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Actors being paid to read a script?


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#1 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 26 September 2010 - 05:24 PM

I was un-aware of this practice but during a discussion about the importance of story, prompted by a comment I made about what I felt is the scam of 3D production, I found out about it. Here is the reply:

"Unfortunately, a lot of "today" seems to be "more ME and ME MONEY" instead of what used to be.

I talked to an actor I knew about a problem I had in talking to someone else, and he pulled out a card from his lawyer that informed me that (for him) contact must be made through the law firm and agent, and that attempts to make contact by other means would be reported as harassment to law enforcement, and prosecuted. He told me his income more than doubled after the lawyer-agent-reading and consideration fees went into effect, and that the guy I was trying to talk to was probably striking a similar deal. I had difficulties wrapping my head around 5k to discuss if he would be willing to accept 25k to read a screenplay and consider if he was interested, particularly with three TV guest shots being everything he had done in the past eighteen months. He was making more money "considering work" than he had working, and suspected the other guy was doing the same thing, just had not got the lawyer-agent setup perking.

Of a dozen actors considered for that project all of them wanted more for their fee than the entire budget, all of the wanted a reading fee to look at the screenplay, and none of them had a Q factor of over 2. TWO."

Though it may be common practice, I hadn't heard of it and I thought it could be important to be aware of for those of us hoping to secure talent for our projects. Is it just me or does 30 grand to get someone to spend a couple of hours reading a script seem a bit pricey? B)
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#2 Richard Boddington

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Posted 26 September 2010 - 06:02 PM

All news to me.

Pay or play deals have become the rule to stop producers from just shopping around for talent and attaching actors, then dumping 3-4 of them in favour of a final candidate right before the camera rolls.

Of course all "agent manager" stuff can be overridden if you have a "relationship" with the agent, the agency, or the actor. If they know you and want to keep your business, rules get bent that is for sure.

As always the free market drives all of this stuff, if people can get money then they will.

R,
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#3 Justin Hayward

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Posted 26 September 2010 - 07:20 PM

Pay or play deals have become the rule to stop producers from just shopping around for talent and attaching actors, then dumping 3-4 of them in favour of a final candidate right before the camera rolls.


Thirty sounds high, but I've heard around five is pretty common.
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#4 John Sprung

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Posted 27 September 2010 - 01:40 PM

James, just say a pleasant goodbye to that guy. You definitely don't want to spend a couple months on location with him, or to need him back for ADR.

Check out the 99 seat theater scene, acting classes, etc. Get to know some actors before you bring up the subject of your film project.





-- J.S.
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#5 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 29 September 2010 - 04:30 AM

I know a lot of actors and I've never heard of this. It's ridiculous if you ask me and I doubt it would last more than 5 minutes in Los Angeles.
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#6 Alain Lumina

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Posted 02 October 2010 - 03:49 AM

You don't need to deal with that unless they're really going to sell tickets and make _you_ money-- making money with film being something I have no experience with!

Even in Shark City (LA) there are people who _want_ to see scripts.

Everything starts- if it starts at all- with a script.

This sounds like the kind of problem you have when there are investors. I'm not criticizing anyone else's choices, but all I have is stories that aren't ridiculous crap. No zombies, slashers, vampires, serial killers or kidnapped kids.

(Not that I didn't like From Hell with Johnny Depp, that was great drama, what I'm trying to say is I'm not pandering.)

I am the definition of a nobody, I mean what I write, and I am tough enough to stay a nobody forever.
I have a "real" job, pay for my own films, and use vacation time to shoot them

I make the point in my casting calls of the fact pay is super-minimal [by necessity, not by my choice, I would love to pay SAG scale] advertise on nowcasting, actorsaccess, lacasting, and get hundreds of people seeking each part; too many to read their resumes as I have no casting help or any other kind of help for that matter.

There are many, many brilliant people out there giving their hearts and souls to act, I never knew the giant mass of talent until I busted ass and wrote the best scripts I could.

It is heroic how they pursue an art that will likely never offer a decent living. As a director I show them the tremendous respect they deserve by throwing the most apoplectic, amusing hissy fits my nature allows to entertain them.

Many, many people with serious conservatory degrees in acting ( which I have found out is a lot harder than a bachelor's in film) as well as people who are drop dead gorgeous and naturally charismatic want to act in my films.

I don't think I'm that talented as an author, what they are reacting to is that someone is actually trying to tell a good story, that someone is serious, and that someone is writing who's done more in life than go to USC and hang around Hollywood five or six years. I was told Charlie Parker said "If you haven't lived it, it won't come out of your horn."

Also, actors, as well as other very talented personnel with experience far, far beyond mine seem to
be way more willing to collaborate with someone willing to use film.

Film is the secret weapon of casting and crew recruitment. I'd say the additional costs of film have been
much more than offset by the value of the higher level of talent that it attracts to my projects.

It's sure not my personality or money.

( Attached screen cap from 1960's science drama pilot. Not that anyone asked, but ironically shot w/ Canon 7D, ASA 400, Zeiss 50mm 1.4, 1/50 sec . No correction of any kind. Available light only. Shot with sharpness, contrast and saturation set at minimum)

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#7 Deniz Coker

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Posted 12 October 2010 - 01:08 AM

Alain, I really love that shot! It really speaks to me.

Getting back to the subject, this is my first time hearing about this but I guess I shouldn't be surprised. It must be frustrating at the very least to spend money on person after person; I could imagine that takes a toll on the budget. I understand their time is worth something as well but if someone is just using script reading fees as a cheap way to get income then kudos to them, they have it made! No, but on a serious note, I wonder how this will pan out. I mean I can see those fees becoming red flags for people but then again if they are established talent, I guess it won't cause a problem. But my gut tells me there's too many people cramming in to the point where there will be people willing to read and take roles without charging production for all those things. To play devil's advocate I guess I can't say much about a fee being around 5k either. I could compare it to the practice of charging clients to scout and prep for locations on smaller non "big time" shoots (I mean more television/client based stuff).

Edited by Deniz Coker, 12 October 2010 - 01:09 AM.

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