Acting : This Post Isn’t Meant for Filmmakers. It's Meant for Actors. by Marcelo Dietrich

Marcelo Dietrich

This Post Isn’t Meant for Filmmakers. It's Meant for Actors.

While I am a writer, producer and director, I was & am an actor 1st. If you’re a “filmmaker”, stop reading this. It’s not meant for you. If you’re an actor, let’s wax lyrical about getting paid for your work. As an actor, you may have studied your craft and have amassed a sea of dept. You may have done theater; sacrificing your valuable time for months at a time to be a part of something that only a theater actor can fully appreciate. You may have acted in short films, feature films, teasers, trailers, pilots and webisodes. As an actor you may have put years in to working on your craft. Why do you keep acting for free? Please allow me to clarify a point. Short films, feature films, teasers, trailers, pilots and webisodes should pay you. At the very least, they should offer deferments, so that if & when the filmmakers make money, the actors will make money. The only projects that should not have to pay their actors are student films and film challenges. You probably keep acting for free because “filmmakers” aren’t paying. “Crafty, credit, drinks.” “You will be well fed.” “Professional set.” “Fun people to work with.” “Networking opportunities.” “Considered for future work.” None of that pays the bills! It’s preposterous for “filmmakers” to pretend that those are incentives to audition for them. It is disrespectful! They’re supposed to offer that on their shoots! Yes, I understand & appreciate the argument that actors have to first build up a resume. However, at what point should you get paid? For me, and on my projects, if an actor with no resume has the "look" and the ability to pull off the role, they should be paid! Often times, it’s not necessarily their resume that earns an actor their role. It’s their look and their abilities, but that's another post. Whether or not they are a good person with a great energy also factors in on the casting, but that’s another post. Fellow actors, let’s look at the power we posses. What if you stopped acting for free? What if all of your actor friends stopped acting for free? What if every actor stopped working for free? “Filmmakers” would have to start paying you. How would “filmmakers” get money to pay you? They’d have to secure funding for their projects. How would “filmmakers” secure funding? They’d have to approach investors or stage crowd-sourcing campaigns. They would have to write and/or find great screenplays that would attract investors and/or crowd-sourcing campaign donors. But really, that’s none of your concern. That’s the “filmmakers” job. Some might ask, "isn’t that what a producer does?" Well, isn’t that what a “filmmaker” is? Somewhere along the line, compensating a cast fell out of the job description of a “filmmaker”, and that is disgusting. It is unacceptable. It's disrespectful. “Filmmakers” figure all costs in to their budgets. They should add the cost of paying you. You are bringing your skill set and your abilities to do the job you’ve been hired to do, just like everybody else on a production set. This article isn’t meant for filmmakers. It is meant for actors. It is meant to get us thinking and talking about the powers that we posses. We can have a domino effect in getting paid. We deserve to be rightfully compensated. We are to be treated with respect. I hope you all are well! If this post resonates with you, please share it on social media. Respectfully, Marcelo Dietrich https://twitter.com/MarceloDietrich

Marcelo Dietrich
Marcelo Dietrich
The latest Tweets from Marcelo Dietrich (@MarceloDietrich). Writer, producer & director for film & TV. Award-winning Filmmaker. Script consultant. Award-winning timepiece consultant. ⚽=Life. Californian in Arizona
Jonathan Roberts

I agree, That copy is your REEL to get you paid work.

Marcelo Dietrich

That's a very good point, Mr. Roberts!

Brian Thomas Wise

I have a slightly different perspective, but I also am in a slightly different situation: I haven't yet given up my day job. I'm active duty military, and I'm not demanding pay yet, because 1) I don't need it yet and 2) often filmmakers have to work around MY schedule if they want me in their film. I recognize this is inconvenient, so I don't demand pay on certain projects. That all being said, I retire at the ripe old age of 43 next year, and then I intend to act full time. And I also intend to be paid for my work. With money, not perks.

