I’m a Florida actor, and I recently booked a role on the Lifetime show Drop Dead Diva. I’m flying to Georgia for a shoot tomorrow, and I’m actually reading your column on my phone as we wait to take off. 🙂
This is my first network TV role and I booked it straight from my audition tape. Very exciting! I had a few questions that I’m hoping you could answer.
I’ve read your past columns on billing, but I’m still not sure if my role is considered a “guest-star” or “co-star. ” I’m a named character in four scenes with numerous lines. Is that what defines a “guest/co-star” or are you supposed to wait and see what they list you as on the credits?
Also, I don’t plan to join AFTRA just yet. However, is it acceptable to write “AFTRA-eligible” on my resumé?
Thanks for the help!
Ah, first, congratulations! I love tales of actors getting bookings from audition tape! The world continues to shrink. Well done! Have fun.
Next, the last question. Everyone was born “AFTRA-eligible,” so never never never put that phrase on your resumé. Seriously. AFTRA is an open union (meaning, you show up with a headshot and a money order and you’re in), so to say you’re AFTRA-eligible is to say you’re breathing. Of course you are. No need to state it.
What you’ll need to disclose, when it’s true (and this may never be the case for you, if you’re living and working in a right-to-work state), is that you’re an AFTRA must-join (which is not now; it’s at your next AFTRA booking). But even that is okay to work through slowly, because AFTRA will accept your initiation fee in “bits” (taken directly from your paycheck on AFTRA jobs) ’til you’ve paid it in full. Very friendly union!
Now for your big question, about your billing. The short answer is: Check your contract. The billing should be disclosed there. And billing for television is almost always negotiated, not based on your role size (although there can be some decision-making based on role size, when nothing was negotiated or spelled out in a contract ahead of time). So, if you have no billing language in your contract and there was no one negotiating what your billing would be, the next stop is the original breakdown. Did you keep a copy of that or can you find it online? The billing is often mentioned in the breakdown, role by role.
And if none of that works, then yes, you can use your role size as a guideline for the most appropriate billing, ’til you see how your name shows up in the credits. For an AFTRA show, sometimes you’ll see “under-5” (for five lines or less) and then “principal” (for larger roles). But as more shows shoot AFTRA, they’re using the more standard non-AFTRA contract language which is “co-star” for small roles and “guest star” for large roles (or for small roles filled by actors whose agents are badasses able to negotiate better billing).
Since this is your first network experience, I’d suggest you play the odds and call it a co-star mainly because you’re going to have a few more co-stars in your life before you get that first guest star, and so on.
It’s not science, so it’s tough to just throw out a blanket “rule” you could apply to all situations. But the general guideline is: Check your contract, check with your agent, check the original breakdown, check the credits once the project airs, and if none of that works then go with what feels closest to “right” (co-star for smaller roles, guest star for larger).
Again, congrats! And have fun. I look forward to seeing your episode.
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Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/001174.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.