Acting : RED > Actors by Hardy Awadjie

Hardy Awadjie

RED > Actors

I am a part of quite a few groups that send me notices for castings, auditions, etc etc. And I come across "no pay but will provide meal and copy of film". Normally this doesn't bother me especially when I notice it's a student film. But when I see "Will be filmed on RED, Arri Alexa, Sony F3" etc etc, I find it aggravating. The crew is able to use expensive equipment from cameras to lights to film but are unable to pay their actors? Is there something I am missing here?

Parker Reeve

Yes. You might be missing the fact that what the actor brings to the show is their talent and what the DP brings is their talent and an expensive camera. Most of the time the DP is also working for free but are providing equipment they have spent money on. Very often the crew is able to use expensive equipment because someone paid a LOT of money for it and is willing to bring that to to project. Very often the producer/director has worked out a free deal with a rental house. You (the actor) work for free and the equipment is donated (work for free). For a student film more often than not the school provides the expensive equipment. As a camera operator, camera assistant and sometimes DP what draws ME to a free project is being able to work with good equipment. I imagine what draws you is a being able to work with a good script. Great acting is essential and you actors bring that to the show. But good lighting and sound is what makes YOU look good. An expensive camera helps make you look good.

Hardy Awadjie

I do agree that a DP and even in some cases sound and lighting have spent their own money on equipment, but an actor's talent is not necessarily something 'free' either. They have spent money on classes, coaching programs, academies, seminars, so forth and so forth. It assumed that the actor simply walks on set and says "let's do this". I agree the equipment will make the actor look good, but there is no film if the actor can't act, isn't properly fed after being on set for 6 hours or having to get to and from the location. I'm not saying actors need to be treated as deities but their time and effort at least considered in respect to the crew. There have been many sets I have been on where actors were treated as props more than anything.

Parker Reeve

I'm sorry if I gave you the impression that I thought an actors talent was "free". My intent was only to answer your question, "Is there something I am missing here?" I thought you might be missing the possibility that on a free gig expensive equipment is often being donated free, too. Sounds like you have been treated poorly on too many projects. I'm sorry that has happened.

Hardy Awadjie

I understood that student films had the equipment rented, did not know independent crews could also rent equipment, but that is good to know as perhaps it is not all truly theirs. But your comments did raise an interesting point if the crew do believe what I misread from your statement in that they assume an actor can easily walk on set, read some lines and walk off...

Parker Reeve

I can't speak to your experience. I can't speak for all crew members. I know that I have never worked on a project in which the crew believes the actors are not talented, skilled and have worked hard to get where they are. I own a very expensive camera. It's how I make my living. When I work a paid gig I charge my day rate and an equipment rental. I am often asked to work for free on a project and I bring my expensive camera - all free. I understand the actors are bringing with them their "tools" - for free. That's why you see notices for "copy, meals, credit" only on a movie being shot with expensive equipment. Wouldn't you rather work for free on a show that has excellent equipment?

Chiko Mendez

I've also worked with many film students and have learned that sometimes the student budget or "tuition" whether it'd be grants, loans, etc; include a budget for their projects...Some of these are actually "homework" to pass thier film class. Some students "add" outside funding to make their film more propfessional..etc..but it depends. I got to work with many students from NYFA, Columbia, Tisch, DFA, Pace Univ. in NY..and every time was a different experience. There i found that many of their thesis films (like a final exam) "had" to be done under a certain dollar amount since following a tight budget proposal is part of the learning curve. Budgets can be broken down a million different ways I.E. Production costs could be 90% and only 10% is afforded only for unexperienced or non-union talent and cannot necessarily compensate them as opposed to 50% of a set budget going into lesser quality equipment or multi-tasking crew members as the other 50% is for travel, lodging, insurance, union talent, etc. It all depends..In Hardy's case it really depends on what's important to you? A quality project you can show as having been part of or getting paid for your work upfront with a shitty project in the end. Thing is there is no guarantee the opposite won't happen, the students of today are the "Scorcese's of Tomorrow" In my case I've sometimes gone after a certain character role simply because I've never played it before and the experience alone was priceless, getting a clip later or additional compesation or credit..well..those are added bonuses. It's all hit or miss. The one thing that is guaranteed for sure is a brand NEW experience you can build on. Learn from the bad ones, use the good ones to get better and move forward. It piles up and in time you'll feel more comfortable in taking a new risk towards that next level. We all are learning as we go. Hopes this helps.

