I can only speak for myself, but on average I find 5-10 mistakes or missing cheques every year.
The old proverb says that getting the gig is the hardest part. That is true. So, congratulations, you got the gig! Now comes the inevitable and unenviable wait for the payment. I talk with fellow performers all the time and universally they believe they’ll get paid and paid properly. That is not always the case! Improper payments happen frequently. Let me first state, this is not meant to denigrate or call into question the production houses, the payment services or anyone else involved in the payment chain. There are thousands of contracts a year, and human errors happen. What is important is that, as performers, we need to be our best advocate.
We performers often feel like it’s ACTRA’s or our agents’ job to track each individual cheque. But no. It is on us to do that. We can expect our agent and ACTRA to fight for us when there is a problem but alerting them to mistakes is our responsibility. I get asked, “Do I really need to keep track of EVERY gig? How often do errors or missed payments occur?” Answer: Often enough that it’s worth your while to track them! I can only speak for myself, but on average I find 5-10 mistakes or missing cheques every year. Ballpark math would tell you that’s a couple of rent cheques at a minimum with potential for much more. Here’s what I do.
Create a list, whether in a notebook, on your phone or on a computer, of every gig you do. Make note of:
1) the date
2) the pay rate (scale, scale and a half, dare I say double scale?!)
3) the episode number (TV and animation)
4) the characters you performed (there may be several if you’re working in animation). Make sure to note if your roles are Principal or Actor category. If Actor, mark how many lines the character has, in case during ADR your character is given more lines which would bump you up to the Principal pay rate.
So now that you’ve got a comprehensive list of your gigs and all the details, check off your payments as they come in. Learn what your pay rate should equal and estimate it so that when the cheque comes in you can easily figure out if it’s correct. All I do is put a simple ‘PAID’ beside a gig once I’ve received the proper payment. It makes the outstanding ones easy to track.
A performer should make sure that EVERY MONTH is taken care of appropriately. Why? Because the rule in IPA Article A3603 says, ‘Upon receipt of fees, a Performer shall have thirty (30) days in which to report any error in payment, following which the payment shall be deemed to have been correct.’ As you can see, there is a time pressure. If your agreement with your agent is to have payments sent to them, your agent should receive payment two weeks after the booking date. The agency will deduct their commission and forward you an agency cheque. All things considered, you should receive payment within 30 days of the booking date. That doesn’t leave you much time to check for errors. Immediately contact your agent and get the ball rolling to fix any mistakes. If you haven’t received a payment within about a month, alert your agent because, odds are, it is lost somewhere in the shuffle and won’t be making an appearance until you start demanding it.
Call ACTRA when efforts by you or your agent to resolve discrepancies are unsuccessful.
Getting a paying gig can be hard enough; don’t make getting paid the hardest part. Be your own advocate and track your money!