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The way the entertainment industry works can often leave actors feeling very disempowered. We were told that if they don’t hire us, somebody else is waiting in the wings – literally. And after you’ve done 10, 20 or even 50 auditions just to book a gig in the first place, it can be scary to rock the boat. This often leaves actors, especially new actors, very hesitant to ask questions about the booking or advocate for themselves. But remember, it’s called show business, and it is perfectly within your rights and in your best interest to know what you’re getting into.
Here are 5 things actors should ask about before accepting work.
Even more so than any other job, you need to know what you’re getting into. This goes beyond what are your job responsibilities and more into specifics of things like:
- What type of content is this (PG, Family, R rated, movie, web series, video game etc)
- Is there a lot of violence
- Will there be nudity on set, you or another actor
- Are there sexual situations
- Could the content be considered controversial or offensive, and if so do you want to be associated with that
Some of this may have been outlined or apparent from the script, but it’s better to know beforehand and make an informed decision from there.
*A note about nudity on set: There are very specific protocols to be followed if this is the case. If everyone is just running around naked, that’s a very different kind of film! For mainstream, legitimate productions nudity means a closed set with minimal cast and crew present and an intimacy coordinator to choreograph the scene and make sure everyone is being treated respectfully. If there is nudity, what exactly will be shown? These are questions you and your agent shouldn’t be afraid to ask and make sure to get in writing.
Location and Dates
Before committing to any project, make sure you know where is shooting and when it’s shooting. As far as scheduling goes you want to make sure you don’t have any conflicts, are you actually available on those dates? I once committed to a project only to find out they decided to record it (voice over) right through Thanksgiving Day – something nobody was happy about, but too big of a job to turn down. This is obviously a personal decision.
Also, where is it shooting? Will you be working locally or out of town? And if it’s out of town are they providing transportation and accommodation or at the very least a stipend (small amount of money, usually to cover gas) for this? Especially in smaller or independent projects this may not always be clear up front. If travel is required, are they paying for lodging as well as a stipend for gas and a per diem? Make sure you know exactly what is expected.
Which bring me to…..
Especially when you are auditioning for small, low budget indie projects, the details of compensation might not always be clear. Actors are often hesitant to ask about this, especially if you’re just starting out. But it’s your right to know! Even if you’re working on a student film or nonpaying project where you’re getting copy and credit, this still should be clear. Quite frankly, producers expect this. Everyone knows that this is a business. If somebody is making a movie, TV show, or web series, and they’re not willing to offer some sort of compensation for it they’re really not serious about their own work and you might want to think otherwise about taking this project on. Remember acting is a real job and your talent and time are both valuable.
You deserve to know how much is being offered for your services and when and how you will be paid. It is not impolite or difficult to ask about this if information is not made readily available.
If you have an agent, this is something that they would normally handle, but by all means discus it with them.
If you are self-submitting, research the producers and people involved to make sure their legit. Really, it is not rude to ask about compensation, and no one worth working with will withhold that information.
Often times on independent projects or smaller budget projects you’ll be asked to provide your own wardrobe. I’ve even had an asked of me if I would wear the same outfit that I wore to an audition, and this was for a network role. That’s not the norm, but it does happen. Find out if you’re expected to provide wardrobe, and if so will you receive any additional compensation for it and or will production pay to have your clothes cleaned afterwards.
Last but not least is Credit; how will you be credited by the production on IMDB? What is your official role? And is it a Lead, Supporting, Guest Star or Co-Star? Many times I’ve seen this be a sticking point in contract negotiations. This is usually pre-determined by production, and obviously, the larger the role, the more you should be getting paid. In fact, on union productions it’s mandatory.
Some actors leave this entirely to agents and managers to handle, but more and more I see actors self-advocating – it’s important. This is not just your resume but your career you’re building.
Once you know what you want, and what you are entitled to, you should be aware of every detail of any contract your signing. If you are unsure, ask questions at every step in the process, familiarize yourself with actor contract negotiations, and make sure your professional needs are being met.
Requesting clarity doesn’t make you difficult, it makes you conscientious and smart. And advocating for your professional and personal rights does not make you a bad actor. As with anything in life, you may not get everything you want, but at least be sure about what you’re getting into. It’s always up to you to determine whether or not the offer is worth your time and talent.
Get educated and stay informed about the business side of acting. Take time to decide your professional boundaries, ask for communication and clarification where necessary. Remember, you have to be the first person who places value on yourself and your career.
* Please Note: I am not an agent, manager, or casting director. I do not procure work for actors. All information, workshops and coaching are for educational purposes only and are not a guarantee or promise of employment. Thank you for being here!