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Agents wanting a deposit

We've been contacting actors agents for a new project we're putting together. One of them who represents a fairly known ex soap actor has asked if we can put down a deposit to move things forward. Is this normal?

  • "Pay to/or Play" is pretty common - if anyone is going to block out their diary for you they need to be sure you're not going to suddenly change dates to ones they cannot take (or that they will still get paid if you do). Is it a reputable agent? Is the soap star worth it? Are you confident in your dates? What will you do if you change dates?

    3 weeks ago
  • The 'Pay or play' scenario sounds fair. In this instance though we haven't even mentioned specific dates yet or sent them the script or even a synopsis so it seems a bit early for them to be asking for a deposit... but then I've not really dealt with 'famous' actors agents before so am not sure if this is the norm. How can you tell if an agent is reputable?

    3 weeks ago
  • As soon as you have dates for them to pencil in, yes.

    Prior to that, no. Are they asking for a deposit, or simply asking IF you can put a deposit down at the right time - i.e. filtering out the kind of production that expects people to read scripts and discus terms but which does not have the resources to actually follow through. And so wastes everyone's time.

    Another possibility that occurs to me is that the actor might say "if we don't know them or their rep, get me X to pay for my time to read the script". The amount should be modest, and it's main purpose is so that the actor knows that you really want them - or at least they on a very short list. It also tells the actor that you are serious about your project and probably have the funds, or prospect thereof, to actually make it happen. I can certainly imagine that there are some actors who get snowed under with scripts to read and want a "seriousness" filter when they come from unknown sources.

    An early deposit not related to dates and too large to represent reading time I'd view as a brush-off and move on.

    3 weeks ago
  • Yes it’s common, worked with a few ‘stars’ and soap ones. They are probably only checking if you are willing and able to do this rather than asking for a deposit before reading the script. Other things that you may or may not know, you need to make an offer... soap stars are usually around 5-600 a day and other A/B list actors can be a lot more- 1,500 upwards. However everything can be negotiated downwards and don’t forget agents will always push upwards. So start l lower than you can afford. Check if VAT is to be added as if you as a company aren’t VAT’d it will increase your costs. These so called stars agents can also ask for a car and driver to and from their residence, and set. Per diems that need to be paid usually in cash to the actor first day of filming. Maybe £20-£50 a day.( I find them annoying and ridiculous and try to always refuse them unless the actor is staying over and it pays for their evening meal) Just saying because all these can add up.

    3 weeks ago
  • Circumstantial variables arising here. On a very basic point, anything that consumes time, energy and the sort of expertise built from such, is valuable. For example, some folk cannot understand why it is wholly reasonable for a lawyer to charge upwards of £200 to write a letter, provided of course that such a lawyer is actually competent, which too often is not the case.

    Many people and organisations are constantly being asked for advice on matters that can only be properly answered after some depth of consideration. Some entities that rely on sustainable economics and that have managed to emerge from the start ups dilemma of having to indulge their early clients as 'loss leaders', in order to establish 'good will', can reasonably charge for any significant consumption of their time, energy and expertise. The devil is always in the detail.

    Unlike with a charity or publicly funded entity, a circumstance often falls into either a buyer's or a seller's market. It's a business enterprise thing.

    3 weeks ago
  • Thanks for the insight guys, very useful. I will clarify with the agent when they get back to me whether putting down this deposit is for now or for when we pencil in dates.

    3 weeks ago
  • Hi Richard, all the above is true, and if they are just asking if you will pay deposit when dates are fixed, that is OK.
    But take care, there are unfortunately a few scammers out there who can put up a decent website and claim prestigious clients etc very easily. If they are asking for a deposit now, that should sound a warning note.
    Trust is an important part of the industry, so no need to be on high alert, but make sure they can do what they say they can before sending significant sums of money.
    Good luck with your project.

    3 weeks ago
  • Tell them you'll pay a deposit for a letter of intent or calendar dates blocking out. Needn't be high amounts, I'm sure they're just trying to weed out the tyre kickers. Soap cast are my favourite, great work ethic, happy with early starts, happy to put the hours in, aren't divas.

    3 weeks ago
  • Bit of an update on my agent saga. I asked how much the deposit would be. They replied a £1000. Keeping in mind we'd put forward terms of £500 a shoot day + travel allowance, hotel, holiday pay which the agent hasn't exactly agreed or acknowledged in their replies despite asking twice if these were acceptable for their client.
    Following some previous advice I then asked if this deposit was for when we book in dates and the agent said "Nope, we would need money up front to confirm him for you now".
    So I've asked them just to clarify what this deposit is for exactly as I'm a bit confused now.

    2 weeks ago
    • How badly do you want this guy? If the £1000 is refundable by them if, when you get round to dates, they can't do it, well it's a negotiation. But I have to admit, I'd probably let it slide until I could go back to them with dates and then have a proper cards on the table chat with a deposit to secure dates.

      2 weeks ago
  • To be honest I think I've already given up on this actor and will move on. Just gonna use this interaction as a bit of a learning curve.
    Not sure if this agent is legit or just a bit of a shark or can't be bothered to deal with us but the correspondence has been poor and slow with lots of bad grammar and short blunt responses and doesn't seem very professional compared to others we're talking with.

    2 weeks ago
    • Just FWIW £500/day is well over EQM, unless your budget is well into 7 figures. I would be asking agents to quote a complete buyout for performance, travel time, holiday, all usage fees, perdiem, etc. And maybe bring it down from £500 so you can afford a comfortable hotel/taxi. Soap cast are used to working hard, low rates and poor facilities, so giving them a 4* room is going to be appreciated if they don't live locally.

      2 weeks ago