Answer to Why I List Indie Films and non-paid roles

Today, a reader sent me an email that complained about listing non-paid roles.

He insisted that listing non-paid roles is detrimental to an actor’s financial survival and requested that they all be removed as he felt the non-paid projects set a precedence and his time is worth money.

His is not the first and most certainly will not be the last time someone emails me about the subject.

All non-paid gigs are created equal:

I DO NOT normally list commercial / marketing productions that do not pay with the exception of PSA’s, small startups and educational videos. I rarely list projects such as non-paid actors for business marketing materials, non-paid models for stock photos, non-paid bloggers and social media contributors that are clearly meant to promote a business, non-paid actors for production company clientele, FB like campaigns cloaked as casting calls, promos such as those requiring people create videos and share them with friends, etc.

But, not all non-paid gigs are commercial in nature…

I DO list non-paid indie projects, student films, fan films, community theater, and a host of other indie, non-commercial and artistic endeavors and will continue to do so.


The message from the user:

You should really eliminate non-paid casting list from your website. Its really not help us actors who are trying to make a living out of this. Most production companies are taking advantage and only you guys can put an end to this.

If a production is able to spend money on other things in their production to shoot the film then its only fare to pay the actors… I hope you will do the needful by truly listening to our concerns and not let these production companies take advantage of us struggling actors/actresses.

The reply:

Most productions are not big budget, studio productions. Most are actually indie films, theaters, web series / new media, ultra low budget, student films, pitch videos, etc. Indie productions are mostly self funded… as in the film maker saves their pennies for months, maybe years, in order to be able to afford expensive equipment, camera rentals, locations, crew, editing & effects, music, food services, etc. Without studio space, camera rentals, crew and film editors… there will be no production. So yes, paying extras, actors, talent may be out of their budget.

Filmmaking is an artistic endeavor and many that create have to scrape, beg and borrow to get the project made in hopes that it will get noticed and lead to bigger projects. Bigger projects may even get investment capitol which would allow them to pay more. Just because it is a film, does not mean they the major Hollywood bucks.

Most large budget projects will not consider a principal actor (not an extra) that has zero experience or a reel to even show what they have done. That is why so many people jump at the chance to take on speaking roles in indie projects, for free. They need them for their reels and resumes in order to get bigger roles. It is up to the individual to figure out if the project is worth their time or not.

There is no artistic profession (or a non-artistic one) that pays people well who do not have experience or a body of work under their belts. Musicians starting out often have to “pay to play ” until they begin booking paid gigs (Many new bands actually have to pay the venue in order to perform). Artists paint countless paintings for free before they sell anything. Filmmakers create films on their own dime until they are able to sell one or catch the eye of an investor.

Internships are standard practices in many non-entertainment fields. People intern not for the immediate gratification of spending cash, they do it to get experience, build their resumes, network, and get their foot in the door in hopes that it will help them later down the line.



I absolutely agree that for profit endeavors, marketing companies and production companies creating commercials for their clients must pay their talent.

I understand the concern of some actors, however, not all non-paid gigs fall into the category of exploitation. The best way to stop the clearly commercial projects from offering no pay is to simply not do them. I already stated that I do not list them.

Not every non-paid gig is looking to make money off the backs of inexperienced actors.

If you are only looking for paid gigs, that’s your option and you do not need to apply to those that do not pay. That is why I try to list if there is pay or not.
Those that are trying to get into an artistic field because they believe they will make lots of money right away, may be disappointed. They would be competing for roles against people much more passionate about the art then they are.

There are advantages to non-paid roles:

For many people, the non-paid indie films are a way to network and meet people. You never know when the small indie film you did for free will get noticed at a film festival. Recognition of one’s work tends to open doors for bigger and better things.

The small filmmaker casting you for an unpaid supporting role may go on to make amazing films and the people they will most likely call first for paid roles are the ones they already worked with on previous films. We all start somewhere and most of us have to prove we are capable of doing what we say we can do.

At the end of the day, it is up to the individual to figure out if a project is a good fit for them. However, that is not my call so I will keep doing what I do… listing projects of all kinds, paid or not.