How do I quit?

Hello all. Very cool community you have got here! I am in a pickle.

I was hired as an actor on a small web series, no pay, and while I did know we would not get paid, I did not know that we would be treated poorly. Our call times are always off by at least an hour, leaving me to wait around set with nothing to do, we are given bad direction, if any direction at all, and I cannot imagine we are getting very good footage. The crew is very small and very amateur, but think they are very professional.

I want to quit, because it is actually costing me money to travel to and from set and to pay for all my own snacks and meals and I just do not feel respected on set and would feel much better if I left. The trouble is that we have already filmed two or three episodes. What, if anything, can I do here?

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Hi Marc! I’m so sorry to hear about how things are going! Calling in actors @microbrien @HackettKate as well as general good-advice-givers @hermdelica @Alex_LeMay @avincie @filmwritr4 @JasonRyan @kmd @movieguyjon @naje.tv @NerdsOfTheVerse @ghettonerdgirl @OSTSG @Pablo @SnobbyRobot

Did you sign a contract when you joined this show?

I did not. Since we were not getting paid it did not seem necessary.

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I know you probably weren’t in charge of that decision, but you should absolutely sign contracts, even if you aren’t being paid/paying people! Here’s a helpful article about that:

Have you tried talking to whoever cast you about what a rough time you’ve been having?

I will read that contracts article- I did not know that!

I tried to talk to the director, but he is always busy and running around doing five things at once, and the person who cast me is no longer working on the project, or at least is not coming to set anymore, and I do not know any of these people socially, just through this project. I feel uncomfortable talking to them about it.

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Call times being off by an hour is really not that bad - it SUCKS, especially when you’re not getting paid, but this is not outside of reasonable expectations for any production. When I worked a day on a fox TV show, I ended up early to set by 6 whole hours. Granted, I got paid fairly well for my time, but things happen.

Quitting is always your right, but know that you will almost definitely permanently burn bridges with every single person on that project (I have worked on projects like that where the guy doing art department was actually a successful, working director in his own right, just doing a favor for the producers, so be aware of who’s watching you) and most people they know, and a fair amount of people the people they know know – in other words, that will potentially ripple out to people three connections removed from the people you’re on set with.

So, you have to do a cost-benefit analysis. How many days are left? Is there any reasonable, cost-effective way you can make the most of your waiting around time on set? Can you carpool with anyone to/from set to save on travel? Can you ask the producer (or whoever is in charge) to at least throw you a few dollars a day for your travel needs? It’s kind of ridiculous that you’re expected to feed yourself on top of everything - maybe they can also do something there too.

Ultimately, my advice is to find a way stick it out if you can. It sucks to be stuck, but this is why it’s really important to have clear understandings and expectations in advance.

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If you’re already thinking of quitting, it absolutely cannot hurt to ask for these things, Marc! Just be polite and understanding about their budgetary restrictions.

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Thank you for your thoughts, Chris. Does it change anything if they are also incredibly rude and disrespectful? Anytime an actor brings up an issue or has a question, they snap “figure it out” or “we don’t have time for this” as if it is somehow OUR fault that THEY are unprepared.

I do see your point- you never know how connected the people you meet are. But it is just becoming frustrating and stressful to be there and I cannot imagine that these people are going very far. I think most are still in school in any case.

Should I send them an email, or do I have to talk to them in person?

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We have at least six more weekends of shooting, because everyone is at work or school during the week, which is a long time to lose weekends on this.

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Is there anyone besides the director on the production team - a producer or production manager? I’d talk to them off to the side or on the phone. They should at least reimburse you for meals/transport.

Quitting is not a good idea. I’ve worked on projects from hell, and my ability to comport myself despite the crummy nature of the set landed me better jobs later on from my co-workers - either they recommended me as “that guy who kept his shit together” to their friend, or they hired me outright on their own project.

Sometimes the production manager or producer is just focused on too many other things. But if you bring this up you can get them to realize that other people are feeling the same way but are too timid to talk about it. That can lead to real changes (like getting reimbursed for your expenses).

Re: call times - the call time is the call time. It sucks to sit around, but having worked as an AD or UPM my biggest nightmare is holding up the shoot 'cause someone isn’t there when I need them, so I always give someone a calltime ahead of when I need them.

Also, make sure you get a contract. The production is screwing themselves by not getting one, but you are also at risk - a contract spells out your billing order placement, any perks you’re entitled to (premiere tickets, access to footage for your reel, copy of the film, etc.)

Good luck and hang in there!

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It sounds like you want to quit… I’d still say it’s better to see it through, but I am not you and I’m not in your position and I don’t know all the details.

