An Actress's Thoughts

Fair Pay & Acting

Fair Pay for All

Today’s text is about the Fair Pay Initiative for Equity on the Pay Slip, with thoughts on the correspondent situation in the film business, especially as far as the wages of actresses and actors are concerned.

    • Prologue: 23rd Century – Men and Women, Leads and Supports
    • FairPay Alliance and the Question of Transparency
    • Wage Disparity in the Film Industry
    • The Policy Paper on Gender by the BFFS
    • Epilogue: 21st Century – Men and Women, Leads and Supports

Prologue: 23rd Century – Men and Women, Leads and Supports

Fifty years ago, in 1966, the US TV series STAR TREK was broadcast for the first time. The core crew of the starship consisted of six men and one woman (Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scott, Sulu, Uhura and Chekov), the male-centred storyline is set in the 23rd century and the women generally wore very short skirts, if they occured at all… Just before STAR TREK the German Sci-Fi series RAUMPATROUILLE – DIE PHANTASTISCHEN ABENTEUER DES RAUMSCHIFFS ORION (Space Patrol – The Fantastic Adventures of the Spaceship Orion) was broadcast in 1965 which surpassed this by far, but that is a topic for another day. Let’s get back to the USS Enterprise.
Actor Walter Koenig mentioned in an interview with the Las Vegas Sun (published 30.7.14), that Nichelle Nichols‘ wage für playing the part of Uhura in the original series was lower than his (as Chekov) and that of George Takai (Sulu). Leonard Nimoy (Spock) heard of this and stood up for equal pay:

KOENIG: Leonard (Nimoy, Mr. Spock) was always kind of unapproachable. But a very good man. Sound ethics and a good sense of morality.
KOENIG: When it came to the attention of the cast that there was a disparity in pay in that George and I were getting the same pay but Nichelle was not getting as much, I took it to Leonard and he took it to the front office and they corrected that.

In this context it is fitting to quote cameraman and member of ver.di FilmUnion Stefan Nowak laudatory speech when the special award “Starker Einsatz 2014” (Strong Commitment) was presented to script writer / director Ulrike Grote and producer Ilona Schultz, founders of Fortune Cookies Filmproduction:

“(…) whoever stands up for reasonable compensation and humane working conditions is risking a lot. If worse comes to worse they are not hired any more. But at best reasonable budgets and working conditions can be achieved.”


Spock, Uhura and Sulu from the US TV series STAR TREK

I read of a second situation where Leonard Nimoy stood up for – financially – disadvantaged colleagues, which occured during the production of the animated series of Star Trek (1973 – 74):

NIMOY: There was also the case where George (Sulu) and Nichelle (Uhura) were not hired to do their voices in the animated series. I refused to do Spock until they were hired.
(quoted by Anthony Pascale in TrekMovie. 31.7.14)

Pascale commented on both incidents in the following manner:

The fact that Nimoy fought for Nichelle Nichols back in the 1960s shows a bit of bravery. Back then women’s pay equity wasn’t the same kind of  hot topic it is today. On top of that, while he was a lead, Nimoy was still just an actor in the show and didn’t have the kind of pull he would eventually have when he went on to produce and direct for the Star Trek movies in the 80s & 90s. All in all, Walter’s story just proves what we all knew, Leonard Nimoy is a mensch.

 Some elementary essentials of a fight for fair wages become apparent: first and foremost the different pay situation must be (made) transparent. It also helps if priviledged advocates act in solidarity and ideally if a broad alliance is formed.

