No Pay, Low Pay, & Extra Work

Posted August 18, 2011

As an agent, my job is always to try and get the best pay scale available for my talent and myself.  I mean, I love buying shoes and if my actors and I aren’t banking then my shoe closet starts to look a little stale.  Regardless of my efforts though, there will always be projects that come my way that pay nothing or are so low that you will only break even after filling your car with gas and buying lunch.

So, why do I say yes to these projects?  Well, I don’t always.  However, if it’s a loyal client of mine I may agree to a low paying project knowing that it is atypical of that client and that my help in a pinch will be remembered and rewarded by that client in the future.

When it comes to no pay projects, I’m far pickier.  The first question is always “why is there no pay?”.  Usually the nonpaid projects I get are student films.  I believe is supporting student projects as much as I can if for no other reason than knowing that these students are Azalea’s future clients.

Regrettably, some projects don’t compensate talent because they simply don’t want to.  They don’t think they need to pay an agent and professional talent when they can advertise on craigslist and find actors or models who are willing to work for nothing.  These projects simply don’t respect the amount of work and energy that a professional talent puts into their craft.  These are the jobs I ALWAYS turn down.  It’s one thing to try and make a project work on a budget, it’s another to take advantage of good actors.  Please keep this in mind if you find yourself trolling the internet for gigs.

Now, just because I might say yes to a project like this, doesn’t mean I expect my talent to do it.  Talent with a robust resume likely don’t need the additional credit.  I certainly don’t expect folks to rearrange their schedules like they would for a killer awesome gig.  However, if you are on the greener side of the industry you can look at these jobs as great opportunities.   You might make a little cash, but more importantly, you get invaluable time on set and a credit for your resume.  It’s like paid on the job training.  It’s even better if you are working with an established client who may be impressed and use you for another project (hopefully one with a great budget) in the near future.

Extra work falls into this same category but has a few extra perks.  First of all, extras regularly have the chance to be upgraded on set and I see it happen about 10% of the time.  So, what started out as a long day in a holding tent could be your big break with an upgraded principal role.  Also remember that extras are usually only hired for full fledged quality shoots so you are working with a client who is established.  You cannot beat making a great impression on a client in person and extra work is a good chance to make that happen.

That said, at some point extra work may no longer be worth your time.  Many of my established actors have been working long enough that their reputation proceeds them and extra work or low paid gigs don’t hold the same benefits that a newbie can look for.  I understand and support a talent’s choice to stop doing low paying or extra work, but I say that hoping that people take a humble approach to paying their dues in the industry or being a good sport.  If a client requests you specifically, think hard before you say no.  If you’re in a dry spell and haven’t booked anything for a bit, it might be a good idea to take one of these jobs to keep you fresh and working.