Constance Cooper

Dear Marcelo, You are one hundred per cent right; completely, dead-on right. I'll reiterate what you say in one sharp command: Actors, let's unionize. Even if we do not yet qualify for Equity, we can, with sufficient grit, create unified action that would perhaps be the basis of a junior union. I think if we continue to act as individuals, the financial situation will remain just as it is. Thank you, Marcelo, for your posting.

Suzanne Bronson

I completely agree. I don't think any profession is exploited like acting. I'm supposed to be grateful for the opportunity?! Puh lease! I've been acting for thirty years, I don't need copy. Meal credit. I am astounded at filmmakers attitudes, I really am. A lot of them have student loans like me and they expect to be able to pay them back. So why shouldn't I? The headshot I sent you wasn't free for me, but I should just accept copy?! Oh don't get me started. All actors must stop working for the "opportunity" or this will never stop. Why hire someone who knows what they are worth, when you can exploit someone else? I don't know of any other profession where people consistently work for free. I also don't like it when people say," oh you don't act for the money, you act for the love of it." Really?! Why can't I get paid to do what I love? I paid a lot of money to turn my talent into skill, as did you filmmaker. OK done with rant. This is why I'm not to be on social media when I'm drinking.

Lauran Childs

Hi Marcelo, thanks for your post, BUT - I'm an artist and writer who's putting together my first movie 'Killer Eyes' from a script I wrote. I know well what it feels like to be disrespected by establishments who ask to work for free while they certainly aren't. It's amazing that people have the cheek to ask that while they're getting paid! But right now I'm putting together my movie and I'm being absolutely straight with people - if there's money raised they'll get money. Otherwise no. And I've already spent a huge amount of unpaid time on this myself. Of course. Incidentally there are people who write books out there like Russell Simmons who suggest you actually go out there and work for free until you prove yourself. I'm kind of astonished by that - and he got the money to work for free from drug dealing as far as I can see... So to my point - sometimes there's just no money upfront for people to get paid. Doesn't always mean it's not a worthwhile thing to do, something that could pay off HUGE later.

Doug Nelson

Marcelo, What you’re saying is correct… to a point. I’m a small time producer in a secondary market with very little qualified talent available. I produce reels for local newbie actors and produce shorts to provide entry level experience and exposure on the festival circuit. I won’t pay anyone for their participation nor do I charge them for their reels/education. I do introduce some to Agents and Film/TV executives I’ve known for years. I’m retired (I don’t need the money;) It’s what I call paying it forward. One of the things that makes it difficult is dealing with no-experience, knowledge beginners who think they’re worth scale.

Andrea Dover

Agree. At first it is fine to act on screen for free, it is kind of like doing community or school theater. Gaining experience, etc. After that, payment would be good. For commercials or anything with a budget, payment is expected. For film - deferred payment is allowed in SAG-AFTRA New Media. If the crew is paid, actors should be paid. If the actors aren't paid, do not expect more experienced/professional actors to participate unless you can give them an extremely good copy that they need (primetime cable/big budget film quatlity) for their reel. Even then, gas, food, credit and copy is expected.

Doug Nelson

When are you good enough to warrant paying and who makes that decision?

Suzanne Bronson

Me! I make that decision! If I am working a conventional job to support myself and a filmmaker asks me to "volunteer my time" an d that means I have to turn down work that pays, then yes I better be paid. I can't get over the audacity of filmmakers who say they are unable to pay actors (but are getting paid) and ask me if I would do background! For copy, meal, credit! Are you kidding me?! Know your worth, that's what Marcelo is saying. Also Andrea makes the same point I would. Why are crew skills worthy of pay and actors aren't? You get what you pay for. You don't want to pay actors and hire community theater volunteer, then hobbyest are what you get. So me! I have decided that 30 years of experience and training, does not equal no pay. What other profession would settle for that? Why is it acceptable practice to exploit actors?

