Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Payment ≠ Paycheck

Guest Blog by Christopher Tillman

I found Teresa's recent blog post Five Things I'm Shocked Actor Still Do rather interesting. The day I read it, I realized I had just seen two actors doing number one (“Not Having Your Headshot Ready at an Audition”) the day before. And number four (“Refusing to Work for Free”) reminded me of some advice I received when I was just starting out -

You will never work a job without getting paid.

You will, however, on many occasions, work a job where you don't get paid money.

There are many ways to look at getting payment for an acting job. Contacts, experience, credit. Number three on Teresa's list reminds actors they must have a demo reel. How do you get one? Work jobs for free.

When I first got serious about acting. my first three steps were headshot, resume and demo reel. The first two were easy. The last one came from a year of auditioning for and working student films. Great experience and gave my some good film to put together a reel.

(Side note: USC and Chapman University have the best films schools for working on student projects in my opinion.)

The other advice I got – treat your payment like it is a paycheck. If you are doing a project in exchange for the footage, don't let six months go by before you start asking for the tape. If a paycheck was six months late, you wouldn't just let that go. Make sure you have an agreement in place as to when you will receive your tape before you leave set. If you are working for contacts, make sure you make a good impression and exchange contact info before you leave set. If you are working for experience, then put down your iPhone between shots and pay attention!

Perhaps you are beyond the “working for something other than a paycheck” part of your career. Time to put that advice in the closet, right? Wrong. This is advice you will always need to think about. Always think beyond the paycheck as to what you are getting paid. What else is a job getting you? Range, opportunity, contacts? If the only reason you are doing something is for the money, maybe you should rethink the project. Doing things just for the money is how movies like The Smurfs get made.

Fantastic advice! Thanks Christopher!

Christopher Tillman is an actor, writer, and producer. Follow him on Twitter at @christophertill

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