Actors Bill of Rights
by Gary Chason
1. You Are Entitled To Unquestioned Respect
Because actors must be in touch with their emotions they are often considered to be "childlike." As a result, they do not always receive the respect that they are due. You, the actor, are the one who has to get out in front of that camera and spill your guts out. It is physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually demanding. The camera sees everything - you have no safety net. Therefore you are due unquestioned respect from everyone involved in the production. You can compromise that respect, of course, by behaving like an idiot, but you should receive it nonetheless.
2. You Are Entitled To Compensation
You should receive some kind of compensation for your work, no matter what. Millions of dollars would be nice, of course, but often that is not possible. Compensation can be something as simple as credit. Credits begin to add up on a resume; they have tangible value. Or maybe you receive deferred compensation. Or a piece of the action. Or simply a video copy of the movie. Something! And remember: A release is not really legal unless some monetary exchange has taken place, even if it is only a penny. The principle endures: You deserve to be compensated for your work in some way, no matter how small.
3. You Are Entitled To Food
Even if it is a no-budget project you deserve to be fed. It doesn't have to be a fancy, catered meal delivered to the set hot and steamy. But you should not be expected to do The Work without being fed properly. And that includes liquids. There should always be an adequate supply of water to keep you hydrated.
6. You Are Entitled To Safety
You deserve a safe working environment at all times. You should never be asked to do something that would put you at undue physical risk.
7. You Do Not Have To Do Something You Did Not Agree To Do
If the Director springs something on you, like a nude scene, that you did not agree to originally, you do not have to do it. Anything potentially objectionable should have been clearly articulated at the very beginning. Otherwise, it is not your problem. Do not compromise yourself just because somebody else has been incompetent.
8. You Do Not Have To Discuss Contract Issues On The Set
Your agent, if you have one, should have taken care of all the details of your deal before you reported to the set. If you do not have an agent, all negotiations need to have achieved closure before you started work. Once you are on the set, getting in front of the camera and performing is not enough to be concerned about. The last thing you want to have to do is to bicker about money.
9. You Are Entitled To Specific Explanations Regarding Your Acting Assignment
The cliché of the actor asking, "What is my motivation?" and the Director responding, "Because I told you to!" is, or should be, a myth. It is a Director's professional responsibility to explain the character's motivation. Actors should never feel self-conscious about asking questions regarding the character. Directors under schedule pressure are often impatient with talent. But it is far more time-efficient to answer actors' questions when they come up. It can prevent many time-wasting problems later.
10. You Are Entitled To An Invitation To The Premiere
You - and a guest for that matter - should be invited to the Premiere screening of the movie. Some festivals, and most film markets, do not give the Producer many passes, so do not expect invitations in those circumstances. But there almost surely will be a screening of some sort for the people involved in making the movie. No movie - aside from animated ones, of course - can be made without actors. So cast members are due invitations as honored guests.
11. You Are Entitled To Honesty In Business Dealings With Producers
If the Producer agreed to pay you X amount, then he should damn well pay you that amount. No muss no fuss. Agents and Unions will go to battle for you if unscrupulous individuals attempt to cheat you out of your rightful compensation. Otherwise, you will have to fend for yourself. Just remember: They cannot legally profit from the movie without a valid release from you. Sure, you don't want to sue them, but a more important principle is at work in this situation. Distribution Companies require, as a part of their standard Delivery Schedule, releases from all the talent and all the locations. Distribution will not proceed, money will not change hands, until all the legal paperwork is in order.
12. You Are Entitled To Accurate And Timely Instructions
When, where, how to get there? What scenes are we doing? The Production Department is responsible for informing you as to when and where you are required to be. And which scenes you will be doing. If there are any changes to the script, it is their job to get those new pages into your hands ASAP.
13. You Are Entitled To An Interview Within One Hour Of Signing-In At An Audition
It is a SAG [Screen Actors Guild] rule that all Casting Directors are aware of. Keeping a SAG member waiting for more than an hour can lead to a fine being assessed against the Production Company, although I have never heard of such a thing actually happening. It is a good rule so it should extend to all actors, not just SAG members. After all, you have better things to do with your time than spend it waiting endlessly to get an interview. The Casting Director simply has to devise a realistic schedule and then make a point to keep to it. There are circumstances, of course, in which it is not possible. An Open Casting Call is one such instance because there is no way to knowing how many people are going to show up or when the big rush will be. Audition crashers, some of whom have been sent by agents, can also wreak havoc with the schedule.
14. You Are Entitled To Dignity During The Casting Process
You should never be made to feel awkward or embarrassed at an audition. You should not have to deal with putdowns, come-ons, insults or any other form of disrespect. Producers, Directors and Casting Directors would be out of business without Actors. Your fellow actors may try to mess with your head in the Waiting Room, but you'll have to deal with that on your own. If a Casting Director, or other representative of the Producer, treats you improperly in the professional environment - don't keep it a secret! Tell your agent, tell your friends, even report it to the local Film Commissioner. If the treatment is abusive, or might constitute sexual harassment, do not hesitate to seek legal counsel and go after the perpetrator.
Gary Chason, who moved to Austin from Houston, Texas in the spring of 2002, is a Director, Casting Director, Acting coach, Screenwriter and Author with a lot of experience as a Casting Director for major Hollywood movies out in LA. During the seventies and eighties he split time between casting major motion pictures (THE LAST PICTURE SHOW, PAPER MOON, PRETTY BABY, THE GETAWAY, PARIS, TEXAS, etc.) and directing experimental theater in Houston. The first Casting Director in the State of Texas, he was one of the earliest innovators in the use of videotape to teach acting techniques. He is also a filmmaker. His feature-length film CHARLIE'S EAR (35mm, SAG) won numerous festival awards (including Best Director, Best Actor and Best Picture in Madrid) and played at the Dobie Theater in '95. He has two shorts, GOD THINKS YOU'RE A LOSER (35mm) and MORE THAN TWO DOLLARS (24 frame HD), in post-production as of this writing and his first book, NOTES ON ACTING FOR THE CAMERA, will be published later this year.