Dealing with Low-Pay or Unpaid Gigs

Value your time.

I believe you should be paid for everything you do. Your time needs to be rewarded whether you are an actor or a crew member.

Working for free doesn’t sit well with me. Nowadays, I won’t cast for projects that don’t pay for actors or extras.

Everyone should be paid no matter how small the job. Productions are a puzzle, when one piece is missing, it can’t work (that well). You are a very important piece in the puzzle!

Value your time.

But…….Sometimes there will be an amazing team & project you will really want to work with. You’re all on the same wave length; passion, enthusiasm, creativity…..except no or very little money!

When I was in LA, I met with many casting directors and producers who helped me understand how to negotiate pay for actors and other crew members.

There are two ways to deal with low-pay/unpaid gigs that won’t leave you feeling used and abused! Please note; not to be confused with student films.

1) Decline gracefully:

“Your (X PROJECT) sounds amazing (I love A,B & C). I hope you’re not insulted but I am only taking paid work at this time. Thank you so much for thinking of me, I’m really flattered. Best of luck with your (X PROJECT)!”

2) Negotiate either ONE of the following; pay, credit OR share:

  • PAY: There is always room for negotiation when there is money in the budget. Don’t be afraid to negotiate. People are just as afraid to say no to your negotiation than you are afraid to ask!
  • CREDIT: If you aren’t getting paid or you’re getting very low pay; negotiate your credit to Associate Producer or Executive Producer. Negotiate the contract to have those credits. In saying this, you don’t take on more work. Be firm and clear in your contract.
  • SHARE: aka Investment. Negotiate your share in the production. Initiate a contract where if FILM makes X earnings you make X% of earnings.

Don’t go crazy negotiating all of the above. Use one of these techniques and think carefully about which one is most relevant for the gig you’re offered. Then..If you can’t increase pay then try negotiating credit etc. Don’t put them all on the table at once. It’s like any business deal.

At the end of the day, if you want people to value your time, YOU have to put a value on it!

Let’s create a positive change where everyone can share equal value.  It’ starts with you.

As always, I’d love to hear your take on this. Scroll down and write your comments now!

5 comments to Dealing with Low-Pay or Unpaid Gigs

  • Caro  says:

    Hi Jacqueline
    This is one of the most well timed blogs yet. It’s a great idea to negotiate credits in some form. The other item to negotiate for is access to footage in high resolution for your script reel. This is harder to achieve for Feature Films but short films we have had no problems with negotiating this.

    • Jacqueline Alliss  says:

      Thanks for reading, Caro! And yes – footage for reels! Thank you for adding this — so important to negotiate.

  • Pam Kearns  says:

    I believe the least you should get is footage for your demo reel. And it should be offered automatically and sent when ready – without stalling.

    • Jacqueline Alliss  says:

      I know, this is a very tricky one however, it needs to be negotiated within the contract, prior filming.

  • Avzal Ismail  says:

    These ideas resonated perfectly with me and as a professional musician, freelance photographer and aspiring actor, I have always believed in a fair exchange of time and energy in return for fair compensation.
    Change starts with us who are involved in artistic professions and only we can start to change the status quo by valuing ourselves, each other and what we do.
    The myth of the starving artist should be just that, a myth and we can only let that happen once we ourselves allow for fair compensation in return for good work.
    There is a time and a place to work for free BUT as a general rule let us up the stakes for ourselves and for each other.

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