Doug Nelson

Who’s talking about exploiting anybody? I provide on set experience for recent High School and Community College grads. I’m not hiring experienced cast & crew to produce a few shorts for the festival circuit. Some of the young folk who have been willing to work gratis for me for me have gone on to paid TV production crewing. One young actress has earned a few bucks doing TV commercial and corporate film work (she just auditioned for a supporting role in a Hollywood feature – it looks good.) After nearly a forty year career, I like to help and encourage the young ‘uns and If that doesn’t meet your requirements – that’s your baggage.

Ernesto Nodal

Obviously, and ultimately, it is ALWAYS an individual's choice to go either way BUT it is a good point for younger actors TO KNOW that at one point they not only SHOULD be paid but DEMAND to be paid. It is a job. It is show BUSINESS. Much like interns in any other field are not interns forever, or a lot LONGER than they should be.

Suzanne Bronson

I'm kind of appalled at the nastiness of Doug's reply. It's rather hostile. Marcelo nor I were talking about "beginners" in high school. Of course I didn't get paid for the school play, but I damn sure will now, 20 years later. Not my baggage, my VALUE. You wouldn't ask your accountant to work for free 20 years after he's done his due diligence would you? Thats what I mean by exploiting. Other professions don't stand for it, so why do actors?

Doug Nelson

Suzanne; I’m sorry that you read my comments and concluded that they are nasty – certainly not my intent at all. I do my very best to help young/beginner actors gain a little applicable experience necessary to enter the competitive entertainment world. I was a professional screenwriter and a Field Producer for years. I can’t count the number of times that I been requested to rewrite scripts for free or the number of times I’ve been requested to “consult” on another writer’s work or help another writer polish a script for free. It happens to us all – I just grin and bear it. (I have a script circulating in Hollywood right now with an A-list actor attached - for free, he really likes it and wants to see it made.) Screenwriters are just as “exploited” as Actors, Directors, Editors and everybody else – sorry ‘bout that, it’s just the “nasty” truth.

Lauran Childs

Agreeing with Doug.

Jessie Bernard

Hmmm I disagree to an extent. What confuses me is when filmmakers do not pay and say that I will receive copy, credit, meals but then ask for my reel. That's kind of the only point of doing free work so I CAN get a reel. Now that I have one I do not submit for free work unless it's a project I really like or am passionate about. HOWEVER Acting is just like any OTHER career path. You must do it for free first before you get paid to do it. But you shouldn't be doing it for free for years on end. It devalues us as actors

Doug Nelson

Jae: please don’t lump ALL filmmakers into the same bucket just as I don’t paint all actors with the same brush. When I cast a little no budget short film – nobody including me is going to get paid. There is no money in making shorts – only expense (and it’s my expense – I do it as a hobby.) I don’t request a novice actor for his/her headshot, resume and reel. On the contrary, I provide them with a headshot, edit out takes for their reel and give them copies of their audition takes (cast or not.) I do this for free to help them down their chosen career. I’ve noticed that many young, inexperienced actors insist on being paid (usually scale) even though they don’t know their nose from a hole. If they don’t know what a mark is, let alone hit it, I just can’t cast ‘em.

Edward Rivera

I'm a singer, but this is still very relevant to the field I am in. Thank you so much for sharing.

Amira Therese

I used to buy into the same garbage that gets fed to younger and newer actors. Credit seemed so important that it almost glittered to me the same way a bar of gold would. It takes experience and confidence to tell a filmmaker, "If you want free talent, put on your acting shoes and get to it!" My daughter is a 13 year old actor, my son is a 4 yr old actor and I'm a 31 year old actor, and not one of us will work for free. It's about supporting other actors, much the way Marcelo does, by educating them and protecting them from the farce that it should be our pleasure as well as privilege to be graced with the opportunity to work for free. And by the way, a low-budget film from a cheap filmmaker who won't pay their talent, isn't typically work you can even take to an L.A agent/director and expect to have good results. So, the credit part is underwhelming for us as well. The film reels being produced now are shot with "red cameras" and other high quality production tools, so don't embarrass yourself with a poorly put together digital resume based on a filmmaker's manipulations. The filmmaker should assume ALL of the financial obligation, that's where promotion comes in ~ and if they can't responsibly manage the finances of the process, including paying the hard workers that make their films happen, they shouldn't call themselves professionals.

