Deferred Pay Agreements for Actors and Film Crew
Deferred pay for actors and film crew members is a shaky deal all the way around. I see lots of casting notices and crew calls that list under pay – deferred. Many independent movie producers and filmmakers are usually working with really tight budgets to get a film completed.
It’s natural to want to take care of actors and crew by paying them even if you really can’t, so promising deferred pay can seem like a great choice to show as a producer and filmmaker you care about their contribution.
Without passionate actors and crew the indie filmmakers of the world are basically down to shooting viral videos with their friends for YouTube.
Where the water gets choppy for producers, actors, and film crew members with deferred pay agreements is they are so damn open-ended with if and when they get paid.
This can lead to problems and misunderstandings later on. When a producer or filmmaker promises an actor or crew hire money later on after the movie is sold they’re going to have to keep in touch with a lot people. Keeping track of where actors and former crew is really a pain in the ass in the world of independent filmmaking for a producer.
On top of keeping tabs of where people are and how to pay them if the movie ever does make money is dealing with calls from people asking if the movie has sold yet.
It’s completely fair for actors and crew to ask when they will get paid from a deferred pay agreement. The minute an actor or former crew hire sees that the movie is being distributed at retail outlets your mobile device, Facebook, and Twitter accounts will be going crazy with people contacting you for money.
If the movie doesn’t recover the budget spent after it’s distributed it’s an ugly situation to tell actors and crew hires that there is no money to pay them. The movie never turned a profit.
One seasoned 1st AD I worked with told me once that deferred pay agreements for actors and crew means there is no pay. This is where being straightforward with actors and crew comes into play.
I never offer deferred pay agreements to actors or crew on a Slice of Americana Films project. It’s too stressful to have open ended agreements out there.
Actors and crew appreciate honesty when they are offered a role or gig to work on a film. We like to put it out clean and transparent this is what certain roles and crew spots are paying, and then they can decide if they want to be part of film. This keeps everything simple and neat with work for hire agreements.
There are really cool indie producers and filmmakers that use deferred pay agreements as what I look at as bridge financing. They are anticipating a cash infusion before the movie is done to pay cast and crew.
That works out sometimes, but too many times when making an indie movie cash infusions rarely materialize. Even if the indie filmmaker’s heart was in the right place and they had every intention of paying actors and crew from this cash infusion, when it doesn’t happen they look like shit in the eyes of people.
Why create a negative situation like that? Not all actors or crew will think that way, but there will be some and one is too many when it all can be avoided.
Skip the deferred pay agreements for actors or crew. Offer them flat daily rates that your budget can afford based on money you already have in hand, not future money that’s out there somewhere.
If its credit, copies, and DELICIOUS meals (never neglect craft services) with no money let it be that upfront. Dangling carrots for future pay to get an actor agreement signed or key crew hire to sign on is a bad move.
It’s better not to promise what you don’t have as a filmmaker or producer. Let people get excited about being involved in the entertaining movie you are making. This indie filmmaker Sid Kali typing FADE OUT