Are actors worth their paychecks?


So I was watching TV last night (Big Brother UK to be exact), and I noticed that the presenter, Davina McCall was wearing a pair of Christian Louboutin pumps (I realize how gay that sounds, but understand the only reason I know this is because they have a trademark red sole…my girlfriend told me. I swear.). So big deal, she’s wearing a $600 pair of shoes…she’s on TV, of course she’s rich. Then I started thinking….why is it that actors/actress/tv personalities are paid so much? Is there a particular reason that their services demand reimbursement on such a large scale? I came to the conclusion that I really don’t think so.

Now before you start thinking I’m some bitter, angry person who hates celebrities because they have so much money, let me explain to you that I am far from that. I do not envy those with money, nor do I think badly of them for having it. This is the epitome of a blog post…it is a personal insight into a social issue. I wanted to share my thoughts not only in hopes that people will share theirs, but to try to explore, through my own writing, every aspect of this issue and come to some sort of logical conclusion that will put the issue to rest in my own thoughts. I know, I know, pretty deep. But just stay with me.

Let’s take a look at the facts. The amount you are payed for your contribution to a company or business should technically rely on the value of your contribution. If you work at McDonald’s, tapping buttons on a cash register, you are paid minimum wage. This makes sense, as the value this responsibility adds to the company is minimal, so you should be reimbursed accordingly. This also explains the other end of the scale, when you look at people who work dangerous jobs. They often get paid a significant amount more than the value of their work, because the added value of a broken limb or even a life needs to be incorporated into their reimbursement. What they are risking on a day to day basis is essentially priceless, so they demand a premium for that risk. Understandable. But when it comes to actors/actresses/tv personalities, I can’t find reason nor logic behind the reimbursement they receive. Essentially, their responsibility, their contribution to the company they work for involves memorizing lines and reciting them while on camera. Plain and simple. TV personalities are worse. they just read off of a teleprompter, no memorizing necessary. Some might argue that their talent could be considered a priceless asset which needs to be incorporated into their reimbursement, but even then, I do not think it justifies the actual sum that many actors/actresses receive. Talent is alot more widespread than many of us realize, and this is in part exemplified by the American Idol(/Got Talent/Dance Crew/whatever the hell else Simon Cowell and company come up with with) talent factory that churns out a new star every single season. In fact, with the right marketing and promotion, they could probably make stars out of many more contestants per season (the fact is, it takes ALOT of money to do this, hence only picking one winner per season).

So how can an A-List hollywood actor make between 20 and 30 million dollars for a two hour movie? Lets break it down. To my knowledge, a lead actor in a big budget film spends between 6-10 months filming. So lets say 8. 8 months roughly equates to (40 hours a week x 4 weeks a month….) 1280 hours of work. 30 million divided by 1280 hours = $23, 437.50 an hour. TWENTY THREE GRAND AN HOUR. So you have a little comparison into the world of real human beings, lets look at some more facts. The average engineer in New York makes about $65,000 a year. So by the time an actor breaks for lunch on his first day of filming, he’s made more money than an engineer has in one full year.  A neurosurgeon in New York, on average, makes about $600,000 a year. That is a hell of alot of money….but an actor makes that in a little more than half a week of work (roughly 25 hours). The reason I chose these two professions for the comparison is because their work requires a great amount of skill and it benefits millons upon millions of people. An actor, in bright contrast, entertains individuals for 2 hours by reciting words written by someone else, on a set built by someone else, in a movie directed and produced by someone else.

Since I’ve spoken about how talent alone is not worth the value added premium that jacks up their salaries to sky high proportions, we must look at the other factors. Some might argue that by becoming an actor, you give up your privacy. Is privacy worth that much? Maybe, but I still don’t see this as an excuse, as many actors do quite well staying out of the paparazzi’s lenses, so to an extent, the actor can control their exposure.  Sure, once or twice they might be violated even when trying to keep private, but those instances are definitely not worth the reimbursement they receive. What else is there….physical risk on the job? Nope, they have stunt doubles for that. Time spent not on set, memorizing lines? That might add to the 1280 (approximate) hours it takes to film, but even if it doubles the time spent, it is still severely inflated. And now…I draw a blank. I cant think of anything else that would offset the balance of value contributed to value reimbursed when it comes to acting as a profession. And this is where the problem lies. I don’t even have a logical answer to my question! I ALWAYS have a logical explanation, even if it is farfetched or ridiculous, but here, I am just at a loss.

Now I fully understand that there is only a very small percentage of actors that make this kind of money. Most established Hollywood actors might make half of that, or a third, but the expectation of their ability is relative to their paycheck. If you’re Sean Connery, alot more is expected of you than if you were Will Ferrell. But regardless of what level of actor you are, the paycheck just does not justify the employment. Just wanted to clear that up. I’m sorry if you read this hoping to find an answer to my question, but the fact is, there isn’t an answer. As a result of tradition, luck, inflation, and greed in the entertainment industry, actor’s salaries have grown to the astronomic figures we see today. I am absolutely convinced that there is no reason actor’s make the money they do. In order to be a reason, it has to be REASONABLE…and none of the excuses you hear out of Hollywood about their ridiculous salaries are reasonable. Therefore, no reason. Until next time, from the Dale…keep f**king that chicken.


2 thoughts on “Are actors worth their paychecks?

  1. I completely agree that they are paid too much. However, the amount they are paid usually reflects the amount of money the movie stands to make. There are many times when A-List actors do independant films for far less salary (sometimes nothing) with a small percentage of profits from the film. So in comparison to the Mcdonalds idea – What sells Mcdonalds? Is it the snotty teenager working the till? No. Is it the food? Yes. Take away the food and Mcdonalds would sell nothing (obviously). Now to translate. To take one of the highest grossing films of all time (one I didn’t much like mind you) Titanic. To see a super huge blockbuster with no name actors in it wouldn’t initially sell as well. The majority of people want to see actors they know and love. Eventually a reallllly good movie with no namers can surprise everyone and break through (Napoleon Dynamite, Blair Witch Project to name a couple) and make a bunch of money; but it isn’t a gurantee. I guess in my ramblings the actors and such are paid insane amounts of money, because they bring in insane amouns of money. You are right in saying that there are a few that make that kind of money. It is verrrrry few. The average for a film actor for a job is just under 100,000… So take that 1280 hours to make a movie and they are being paid 78 dollars an hour. A little more reasonable.

    I have a question on a related topic though. What are your thoughts on how much some bands are paid? I think its a pretty related topic. The record labels just know how to rout it so they get paid first (in most cases).

  2. You have that argument, but you also need to understand the years that actors will work for free. How many other jobs will you finish your ‘education’ and then take jobs with no fee just to gain further experience? The $20-$30million are a thing of the past anyway, there is still a small percentage of actors getting that fee, but a majority of actors work for about £190 for a days filming, which usually works out at 12-14 hour days. I am a working actor, I do not work 40 hour weeks, we start when the script dictates it (4am sometimes) and we finish when the job is done, not when the clock strikes 5pm.

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