FairPay Alliance and the Question of Transparency

Such an alliance has become active in Germany recently, not only in relation to the film industry but rather to all professional areas that show a gender specific imbalance of wages:

The alliance of the Berlin Declaration, working across all political groups, enters the next phase. We started (in 2011) with the aim to get more women involved in the decision making processes of the business world – on equal terms and with equal representation. The first big step was taken with the Law of Equal Participation of Women and Men in Leadership Positions. Our next aim: equal pay. We vouch for this with our FairPay Alliance. And we will have reached our aim when each and everyone is able to say on 365 days a year:
TODAY I am being paid fairly.
TODAY I am paying in a fair way.
(From the Berlin Declaration of Equality on the Pay Slip)

FairPay-Banner_1For the moment the campaign’s website only exists in a German version. On it everybody interested can support the petition and the work of the alliance with their signature, find information on allies as well as statements by supporters – among them of three actresses. The core demands of the petition are as follows:

  • achieve transparency for all
  • obligation to fix detected unequal pay situations
  • an upgrade of social careers

Transparency is good for everyone. Some don’t know for sure that they earn more than the others and how much. Or at least how little the others get paid, how badly they are paid for the same, equivalent or comparable work. And others often don’t know that they get less and how much less.

There is the real income distribution and the felt one. There is no connection between the two. Wealth starts at a net income of roughly 3.100 € per month (for singles, 4.600 € for pairs.) Only 8 % are above this threshold. People earning this much belong to a relatively small upper class. But actually most rich people believe that it’s never about them when newspaper and tv talk about the rich.
Kolja Rudzig. Reich sind immer die anderen / It’s always the others that are rich. DIE ZEIT No. 40, 22. Sept. 16

At the Rio Olympics all German athletes who won medals got the same prize money, gender didn’t matter, only the position in which they finished did: for a gold medal they were awarded 20,000 €, for silver 15,000 € and for bronze 10,000 €. The postions four to eight were awarded with 5,000 to 1,500 €. There were also standardized regulations for those competing in team events. The same prize money was given to German athletes competing in the Rio Paralympics.


Gender Prize Gap: When male athletes get higher prize money than female athletes.

A completely different Gender Prize Gap is practiced by the German Football Association DFB. Some months ago the men’s football Euro Championship was held in France, the German team got as far as the semi-finals, each player received a bonus of 100,000 €. Had they won the title they would have got 300,000 €. The female DFB players who won Olympic gold in Rio, in 2013 each received 22,500 € for winning the European champions’ title, which was their fifth in a row. That is 7,5 % of the men’s bonus they would have got 3 years later. I am expecting a distinct increase for the women’s Euro next year in the Netherlands. Anything less than 300,000 € per player for the title would be inappropiate and anachronistic.

These numbers are not very difficult to find, they are published by the German Sporthilfe (sports aid) and the DFB and also by the media. Other Gender Pay Gaps are not so easily detected since talking about one’s earnings

is still a taboo in Germany. However, breaking this taboo would have a positive effect on the wage gap and help close it. (…) Only those who know about salary levels can assess their own situation in comparison to others and are able to prove if they are paid unfairly.
(Source: Equalpaywiki)

Wage transparency is possible as the example from Sweden shows, a state without tax secrecy. The taxable income of nearly all people (exceptions: the King and the Queen) are made public and can be requested by calling the Skatteverket / tax office or by looking it up in the annual Taxeringskalender. Is transparency the source of the smaller Gender Pay Gap in Sweden? And could this be a model for Germany? (read also: Taxes are an open secret in Scandinavia).

What would it be like if everybody in a film project knew how much you are earning and you knew what everbody else is getting? Or alternatively, if the average wages for women and for men for each team division and in front of the camera were published?


Most of us have probably at one point or another encountered colleagues at work who take their time and chat a lot about private things during work, or who only pick the cherries from the workload – i.e. who work less than we do, in our subjective perception. But this is not about this type of “unfair pay”.

  • Unequal Pay is used for different wages, e.g. of women and men, for the same work.
  • Gender Pay Gap refers to the difference between the average incomes of women and men and is influenced by the types of jobs, part-time work and care responsibilities (read also: Gender Pay Gap: Government failing to take action)

Wage Disparity in the Film Industry

There are no uniform wages in the film industry, neither among the divisions nor within each. The varying pay depends on several causes:

  1. Film job: a lot of film salaries are regulated by collective agreements and differ a bit or considerably (see also: Filmcrafts: Some with Women, Some with Men? from July 2014).
  2. Type of production, i.e. wheter it’s for cinema or television, a blockbuster, indie or low budget film, broadcast in main or early evening programming etc.
  3. Weekly or annual individual occupational scope (read also Cinema, Career, Children: Can the Film Industry be called a family-friendly Workplace? From May 2014)
  4. Gender: wage differentials between women and men are also encountered in the film industry
  5. Status: Some wages are freely negotiable and the sky’s the limit, at least for some people in the film / tv industry.