Matthew Cornwell

As a producer, if you are using your own money to fund a pet project, you have to prioritize. I would rather pay money to hire a crew who will bring a RED camera with them, and not pay the actors (btw, I'm a full-time actor myself). The reason is that the actor will get something in return: a chance to exercise his/her craft, and a copy of the finished product that can be beneficial in many ways. The crew doesn't get the same tangible benefit. In the end, you just have to make a decision with each audition. Why am I doing this? For the experience? To stretch my craft? To get footage for my reel? For money? As long as the producer/director is up front about expectations, there shouldn't be an issue.

Hardy Awadjie

Clearly I was missing something there! Thanks everyone for all the great feedback. It's nice to look at it from a different angle to understand where crew are coming from.

D Marcus

This is an interesting discussion. Hardy, I have a hypothetical. Wanna play? Just for fun.... Two short films shooting the same four days. You’re free those days. Both scripts are great, both parts offered to you are great, you know two other actors in each project. No pay for anyone - copy, meals, credit. You don’t know the producer/director. Both groups have enthusiastic, dedicated, fun to work with cast and crew. Project one: What little money there is is being spent on food and a small stipend for the cast and crew; $100 for the four days. This is a group project - tiny crew, small video camera, work lights, wheelchair as a dolly; the cast will pitch in holding the boom, moving the “dolly”, providing their own wardrobe. Good catered food. Project two: What little money there is is being spent on equipment. Alexia camera, the key grip is bringing a small truck with equipment including dolly and jib, the audio team is providing top of the line equipment, the gaffer got a great deal on lights. Full discloser; the key grip is getting a fuel stipend of $40 for his truck and the gaffer $40 for his. The food won’t be excellent (sandwiches, pizza, Chinese, chicken) but you will be fed. A good make up artist who will be getting a $100 kit fee, a costumer who will be getting a small budget for costumes. Which project do you choose, Hardy?

Suzi Rayve

Pssst...pick number two Hardy.... ;)

Janet Scott

Go for two... finger foods are most enjoyable, lends to the setting...sitting around eating pizza...

Parker Reeve

From a crew perspective D's second one is best. Nice to get a stipend but working with excellent equipment could mean an end result that more people will see. I really liked how Matthew put it. Crew works for the experience (as do actors) but we are rarely the focus of the finished film.

Hardy Awadjie

Ah, I wasn't coming off to be this "pay me or I'll take my services elsewhere" but instead just looking to gain insight into something I knew nothing about (filming with and on expensive equipment). I do not expect to be fed lobster on set, matter of factly most of the time food is typically Subway, Pizza, the likes. But if a project lists as unpaid, then at the very least respect the actor's time and efforts. Something that I have noticed is a huge difference between American filmmaking and Australian filmmaking. Moreover, I have been a part of films in which actors did help out with grip, gaffer, etc and I actually enjoyed it because it built up my knowledge of behind the scenes of what happens when the director yells 'cut'. I have a better understanding and passion for a film knowing there is more that goes into it other than pointing a camera and selling it to folks.

D Marcus

So given the scenario I offered which one would you choose?

Jennifer Bailey

to be fair actors have to eat on days they aren't on set too. the paid crew will be able to eat on those days, the actors won't. I am not gonna skip getting paid just cause someone else has a fancy camera they can bring.

Parker Reeve

I completely understand, Jennifer. We each have to look at each project offered and make a personal choice if it’s the right one. Because I have a fancy camera I get offered a “rental” on my camera even if I’m not getting paid. Sometimes actors think I’m being paid and they aren’t and, again, I completely understand where they are coming from. It’s up to the producer to explain to each person involved what is going on. I have worked as crew for free on projects where some of the crew are getting paid and some are not. As long as I have the free time and like the people and am treated well I have no issue with that. But we each make our own, personal choices. No actor should take a job if they feel they are not being treated well. I don’t think that a producer of a short film who puts money into excellent equipment and not into salaries is necessarily going to treat the actor poorly.

Cory Wess

To add another insight: all creative contributors (actors, DP, MUA, set designer, costume designer, writer, director, etc) get a benefit for their portfolios, which may or may not be of value to them. However, many technical contributors do not (AC, sound, grip, etc).

Art Thomas

Hardy: My mentor once said that the only difference between amatuers and professionals; professionals get paid. I understand that the most valuable thing we have is our time. With only 86, 400 seconds in a day, I pay everybody the agreed upon amount and that include actors. You are a professional Actor...so act like one :-) Respect your time and talent and others will also. Remember it's a business, not a hobby. If I can work with you in the future, it would be an honor. Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and a blessed 2014!

