Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems
Booked it! Congratulations! After going to tons of castings the excitement of booking a job and finally getting a chance to play on set or stage can be so intense that we almost don’t care about the money anymore.
The paycheck becomes an afterthought, almost an added bonus. And here come the problems.
When actors don’t pay attention to earnings and carefully read check stubs, they may be missing money that is owed.
All those classes, coachings, headshots and reel footage have a cost attached and talent has real market value. Without a process to ensure payments were properly prepared it’s possible to lose significant business earnings.
Most recently, I personally earned an additional $3,606.14* from just two jobs. I used the same tips I offer in this blog to secure these payments. This was on top of the sessions fees I had already received. It’s almost like booking twice!
So the next time you get into a tizzy about the next exciting job you’ve booked use the following checklist to make sure you are accurately paid and get every penny you are owed. Also, underpayment is sometimes a result of an honest mistake on the part of the production company or payroll company, not any malicious intent, so make sure you are paid what you are owed on all fronts.
CAVEAT: This checklist is primarily applicable to union work.
Did you do a fitting before your shoot day(s)?
If yes, you are due commissionable fees by the hour for your time and this should be included in your check.
When was the check due?
Use the SAG FAQs page for the appropriate department or call SAG and ask for the business rep for the production to find out when payment is due.
For Theatrical jobs payment is typically due a week from the last work day in the production week. For example, if the production week runs Monday-Friday, Friday is the last day of the production week and payment must be mailed out by the following Friday.
Commercial payments are typically due 15 business days from the last day of work for talent for a session fee or the first air date for residual payments.
If the check is postmarked after the deadline, talent is owed a non-commissionable late fee. I’ve literally made thousands of dollars from double checking the due date for all my payments.
Late fees are most common with commercials.
KEEP IN MIND: If your money is processed first by your agent or manager, it’s almost impossible to know the postmark date. In this case, use the check date.
Did you use your own wardrobe on set?
If yes, a non-commissionable cleaning reimbursement fee is due and should be included in the check.
The only way to get this payment for this is if you filled in the wardrobe fee portion of your contract on set.
Was the shooting location outside of the studio zone?
If yes, you are due non-commissionable mileage reimbursement.
Agents and managers are not inclined to invest time into pursuing non-commissionable fees (late fees and reimbursements) for talent because they are not commissionable. If your agency doesn’t have an accounting department you’re probably better off pursuing the fees on your own.
If you are due a late fee, ask the accounting department at your agency to send payroll an invoice or email the payroll contact yourself. The email for the payroll person handling your checks is typically listed on the paystub. Be sure to include the production name and episode number or commercial ID in any email correspondence.
After reaching out to payroll several times without receiving a response or payment, union actors do have the option of filing a claim with SAG-AFTRA. Filing a claim is considered the absolute last resort. It’s like hitting the big red button that sets off sirens. The good thing about filing a claim is that it is anonymous. The union handles all further pursuit of payment and every actor on that contract gets paid.
TIP: Always take a picture of your contract and the sign out sheet before you hand it over to production and exit set for the day.
Simply being grateful for work is wonderful. I believe an important part of exercising that gratitude is making sure you are properly paid and, therefore, fully leveraging each job to support you on your journey to the next one.
*I earned exactly $1,106.14 in late fees and one unpaid Class A use from one job. I earned an estimated $2,500 from monitoring unpaid usage and applicable late fees from a second job. This is just a sampling of recent payments received using the aforementioned methods and does not include all received additional payments.
-- Coach Alysia