How do actors get paid?

How do actors get paid?

30 Sec Answer: Actors typically receive payment in the form of residuals, upfront payments, and/or royalties from their performances. Residuals are a type of deferred payment that is paid after the initial broadcast of a film or television show, while upfront payments cover the actor’s work before filming begins. Royalties refer to payments based on how many times an actor’s performance has been reused or viewed in the past.


The world of acting is a fascinating one filled with stories of fame and fortune. Most people think of big-name celebrities like Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston when they think of actors, but there are thousands of performers who make up the backbone of the entertainment industry. But beyond that, how do actors get paid? How much money do they make per job? And what kinds of contracts do they sign? In this article, we’ll answer all those questions and more as we explore the different ways actors get paid for their work.

Types Of Payment

When it comes to payment for their services, actors have several options available to them depending on the project and budget. The most common forms of payment include residuals, upfront payments, and/or royalties. Let’s take a closer look at each type:


Residuals are a type of deferred payment that is paid after the initial broadcast of a film or television show. This type of payment is usually negotiated in an actor’s contract and can range from 1–5% (of the production cost) depending on the agreement between parties. These types of payments often increase over time due to reruns or syndication deals.

Upfront Payments

Upfront payments are made before filming begins and usually cover an actor’s entire compensation package for a particular project. This type of payment is usually negotiated with producers prior to signing any contract and can range anywhere from $100–$20 million dollars depending on the project and budget.


Royalties refer to payments based on how many times an actor’s performance has been reused or viewed in the past. This form of compensation is typically reserved for higher-profile projects such as theatrical films or TV series with larger budgets. Royalty rates vary widely but generally range from 2–10% depending on negotiations between parties involved.

Pay Scale By Genre & Level Of Fame

Pay scale for actors varies greatly by genre and level of fame within Hollywood. For example, A-list celebrities like Brad Pitt will command upwards of $20 million for a single movie role, whereas B-list stars may only make $500k per role. Additionally, certain genres tend to pay more than others; blockbuster action movies typically pay better than romantic comedies due to bigger budgets, while sitcoms are known to pay less overall due to shorter shooting schedules and cheaper production costs.

Salaries & Bonuses

Salaries for actors depend largely upon their experience level, reputation, and track record within Hollywood circles. Those just starting out might expect salaries ranging from $10-$50/hour while veterans may command higher rates depending on their star power. In addition to base salaries, many actors also receive bonuses if their performances hit specific benchmarks (i.e., box office grosses).

Equity & SAG-AFTRA Membership

Another important factor influencing actor pay is whether or not they belong to an acting union such as Equity or SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists). Union membership helps ensure that performers receive fair wages for their work and gives them access to other benefits such as health insurance coverage and retirement plans. However, joining either union does come with additional costs associated with dues which must be factored into any salary negotiations accordingly.

Tax Implications

Like any other profession in the entertainment industry, being an actor carries certain tax implications both domestically (in countries where applicable) and internationally (for those working abroad). Depending on an individual’s income bracket and jurisdiction, taxes can range anywhere from 0–50%. It’s important for performers to consult with their agents/lawyers regarding potential tax liabilities before signing any contracts so they can plan ahead accordingly when filing taxes later on down the line.


At its core, acting is still very much a craft that requires hard work, dedication, and talent—all three attributes are necessary for success in this competitive field. When it comes to getting paid for their performances however, there are various factors at play including genre choice, level of fame within Hollywood circles, union membership status, taxation laws etc.—all things considered though it’s safe to say that actors enjoy some truly remarkable perks when it comes to making a living off their artistry!

Hayden Russell

Hayden Russell is a writer and editor at, where he covers a wide range of topics including technology, business, and culture. With a background in journalism and a passion for storytelling, Hayden brings a unique perspective to his writing and is always on the lookout for interesting and thought-provoking stories. When he's not working, Hayden can be found exploring the outdoors or tinkering with his latest tech project.

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