How Do Actors Get Paid?

You’re an actor. You’ve worked hard to hone your craft, build a resume of quality work, and develop a network of industry professionals. But you’re unsure of exactly how the “getting paid” thing works. In this article, we’ll demystify the process of getting paid as an actor. We’ll answer some of the most common questions about actor pay, including how pay is determined and what actors can expect to make at different stages in their careers. Let’s learn about ‘How Do Actors Get Paid?’.

How Do Actors Get Paid?

How Do Actors Get Paid?

The amount an actor gets paid is determined by several factors. First, the actor’s union determines how much they’re worth. There are various unions for various kinds of actors, and each has its policies and fees. For television and movie roles, SAG-AFTRA is the union that sets the rates. Second, the size and budget of the production company also affect how much an actor gets paid. The amount of money a company must invest in hiring talent increases with its size. And smaller productions may not be able to afford top-tier talent. Finally, an actor’s experience and notoriety also come into play. Veteran actors often make more money than those who are starting their careers.

The Different Types of Payments for Actors

Paying a flat fee is the most typical method. This is a set amount of money that you’re given for your work, regardless of how long the project takes or how well it does. A flat fee is usually given for a one-time performance, such as in a movie or on stage.

Another type of payment is a day rate. This is paid to actors for each day they work on a project. Depending on the timeframe for production, an actor may work fewer or more days.

The third type of payment is a percentage of the profits. This is usually given to actors who have a significant role in the project, such as the lead actor or actress. They receive a percentage of the profits made by the project, which can be either from ticket sales or DVD sales, for example.

Acting Union Contracts and Salaries

There are two main ways that an actor can get paid for their work: through a talent agent or a union contract. Talent agents usually take a 10-15% commission on an actor’s earnings, and they usually get paid through a monthly retainer or a percentage of the earnings from the project.

Union contracts, on the other hand, are negotiated by a union such as SAG-AFTRA. The agreements cover things like pay, working conditions, and health and retirement benefits. The rates for using union members are determined by contract negotiations between the union and the studios.

There are three types of wage rates in SAG-AFTRA contracts: basic, scale, and overload. Basic pay rates apply to positions that don’t call for any specialized knowledge or abilities. Scale wage rates are for jobs that require some level of skill or training, such as commercials or network TV shows. The term “overload wage rates” refers to positions that call for an actor to work more than eight hours per day or forty hours per week.

Types of Residuals for Actors

  • Merchandise: When an actor’s likeness is used on products like t-shirts, action figures, or coffee mugs, they receive a percentage of the wholesale price.
  • Home video: When a movie or TV show is released on DVD or Blu-ray, actors receive a percentage of the sales.
  • Foreign: When a film or TV show airs in another country, actors receive a percentage of the licensing fee.
  • Television: When a film or TV show airs on television, actors receive a per-episode fee.

Factors That Influence an Actor’s Salary

For starters, the size of the production and the budget for the project will have a big impact on how much an actor is paid.

If we’re talking about a big Hollywood blockbuster, for example, the actors in those movies are going to be paid a lot more than the actors in an indie film. That’s just the way it is.

Another factor that comes into play is an actor’s experience and celebrity status. A-list actors who have been in the business for a long time are going to be paid more than newcomers or lesser-known actors.

And finally, an actor’s salary can also be influenced by their bargaining power and negotiating skills. If an actor is good at negotiating, they might be able to get more money out of the production company than another actor who doesn’t have as much bargaining power.

The Best Actor Income Sources

  1. The most obvious way that actors can earn money is through acting roles in films, TV shows, and stage productions.
  2. Endorsements: A lot of actors are compensated for their endorsements. This is when they endorse products or services in commercials or other forms of advertising.
  3. Sponsorships: Another way that actors can make money is through sponsorships. This is when companies pay them to promote their products or services.
  4. Merchandise sales: Many actors also make money by selling merchandise associated with their projects. For example, they might sell t-shirts, DVDs, or other items with their name or image on them.

Negotiating Pay as an Actor

Learning how to bargain for your pay as an actor is one of the most crucial things you can do. After all, acting is a business, and like any business, you need to be able to advocate for yourself and your worth.

When discussing actor compensation, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, know your value. What are your unique skills and experience that make you worth X amount of money? Second, be confident in your ability to assert your desires. Asking will result in receiving. And third, be prepared to walk away from the negotiation if you don’t get what you want.

How Actors Make Money from Endorsements?

The first is by working with a specific product or service and featuring it in their social media posts.

This is often done in exchange for a one-time payment, but some actors may also receive a commission for every sale that they generate. Endorsements can also come in the form of sponsored posts, where an actor is paid to post about a brand on their social media channels.

Actors can also make money from endorsements by appearing in commercials or other forms of advertising. This is typically done on a per-project basis, but some actors may receive residual payments if the ad airs multiple times.

And finally, some actors may be able to negotiate equity deals with brands. This implies that in return for their endorsement, they would receive a small stake in the business. 

Payment for Video Game Roles

Well, believe it or not, video game roles can be extremely lucrative. For example, Nolan North, the voice of Nathan Drake in the “Uncharted” series, brings in around $890 per hour. That may not sound like a lot, but when you consider that he’s worked on some of the most popular games ever made, it starts to add up.

Additionally, other actors are making a lot of money as well. In 2012, the average video game voice actor made around $39 an hour. Not bad for what amounts to a single day’s work.


In the end, the amount an actor gets paid for a project depends on a variety of factors, including the actor’s experience, the size and notoriety of the project, and the negotiating skills of the actor and their team. So don’t feel bad if you’re just starting and don’t make as much as more established actors- keep working at it and your payment will go up over time.

How Do Actors Get Paid?

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