How do movie stars get paid?


I hear all the time that an actor got paid “x” amount per episode/role. Do they get paid that amount worked out bi-weekly for the course of shooting? Or is it all up front? And how about back-end deals?

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It depends on the terms of their contract. Like most industries, actors on regular shows negotiate their salaries, and are paid like any other employee. Movie actors may receive an advance (to help them prepare for the role) followed by a lump sum, or even a percentage of gross earnings.

In TV, pay is generally based on a per-episode pay scale, as in $30,000 per episode. You get paid weekly during production. There are union rules about how this has to go down.

Movie actors often have more complicated deals, but will get paid a lump sum up front and then be paid the remainder at certain times (all negotiated). I.e. your deal will say you get $1M total… to be paid out in portions at some milestones during the filmmaking process.

Understand that these deals are heavily negotiated between highly sophisticated parties, so there is lots of complicated stuff in there to account for all sorts of events, as well as very importantly, complying with Union (SAG-AFTRA) rules, which lay out many things that must be done.

Once production is over, you can get residuals paid out when the movie/tv show airs.

Lastly, actors when they are doing promotional stuff or traveling for shoots and things will get additional per diem to do this, along with expenses like plane tickets (first class if you can get it!), transport, cars, lodging, and such paid for.

As for backend. Generally nearly all actors get nothing, even if they have it in their deal. Other people may, but usually not actors. The top top movie actors (Tom Hanks) may get a percent of gross. That means whatever the movie makes they get some percent of it, straight up. Like say 0.5%, thats before expenses or anything, straight off the top. This is the best deal ever, which is why only people like Tom Hanks get it. Others will get what is called “net proceeds” which is sorta like, you get a portion of profits, but how we calculate profits is super complicated and well, unless the movie is a massive, massive, hilariously massive success, you won’t get any of the “profits”. Producers and such may gross or better backend deals more often, but less so regular actors– but remember, many big actors often are producers on their movies too!

As these deals are heavily negotiated, there are exceptions to everything. These are the general cases