There’s a tricky caveat in buyouts. In each contract, you are guaranteed the session and wardrobe fee, but the buyout is upon the condition that they choose your spot to air. So, you do all the work regardless, and if they decide when they’re editing the spot that they don’t want to use what you did, you don’t get paid. Now, this is generally not a problem because if they’re going to the time and expense to shoot the thing, they’re likely going to use it. However, in the past year, I’ve now had 4 commercials that have not aired my spot. Yikes. First time for me.
Several of them weren’t too big of an issue because they weren’t paying that much at the outset, or were union, so they paid a bunch of other checks like holding fees, etc. But then there was the whopper. This job I was pretty excited to book, because, all in, I expected anywhere from $8-$9,000. This is a pretty chunk of change. Let’s take a trip to the job process itself.
Day one: the audition. There was a ton of copy for this audition, but I felt like I nailed it and showed my skills well.
Day two: this was the callback with the director. They were foreign (not abnormal) and liked what I did, having me do every last bit of copy, so I was in the room for a good 10 minutes.
Then I got a call from my agent a day or 2 later saying I booked it and letting me know about all the monies that would be made- $600 session fee per day (likely on set 2 days), behind the scenes footage $750, fitting $84, $2500 print, and $5000 buyout. Very nice payday.
When I arrived for my least favorite part, the fitting, I sat in a chair in a lobby for 5-6 hours waiting to be seen. There were a ton of people running around chaotically, fitting other actors, talking over production, etc. It struck me as pretty disorganized when the 2nd AD couldn’t find my role on the callsheet.
The day of the shoot I arrived early in the morning to yet another chaotic scene- people rushing around trying to figure out what happened next- shooting going on in one part of the location and pictures going on in another. It was a huge crew and a lot of extras and actors were on set. I was told they wouldn’t be ready for me for awhile, so I went through hair and makeup and wardrobe and got approvals and then worked on my scenes for acting class that night while I waited…and waited…and waited. 2 hours later they called me to location where they took about 10 photos of me that they had taken of another actor just prior. Then I got ushered down to wait some more. 30 minutes later I was rushed back to set and told to wait in a chair while they got ready for my shot on camera. They filmed another actor while I watched on the viewing screen. She was doing the lines and scene that I was cast to do. I assumed they wanted something else of me. So I waited. And waited. Until they said they wouldn’t be shooting me and took me back to holding. A half hour later I was rushed to another location where they took some more pictures of me with some other actors. Everyone was rushing around and didn’t seem to have things organized with this huge production.
I was ushered back to holding where I waited a bit longer only to have the 2nd AD tell me that he was sorry but they wouldn’t be getting to my shot. They were wrapping for lunch and then moving to another location, but they would be calling me to do a Voice Over session later in the week. So, I guess I was only needed for one day of shooting, and they never got to my shot, and decided not to get it? And now I am going to do voice over? Not at all what I was expecting. I had lunch and went straight to acting class.
2 months later, I’ve checked online and they aren’t using any of the still shots they took of me, but they are airing the footage they shot with the other actor saying the lines I thought I would be shooting. They never called me in for voice over, and to date, I have received:
And I think that’s all I’ll get. The session fee+wardrobe fitting- agent commission. So what was expected to be $9,000 is now a paltry percentage. Though I auditioned, got called back, booked the job and was on set for the shoot, it’s almost as if I didn’t book that job. Nothing I can do about that. Just one of the many intricacies of a very unstable business.