What about unequal pay? – part one.
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I know we all read about The Crownlast year – how Claire Foy made less than Matt Smith – and I imagine we all have OPINIONS on it. I bet your opinion is probably HOW COULD THEY.
Let’s slow our roll and go a little deeper.
I know The Crownepisode actually wound up with an apology and a promise to give Foy backpay to close the gap (ALTHOUGH. https://www.glamour.com/story/claire-foy-not-given-back-pay-the-crown) but Hollywood pay scales are actually kind of … flibbertygibbity. It’s not just “she is on set for 1000 hours this season, she gets 1000 * 100$/hr!” and there is no set amount everyone always receives.
Let’s start at the bottom: SAG Scales.
SAG sets its rate sheet every handful of years, when they run contract negotiations, and it’s always better than minimum wage. Commercial and theatrical are different rates (as of right now, commercial pays something like 650/day and theatrical is 980 for a single day of shooting; weekly performers get more). That scale is what it is – men and women are making the same amount. If your agent isn’t negotiating above scale for you, you probably aren’t hitting giant pay discrepancies.
I’ve been on sets where I have ALL the dialogue; my male counterpart has ZERO LINES but is reacting to stuff on camera, and he’s still making the same rate as I am. Is that fair? No. And that’s where your agent MIGHT MAYBE want to negotiate above scale for you, though there’s not always much wiggle room for it.
I have also RUN sets where everyone’s making 100/day (new media rates from a bunch of years ago) and someone on set for 12 hours makes the same amount of money as someone who pops in for 2. Is that fair? No. But you know what I do not feel like fucking around with in the interest of “fair”? 100 dollars a damn day.
So – actor money isn’t based on an hourly rate, nor is it based on the actual amount of time you’re working. If they call you for the day, you’re paid for the day, no matter what your call time is — which does make sense; you’re asking an actor to be available, so you have to pay for that time.
But when you get to bigger roles and bigger paychecks, that scale goes out the window — you may way more per episode, your reps negotiate (remember the 2.5 million or whatever it was the Friends made? PER EPISODE?), and you agree to that pay rate for X number of seasons. It’s all contracted, it’s all negotiable. And salary negotiations are typically not shared, which is where we get into trouble.
Moreover, a huge part of actor pay is based on something that has absolutely nothing to do with how much you’re working:
(come back next week for the EXCITING CONCLUSION and explanation of wtf a “Name” actor is)