Doug Nelson

Amira, so how much should I charge some actor wannabe for producing their sizzle reel? How much should I charge for producing a actor wannabe’s monologue (an hour in the studio, two editing mol) It takes a day or more to produce a 2 – 3 minute reel. In the past, I’ve provided this for free so how much should I charge? (Hint: my old daily rate was $1,000 - $750 per half day.)

Amira Therese

Well sir, I am determining, based on your tone, that you are coming from a place of defensiveness, and therefore are not open to discussion, but to argument. An "actor wannabe" will not need a reel, nor would you need to produce a monologue for a "wannabe", or provide to them any services. In fact, if you are producing reels and offering services to "wannabe's" you are wasting your own time, the industry's time, and that of the naive "wannabe" talent you are servicing. I don't believe the intent of this post was to include "wannabe's". Also, any professional or hobbyist actor can easily "produce" their own monologue with any recording device; an edit would go against them at the point of submission, as the filmmaker/casting director isn't looking for the work of an editor, but for raw and malleable talent. Editing a reel can be done at any margin of pricing, depending on location and task. I have a friend who is a professional in the community who will edit a film reel for around $80-$500, depending on how many scenes there are, and whether or not you are a current student paying for any workshop or instruction. She did mine beautifully. If it is your intention to offer services to actors, you should do so in a professional way, separate from your film-making endeavors. It IS the filmmakers obligation to take on the financial dues, not the talent; which is why networking and promotion are such an important part of pre-production. Trading credit/food/services for film work is the preface of this post. What you are describing reminds me of when I first entered Acting. Your services are lucrative; so pay the talent who sacrifice their time, efforts, and emotions for the sake of your film; then let them decide which services they would like to buy with the money you paid them for their effort. You come off as someone who believes their contribution to film is more important than the contribution of the characters who bring the story to life. An ego in this industry, will leave you with your previously mentioned "wannabe actors", because those of us who are professional and dedicated to our trade, will not excuse arrogance as professionalism or elitism.

Doug Nelson

Amira, I’m certainly not defensive and I try to never be offensive but I can not judge how others interpret the comments I make. After nearly four decades of work experience, my greatest joy comes from helping & encouraging novices jump start their career – you seem to have missed my whole point. Have a nice day; over & out.

Amira Therese

Well a novice and a wannabe are two different things; I wish you could stay at a point and I would follow more consistently and relevantly. I believe I have hit every point necessary of being made, including the initial point of the post; "This Post Isn’t Meant for Filmmakers. It's Meant for Actors." I believe Marcelo prefaced his post as such to indicate it's intent. Obviously a filmmaker will be defensive of this point, they are the ones not paying. This post was intended to unite Actors with knowledge and a cause; one that I believe in fervently! And, of course you could judge how others' interpret your comments; but it would be better to judge your own comments. In fact it would be a good tool to learn how to pose future posts so that they are more likely to be accepted and your valuable opinion goes farther and is more lucrative to the community you are part of.

Rob Pawlikowski

I've been in over 50 theatrical productions, and was paid for only three of them. While I'd love to get my SAG and AEA cards, two things hold me back: first, I need the day job to pay the mortgage; second, in my professional gigs, I moved tables and was an understudy, while as an amateur, I have played leading roles in great classic and contemporary shows. I got a late start in acting, so I don't have my 20's, 30's and 40's ahead of me to establish a reputation and network. I consider myself a competent and successful actor - I just don't get paid for it.

Eyiara Olugunna

So true!

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