As for what you said, it doesn’t change it a ton… but it does sounds like they’re definitely being unrealistic and treating you unprofessionally. I think you have legitimate grievances. So, none of my advice should be interpreted as telling you not to advocate for yourself or stick up for yourself.

With more info, it sounds to me like you need to be clear and direct. If they are unable to talk on set, e-mail or a phone call during off hours seems to be your best bet. If you can get a friend or someone to act as your “manager” that’s even better - this is why actors pay agents and managers, so they can have someone be a hardass and stand up to directors and producers without having to be seen as a jerk themselves - they can just show up to set and be like “omg, yeah my agent is such a toughie, huh? oh, but thanks for getting lunch - I’m so excited!”

I don’t know who these people are, what their experience level is, or where you are, but no matter what, they shouldn’t be talking to you that way. You’re doing them a huge favor to work for them for free - the least they can do it make it as enjoyable as possible and not add to your stress or shift responsibilities on to you.

I would say this - pick the top three most important issues that you need solved. Call or e-mail whoever is at the top of the decision-making chain to solve those things. Tell them that you’re not enjoying your experience so far and that it’s not at all what you expected when you signed on and at this point you feel forced into a position where either things need to change or you feel like you may not be able to stay on-board. Then tell them 1, 2, and 3 that need to be solved. So, for example…

  1. I need travel reimbursement - at least _____ dollars (maybe $5? or $10?) per day, because right now I’m losing a lot of money on this.

  2. I need more accurate call times. If that’s not possible, please give me a standby time so I’m at home basically ready and then give me a phone call 30 minutes before I will be needed on set (or however long, depending on how far you travel - of course, then, you really need to be able to guarantee you can get there within that time and actually do it reliably).

  3. I need a hard out-time each day. If I’m supplying my own lunches, snacks, water, etc. and I’m working for free, then I need to have a reasonable expectation of when I’ll be done and if we go over time, which I understand happens, then I need some kind of compensation for that, either in the form of money or a meal provided.

These are just examples, but I don’t think they’re unreasonable asks. Personally, I’d be asking for a lot more - things like snacks and meals provided by production, a daily pay rate, even if small, and a clarification that it is their job to talk to you about issues and it’s not your responsibility to “figure out” anything - whether that’s lunch, bathrooms, seating/holding areas, or whatever other problems it sounds like you have on that set.

Whatever you say, set a really clear and reasonable boundary, be a little flexible to their limitations, and be clear that if they don’t meet those expectations, then you’ll probably have to drop out of the project. I agree with Arthur’s points above, but everyone needs to have some kind of limit. The other side of that coin is that you don’t want to be seen as someone who lets others walk all over them either.

Best of luck!

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This is incredibly helpful- I appreciate you taking the time to write this for me. Thank you!

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There is no production manager and the producers are the same people who are also the director and one of the other actors. Thank you for your thoughts- I am getting the sense I should stick it out, which is unfortunate but which I understand. Thank you again.

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Everyone has made some great points here, @microbrien’s advise is really good

I understand the problem as someone who is currently in a live project that I have to do on Monday but was unable to quit, it’s an utter mess but due to being on a uni course with these people and it’s so late I am unable to quit, something happened similar to me last year twice. As an Actor on a no contract no pay project you must look after you cause no one else will. Give them the hard decision give them your conditions or just leave. Will you burn bridges? Yes but its better in the long term for you. You would be in the right.

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Thing about waiting an hour to start is there could be any one of a hundred reasons for production to be held up, none of which are usually made known to the cast. Therefore as cast you never know to expect that. You really start to learn that kind of stuff when/if you step behind the camera and do some producing, which I always highly recommend.

Speaking as a director / producer, who has also acted, there is nothing wrong with talking to the producer even if you don’t know them outside the project. Don’t hit up the director with that, it’s not really their job to handle that, it’s the producer’s.

Believe me when I say, the producer would rather you talk to them and try to fix the problem than up and quit, especially if there had already been a significant amount of filming… if you had a problem at a job you would talk to your shift lead, it’s no different.

Not getting paid is a very common thing on low budget shoots, but you shouldn’t have to buy your own meals. As a director / producer, I always see to it my cast and crew are fed, even if (and it has) it comes out of my own pocket. I feel like that’s just common certousy. If I’m asking you to spend a day on my set, the least I can do is feed you.

Talk to the producer, just be respectful about it. Respect in equals respect out. If you show the producer that you respect them and you respect the project they are much more likely to work with you to solve the issue.

The producer will want to keep you happy, they cast you because they like you for the role… and they will not want to hold production to recast.

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Chris’ response is great. You set your boundaries politely and firmly.

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Thank you very much for your thoughts!

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Yes, Chris’s response was very helpful. Thank you!

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