Jennifer Bailey

I would also like to mention actors do bring tools with them to the table. Maybe it's not a tool that I can place down in front of you and you can physically see it, for example a camera, but I still have it to offer. The tools I bring with me are my years of training. All the money people spend to have nice equipment, I have spent to on training and learning to become a better actor so when I get to the set I am worth just as much as everyone else there.

Parker Reeve

I would also like to mention that crews do bring tools to the table. They bring tools that they can place down in front of you and you can physically see, for example a camera, but they also bring years of training. In addition to all the money crews spend to have nice equipment we spend money on training and learning to become better at our job so when we get to the set we do not slow down the process of making a movie and make sure the finished product looks and sound good. I'm sad to see this crew/actor divide. Both are essential to the project, both are worth just as much as everyone else there. Not one crew member here suggested actors are worth less than crew. Hardy's original aggravation was that actors are not paid but the crew is using expensive equipment. Crew isn't getting paid either. Like actors they donate their experience/training tools in addition to their expensive equipment.

Jennifer Bailey

Parker, I. didn't say in any way crew don't bring their training to the table. Obviously they do. You don't have to work in our industry to see the amazing things film crews do and the clear amount of work that goes into it. The original discussion was the fact that actors aren't getting paid and the excuse for that is, it's fine because of the quality of the camera being used or the general equipment. Like the fact the camera will be hdmakes up for the fact that the actor won't be able to put food on the table that night. The first post never stated weather crew are being paid, it only commented on the high price equipment being used and the actors not being paid because of it. That is the reason we I concentrate on actors. Now that both sides are equally away of the way we are both treated we can actually do something about it.

Parker Reeve

Very true, Jennifer. We both wanted to mention that both actors and crew bring training to the table. I have never worked on a show where the crew was paid and the actors not paid. Either the prodCo pays everyone or pays no one. So that's where I'm coming from. I have been offered an equipment rental when I work for free. The camera has to come from somewhere so the producer either rents from a camera house or from a camera owner. I give them a better deal. I wonder if actors are not being paid because of that? If that's the case and the producer can only afford to pay for one (the camera rental or cast and crew) then I also wonder if there is an advantage to the actor to work for free on a show with excellent equipment over working on a movie with poor equipment and getting paid. Producers need to make those choices sometimes. I would think the actor is better showcased in a movie that uses excellent equipment over a movie with poor equipment and a good day rate. Am I wrong there?

Tom Proctor

As Long as you will work for free…. You will work for free

Peter Carr

It's funny how many 'first time' film makers say the exact same thing in their posts. It's almost a given they are new at it when they mention shooting with RED. It's just like it was in the 1980's when they'd mention shooting with an Arri II 35 or Panavision camera package. It doesn't really matter what you shoot with; 16mm, Super-8, VHS,, Betacam or RED. The camera you use wont make a good film. Your talent as a Director / Cinematographer will and getting the most from your talent is a sign of good direction.

Hardy Awadjie

That is true, Peter. The equipment does not mean anything if the user does not know how to properly utilize it.

Alan White

This is a really great discussion. I have worked some projects that were all volunteer, and projects where everyone but the actors were paid. It just happens sometimes that when producers prioritize what they will pay for the actors become the last in the list. I recently got a tip from an acting coach that said if you'd really like to work on a project that is not offering to pay you to see if the director or producer is interested in brainstorming possible ways of compensating you for your work. Which is something that could be a possibility for all talent and crew on a project.

Pim Zond

Slightly off topic, but reminded me of the DJ in the UK a month or so ago, (a NAME DJ) who got a call from a TV network there asking to use his music for free, which blew up all over Twitter. Just saying.

Peter Carr

It's a dead give away the film makers are new at the game when this is stated in their post because it's not the camera that makes a good film. If you have the talent as a Director / Cinematographer it will show no matter if you shoot on 16mm, Super-8, Regular 8, Betacam, VHS, Hi-8, 1/4 Video or RED.

Pim Zond

RED is a colour to me Ha! Any gear will do. I saw a pretty neat video shot with an "audio cassette" video camera years ago.

D Marcus

Nothing wrong with being new at the game.

Tony Angelo

for new actors to get there experance and video footage, red is the best way but pick wisely

Darren E. Johnson

Nope. You got it right. Hahahaha. Most young filmmakers do place more emphasis on the equipment. Too many of them are more interested in being a tech geek than they are in the art of telling stories with pictures. Don't get me wrong, love my tech but it's ever evolving and getting overly engaged in that notion is kind of foolish. Use the best stuff available at the time of the shoot. Done. I advise you look at their existing reel (dp and director) and if you have confidence that the combo will give you some interesting stuff for your reel, go for it. Then there's the rub. Tracking down that footage for your reel is a whole other issue. ha.

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