Free Support and Outreach for Colorado's Filmmaking Community
To my fellow CASAers... Question: How much is talent worth to a production? I would love to hear from actors, producers, filmmakers of all stripes.
As a "talent" (actor, storyteller, perscussionist and drummer), I have been approached three times within the last three weeks from CASA filmmakers who like my look or my experience... but just do not have the budget to pay for it--not even the minimum $100/day.
Now I totally understand that many creatives are working on micro-budgets, and I have participated in my fair share of these projects because I desired the experience and/or thought the project interesting and worthwhile.
But I just wonder how much filmmakers truly value talent when they have invested in cameras and lighting...but not in the human capital that will actually enliven their ideas?
Thoughts? Please share!
Well, if you want to make a live action motion picture you need cameras and lighting but you don't need talent. That's been proven way too many times!
The big problem with low budget indie films and talent is that there are no guidelines when it comes to how much the talent is worth. When there are actors who will work for free just so that they can get promised a copy of their footage (which they may never see), it's difficult for the real talent to demand pay. That doesn't mean that they aren't worth it. That's just the way it is.
Next time ask for a huge percentage of the profits. The pay is still the same. There isn't a whole lot of money to be made (if any) in low budget indie movies. That too has a lot to do with the way things are.
Believe me, as a crew person I get the same thing. I do this for a living. I bring over $75,000 worth of equipment (and at least $20,000,000 worth of skill and experience :-) ) to a shoot. I get "offers" you wouldn't believe.
I'll have to write some more later. Gotta go make television. We go live in 15 minutes!
I appreciate your response, Ken, from the "other" side of the camera... As an actor who has continually worked on her craft for over ten years, I will just focus on attracting opportunities where filmmakers see the potential talents as investments, not costs...
I do look forward to more of your perspectives. Curious (and this probably will show my ignorance; oh, well): I don't understand how anyone can make a live action film without talent? Please explain. Hmmmm...
My response on making a live action motion picture without "talent" was kind of a play on words. I've seen tons of locally produced "films" that have been produced while no one on either side of the camera had any "talent" whatsoever.
On the other hand, it's entirely possible to make a live action motion picture without actors. For example, one could make a nature documentary without actors (but I suppose you could argue that your plant or animal subjects are the "talent"). I've been working on a documentary about the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. We've been doing a lot of shooting that doesn't involve people at all. We will of course include interviews ("talent"?) but we won't be working with any actors.
I think that everyone involved with a production should be paid. It's only fair and it's the right thing to do. But what's a poor filmmaker to do? If you can't pay anyone do you just not make your movie? If you're making a short, you know that there is hardly any way that you'll ever make a dime from it. If you're making a feature, you could make money with it but the odds of that happening are certainly not in your favor. So, if there's no money to be made, is it still OK for a cast and crew to work their butts off just for the love of the craft? Of course it is. If everyone knows what the deal is up front and no one is being taken advantage of, it's all good.
I've worked on projects where the crew got paid and the actors didn't. Is this fair? I guess that depends on your point of view. Like I said, as a crew person, this is my livelihood. If I work for free, I have to turn away paying gigs to be able to do so. How many local independent actors earn their living only from acting? How many local actors bring thousands of dollars worth of filmmaking equipment to the table? How many actors have literally thousands of productions to their credit? (I worked on four different productions today and I average between 400 and 500 productions in a year.) Crew people invest a lot of time, energy and money into developing their craft and they should be compensated.
I have the greatest respect for the talent in front of the camera and when the actors are getting paid, the production is usually way better because of it. It's a difficult task at best and I admire the people who do it well. Actors invest a lot of time, energy and money into developing their craft and they should be compensated.
The bottom line is, it's OK to say "no". If it's a win/win situation then it might be worthwhile to work for no pay. If the story is compelling and the resulting movie is something that the whole cast and crew can be proud of, maybe it's OK to work on it for the love of the craft. If the director has done projects that you admire or if you get to work with a kick ass Director of Photography ;-) it might be worth doing. If you don't stand to gain anything form working on a given project, no one will blame you for walking away from it.
I appreciate your thoughtful responses, Ken. The only points I'll add is that the the reason why many local actors cannot make living from the craft is that they are not paid (or are told there is no budget for their talent). So most actors have second or third gigs or jobs to pay bills. I attend workshop with many actors who are very serious about the craft and they work continually to bring art to life on film. Actors may not bring high value equipment to the set, but if a film requires talent in order to come to fruition, you cannot do a project justice without the professional in front of the camera.
