Tuesday, July 1, 2008
As The Daytime Industry Becomes less Stable, Actors need To Pinch Their Pennies Or Pay The Piper
Afew months ago, a Digest editor ran into a popular East Coast actor who'd been fired and had fallen on hard times. While counting spare change to buy potatoes, he revealed that he'd just interviewed at Kinko's and confided, "It's surreal to be completely broke and yet, when you walk down the street, people ask for your autograph."
When the union-negotiated contract minimum is $869 per day and some actors make upwards of $400,000 a year (with a precious few still in the million-plus range), it's hard to imagine how one could hit rock bottom. But as GUIDING LIGHT's Crystal Chappell (Olivia) explains, "Times have changed and ratings have declined dramatically. It's a business. You get budgets cut and you see people getting fired. It certainly shakes the ground you're standing on."
Insiders explain that contracts and guarantees (the number of days per week that an actor is guaranteed to be paid for) aren't what they used to be. "The old school of thought was, 'Wow, a four-year deal is a jail sentence,' but say to [clients], 'Let's hope it lasts a year,' because now that's a rarity, for someone to fulfill a contract for four years if they're an unknown," says talent manager Michael Bruno, whose clients include Mary Beth Evans (Kayla, DAYS OF OUR LIVES) and Lesli Kay (Felicia, BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL), as well as greener talent like Dylan Bruce (Chris, AS THE WORLD TURNS) and BethAnn Bon ner (Talia, ONE LIFE TO LIVE). "For the most part, anybody who is a new person -- meaning an unknown, not an ex-soap star — is always on thin ice. If they're a name going to another show, the odds are much better. But the salaries are a lot lower than they used to be. The whole idea is, 'We like you, but we have five other stars that we like as well that are willing to do it for X' — and X is lower than it was."
Budget trimming has also affected the amount of overtime an actor is allowed. "We used to make our money on overages, which are the days that you work beyond your guarantee," explains Chappell. "Now, they're trying to come up with, a way to tell story using people at their guarantee. The overages are rare." The most a person is guaranteed is three days per week (which an actor is paid for regardless of whether he or she works), but one and a half has become the standard. Only a handful of people in daytime have three-day guarantees, says Bruno, but that's where a lot of vets end up taking pay cuts. Chappell says she knows of some who still make roughly $800,000 a year. "Quite frankly, you couldn't live off six instead o eight?" she muses. "I don't make that, by way [laughs]. Salaries can get really infla There was a time when daytime was mall, raking in a lot of money and could afford-- pay actors top dollar and rightfully so; th deserved it. But now, the money just is there. They have to scale it back. Other the company that owns the show says, 'W we're not making any money, so we're go say good-bye and you're canceled.' A think a lot of actors understand?'
TV Guide soap columnist Michael gan doesn't quite see it that way, whe tors are starting out at the minimum and working only one or two days a week (although according to AKIRA, some new-
comers make $1,200 to $1,600). "Take out. your taxes, take out your agent, take out your manager and you're left with chump change," argues Logan. "I don't know how the hell they do it if their gig dries up." Even prime-time salaries are changing, he adds, marveling at the pay a very well-known soap star got for a guest appearance. "I think they paid her, like, $1,000. That's nothing. That's on a big, successful hit show. If you can't make it as a guest star anymore, I don't know what these actors are doing,"
Some are turning to alternate sources of ncome, whether it's their own line of jewelry or cosmetics or a construction company, Ike Chappell and husband Michael Sabatino x-J.T., PASSIONS et al) have. "I think every actor should have a fallback," she says.
"You always want o keep something ahead," concurs Marj Dusay (Alexandra, GL), who has been working in daytime for 25 years. "I don't know of anyone who doesn't [have a second job] unless they're subsidized by parents or have a trust fund, and how many of us are lucky to have that? I'm not one of those people who likes to go gambling or stick quarters in the machine because my philosophy has always been, `My whole life is a gamble being in this business' and if you don't look at it at that way, you're fooling yourself. .I believe in real estate' So does Eileen Fulton (Lisa, AS THE WORLD TURNS), who nods, "I've always invested in realty. My daddy taught me that. I'd suggest learning how to invest early?'
"I always said, in daytime you make just enough money to get in trouble," offers John Loprieno (ex-Cord, OLTL et al), who's now working full-time as director of theater at Moorpark College in Moorpark, CA. "You don't have the residuals [extra money from reruns], you don't have the millions of dollars, but you had just enough to raise your lifestyle to that; point where you needed the job to maintain it Even when he was working on OLTL, Loprieno taught acting on the side at nearby Adelphi University. "I always said the actors who didn't have a 'B' story in their lives, whether it was their family, another job [or] another interest, those were the ones who really suffered."
When Loprieno left Llanview in 1997 for the second time, "I saw them going to contract people saying, 'Hey, listen, we'll give you a contract, but it's going to be a third Tess than you were [making]: I saw all that coming and I knew I wasn't gettin' any younger. I knew it was just a matter of time before that was going to happen to me. Now, I say to my wife, 'Wow, could you imagine ilk
all, our eggs were in that basket?"
Onetime YOUNG AND RESTLESS heartthrob Thom Bierdz (ex-Phillip) ad, mits that the well did dry up for him aft he departed the show in 1990. After hi savings ran out and he booked som prime-time appearances in the mid-'90 he worked at a coffee shop for $6 an ho "I sucked making cappuccinos," he calls. "I could never get it to foam nigh And you're hoping for a quarter tiv While working for a catering company'
Beverly Hills, Bierdz ended up serving his former bosses, Y&R Co-creators William J. and Lee Phillip Bell. "It was very humbling," he recalls. "There was a while that I struggled doing normal jobs that people do. And it was awkward to be recognized." But Bierdz had painting in his back pocket, and now makes a living selling his art online at wwv.thom bierdz.com. He has also received several awards for his autobiography, Forgiving Troy. "The business is crazy. And I never would have thought that I would have had the struggles I've had. But I think the important thing is to meet everything with a sense of humor and to be able to laugh at yourself."
Save, save, save is what every single person consulted for this article recommends. "For most actors, the reality is if you're goint to be unemployed more often than not and the best thing you can do is really pack your money away, advises Chappell. "If you want to buy the $400 bag, save the rest of it. If you've got 13 weeks, buy a little something and put the rest away."
"You've got to be very frugal," echoes Bruno, who tells his clients, " 'If you're making just your guarantee, even if you may be working three or four days a week, act like you're only working one day a week. Put all that money away.' "
Nevertheless, Bruno urges young actors to get in the biz because it's still the steadiest work out there. And if an actor loses a job and ends up working an odd job, "There's no shame in it," says Bruno. "If you have a family, you gotta do what you have to do to bring money into your house. You can't just wait around for another job to come becaus