Quoting from Cinema, Career, Children:

Satzer (2007) determined an average annual pre-tax income of 38.878 € for male and 30.119 € for female film makers. So according to this – non representative – survey men earn 29 % than women. This gender pay gap is also confirmed by the findings of Buhrmann and Diersche in 2012. But why is the gap so big? Are typically female film jobs paid less? Do women negotiate worse contracts individually? Is it because women – maybe because of family committments – participate in less productions per year? Knowing about the pay gap, would part-time wages for mothers in film and television even be higher than the social benefits level?
And what about women in film and television in front of the camera? According to the survey of Bührmann et al. (2010) 72 % of the women and 64,7 % of the men had an annual income of less than 30.240 € (from film, theatre and voice work). The survey also gives a more detailed classification of wages, in 5000 € steps, but that unfortunately does not differenciate between women and men. But the survey leaves another clue to the inferior situation for women: 18,5 % of the actors as opposed to 25,7 % of the actresses cannot support themselves from acting jobs.

Gender Pay Gap: difference between the average incomes of women and men.

Gender Pay Gap: difference between the average incomes of women and men.

It is also worth remembering that most people working for film and television aren’t permanently or continuously employed, rather they work in projects for limited periods. The shooring periods get shorter, the shooting days get longer. The reconciliation of family and working life is very difficult, not only against this background. (at present only a small share of the men care for small children or elderly relatives).
Danish actor Christian Tafdrup (known from the last season of the TV series BORGEN as the baddie TV1-programme director Alexander Hjort) mentioned at the screening of his directoral debut FORÆLDRE / PARENTS at the Munich Filmfest this year that in Danmark you cannot shoot longer than 8 hours a day. Not only is this good knews for parents but it’s probably also favouring creative work on the whole. Director Urs Egger – when receiving the Fair Film Award for the TV film DER FALL BRUCKNER – positively highlighted the fact that because children were involved in leading roles the shooting days were shorter than normal. But that is a topic for another day.

So far I have been writing about wages and salaries, but actually a number of film people aren’t employed / socially insured but are working free-lance, for example directors and directors of photography, so they have to take care of social insurance by themselves. There are no collective agreements for them, but e.g. again for directors, just recently an agreement between the ZDF (German Channel Two), the producers’ alliance and the BVR directors’ union was signed, in which a

Basic Remuneration BVR (directors’ union) of 27.820 € (was stipulated) . This is in accordance with the standard remuneration for script writers, even though it means some sort of advanced minimum fee for directors. Obviously experienced directors will receive more.
(Source: BVR und ZDF vereinbaren Gemeinsame Vergütungsregeln, undated).

And this brings us back to the question of gender. Both diversity reports published by the BVR so far (2010-13 and 2014) show a structural discrimination of female directors („they directed only 11 % of prime time TV minutes“) – so it is more difficult for women to gain experience that would raise their pay.
As a reaction to the work of Pro Quote Regie / Pro Quota Directing, to date several production companies have expressed their willingness to introduce minimum quotas for female directors, maybe pay equity will also become an issue – in accordance with the earlier mentioned demand of the Fair Pay Petition for Equity on the Pay Slip (TODAY I am paying in a fair way): obligation to fix detected unequal pay situation.

The Policy Paper on Gender by the BFFS

The German association of actresses and actors BFFS first commented on unequal pay for women and men in public in August 2014 with their unfortunately still quite unknown Unequal Pay Campaign. Now, two years later, the next step followed with a 1 page-policy paper on Gender (in German only, click here). The full title is Policy Paper on the situation of actresses in German language film and TV productions. The paper starts with an inventory:

The BFFS find the continuous discrimination of actresses unacceptable and commit themselves to do everything in their power that will result in equality for actresses in the workplace.