I still firmly believe that you get what you pay for. I've turned down gigs (percussion, storytelling, acting) when the entity wanted my talent and time but their budget professed otherwise. And I have been paid very nicely for the 1000s of hours I've put into honing my skills...If a project wants professional actors who are willing to provide their time and talent, the filmmaker needs to budget in for that investment. Would you (not you, specifcially, Ken, but the larger you) tell the plumber or mechanic that they can gain valuable experience working on your decaying pipes or fuel injection needs? Would that be sufficent for them? Perhaps you will never make a profit from selling your house or car...but does that mean you ought to not pay for the professional services rendered?
You're preaching to the choir, Helen. I have already stated that I think everyone should be paid.
Unfortunately in the fast-paced, slam-bang, live-on-the-razor's egde, laugh in the face of death world of local independent filmmaking, there are usually amateurs on both sides of the camera. Sure, a plumber is a plumber and a mechanic is a mechanic. But is your "director" really a director or a used car salesman? Is your "cinematographer" a camera person or a flight attendant? Is your "actor" a professional actor or a plumber/mechanic?
All too often, local indie productions aren't about excellence and professionalism. I've lost possible work many times when the "director" decided that "good enough" would work for their big indie production that was destined to take Sundance by storm. It never does. I'm quite happy to move on and work with people who believe that "good enough" isn't.
Take a good look at these "filmmakers" who are not serious enough to pay you. Is their script even worth wasting your time? Has the "director" ever done anything worth watching? Is the "cinematographer" even using a damn tripod once in a while?!?!?!?!? If they want you to work for free, they are asking you to partner with them. Where is their business plan? What are their credentials? All of this information should be available to you as a "business partner". If you want to be paid, work with professionals to begin with.
You said "Thoughts? Please share!" Sorry if I shared too much! ;-)
As an actor, I have been coached and mentored to ask and consider these very questions... if the production is using high-level (or relatively high level) equipment, couldn't they put aside investment dollars, as well, into paying their talent? Hmmmm...
yes, that is always a wonder, which i think always goes back to properly budgeting a shoot
raise the funds/save the funds/ wait til there are proper funds to pay your actors. there's always a hurry to do things wrong and get something in the can fast. If it's truly an indie, your investment in your own picture has less constraints than when you have some sort of finacier. The chances of a real return are small, which makes it even more unacceptable that people think its ok to just throw everything to back end agreements and points. If it's really worth shooting in the first place, it's worth paying your talent. period.
Unfortunately I think it's kind of an ingrained mentality that "we will pay all our good talent and below the line crew once we get greenlit or sell our awesome pilot"
and these are few and far between
people who think they believe that they should be paid before an actor gets paid -because they own equipment - have an inflated sense of self worth
Owning equipment doesn't entitle anyone to anything. Having the professional experience and skills to use your equipment to make a positive impact on the look and feel of a project is worth something.
Calling oneself an "actor" doesn't entitle anyone to anything. Having the professional experience and skills to make a positive impact on the look and feel of a project is worth something.
So all things being even, why would someone pay for camera and lights
and not talent when there is a budget? Isn't this the pattern in play in the realm of indpt filmmaking? I have seen a number of projects shot on nice formats where the so called exp and skills are not worth the day rate, yet the talent has been marginalized when it comes to the budget. If there's a good example on this site that refutes this, I would like to see it posted here. (where the talent wasn't paid their rate, and crew was paid their day rate- or close to a reasonable rate)
"So all things being even, why would someone pay for camera and lights and not talent when there is a budget?"
I'm not a producer and I have no definitive answer to this question. I do know that it happens all the time. I'm not saying that it's right. Rental houses make you pay for cameras and lights and rightly so. Good luck getting them to let you use their equipment for free. On the other hand, there are way too many actors that are willing to work for free.
I think it might have a lot to do with supply and demand. When there are 10 to 20 hopeful actors lined up for every role that comes along, the supply is great. Obviously there aren't that many good roles, so the demand is low. I think it might even have something to do with the "good enough" issue as well. When it comes down to choosing between two actors for the same role, does it have to be the one that charges $300/day or is the actor that's willing to work "for the love of the craft" good enough?
Are there any producers that would like to tell us why things are the way they are?
As much as I would like to get paid as talent, I'm honestly not surprised when I don't simply because I know that folks just may not be able to afford it. I know their intentions are good and their heart is in the right place (at least, I hope so!). Now, when I am paid it's wonderful, but I just love becoming another character and love doing that without getting paid. But, yes, the talent probably should get paid something in some way, I think.