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Laurieby Casting Director, Laurie Records

…. spend their commercial dollars before they see the check.

I may have been brief, but I’ve certainly warned actors about spending their commercial paycheck before it actually arrives. I find it interesting the consistency in which I’m asked about commercial paychecks from actors, managers, and even a theatrical agent here and there. Questions that, more often than not, boil down to the answer: $592.20.

Commercial actors should never spend their commercial money before they have the check in their hands.

Here is an email I received from a manager on a past SAG commercial job:

Hi Laurie
Have a question and maybe you can help me (and Actor X) out.
RE: Commercial X spot you cast.

So far Actor X has not been paid the buyout rate (*meaning anything other than his session fee for the shoot) for this spot since according to Commercial Producer X, Commercial X has not been approved to air yet.

Now I know that things like this happen but for it take this long (*4 months or so) to decide on the spot and when to run it is kind of odd.
Was it guaranteed that he would receive the buyout pay regardless of whether the spot runs or does it have to run for him to be paid?

I mean can they actually decide not to run it and he never gets paid at all?

Thanks for any advice you can give. Manager X

Even industry professionals don’t always grasp how an actor gets paid for a commercial.

The most honest answer to the amount an actor can *expect* to make from the SAG commercial (no matter what the usage may be) they just booked is $592.20. If that’s your question, there’s your answer. Did you think it was more? Keep reading.

What does it mean when an actor books a job? The answer is… not much. Hope for a lot, expect little. What can you do? What can you bank on?

Feel good. An actor can expect to and relish in feeling good about being chosen from a whole heck of a lot of other actors for the role.

How much you’ll make: A session fee of $592.20 (which changes every time the contract is updated, but for now, this is it) for your day on set. You’ll also be paid for OT, if there is any, and any bumps like stunt work, etc.

Things to hope for:
You are not cut from the spot and that you are recognizable. Why? Because then, you *may* make more money than from the shoot date alone.

What else needs to happen to make any more cash?
The spot needs to air. It is possible to make additional money before the spot airs if the spot is carrying a conflict, through holding fees. It’s possible to be paid holding fees for quite some time before the spot airs, if ever.

You’ll want to hope the commercial has a good run…
All usage is intended and even if it does air, it may be with lesser usage than the original plan. You stand to make some decent cash if the media buy ends up including a Class A run (National Network) but a cable only run would bring in less.

Remember, there are no “guarantees”. (Well, there is a term having to do with overscale talent, but we won’t get into that) There is no guarantee that an actor won’t be downgraded. Usage is not guaranteed, the spot airing not guaranteed, the length of time is not guaranteed.

Because knowledge is power, know the rate: SAG National Network pay is much different than a promo, PSA, non air… or internet only spot. Download a 2009 SAG Commercial Rates Sheet and take a look.

The truth is commercial AGENTS are the experts about the money involved in commercial contracts. Who do you think I ask when I have a question? Next time you are attending a seminar with an agent as the guest speaker, consider bringing your commercial money questions to them.

In the end, the message is: Have all the hope in the world for a good payday on the commercial you just booked… but don’t spend the check until you have it in your hot little hand.

Laurie Records, Casting Director