#FemaleFilmmakerFriday – The Unequal Pay Debate, part two

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We left off with the question: wtf is a name actor.

A name actor is someone who is recognizable. I am not a name actor. I have a name! My name is Kate! But I am not A NAME. Matt Smith is a name. You know him, which is why his representation was able to negotiate a higher rate of pay for him than Foy’s reps were able to negotiate for her. It’s A LITTLE bit comparable to experience in the workplace, but exacerbated. He had recognizability she did not. And this happens a lot – and it skews male because men have more opportunities than women (bigger roles, more visibility, etc), so it’s just a cycle that goes on and on.

I don’t begrudge Smith’s reps (or Smith) for wheeling and dealing. I don’t begrudge anyone for doing his or her job – and it is Smith’s agent’s job to get him the highest rate of pay they can. I also don’t really begrudge producers for not trying to offer Foy more money; their job is to keep overhead low, and that means keeping pay to a dull roar. 

That said, obviously it’s not fair – it’s not fair from the lowest rung straight on up. I think the most proactive way to handle this, however, is not to ask production to go against everything it represents. We need the actors’ union to take a stand and protect its underrepresented members to ensure that pay is commiserate with job AND experience (or, you know, my favorite term: NAME). SAG should be stepping in to assist those contract negotiations and actors need to be more vocal about their pay. If Foy and Smith had discussed it, I doubt we would be.

#FemaleFilmmakerFriday – The Unequal Pay Debate, part one.

What about unequal pay? – part one.

Thank you so much to my supporters at patreon.com/katehackettwho help make videos like these possible. If you’d like to join me on patreon, I’d love to have you: you get BTS, weekly posts about the industry, and way more. 

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. 

KIND OF.

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:

Your “Name”.

(come back next week for the EXCITING CONCLUSION and explanation of wtf a “Name” actor is)

#FemaleFilmmakerFriday – It’s Not Good Yet.

I grapple with how much to share on here – how much of the process to reveal, how much to show the sausage being made. My general inclination is to only show polished performances & work, which I adhere to completely when other people are involved. But what about things I’m writing or doing myself? Do I share works in progresses? Or only completed, finished things? To that end, do I share scripts? or only shot, edited, and corrected work — do I adhere to the medium in which I see something, or do I share whatever straws I have?

I think it’s a really interesting struggle for artists — when is art done? (never) and when do I share it? Moreover, as an actor, we have a really unique artistic process; you see the entire thing. You see us working. A painter doesn’t work that way – you see the painting, not the painter. With an actor, you see the good, bad, and ugly. 

So I’m opening this #FemaleFilmmakerFriday post up to you guys — I want to know how much art YOU reveal to people. Do you share your works as they go or are you a purist? Do you share only what you deem “worthy”? …but then, how do you decide what (or when) that is?

Thank you so much to my supporters at patreon.com/katehackettwho help make posts like these possible. If you’d like to join me on Patreon, I’d love to have you: you get BTS, weekly posts about the industry, and way more. If you have questions you want to see answered, please consider tossing in a few bucks to the Patreon.

— Kate

#FemaleFilmmakerFriday – What roles are MANDATORY on set?

What are film roles you’ll never leave out on your future sets? Perhaps because you’ve had to work without them before, etc. (things like HMU, production design, AD, line producer, etc etc. Anything beyond director/producer/DP basically) – Bri 

Thanks, Bri!! 

Hey! First, big ol thanks to my Patrons over at patreon.com/katehackett for supporting me every month and making sure I can put videos out — like this one! Patreon is an amazing platform that gives me stability as an artist to keep fighting for a little room in the industry – if you want to keep in touch with me, learn about the biz, or just show support for a writer, producer, actor, creator in Los Angeles, visit patreon.com/katehackett. Patrons also receive weekly #FemaleFilmmakerFriday content, so if you don’t want to miss anything, make sure you head on over!

If you’re a wonderful Patreon FOLLOWER, I’d love to be able to bring you into the fold — join today & be part of the community! This post DOES contain affiliate links and I receive a small percentage of any purchases made through them.

And, of course, thanks so much to viewers like you for joining me for this month’s Female Filmmaker Friday vlog, where once a month I chat with you publicly about some aspect of the business — and being a woman therein.

This month I have a question from one of my Patrons. Bri asks “What are film roles you’ll never leave out on your future sets? Perhaps because you’ve had to work without them before?”

So— beyond the bare minimum, which is really just actor, director, who do we have? DP. Sound. Those are the next most important roles. You must have good sound. Period. DPs are great, a good camera does wonders, though sometimes you can get a director to double. When I hire for these roles in particular, I do my best to hire women; I’ve worked with some WONDERFUL female DPs who really have a great eye. These jobs also skew typically male, so it’s important to be conscious of your hire.