The paper lists three demands and four strategies. The second demand deals with wage justice:

2. Remuneration: The BFFS wants gender equal unbiased wages and through these a balanced wage ratio between actors and actresses.

The reasons for different annual incomes of actresses and actors among others can be found in the earlier mentioned wage disparity reasons occupational scope, gender and status:

The possible OCCUPATIONAL SCOPE is influenced by the different quantity of roles for women and men (have a look at my findings in section „Female and Male Roles, Quantity and Age in NEROPA – NEutral ROles PArity: A Method for more Genderbalanced Casts from 20.1.16) and the personal, e.g. family situation.
The factual occupational scope is also connected to the individual’s market value however that is determined or rather built, and the individual’s experience. Those who have been in more films are more likely to be cast than colleagues with a shorter c.v. – this applies to smaller roles as well. The BVC (Association of German Casting Directors) organized a panel discussion at this year’s Munich film festival called “Focus Casting: who is suitable for which role and why?“ and there we heard that even the number of followers in social networks are taken into account when determining the person’s market value. A high market value is said to be synonymous to a great audience and high tv ratings.
There is something else that negatively influences the possible occupational scope of less famous acting people: To save money some productions of public TV are transferred abroad and shot in East European countries. As a result there is less work for film people based in Germany who work behind and in front of the camera. The leading roles are cast in Germany and maybe also a handful of supporting actresses and actors. All others are hired locally for lower wages and possibly with additional regional funding. This makes the shooting a bit more difficult as the main cast will speak German and the others in their languages (and will be dubbed later). And also of course this results in fewer possible roles for German based actresses and actors.

GENDER: Not always but still sometimes women and men are paid differing daily wages for comparable roles. This may concern the two leading roles in a 90 minutes cop drama as well as secondary characters with similarly large (or small) roles. In Germany not many actresses go public with such discriminations, this was one of the reasons behind the BFFS Unequal Pay Campaign.
But of course we know of similar situations in other countries. Robin Wright and Kevin Spacey who played the equal leads Claire and Frank Underwood in the Netflix series HOUSE OF CARDS originally weren’t paid the same. Robin Wright was able to end this injustice because of transparency – she knew of this unequal pay – and her privileged situation. Her main character was more popular according to several audience surveys. So she threatened to go public – which she did in the end of course after she’d been successful with her demand. I don’t know if the unequal pay she’d received was also compensated in retrospect. So this was a clear example for Unequal Pay – but also for the Gender Pay Gap, as Wright mentions the connection between her lower market value and her family time:

Because I wasn’t working full-time, I wasn’t building my salary bracket. If you don’t build that … with notoriety and presence, you’re not in the game any more. (…) You don’t hold the value you would have held if you had done four movies a year like Nicole Kidman and Cate Blanchett did during the time I was raising my kids. Now I’m kind of on a comeback at 50 years old.”
The Guardian 18.5.16 Robin Wright says she had to fight for equal pay on House of Cards

Another aspect of unequal pay of female and male leading roles could be their different occurence in the film. Maybe the man of a leading pair of cops has his own recurring subplot and the woman doesn’t. So the actress on top of receiving the smaller daily wage also has fewer shooting days. (of course it could also be that the actor has fewer shooting days, that remains to be analysed).
The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media recently introduced the Geena Davis Inclusion Quotient GDIQ. This is a software tool for automatically analysing audio and video content in regards to the screen time of characters (see An Automated Analysis of Gender Representation in Popular Films).
It will be really great to see how this works out because obviously it would spare the analysts from time consuming work with stop watch and note pad in front of a monitor.
But of course it is also possible to analyse the roles by statistically evaluate the script before a production starts (e.g. the number of spoken words and the number of scenes in wich the characters appear). This ways has the great advantage that it enables a corrective intervention before shooting starts, in case the main couple is a bit lopsided. And in the digital era this evaluation should be no big deal.

