What To Do When You Can't Pay Cast & Crew

This column is written by Sally Hassan, the creator of Ghetto Nerd Girl. I talk about how to get through the vital steps of making a web series as smoothly and painlessly as possible.

Tis the season of giving! If you’re anything like me your heart is bigger than your wallet, which makes this a difficult time of year. The same rings true for budgeting out how to pay your actors and crew. I imagine that most of us are indie filmmakers with a shoestring budget. However, you have to keep in mind that people are your most valuable asset. We want our team to know that they are appreciated so they stick with us for the long haul.

The Bare Minimum

At the very least you should give your cast & crew meals, transport reimbursement, and copy/credit. This should be known but I’ve heard awful stories from actor friends about their time on set when they received none of the above. This is unacceptable! I understand it could be delayed with delivering footage, but please make it a point to send. You don’t want people telling horror stories about you. Word spreads quickly in this industry especially if someone is acting unprofessionally. Don’t be that guy or girl!

Go the Extra Mile & Get Creative

You could very well stop here, but that would just be meh. No one wants to be meh. Be extra! People like extra and it goes a long way. When your cast & crew see you put in the additional effort then they will do the same for you (95% of the time). It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

No money? No problem! There are multiple ways to show gratitude for those working their butt off for you.

Ghetto Nerd Girl cast/crew working hard on set

1.) Thank You Cards – I kid you not. It takes some time, but it’s so worth it. My GNG peeps love them! I write a personalized letter telling my cast/crew members how awesome they are and how none of this would be possible without them. I get pretty mushy because that’s who I am but you totally don’t have to. It’s an easy way for me to express my positive vibes about them at the end of the day. It’s an extra pat on the back, which everyone needs. Rave-worthy.

2.) Barter System – This is on a case-by-case basis, but an excellent way to give your team members something of value. The only downside is that it can get time-consuming so I wouldn’t consider this an option for everyone. Pick & choose wisely. This could be anything within your skill set. Are you a photographer? Offer headshots. Editor? Make a reel. For example, I helped one of my actresses in GNG produce her web series. I wasn’t there every production day but I made it work so the relationship was mutually beneficial. This is what the independent filmmaker community thrives on!

Zach Seekins sporting a New World Republic T-shirt

3.) Merchandise – Don’t overlook this! What did you receive or buy to film your series? Are you going to use it again? If the answer is no this can be a perfect opportunity to give it away. Think props, set design, wardrobe, and leftover food from craft services. It’s the thought that counts, right? For example, we received some awesome wardrobe pieces from my friend’s dope clothing line, New World Republic. A lot of it is hats and guys’ gear which I don’t wear so I let a few of my actors take the clothes home. They were very appreciative and it was one less thing for me to pack come wrap time. The only catch is to make sure they bring it back to set. Also if you have any web series merchandise, this can be added. Posters, wristbands, etc. It all works!

Zach Seekins, Sally Hassan, Roland Keller, Megan McGullam and Tania Dutta at NYC Webfest’s Summer in the City event

4.) Party Time – If you film with the same people over and over again chances are they like spending time with you. Throw a wrap party or other social event so you all can hang out and let loose away from the expensive equipment. This is a double win because it boosts morale and is a good time to get great candid shots for your web series’ social media accounts. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy just set a date, time and place to meet. Boom!

As creators (or actors and crew members), a lot of what we do is for free and that can be difficult at times. We want to be repaid for our efforts but it doesn’t have to be monetary. The memories made, the friendships and bonding sessions we’ve created are priceless and that goes further than any check in my mind. Do I want to be doing this for free forever? No, but while I am learning and growing I do want to make it worthwhile. Don’t take anyone for granted and treat people the way you want to be treated. I want to make sure those who have supported me are taken care of because when it comes down to it I am nothing without my team.

Do you have any suggestions on what has worked as payment for your team? Let me know!

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Sort of on the topic of the barter system one! One thing I really like is a little crafty things to give to the cast and crew. I worked on this show where a very prominent prop was this shimmery blue sand and so the director gave us each a little vial of it at the end with a thank you note and it is my favorite thing I’ve gotten!


That sounds wonderful! I love it!

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For Flagon I paid for the soundtrack to get put on CD Baby and put it under my pal’s name, since he actually made the music itself. He gets all the royalties and benefits from people buying the soundtrack. Wish I could have figured something similar out for everyone else while we were making the show.


Love this! It can be hard when we all know we’d all prefer money, but there are ways at our level to make people feel their time was used wisely and feel appreciated without money specifically.

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This sounds awesome! I wish I knew more about royalties and such!


In terms of rights and royalties and collecting, CD Baby puts in most of the work. They can be pretty spendy, and I almost didn’t bother but they had a half off sale and I took them up on it for the album. They were able to put the music on Spotify, iTunes, Google Play, and they collect ad revenue for us any time someone uses the song on youtube.


Thank you Bri! Yes, the more we give the more we get. I think you may have a few ideas yourself on the topic. :wink:

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Welcome to the community, @Imagzz247! This article may be interesting to you!