I know a lot of actors, and many of them have degrees in theatre or film. Many have advanced degrees in acting from respected programs. Even more have 5 to 10 to 15 to 20 years of experience. In other fields, these qualifications would guarantee a commensurate salary, but for some reason actors are often under compensated for their work. I’d like to hear from everyone on why they think this is the case. Right now, I’m not going to speculate on “why” the situation exists. I would like to focus on why this situation should change.
Many directors will tell you that casting accounts for somewhere between 75% and 90% of directing, but for the casting of an off-off Broadway play or an indie film, often times the casting (including actors salaries) is one of the smallest numbers in the budget. Obviously, I’m biased, as a casting director I think that casting professionals should be paid a suitable salary and it is much easier to land talented actors when payment is involved.
However, the issue goes deeper. The fact that so many projects pay little or no money, in my opinion, devalues the craft of acting. Actors who have spent their lives committed to making good work will work for peanuts in order to have a nice meaty role, and I think some people in the business exploit that. I know from producing off-off Broadway that slim budgets often make it difficult to compensate the actors accordingly, and in full disclosure, I have cast, directed and produced shows that have not paid accordingly, but it seems to me that we need to place a higher price on acting.
When it comes down to it, everything else: the intricate sets, glorious lighting, an engaging script, imaginative direction, and beautiful music cannot compensate for a mediocre cast. Paying the actors does not guarantee the perfect cast, but it opens doors to a higher quality of actor. Also, paying the actors allows them to focus more time on the work and less time scrambling to make ends meet. So now, I’d like to hear your comments on how we might be able to make this a reality and get actors and for that matter, all creative professionals, the compensation they deserve.