STATUS as a third reason for Unequal Pay among actresses and actors it has less to do with Gender and more with the level of recognition, market value and (non-)exchangeability of the acting people.
Leading roles have the most shooting days and the highest daily wages in a production even though they don’t all earn the same. Secondary roles have (far) less shooting days and mostly also lower daily wages. Those shooting less often can even be downgraded in their regular wage for public TV. Character A and character B can act together in an important scene, be equally present and even be cast by acting people from the same agency and yet be paid very differently – because character A only has a total of three shooting days and character B is the lead and was cast with a public favourite.
I call this the Status Pay Gap. The next drawing shows a proportion of 3 to 1, of course the ratio for daily wages can easily be much higher.


Status Pay Gap: Gradient for daily wages.

Director Thomas Stuber, who was on the panel of the above mentioned BVC event “Focus Casting“: “Only five to eight women are eligible for female leads in ZDF (channel two) productions. The names change every now and then. It’s not a certain type of woman“. He didn’t talk about the pool of possible male leads, but it will most probably be bigger. Casting Director Anja Dihrberg added “The TV channels say “This works for us“. There are no 10.000 people who can act the leading parts.“ Casting director Clemens Erbach thinks that the problem with casting a film basically is

“too complex to be explained with few words“. He is getting fed up with this same old tune about a handful of actors and actresses taking away the roles from the others. Maybe some people really are better than others, he says provokingly, and of course he would request people of whom he is convinced more often. However, this is only a question of quality.“
Source: Jörg Seewald. Immer die gleichen Gesichter im TV /Always the same faces on TV. Der Tagesspiegel – 23.2.16

So the bulk of acting people has to make do with small/er roles. Of course, not all actresses and actors of a certain age or type who provide the skills needed for a character won’t be equally good or equally well suited. But there will be more than 25, the training and the talent situation in Germany is not that bad after all. And the TV and cinema audience don’t oppose variety as strongly as those in charge might think. But that is a topic for another day.
It remains to be said that the wage gap between bigger and smaller roles in a production diverges considerably, this status pay gap could easily be up to a factor 40, as shown in this detail:

schspin-status-pay-gap-detailNo, that’s not true, we only see a factor 20.

Lisa Basten comments on this in her book (in German) WE CREATIVES! THE SELF-IMAGE OF AN INDUSTRY (Frank& Timme. Berlin 2016): “It is interesting to see how the image of the poor artist works even though at the same time it is accepted that some with big names earn an exorbitant amount.“

But back to the Policy Paper on Gender of the BFFS. The first demand reads:

1. Casting: the BFFS demands a balance in the casts at a qualitative and quantitative level. For the total of fictional productions commissioned by a channel as well as for the sum of publically funded cinematographic works the total number of female (leading) roles and the total number of male (leading) roles should provide a balanced picture.

So, all productions (over which period?) should have just as many female as male leads, the same for the supporting roles, so that the overall figures are even.
This aim is very important and statistically speaking can only be reached if more female biased films are produced, as we already have a large number of male balanced projects (see here). But this is not the topic for now, let’s get back to pay equity. Only this much: more female roles than at the moment will lead to a higher overall income for the entirety of actresses – and at the same time to a decrease for the overall income of actors – and therefore the total remunerations of the sexes will get closer.
The already cited second demand reads:

  1. Remuneration: The BFFS wants gender unbiased equal wages and through these a balanced wage ratio between actors and actresses.

What exactly is meant by “gender unbiased equal wages“, should the leads earn the same sum or have the same daily wages? Will those earning less at the moment get as much as those with more or will they meet in the middle? Will the demand be fulfilled when female and male leads ear the same and the supporting roles are paid less but again women and men there get the same (per day or in total)? More on that in the final subchapter.

As mentioned the policy paper on gender also points out the strategy of the BFFS:

  • Mandatory monitoring for TV channels and funding bodies (appointments. total remuneration)
  • Change of Germany’s Federal Film Subsidies Act (FFG) (more women in awarding bodies)
  • Role descriptions
  • Acting wage agreement and collective agreement respectively (parental benefits, film contingency insurance)

The item role descriptions needs some explaining. Here is the full paragraph:

Supporting roles should always have a full name and be cast on basis of parity: roles whose gender has no significant meaning for the plot should have a real name (e.g. “Laura Müller“) instead of a general, usually male description („Taxi driver“ – that’s male in German). Parity should be ensured.