After that, as an actress, I always want Hair & Makeup. Some actors are fine without it; I’m notoriously bad at doing my own hair and makeup and if I have to commit my face to film, I would love for someone who knows what he or she is doing to tackle this.

At this point, everything else becomes “wishlist”. If you’re shooting at a teeny micro budget level, you can make this work with your skeleton crew. However. It’s important to know your weaknesses and farm that work out. Production design is probably the next person I would really want on set; it’s possible to get away with doing PD yourself, especially comedy, but it’s always a billion times better when you hire someone.

When I’m working barebones, I do all the line producing (which is budget stuff), we AD ourselves (keep ourselves on schedule), we gaff ourselves (lighting), we clothe ourselves, so these teammates are not REQUIRED for uber low budget productions I run, but they’re really fucking helpful. It also really depends on the scope of the project; a short comedy in your apartment doesn’t need a best boy. A scifi short action film requires at least three people on production design’s team. 

To conclude: actor. director. sound. DP. Hair & Makeup. You can skate by with those — but remember that that means YOU are doing all of the other jobs that you had to omit!

PATRON ONLY EXCLUSIVE #FemaleFilmmakerFriday – Stay in your lane!

As an artist, I really, really hate the “stay in your own lane” mantra that’s been floating around. I didn’t become an actor (or a writer) to exclusively perform in my wheelhouse. The argument for it is that there are fewer opportunities for <insert minority here> and I understand that. I respect that we want […]
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#FemaleFilmmakerFriday – Being TOUGH.

Thank you so much to my supporters at patreon.com/katehackettwho help make posts like these possible. If you’d like to join me on Patreon, I’d love to have you: you get BTS, posts about the industry, and way more. If you have questions you want to see answered, please consider tossing in a few bucks to the Patreon. R

You have a very straightforward sort of personality. Did you develop a tough love attitude because of the way the industry treats women?

Yes and no. 

If anything, the industry expects women to be MORE patient, so I’m sure that my “tell it like it is”ness is a reaction to that. There’s no meanness involved, I’m not red-faced angry at someone for asking questions, but I see no reason to sugarcoat things.  The film world is a high stress world; there’s no time for that! The lessons I gleaned are to say what you need, ask for what you require, and be clear — works better for a man, admittedly, but if ENOUGH women do it… 

When I answer questions on forums like https://community.stareable.com, I’m answer as though I am speaking with professionals who are requesting assistance — they don’t need their hands held. Why waste everyone’s time? That said, I hope I do so with KINDNESS, because my goal isn’t to make anyone feel bad.

Of course…I think I’ve always been pretty aggressive. I remember at age 8, I turned to a girl in a Saturday rehearsal for a play and blankly told her, “We are not here for friendships. We’re here to …REHEARSE.” because she wanted to talk to me. So to some extent, that’s always been there. If anything, at this point, I think I’ve tamped it DOWN and THAT is entirely because of how the WORLD, not just the industry, treats women.

I can’t tell you quite what personality style works best for you — or for your set because different groups of people will need different things. I do know that I’m not afraid of being direct, but I am also (hopefully) encouraging. Every set is a new learning opportunity for EVERYONE, even the very best of us, and embracing that is important! 

#FemaleFilmmakerFriday – What’s Fi-Core?

Rounding out my union series… Let’s talk fi-core. Financial Core allows employees to work in a union environment without becoming full members. It is a federal law and SAG has to play ball with it. Actors go Fi-Core for a lot of reasons, but the bottom line becomes: they can legally work non-union jobs. They do not have access to voting rights in SAG and they do not get screeners, but everything else still stands. According to SAG, you become a “fee paying non member” but you can still work union jobs. It’s weird. 

SAG obviously has a vested interest in making sure union actors do NOT go Fi-Core and there is a shitload of misinformation out there. So with as little overture as possible, here’s the deal:

Unions depend on their members to strengthen their bargaining position. If EVERYONE refuses to do their homework, can the teacher get mad? – that kind of thought process. If EVERYONE is union, producers HAVE to pay. But obviously not everyone is union, there’s a gatekeeping process, so you get your nonunion actors who then undermine SAG actors by saying: sure, we’ll work for less!

Ideal world, the nonunion actors are green; they’re not union simply because they have not earned their spot yet. Once they can join, they will join, thus strengthening the union’s position further.

But we live in the real world and that’s not how it works. A lot of actors choose to stay nonunion for a long, long time because there are jobs there — and they aren’t green actors anymore. So the union loses some strength. Other actors go fi-core to get more jobs (or whatever). And the union loses more strength. And eventually, the bargaining chip becomes: oh, you want these specific actors? the names, the big stars? okay, deal with the unionand it erodes the union’s middle class.

