the day to day of a professional actor in the San Francisco Bay Area

mostly the day to day of a professional actor in the San Francisco Bay Area, but also the home of the Counting Actors Project

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Negotiation: what do you want to ask for?

The second in a series of bite-sized chunks. 

I think that many who are new to negotiating think that it's about money, and asking for more money.  There's a lot more to negotiating than that - when you're asking for a weekend off rehearsal to go to a friend's wedding, you're negotiating.  You can negotiate schedule, level of inclusion in a project's publicity, where your name goes in the program/credits, getting the production company to pay for your dry cleaning, and more.

What you ask for might relate to your non-negotiables,  It might relate to your goals as an actor - if you are interested in this project for the level of exposure, you might negotiate to have your name above the title in the postcard, or in a larger font, or that you're in the publicity photo used in the press kit.  It might relate to practical issues brought up by the production - they want you to use your own clothes for the costumes (common on indie films), but it's a horror film and you'll be getting spattered in fake blood - can they pay your cleaning bill?  You might negotiate the degree of nudity, or the hiring of a coach to help you w/a particular skill you'll need for the project.

In a non-musical where I played a character who sang, the company didn't have any musical director to help me with the songs.  I was taking voice lessons at the time, and got the show to pay for two hours of my voice coach's time.

Often though, the negotiation is about money.  Think creatively here - are you negotiating relating to transit costs?  Could the company buy you a transit pass for the month? A prepaid gas card?  I had a company write a check specifically to FasTrak (the bridge toll pass provider in the SF Bay Area) for the total amount of times I'd cross the Golden Gate bridge to do their show.  Is food as good as money to you?  Maybe the company has a connection to a restaurant you like or a grocery store you frequent - maybe they can give you a Trader Joe's or Starbuck's gift card instead of increasing the stipend.

Really important here is research and careful thought - know what they're offering, what they've offered in the past, and what other companies that are of similar size offer.  Figure out what is realistic, given the limitations of the company's time and resources.

When you've figured out what you want to ask for, know what's essential, and what's not - I think the pro-negotiators call this the 'walk-away' or something like that, as in "if I don't get at least $3million for this deal, I'll walk away"  So when all is said and done here, you'll have a list of the things you'd like to get from the project, and the things that you must get from the project in order to do it.

Then it's a matter of when to ask, and how, which are, you guessed it, other bite sized chunks...

But in the meantime, are there things I'm not thinking of?  What else do you want to ask for?


  1. I'm doing a small project for deferred pay, and I negotiated for time to leave if I get a paying audition.

    I think this is a very important two part article, because actors are so scared to lose the part that they'll settle for less than they're worth.

    Great post.

  2. thanks Lira! I've got a little bit more to come on this topic, but glad to know you've liked these posts.

  3. What are your research strategies for finding out what the company has offered in the past or finding out what they'll do now? I would imagine that it would be mostly asking people sources, but I'm wondering if there are written or web sources too?

  4. Hopefully, some basic info about what they're offering now is included in the audition notice. If the audition notice contains only the word 'stipend' I often ask what their stipend range will be when I schedule the audition appointment, and point out that I have seen people use the word stipend to mean everything from $50 to $2000 dollars. Other resources might include looking at the company's website, past show flyers (to see if they put actors names on flyers or not), googling the director or production company on an indie film, finding out what company the voiceover or industrial is for, and making guesses about the size of budget based on what I learn there. Looking for crew postings is helpful too - those might contain info about how much they're offering to people in those positions, and give me more info about what they might be able to spend on their actors. Also, using the union info as guidelines - mentioned in today's post - is pretty helpful too.