The way the industry works often leaves actors feeling disposable, and understandably so. A natural consequence of the culture (and reality) of gig scarcity often leaves actors afraid to ask questions or self-advocate, for fear of being labeled difficult. For so long, actors have been trained to agree first and ask questions later, if ever. This can lead to situations that are uncomfortable, unsafe or even abusive. Here are some things actors are often afraid to question that we need to normalize being part of the initial dialogue.
Especially when actors are seeking out independent projects, details of compensation may not always be clear. Actors are often hesitant to inquire, especially in the beginning. But remember acting is still a job. You deserve to know how much is being offered for your services. It is not impolite or difficult to inquire when information is not made readily available. You should know how much you’re getting paid, in what way, on what timeline, and how any residuals may be handled. If you have an agent, start by asking them, as they may be able to negotiate on your behalf. If you are self-submitting, research to find the appropriate party, and reach out in a professional manner. It is not rude to ask about compensation, and no one worth working with will withhold that information.
Just like any other job, you need to know what you’re getting into, and that means specifics. Especially in smaller or independent projects this may not always be clear up front. If travel is required, are they paying for lodging? Gas stipend? Per diem? If there is nudity, what exactly will be shown? Will there be a closed set? Will there be an intimacy choreographer? These are questions you and your agent should not be afraid to ask and get in writing. You should be aware of every detail of your contract before signing on.
Credit, and how it will be given, is often a sticking point in the negotiation process. While many actors may give this entirely over to agents and managers to handle, it’s good to keep yourself educated and informed. Ask questions at each step in the process, familiarize yourself with negotiations, and make sure your professional needs are being met.
Requesting clarity does not make you difficult. Advocating for your professional and personal needs does not make you a bad actor. You may not always get what you want of course, but then it is up to you to determine whether or not the offer is worth your time and talent. Respectfully declining a project that does not protect you as an employee does not mean you will never work again. Take time to decide your professional boundaries, ask for communication where needed, and make sure the first person placing value on your career is you.