So, sure, you can go fi-core. It’s a personal choice you CAN make, legally, because the law says you can do it. You can also come back from it (you pay a reentry fee) if you decide you want to be SAG again. Again, that’s the law: they are legally required to permit your reentry. You lose a few “membership” rights, but not the big important stuff. You still get collective bargaining, you still get healthcare if you qualify. 

Sounds kinda sweet, right?

HOWEVER.

If you choose to go fi-core, it does hurt the union and all the actors in it. That’s really the biggest, most tangible drawback. 

So you have to ask yourself: do my needs supersede the needs of the collective? 

Big question.

#FemaleFilmmakerFriday – Union vs Non Union: why?

This is a big question for indie productions — not just howto go union (which I covered here) but also should wego union.

My answer is yes. Always. For a few reasons:

  • Your talent is stronger
  • You’re protecting your cast by agreeing to adhere to union rules
  • Your production is professional

For short project agreements (new media, short films under a threshold, etc.), you don’t pay SAG anything – you just fill out some (granted, annoying) paperwork and agree to give your actors meals every six hours and other union mandates that really aren’t that hard. You aren’t required to pay your talent either; you can defer their payment — which is a whole other discussion that I will sum up right now: you will get BETTER talent if you are paying them though; please pay your actors. They are oftentimes the first to be asked to work for free and 100% of the time they are making far less than crew members if/when they ARE paid. Pay. Them. 

So for short projects, there’s no reason NOT to; SAG is a headache, we’ve covered that, but a headache that grants you the right to use union talent without asking them to break Global Rule One (union actors CANNOT work on ANY non union project) is insanely important. You can even use nonunion talent on these projects ALONGSIDE your union cast. There is absolutely no drawback. Be professional, cast professionals.

On projects with a bigger budget, I urge you you budget for SAG actors; that means paying their scaled wage, SAG deposits, etc. You have the money. You’re going to spend it. Spend SOME of it on your talent. Yeah, I’m sure those lenses are great, but you know what makes or breaks a lot of movies? Bad acting.

And that’s not to say there aren’t talented non union actors. Of course there are. In general, however, non union actors are typically greener. They’re less experienced and less practiced; your union actor has been on sets before (you have to be, that’s how you get in!) and is ready to work. A non union actor is most likely just starting out; everyone eventually joins SAG-AFTRA, so if you’re non union, you probably just haven’t had the opportunity yet. 

Bottom line though: there’s no reason not to take your short projects union. None at all. 

Thank you so much to my supporters at patreon.com/katehackettwho help make posts like these possible. If you’d like to join me on Patreon, I’d love to have you: you get BTS, weekly posts about the industry, and way more. If you have questions you want to see answered, please consider tossing in a few bucks to the Patreon.

#FemaleFilmmakerFriday Navigating Your Indie Project Through SAG-AFTRA

How do you get through SAG red tape? – Ben Roethig

Thank you so much to my supporters at patreon.com/katehackettwho help make posts like these possible. If you’d like to join me on Patreon, I’d love to have you: you get BTS, weekly posts about the industry, and way more. If you have questions you want to see answered, please consider tossing in a few bucks to the Patreon.

I’m going to answer this both as a tutorial on how to get your film / new media project to be a SAG film and I’m going to answer how to prong SAG into actually finishing your paperwork because they’re two different things.

First of all. GO UNION. Your talent is better, you’re supporting living wages for actors, you’re helping pay into a Pension & Health plan for those actors, you’re promising to adhere to basic safety & wellbeing rights, and most importantly: we do not work without union projects. So support talent and support us by just filing the damn paperwork. Grit your teeth while you do it, SAG’s a whole basket of stupid, but for the small price of your everlasting annoyance, you can have some of the best actors you’ve ever worked with.

(Seriously though: go union. stay union. We can talk all day long about the problems with SAG, of which there are many, but they are what they are so: go union.)

So! Once you’ve decided to make your talent union, that does not mean your crew needs to be union. Crew unions are a whole other beast that operate completely differently and they don’t necessarily have our “Global Rule One”, which states that SAG actors cannot take non-union jobs, so I’m not going to address them. This is just SAG. And honestly, once you SAG successfully everyone else is a piece of damn cake.

The first step in this exciting process is to visit https://www.sagaftra.org/production-center. Do this early. It takes SAG for fucking EVER, so do this at least a month or more before you shoot. SERIOUSLY. DO IT EARLY. DO IT YESTERDYA.

Certain productions can sign online — how easy! — including New Media, which is generally what I’ve used. You can always convert your contract later if you discover that, for example, after filing New Media, you want to play in festivals. SAG now offers a “short project” agreement, which is basically what you want to nab if you’re not sure where your project might live. It is replacing New Media and Short Film agreements 

Generally speaking, you want to file the following ways (as of 2018):

Short Project – something that lives online or a short film. max budget 50k, max run time 40 min. RATES: negotiable (must be min. wage to fulfill state law), can defer, no consent required for distribution, 125/day & 18.5% Pension & Handling due before “subsequent use”. That just means that after you distribute your short project once (say, online), you have to fulfill your base rate of pay before airing it elsewhere (ex: a film festival). If you’re here, this is probably where you will want to file. 

