Understanding Residuals

SAGAFTRA.org defines residuals as “compensation paid to performers for use of a theatrical motion picture or television program beyond the use covered by initial compensation”.

Principal performers recieve residuals; background actors do not. You will not recieve residuals for an initial release; you are paid residuals when the project is sold in markets other than the initial intended market.

So, if a SAGAFTRA film is made to be released in theaters, actors do not get residuals when the film comes out in theaters. This is because their initial paycheck already included a release in that ‘media market’. The residuals are paid when that film sells in another media market, including DVD, VOD, cable, TV or new media. TV episodes, your initial paycheck covers the first airing and residuals are paid on subsequent airings.

When Are Residuals Paid?
SAGAFTRA.org/content/residuals-faq states “For TV work, residuals begin once a show starts re-airing or is released to video/DVD, pay television, broadcast TV, basic cable, or new media. For film work, residuals begin once the movie appears on video/DVD, basic cable and free or pay television, or new media.”

When Will the Check Arrive?
Residuals are sent to SAG and processed (for up to sixty days) before being sent to the actor. SAGAFTRA.org/content/residuals-faq states the following regarding when residuals are due to SAG from each production:

“For projects made for TV then released to:
•    Network TV, non-network TV - 30 days after air date.
•    Syndication - 4 months after air date
•    Foreign free to air - up to 30 days after producer obtains knowledge of first foreign telecast and never later than 6 months after that first telecast
•    Basic Cable - Quarterly when the producer receives revenue
•    Supplemental Markets - 4 months after initial exhibition, then quarterly

When are Residuals Sent to SAG by the Production
For projects made for theatrical then released to:
•    Network Prime Time - 30 days after initial broadcast, then quarterly when the producer receives revenue
•    Free TV, Non-Network - 4 months after initial broadcast, then quarterly when the producer receives revenue
•    Supplemental Markets - 4 months after initial exhibition, then quarterly when the producer receives revenue”

Creating Your Acting Website

An actor’s website is rarely used in the professional casting process. Your profile pages on IMDB.com and BreakdownExpress.com (via ActorsAccess.com) give a filmmaker or CD all the tools needed to consider auditioning you for a role.

While a personalized acting website may not make or break your career, it is a great tool to show industry professionals all of your marketing materials in one place. It enables you to guide people towards otherwise hard to find press, like theatre reviews and red carpet photos.

If you do have a website, ensure that it is professional, current, functional, and well maintained. There are many companies online that build websites for actors. Others (like Wix.com) allow you to build a site by easily dropping elements and information into pre-designed pages.

An actor’s website should be utilized as an online ‘press kit’ (see ‘press and publicity’ section), referring the user to reviews, articles, film trailers, and other press. The site must be easy to navigate and all pages must completely download in less than ten seconds. It is unlikely that a CD will wait twenty seconds for your headshot to display, so if needed, reduce the photo file size. Don’t give her a reason to move to the next actor on the list.

A quality actor website will have the following tabs:

•    Home
•    Resume
•    Demo
•    Press
•    Contact
•    Photos

Home Page
Display your name and main theatrical headshot. Perhaps write a bio on yourself and a few career highlights with a small paragraph or two about your recent gigs and upcoming releases. Embed trailers for any current upcoming releases. Include links to your IMDb, Twitter and Facebook.

Under the resume tab, list the following links at the top of the page then display your full resume on the page below them.

•    IMDb profile
•    Breakdown profile
•    Download .pdf
•    Print

Your downloadable resume should be in an un-editable .pdf format.

Demo Reel
Your demo can be displayed via a link to a professional site (like ActorsAccess.com or NowCasting.com), or by embedding a high quality video into your site. If you are using YouTube.com or Vimeo.com for hosting, embed the file into the webpage rather than re-directing users to a public site. Ensure the resolution is high, the file size is small (for fast buffering), and that the picture isn’t too big or small (640 × 480 is standard).

Include links to any positive or neutral press written by an independent media source (i.e. NOT a production or management company website). These sources include newspapers, magazines, online publications, critic’s reviews, and red carpet sites. Scan and upload hardcopy press in .pdf format.

As your press kit grows, separate this section into more specific categories, such as ‘articles’, ‘reviews’ and ‘interviews’.

Display contact information for your representation and include their logo for branding. If you have more than one agent, specify the field in which they represent you. Provide your direct email for those rare last minute bookings that may occur the night before or morning of a shoot.

