My $30,000 acting mistake

Here’s how a mistake on one acting job ended up costing me over $30,000 so far!

Here’s a video of me looking like a tool while explaining why people should get a 212 area code for their business.

I still remember this shoot. I had a little video demo posted online for months that I had actually totally forgotten about it until one day I got a call from a production company–someone had seen my demo and wanted to book me for a gig.

Of course I was thrilled!

There were two different videos that were going to be commercials on the company’s website. They featured me as the spokesperson, convincing people to sign up for the service and explaining how easy it was.

There was zero prep time needed on my part. I showed up the day of the shoot and read the script off of a teleprompter. We did a few takes for each of the videos. Things went smoothly, and I was out in about two hours.

And on top of that, I was actually getting paid! A few weeks after the shoot, I got a check in the mail for $200. I was so money, baby!

$200 for two hours of work–$100 an hour. It was way more money that I was getting for whatever day job I was working at the time, so I was thrilled.

Seems like a great deal, right?

It was a great deal until I realized how much money I probably SHOULD have been getting. If you look up the SAG-AFTRA rate for these two little web commercials I did, you’ll see that the going rate for similar types of jobs is actually over $2500 PER COMMERCIAL.

$2500 each!?!? And I only made $200?

When I found that out, my $200 started to feel like chump change.

“But that’s the union rate for a professional actor!” (I can actually hear someone whining that right now).

Who cares?

SAG-AFTRA has negotiated those rates with the production companies and ad agencies that hire union actors. They are all in agreement that those are the MINIMUM rates an actor should get for that particular job. These are the same minimum rates for all actors, regardless of whether they have been doing this for 20 years or this is the very first time they’ve been on camera.

Even if there was some sort of imaginary “new actor discount” and you cut that rate in half, it’s still $1000 more than what I got.

Not to mention the fact that I shot that video in 2011 (over six years ago at the time of this writing). As of today, that video is STILL up on that company’s website.

Over the course of six years, I should have been paid over $30,000 for those two little web videos.

So for over six years, little smiling Brian has been looking like a tool selling 212 area codes on this company’s website, for just a single payment of $200. That company was featured in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.

I wonder how many 212 area codes my little web video has helped them to sell?

I wonder how much money I helped contribute to their bottom line?

You have to understand how actors get paid for jobs

Don’t mistake me, this isn’t a knock on this company at all, or the production company that hired me for the gig.

Whose fault is it that I only got $200 for a gig that I should have made $30,000?

My own.

I didn’t understand how much I should be getting paid. I didn’t do any research into what other actors were making for similar types of gigs. At the time, I didn’t have an agent to talk to the client and negotiate a fair rate for the work I was doing.

And quite frankly, I didn’t even really value my own work.

I got the call for the job and my ego IMMEDIATELY started negotiating for me–and my ego was a very poor negotiator that jumped at the first number they offered me.

And why not?

Someone had actually wanted to hire ME as an actor–and pay me $200! I felt like I should probably be paying THEM for blessing me with such an opportunity!

Not valuing my own work and not understanding how much value I was helping to provide to the client was my own mistake. And it ended up costing me $30,000 in money just left on the table.

Now things are much different for me. I’ve seen both sides of the business now and I understand how the game works.

If there’s one thing I want you to take away from this, it’s that you understand that your work as an actor has value.

People are making money on every shoot. The client, production company, casting director, and even the lowly PA’s are getting paid good money for their work–why shouldn’t you?

Have you ever taken a gig knowing that you weren’t getting paid enough (or anything at all)? Why did you take it?

What was it that made you feel like you didn’t deserve to be paid as much as you should have been?

Let me know in the comments below.

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