This is the most direct of all listed strategies and it describes – you will probably have recognized it already – my casting tool NEROPA Neutral Roles Parity. This makes sense of course, it’s a low-threshold offer with which the share of female roles in the cast can be increased immediately and without fundamentally changing the script and the plot. I am very happy that my association BFFS plans to advocate this path. Less pleasing is the fact that NEROPA is not mentioned by name, this is quite a careless handling of the work of a colleague, especially by an association that champions solidarity and the protection of copyrights. However I guess it’s only a small oversight and I hope that NEROPA Neutral Roles Parity will be added to the policy paper on gender soon, maybe even as the heading of that item – since “role descriptions“ is not really a gender political strategy. If all roles had a name there would be not one female character more than before. And if role names really make sense other than for acting c.v.’s or whether this decision should be left to the script writers is a topic for another day.
With NEROPA of course ALL roles in a production should be checked, including the main characters, not only the small nameless ones. So NEROPA can help to level out the role imbalances at all levels.

Epilogue: 21st Century – Men and Women, Leads and Supports

“It’s a fact that we want a supportive society. We are in favour of those who have more, partially including ourselves, giving something up for those that have less.“

This quote from BFFS board member Julia Beerhold (cn-interview 2009, in German) is from a slightly different context – social insurance and temporary employees – but it fits today’s text as well and the image of the film industry as a community of solidarity is quite nice.

Captain Kirk from the Star Trek series mentioned something else at the beginning of each episode, that might be a suggestion: “To boldly go where no man has gone before.“ To achieve fair pay for the film industry new roads need to be taken, so let’s go on a bold mental experiment with three models:
The four columns on the left schematically show the current situation of negotiable wages. The male lead gets a higher daily wage (5.000 €) than the female (4.000 € – Gender Pay Gap). The bigger supporting role gets 2.000 € and the smaller 750 € per day. The gap between smaller and bigger roles is much wieder than that between the actor and the actress in comparable leading roles – a sort of antonymous quantity discount – the more days of shooting the higher the daily pay.
The model in the middle depicts staggered payment (1.500 €, 3.000 € and 4.500 € per day respectively) and the model on the right is based on uniform wages for all of 3.000 € per day.

left: free wages, middle: 3 classes of pay, right uniform wages.

left: free wages, middle: 3 classes of pay, right uniform wages.

I’d like to introduce the three acting categories used by the GVL (Society for the Administration of Labouring Rights) in this context. They classify acting people according to their participatory share in the total shooting days of a production. The middle category B is for all those who acted in 20 – 40 % of the shooting days, and the categories A and C are above and below that respectively.
For our example let’s assume that we are dealing with a 90 min TV movie with 21 days of shooting. Supporting role 1 had 2 days (= category C), supporting role 2 had 5 days (category B, which is from 5 to 8 days shooting) and the lead had 12 shooting days (category A).

The next graph shows the total wages for the actresses and actors:

from left to right: free wages - 3 wage classes and pay cap (black line) - unified pay. directors' fees in red and blue.

from left to right: free wages – 3 wage classes and pay cap (black line) – uniform pay. directors’ fees  red / blue.

Obviously – since the number of days in front of the camera is crucial – in all three models the leading roles receive considerably more money than the supportings, so their status is guaranteed.
We can also see the distinct Gender Pay Gap of 12,000 € in the model on the left (for the same number of shooting days). Supporting role 1 is paid 1,500 € for 2 days, which is 1/40 (= 2,5 ) of the wage of the male lead, supporting role 2 gets 1/6 (= 16,7 %) of the male lead.
The model in the middle, apart from the staggered daily wages also introduces a pay cap of 50,000 €. Without this the leads would get 54,000 € for 12 days of shooting. Supporting role 1 makes 3,000 € (1/6 of the leads) and supporting role 2 gets 15,000 €, which is just a bit over 1/3 of the leads’ wages.
Of course the staggered wages models could be extended a bit further and also ackknowledge the years of individual professional activity and / or the person’s age. The actual film shoot experience would be a rather bad reference, since in the light of male-biased casts most actresses would be classified lower automatically.
The uniform wage model leads to wages that have moved closer together: 6,000 €, 15,000 € and 36,000 € respectively.