Your website is not an appropriate forum for the twenty different headshots you took in one session, or for headshots that have become outdated. If you are a model, having a modeling tab is great, but make sure that none of your shots are too revealing. Other than your main theatrical and red carpet images, include alternative looks and character shots

If you have several shots, use thumbnail photos that show a full size version of the shot when rolled over or clicked on. A great example of this is the photo section of your ActorsAccess.com profile. Make sure the larger versions of the photos are easily downloadable and printable (72dpi is a fine minimum resolution), with a print size between 4” × 6” and 8” × 10”.

Red Carpet Photos
One option is to put direct links to your personal search results page on WireImage.com or GettyImages.com. To do this, search your name then copy the url in the browser window above your search results.

Another option is to show a selection of red carpet photos on your website in the same thumbnail format used for headshot photos. Don’t worry about the watermarks: they help legitimize the image and prevent you from breaching any copyrights.

Production Stills
Production stills are taken on set during a shoot. Great production stills show crew and camera equipment in the background, the director instructing you, or the other actors dressed in wardrobe on set. Photos of you in character, acting, are also great (these look like someone has pressed pause on a movie).

Production stills taken with a cheap camera or bad lighting give the impression that the production was cheap. Your production stills should look  as good as stills from bigger budget films, implying that you are a professional, working actor. If you don’t have great stills, don’t resort to using bad ones. Having no production stills is better than having bad ones. 

How an Independent Film is Sold

This is a quick and basic run down of how an independent film is sold. There are three terms you’ll need to understand this process:

There are almost two hundred separate ‘territories’ (essentially countries) in the world to which a film can be sold. Of these, only thirty-five are considered ‘meaningful’ for film sales.

Sales Agent
A producer takes a completed film to a ‘sales agent’, who acts as a salesperson for the film. The sales agent meets with ‘distributors’ often at ‘film markets’ to sell the film in as many territories as possible.

A sales agent will usually represent several films at any given time. Sales agents often specialize in a particular budget range and genre, which helps create and nurture strong relationships with buyers in that realm. Prolific indie producers sometimes act as their own sales agents.

Distributor / Distribution Company
‘Distribution companies’ (‘distributors’) purchase the rights to distribute
films throughout a specific territory. Films are distributed through many
channels including: VOD (Video On Demand), selling DVD copies of the film to chains like Walmart or Red Box (or online rental companies like iTunes and Netflix.com), selling the rights to screen the film on TV, or selling the rights to screen the film theatrically to theatre chains like Birch Carol & Coyle.

When a distribution company buys the rights to sell a film in a specific
territory, they can only sell the film within that territory. For example, if a
distributor in France buys the rights to distribute Toy Story 3 throughout
France, that distributor cannot then sell the film to Blockbuster in England.

Likewise, the distributor may only distribute the project in the format for
which they have purchased the rights: as a ‘theatrical release’ (in cinemas), a DVD release, VOD release, or otherwise.

Here’s where it gets a little tricky: many distributors also act as sales
agents to sell films to other distributors worldwide.

How An Independent Film Is Sold
Here is an example: Film A cost $50,000 to make. If the film appears to
be highly marketable, several sales agents may want to represent it and the production company may find a bidding war develops between sales agents willing to pay for the rights to sell the film. This is rare with micro and low budget projects, which are often taken by a sales agent with no upfront payment and the negotiation of a substantial sales commission.

The production company gives Film A to a sales agent to sell. The sales agent meets with distributors from many countries regarding Film A. Distributors from England, Germany, and France love Film A and want to buy rights to a full theatrical and DVD release. The English distributor pays $45,000, the French distributor pays $35,000, and the German distributor pays $40,000.

The distributor from the USA offers $30,000 for DVD only. In total, the sales agent has just made $150,000 for the film. He takes his percentage (usually 15%–35% of all sales, plus ‘costs’), which (at 20%) is $30k. Let’s assume modest costs of $10k to cover flights to film markets and $5k for meager marketing costs, leaving around $105,000 for the production company.

The production company made the film for $50,000 in hard equity, but has ‘deferments’ (money owed for labor provided by cast and crew, aka ‘sweat equity’) of $45,000. The deferments are paid back and the investors are reimbursed their $50,000, plus $10,000 to cover a pre-negotiated 20% interest on the money they contributed.

Once the deferments and investors are reimbursed, the producers, investors, and anyone else who owns a share in the film can start making a profit. Fees, interests, and costs vary as they are all negotiated on a per film basis.

It is important to note that even though $150,000 has been paid for
a film that only cost $50,000 in hard equity to make, the project has still
only just broken even financially. No profit has been made other than the
cast and crews up-front fees and the interest for the investors.

This is a pretty common scenario for independent film. If the sales agent made a solid deal with the distributors, the production company will get a percentage of movie ticket and DVD sales in each country. However, with a small budget and lack of star names, the distribution rights on our sample film were probably sold for a one-time fee.