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What is fair payment here?


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#1 Conrad Yoder

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Posted 02 October 2007 - 08:55 PM

I am a rural indie (I guess that's redundant) filmmaker, in the hills of eastern Ohio. I am currently making a short film, for which most of the crew/cast is working gratis. However, I was not getting anyone for the female lead with existing enticements, so I broke down and am now offering financial compensation. (I was clear up-front that most cast/crew would not be getting paid $ for this project.) We will be filming 2-3 days and she will be needed for most of the scenes, so: what is a "fair" amount to pay the actress? I of course want to keep my budget to a minimum, but I don't want to insult her with a too-low offer. Any advice welcome - thanks for the input.

-Conrad
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#2 Zamir Merali

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Posted 02 October 2007 - 09:25 PM

The problem with starting to pay your actors is that when you are asking them to work for free they feel like they are helping your out and will give you enough effort and be in good nature. As soon as you start paying them however, if you don't pay them enough they will feel like you are taking advantage and will give you less effort than if you wern't paying them at all. For a 2-3 day short for the average female actress you would be looking at atleast minimum wage. If your working 8 hour days for 3 days you'll end up paying about 240 dollars. That is probably not enough to make her feel happy so i would recomend anything inbetween 300 to 500. Don't take my word for it though, get a few other opinions.
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#3 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 02 October 2007 - 10:56 PM

I don't know exactly where you live and will shoot, but it seems odd that you are unable to find anyone. Then again, if she is in most of the scenes, you really don't just want any generic available female. I assume you'd like to cast the correct actress. Getting the wrong person can be worse than having no one at all.

That said, if you haven't already, university theater departments are usually chock full of aspiring thespians who generally jump at the opportunity to act and show off what they can do. And film work usually is more enticing to them because they have a copy to use as part of their resume. Also check for nearby community theaters in small towns. If all that fails, you must know somebody with an attractive (or not, as the script calls for) sister who secretly doesn't mind getting some attention. :)

To echo some of the sentiments above, once you cross the line into paying people, the dynamic changes instantly. Someone working for free is there because they truly want to be and they have a personal stake in the project too. If someone has to be paid, they are there primarily for the money because they probably need it...and badly otherwise they wouldn't take a low amount. Plus, if you pay one person, that is bound to upset at least some of your other crew who are there for free.

The important thing to keep in mind when making a short film on no budget is that this is no longer just something for you to use in your career. You either have to have some very selfless friends or else those who are helping you likely are looking to gain something from the experience too. You have to let everyone know that their contribution in time and individual talent is needed and appreciated. Warm bodies to help out are nice, but real people with skills and creativity to offer are better. Before offering cash, try to entice prospective cast and crew by asking them what they think of your project and if they have any ideas that might make it better. You don't have to use any of the ideas, but you asking them their opinions will go a long way.


And one more thing.... feed them! On a quickie indie film, day old bagels with fresh cream cheese, juice, fruit and coffee in the mornings will start the day out right. Break at least six hours after calltime for a half hour to provide a decent lunch that YOU pay for. Take care to check for vegetarians or other special needs. Keep the coffee, water, and light snacks stocked and available all day long. Having someone specifically in charge of "Crafts Service" is more important than can be expressed here. And if you plan on shooting more than twelve hours, feed everyone again before, during, or after wrap. Pizza delivery is a economical and tasty option, but don't do the same thing for lunch.

Most importantly, thank every single person personally at the end of every day for their time and enthusiasm. People don't always just do things for money and simple acknowledgment goes a long long way.


Good luck!
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#4 William A Chapman Jr

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Posted 02 October 2007 - 11:31 PM

I am a rural indie (I guess that's redundant) filmmaker, in the hills of eastern Ohio. I am currently making a short film, for which most of the crew/cast is working gratis. However, I was not getting anyone for the female lead with existing enticements, so I broke down and am now offering financial compensation. (I was clear up-front that most cast/crew would not be getting paid $ for this project.) We will be filming 2-3 days and she will be needed for most of the scenes, so: what is a "fair" amount to pay the actress? I of course want to keep my budget to a minimum, but I don't want to insult her with a too-low offer. Any advice welcome - thanks for the input.

-Conrad


When you start paying some but not others, the ones who arn't will start to get bitter and it will start to show in their performances, I would say pay them all or don't pay any of them. If she really likes the script and believes in the project she'll do it for nothing but credit.
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#5 Bill Totolo

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Posted 03 October 2007 - 05:00 AM

I would test the waters. Offer $100/day and see what happens.
A lot of people are just happy to get paid for doing something they love.
Try submitting to local theaters, etc.
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#6 Alessandro Machi

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Posted 03 October 2007 - 10:40 AM

The problem with starting to pay your actors is that when you are asking them to work for free they feel like they are helping your out and will give you enough effort and be in good nature. As soon as you start paying them however, if you don't pay them enough they will feel like you are taking advantage and will give you less effort than if you wern't paying them at all.....



Ideally, everyone should get some kind of daily stipend.

When you don't pay someone anything, any effort they give is an effort you are supposed to be grateful for even if it falls short of what you were expecting or hoping for.

If you have actual departments for your film, always pay the head person in each department (even if it is a very nominal amount) and make your deal with them. Give the head of each department the lattitude to help you find additional crew for their department as well. Nothing kills a low budget shoot faster than when some one prematurely leaves and suddenly the work load becomes that much more tenuous for every one else who remains, a domino effect usually follows in which less workers are doing more work for longer days.

Paying the head person in each department whatever nominal amount it is gives them motivation to try and make their department function. The ideal person to hire for a department is someone who can offer paid work down the road to anyone that works in their department this time around for a very low rate.

The same would apply to the actors. Find someone who "represents" the actors and work a deal with them. You're giving away some of your power up front, but that is much better than having it all fall apart halfway through the shoot.

The added benefit to this method is the head person of each department gains a valuable work credit and that becomes something that can keep them going on days where it seems the shoot may fall apart.

This method also protects the person who rather than taking orders from everybody on the set usually will only take them from their own department head, thus protecting them from the indignity of working for free or next to free and also having to be at the whim of too many people for such poor wages.
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Metropolis Post

Opal

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Glidecam

CineLab

Paralinx LLC

Rig Wheels Passport

Willys Widgets

Tai Audio

Abel Cine

rebotnix Technologies

Technodolly

The Slider

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Ritter Battery

Visual Products

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Wooden Camera