Daphne Gets Mad
Most, however, don't earn very much at all. If they film a video on a Wednesday, and get paid, say, £250 plus expenses, that may mean that they don't get any work on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. So their wage for the week is £250, which isn't a lot.
I'm not talking about the rather large number of people who call themselves actors but actually have a "day job" in a bank or something. I'm talking about actors who do it full-time and who do tedious temping jobs when they're out of work (some people think it's called "resting" but I've never heard actors call it that).
The actors I work with rely on their income from acting. It's not their hobby, it's their job.
From time to time people ring up wanting some actors for free. I don't mean for student films - actors will often work on student films as they can be interesting to do with a promising director. I mean the kind of job such as making a video to promote something like Kevin's Korporate Kleening.
"We haven't budgeted to pay them, I'm afraid, but it'll be good experience for them and they'll get a copy of the film."
I sometimes suggest they should try getting a plumber on the same terms. Tell him you'd like him to mend your toilet - you haven't budgeted to pay him, but it'll be good experience for him and you'll film him doing it and give him a copy. And see how far that gets you.
The ones who make me the very very maddest are the ones who book an actor: the actor does the job: they ring to say how delighted they were with him and what a good job he did - - - and then they don't pay him for ages and ages.
And when I ring them for the squillionth time and threaten them with the actors' union Equity and the Small Claims Court, they come out with the stunning line,
"Oh, well if we'd known he needed the money, we'd have paid sooner."
Sometimes I try the route of asking "How would you feel if your salary didn't arrive this month?" They go all bewildered and ask how that's the same thing. I explain that this money which is owing is, in effect, the actor's salary. And that he will use it to buy food and to pay the bills. They are amazed.
The worst thing of all is when the actors have to lay out their own money for travel and hotels and the company takes ages and ages to pay even the expenses, let alone the fee.
Our actors work a lot. But acting's not highly paid unless you're one of the relatively few stars. It's a really tough life. The actual acting is often the least tricky bit. An actor's job is trying to get the next job. And trying to get paid for the last one. Grrrrr.