Monday, June 27, 2011

Actors Acting

After my interview with James last week, I asked him if he had any advice on how I might better run this here little blog. He had a great idea (which isn't surprising), and I am going to implement it as follows:

Each Monday, I will pose a question, perhaps with some context, perhaps not, and then I will ask very sincerely for you to post your thoughts in the comments. The following Monday, I'll respond to those comments, and give my own opinion, and then pose another question. Pretty simple, right? Of course, in order for this to be at all interesting, you'll have to be bold and type out your ideas for others to see.

OK, here goes.

Did you know big-budget films are often so expensive because of big-name actors? If you look on, and see that a given film cost $150 million, you can be certain that at least a third of the budget went to the talent (all of the actors).

This is even true with smaller-budget films. I won't give you the exact numbers, but I will tell you that about 30% of our budget for Weighted went to our actors.

What is it that actors do? Well, duh, they act. But what does that mean? Here's a link to a short series of videos called "14 Actors Acting." It's pretty cool, and you'll recognize most of them. Here's one of my favorites from the series (I pulled the embed from YouTube, but you'll want to use this link to watch them all through):

These are broadly recognized experts in their industry. Very few people would argue whether they've mastered their craft. So the question is this:

Are actors worth what they're paid

Take a moment to answer in the comments below.


  1. Whether they are worth what they are paid or not, most films ensure that they are profitable by attaching a known actor to the film. So it really is a matter that mixes art and politics. Are there high paid actors that "make" a film, yes, are there high paid actors who should probably not be in future movies, yes. Can a story be told without a huge actor, yes, it's been so many times. Will tons of people see a movie with no stars in it, it's a gamble.

  2. If the important part of the question is whether they are *worth* what they are paid - consider this. Regardless of the overall "cost"/budget of the film, in order to make a film, it requires SEVERAL incredibly talented individuals, all working together. Many of these individuals have had years of training, and are highly skilled in highly specialized areas. There are many individual points within the working chain of a film that could affect the final outcome in such a way that the film will fail. Everything from Cinematics to Music to Directing to Acting.

    Granted, high profile actors *get* the first round of people into the seats. But the quality of the film - every aspect, worked on by a myriad of other individuals - keep them there AND get them to get *their friends* and facebook acquaintances into the seats for the next round.

    So, the real question is - how on EARTH can you value an actor so much over, say, wardrobe?! Imagine what Middle Earth would have been like in torn T-Shirts and faded jeans - or even subpar Middle Earth gear. (Costuming was one point, where, I think, The Book of Mormon Movie failed. It seemed too... pristine? Straightened (ironed). Not enough attention to detail.) Of course, the acting *could* have helped make up for that particular shortcoming (though, I was sadly disappointed in that regard as well).

    So, the point is - how do you value one over another?? I can't say that I think an actor's pay should be based on their popularity - but rather on their *quality*. AND in comparison to other film talent - unless they are a truly phenomenal actor - there should be some way to balance things better.


  3. I agree with James. Paying a lot for actors is more an investment in box office revenue than an unbiased valuation of their contribution to the film.

    That said, I would never want to be a big name actor at any price. They aren't aloud by their fans to live normal lives. That is probably worth some of the large amounts of money that they are paid. It would be miserable.

    Of course, the way Ian McKellan makes it sound, I don't know why we bother paying them more than minimum wage. Sounds easy.

  4. Yes and no--life is so out of balance. Yes, I admire a good actor. They are the essence of what makes a good film. A great actor can turn a weak plot into something worth watching. On the other hand, it cannot be fair that they, along with others with insane incomes, have far, far more than they'll ever need to live on and other professionals who keep us alive, like nurses, and shape our future, like teachers, often barely eek out a living. Sigh.

  5. I'm with James -- I think that a LOT of the time, actors are the reason people go to see movies. For the amount of revenue they raise for the film (and the filmmakers, right down to the van drivers), I would say -- they are totally worth what they're paid. They are the money-makers. They are the recognized face, the familiar friend that you're going to see get eaten by a dinosaur.

    Is it a good thing for the universe when individual people get paid so much? I don't know, but I think loads of money can ruin people and if actors want to throw their lives into complete disarray for the sake of providing me a movie every now and then... that's their choice.

  6. I agree with everything that has been said here. Let me just add that it is not just the performance of the actor that is being sold. It is the face, the voice, the silhouette, the likeness, the action figures of, and whatever else the production company comes up with to make money. The movie making process is the collaborative creation of a product. The actor is the face of the product that has been created, for better or for worse. Wherever the actor goes from then on, he or she may be recognized as the product of the film. Most of the other people working on a huge film will not be easily recognizable by day to day folks in the line at the bank or at a restaurant or on the street.

  7. Jordan... you promised thoughts :)


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