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How Much Actors Make
This page is part of an exclusive interview with LA Kids Talent Agent Bill Naoum). One of the many questions new and aspiring actors have is about what actor salaries are like and how much money they can expect to earn in this profession. In this part of the interview I asked Bill to address that with specific regard to on-camera commercials. ActingCareerStartUp.com thanks Bill for generously giving of his time and advice for the visitors of this website. Enjoy.
Tony: Can you talk a little about how much actors make doing commercials?
Bill: To give you a good idea about how much actors make, you know with a good Union commercial, like a class a national network spot could get you a pretty considerable amount of money.
Tony: Which is like…?
Bill: It’s hard to say specifically how much actors make as a general rule. I had one kid that did a Ford commercial a couple of years ago and they ended up cutting it into nine different spot. It ran like crazy and he made $150 000. That little girl I told you about with the T Mobile spot, she made roughly $30 000. A child that’s on another commercial right now, I think he has made close to $40 000. A lot of times, there is no guarantee. I will book something and kids will say ‘how much am I going to make on this?’ and I tell them ‘$592.20’, which is the standard SAG pay for a commercial for an actor for an eight hour day. Where it goes from there I don’t know. I know that markets are tight now (at the end of 2009) because of the economy and things. Commercials seem not to run as much as they used to.
Tony: There are also a lot of buy-outs too. Correct?
Bill: A lot of buy-outs, which basically means that there are no residuals as I talked about before. You just get a set fee for the job and that's it. And there is a lot of non-union bookings too. Non-union bookings in commercials has become a very huge thing, which is good and bad. Its bad for the people that are in the business now because they are used to working union wages because obviously they are higher. On the other hand, the increase in non-union bookings opens up doors for beginning actors, more so than it did in the past and obviously then has a positive impact on how much actors make. So if you are new in the business and non-Union you might have some more opportunities to audition for things, and sometimes you will be in front of legitimate casting directors and not in front of some fly by night casting director, who has never done this before. What I mean by that is that sometimes you have legitimate casting directors who one day are casting a national Ford commercial and two days later they are doing a non-Union spot for a pizza chain or something like that. So you are being seen by important people who cast different levels of projects. It's just the compensation that is dramatically different between the two. And as I said, there are also buy-out. Much of the work on the internet is paid that way. The internet now is a whole new frontier, so I think a whole lot of work is already going there, but there will be a lot more. I know that typically agents negotiate rates for Internet commercials.
Tony: What percentage of commercials are buy-outs?
Bill: If it is a Union commercial...
Tony: It's residuals…
Bill: Yeah it’s residuals, depending on what it is: wild spot, network…
Tony: So if someone wants to know how much actos make, is it safe to say that Union actors always get residuals?
Bill: Union actors will always get a defined, set rate yeah. If it’s a national cable commercial they are going to make $2830 per cycle or something like that. I forget that exact number. Whether the commercial shows one time on TNT or 10,000 times in 13 weeks on all the cable channels – they get that set rate. If it is Class A, national network they get paid every time it airs. If it is wild spot it depends on what cities it is being shown, each city has a unit weight to it. So like, New York is worth x amount of money, Cleveland is worth x amount of money, Portland’s worth x amount of money. The ad agencies will tell you where this is running and then regardless of how many times they show it the actor gets paid by that unit weight. So they tally up all those units and take into consideration a lot of otehr factors and they add all that up and say, ‘OK this is what you have made for this 13 week cycle’. Internet jobs are paid and calculated differently though. They can ask for anything. There it is even more difficult to generalize with regard to how much actors make
End of this part of this exclusive interview with Bill Naoum, Youth Talent Agent in LA.
If you want to know more about how much actors make, have a look at this interview I did with actor Adam Karst, who talks about his compensation for a movie he did with Jean Claude Van Damme.
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Sara, Pasadena, CA
Just wanted to thank you for bringing me in to [audition for the video], meet you and chat this Saturday. I was really excited to hear about your working on actingcareerstartup.com and even took a look at it today - it's awesome! You are very well-spoken, knowledgeable and enthusiastic, and it shows through the work that you do! I hope our paths in the industry will cross again and really enjoyed meeting you. Thanks, again and best wishes with your very important work!
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