If we want to achieve fair pay for people working in films, especially for acting people, then then the industry as well as our association BFFS as interest group of all actors & actresses will have to address two challenges: close the Gender Pay Gap for all film crews and casts and lessen the Status Pay Gap.

Possible bold steps for productions could be:

  • voluntarily committing to pay women and men behind and in front of the camera equally for the same work (“today I am paying in a fair way”)
  • introducing wage transparency, publishing average wages for women and men in each division
  • performing the NEROPA Check for the whole cast list (“neutral roles parity”).
  • calculating the cast budget with different models (e.g. with staggered wages using the 3 GVL categories), introducing pay caps. Instead of cancelling smaller parts or combining them, consideration of possible reinforcements. Differentiating the smaller roles brings more depth to the film.

Back to the last figure once more. There are two more features in model I (red and blue horizontal lines) depicting hypothetical fees for a female director (30,000 €) and a male (50,000 €). What is worth considering: the directors work between 3 and 6 months on a film, pre-production, shooting, post-production. During that time they cannot work on another project. Acting people of course work more than the number of shooting days on a project, but how much in all? Threefold? Fivefold? So what about the fact that the leading actor / actress might actually earn much more than the director, who has to pay for insurance and pension schemes out of their wages as well? Once again, this is talking about public television, that does not have to follow the dictations of the tv ratings – no matter how often they say that they should? Cinema is a different cup of tea since there films are undergoing greater commercial pressure. So there a star model would make sense. Today maybe just as much as it did in the past:
For his role in the film TO CATCH A THIEF actor Cary Grant received much more than director / producer Alfred Hitchcock, who got less than $50,000. One of the reasons being that Grant had negotiated to get 10% of the gross revenue (= more than 700,000 $), something uncommon at the time. (acc. to McCann, Graham (1997). Cary Grant: A Class Apart. Quoted in the English Wikipedia).

Maybe one or two people reading this will start shouting “Oh no, this debate is guided by envy!” – but this is a killer argument. What is wrong in talking about top wages and poverty, about the still growing wage disparity among acting people, about unequal working opportunities an unequal pay for the same type of work? Let’s face it, all actresses / actors, whether they belong to the small group of “ARD / ZDF faces” (those are the two main public TV channels in Germany) or to the group of rarely employed supporting casts or to those, still waiting for “the” call, share the same profession (unlike e.g. dentist – dental assistant – dental technician) and want the same thing. To act.

And actually, calling for “pay caps and redistribution from the top to the bottom” is nothing new, look at the open letter US actor Peter Coyote wrote to Hollywood’s top stars eight years ago (Peter Coyote’s Open Letter to Lead Actors), calling them to action.


In a representative survey of economist Carina Engelhardt “83 % of the participants stated that they were in favour of more redistribution. This included most of the high earners – who were of the opinion that they didn’t rank highly in the income hierarchy. As soon as the researcher corrected this misconception and told them that they would have to co-finance the retristribution they immediately changed their mind.“
Kolja Rudzig. Reich sind immer die anderen / It’s always the others that are rich. DIE ZEIT no. 22, Sept. 16

We are still is at the rear end of European countries with a Gender Pay Gap of 21 %, it is still difficult to combine family and work in Germany, and there is still a lack of women in specific jobs, trades and on the higher steps of the career ladder. However, one thing is certain, it’s not only women that benefit fromequality and fair wages but also men and economy as a whole. Equal opportunities strengthen Germany’s future sustainability.
Henrike von Platen. FairPay-Expert Forum Equal Pay Day, Past-President BPW Germany

It’s fun to fight. And those that change the conditions also change their lives. For that they need to be courageous, creative and willing to act in solidarity – and maybe also be a little stubborn.
Stefan Nowak. laudatory speaker at the “Strong Commitment Award 2014


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