I wanted to hire people here for a job, there is a Jobs posting page specifically for that function. You might be accustomed to most people making posts like this or on similar topics in an effort to get help for a project, but until I directly say that is my goal or interest, do not think for a moment it is your place to decide that is my intent. I am fully aware of who I am talking to on here, and if you got a problem with it, then talk to me over IM.

Erik Jacobsen Well said. To be honest, thinking about the terms, I would even say it is fair that the host of such a project under such conditions would be at least putting money out to provide some food, drinks, and possibly travel expenses for those coming from out of state. Which could be arguably less expensive then paying out a whole crew for a project up front but for those on a low budget, still a reasonable gesture I would think.

Elizabeth D Coburn

Isn't there a thing called "profit participation"?

Arguably the traditional contract for BIG ARTISTS is to not only receive a set amount but by using their fame and influence can leverage themselves a deal that includes a type of royalty (if I'm correct). Which isn't far from what you are suggesting, Christopher. I think this type of exploration is revolutionary and it says a lot for the creative resourcefulness of the producer.

Christopher Poet

Elizabeth D Coburn I honestly have never heard of this. I am going to look that up for sure. Thank you for sharing this with me. Thinking about it I can see how in the long run this can add up. Even if, say, the artist gets 1 - 5% of a royalty from the finished project (hypothetical situation), then that builds up as they do more and more projects. Which would also lower the cost of the production to some degree if they know the majority of their income from it will come in a form of royalty. It really depends on how this works and what the actual process is and for that I will have to look it up and do some research. If it works the way I am thinking it works, I feel it might be more costly to whoever owns the rights and profits of the film. And there is the risk that if the project flopped, then the revenue would be worth less than originally expected.

Elizabeth D Coburn

It's a gamble, for sure, but you can put a cap on profit earned in a contract you can also make it clear that at the very least promise exposure for great talent which in some cases is all a freelance can ask for. I currently work-for-free because I don't yet have connections and I produce privately.

The thing I have to remind myself, in a new era of tech like this, where the field is changing so rapidly YOU CAN MAKE YOUR OWN RULES, there's no rule book. None. What works for you may become the next trend, so I'm 100% encouraging you or anyone else who is courageous enough to test the status quo or bend conventional practices.

Roy Lewis Garton

Many actors that are new and trying to establish themselves will work for free on projects. These actors are usually just getting into acting school, have no agents or no reels. They need something like a resume, a video reel to show agents that they can in fact act and so they get the "school of hard knocks" by working free. I have done low budget shoots and used non-paying actors. Usually friends of mine or people I met networking. They were just happy to get something. Drawbacks to this is you get raw talent who are inexperienced, may be crappy actors, don't understand how to work on a set and you need a lot of patience but they have to start somewhere. I been fortunate to have good people and only had to replace a actor once because he sadly, was unprofessional. You will never get experienced talent or union people to work for nothing on something like a YouTube web series for free at least normally. They have earned their ropes and deserve better treatment than that. I know I wouldn't do it anymore for free.

Christopher Poet

Elizabeth D Coburn Not going to lie, I never really cared for anyone telling me I can not do something so you could say I am one to almost always challenge the so called "rules". But thank you again for bringing that up! You gave me something to think about and to talk with m director about on a possible solution to helping to keep the initial budget low. That is quite a useful concept itself.

Roy Lewis Garton Nice input. I agree though. I would never approach someone established in the industry and ask them to work under those terms. At least not under normal circumstances. If they were friends, maybe. But even then as you said, they deserve better and i fully agree with this statement.

Jason Raymaker

If it was local and I liked the project enough I would do it. I would consider it as helping a fellow artist.

Eric L. Williams

This sounds like deferred payment. It's a risk; but it could work out. I did a small project several years ago that ended up not generating any money; but I did make some good connections and got some pretty decent demo reel footage. I say listen to your gut.

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