"Show me the money" – seems that’s the new battle cry in LA these days…
An entertainer/actor can have a ton of credits on hit shows and still not make the huge bucks anymore. When I say huge I mean seven figures a year or more.
I’ll short sheet this.
Today when an actor is hired to play a part in a TV series or a major film, he or she is usually offered scale – however much a week plus 10% more. Scale is the decided minimum wage by SAG (Screen Actors Guild). And usually that starts at $1,500 a week. So when you do a couple weeks on a film as a feature actor thats what you get.
If you don’t like it, NEXT!
Sure, as you get hotter this goes up or is negotiable. Until about 1992 co-stars would negotiate their paydays. For example, my movie pal Sonny Landham (48 Hrs., Predator) was offered a set fee for those films plus bonus for overtime and extra weeks of work. Those were big films and he was in the top six names on the credits.
Yet he only got $50,000 for 48 Hours and $75,000 for the Arnold movie.
Lucky for Sonny they both went way over in shooting time so he got much more. Yes, you get a "backend" but thats usually NET profit money that nobody but maybe Tom Cruise ever sees. You do get the TV and DVD money which believe it or not is "favored nations" (all stars,co stars and feature actors get the same amount).
This can be your real payday.
It’s paid every 90 days after the movie is sold to TV, cable or DVD. So for guys like Sonny this can be six-figures over time. But don’t buy that home in Malibu yet.
Writers and producers are in the same boat these days.
The paydays have gone way down.
First you have to sell something or be hired to write or produce. Even though your quote (meaning what YOU usually get, established from your last deal if you have one) is less today. I had a quote of producing at $150,000 per film plus extras due to my former pay on Sports Films.
But I was only able to get a better deal on KING OF STING, because five major production companies bid on it.
However, you only get option money and story/book money up front until the movie is shot or goes into production. In 1982/3 when I sold OUTLAWS, based on my even earlier life to CBS, I got $15,000 up front against $300,000 if it went, plus backend, acting fee, book bonus etc. It was a decent deal in 1983 for a first timer.
Each year the movie didn’t go they had to re option, pay me, or let it go. Thats how that movie deal ended up at five different studios in 25 years
. Oddly I almost made a living optioning the project yearly. And yes, it went up.
Today most scripts are paid ZERO up front. Thats right, all the money is paid on GO/production. Tough way to make a living.
Sure the big boys have it better.
Guys with several hit films. In the 90’s hit film writers got around $750,000 to $1 million a script. A real biggy, like my friend Shane Black (Lethal Weapon series/ Last Action Hero) got $3 million for a script.
Today those same writers for similar size movies get less than half that. There are exceptions but very few.