Student Film – accredited university project, less than 35k, run time less than 35min. RATE: 125/day, can defer (up to 12 hrs/day), Pension & Handling (P&H) 18.5% of gross salary. Stunt coord. cannot be deferred.

Ultra Low – Budget under 250k. RATE: 125/day, 1.5x after 8, 2x after 12. 18.5% P&H, clips available to performers at performer cost

Modified Low – Budget under 700k. RATE: 335/day, 1166/week; 1.5 after 8, 2x after 12 for day performers, 1.5x after 10 and 44hrs in a 5 day work week, 1.5x after 48 for weekly performers. 18.5% gross pay P&H, clips.

Low / Theatrical – Budget over 2.5 mil or shooting outside USA. RATE: 630/day, 2190/week. Save overtime as modified low. 18.5% P&H. Clips.

There are also TV contracts that come into play if you have a project living on television, but that’s generally not something an indie producer can do. There are also sound recording contracts, music videos, interactive (video games), educational, and commercials. All these different contracts really have to do with the rate of pay for your actors and their residual schedules. It’s usually pretty clear if you’re shooting a commercial vs a narrative short, but just so you’re clear: branded videos DO COUNT. The second you say “visit XYZ”, that’s an ad. Be careful.

Let’s also talk insurance: SAG will ask for worker’s comp & proof of insurance because those are state law requirements; you’re technically an employer. Also… you don’t want to be sued for an accident on set! Get a quote & send it to them. 

SO! You find your contract (or if you aren’t sure, just do your best and ask your rep, they will help guide you to the right department) and use the SAG website above to find the correct starting place. You’ll initially complete a preliminary sheet for the contract and email it to signyourpicture@sagaftra.org. After that, SAG will send you MORE paperwork to fill out and you’re in God’s hands now. It’s basically just a mountain of paperwork, none of it is hard, you just have to stay very organized. Once you complete their second packet, you

Wait.

wait.

W  a  I t.

And eventually, probably 10 minutes before your shoot, you might hear back. DO NOT WAIT FOR THIS. EMAIL. CALL. Their phone number is all over the paperwork you signed. You HAVE to (politely) stay on top of them. SAG is comedically understaffed and this is your project — GET IT DONE. Here is a fun form letter I send every single project about a week after I send in the paperwork:

Hi! My name is Kate Hackett and I’m the producer on NAME (Project # XYZ if you have it). I haven’t heard back from SAG and we go into production soon; I’d like to make sure we are all squared away — can I confirm that you have our paperwork?

Odds are, no one will answer. So pick up the phone & give them a call. Say the same thing. It will take at least 3 phone calls.

Why is this like this? I could not tell you. Stick with it. 

Once they approve you, you’re all set! Just don’t forget the paperwork (DON’T WORRY THERE IS MORE, THERE IS ALWAYS MORE) on set: you’ll need to sign your cast in & out, give them time sheets, and get usage rights. All normal, easy stuff, honestly, you just have to remember to do it. 

After wrap, email SAG again with that final paperwork and you’re done, the nightmare is over. 

The only logical conclusion is that SAG hates trees and wants you to murder them one signature at a time, but once you’re done, you’re done, and you’ve worked with stellar actors. Congrats!

#FemaleFilmmakerFriday – Moving to Los Angeles?

If a person isn’t in LA but wants to get into the film industry, how necessary is LA?— Meg

Thank you so much to my supporters at patreon.com/katehackettwho help make videos like these possible. If you’d like to join me on patreon, I’d love to have you: you get BTS, weekly posts about the industry, and way more. 

I think being in a hub is important, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be Los Angeles anymore. There are lots of other cities scattered all over the place with a film industry — Atlanta, New York, Vancouver, Northern Ireland… If there’s a television show filming in the state / city, there is enough of a film industry to dip a toe in. You may eventually move to a major city (including Los Angeles) when the jobs dry up, but you can certainly carve out a good little life for yourself without moving to L.A.

The jobs that kind of require an eventual move to LA, in my opinion, are the more creative jobs. Directing, writing, acting – they hire out of LA and fly you wherever, if they have to. Yes, some acting jobs do cast out of the shooting city, but you’re restricting yourself to costar roles for the most part. I think they’re great to get a start in, but eventually you want to level up and that does mean moving. 

You can also start wherever you are, especially if you’re in a college town and especially if that college town has universities with film/tv departments. Take a class, get involved, hook in with people making stuff; you can create your own or you can work on their sets for a little experience.