When I was starting in the industry I worked at a major agency. I am no longer in representation. When someone is a star they often require more negotiation. They get a piece of the back end (if the film makes money they get money) or what is more popular now because of wonky Hollywood accounting are box office bonuses.
The film makes $100M you get $250k bonus for example. If there are multiple stars I’ve seen deals where the first person that signs on has some protection that their salary matches the other star that joins if it ends up being higher.
But even just the base pay is always a negotiation and an agent has connections at the studio or wherever and is better equipped to gauge how much the production can afford.
Does the actor just want max money?
Do they want to roll the dice on an indie film for less money?
Oh but wait, the indie is financed by the daughter of a billionaire – maybe they can get more.
How you’re credited, getting a say in the poster art, what kind of trailer you get or the hotel you stay at. What kind of flights you take. All get negotiated.
My point is that there is a lot of nuance that an actor might not even be aware of unless they spend their entire day trying to keep their finger on the pulse of the industry.
At which point are they really saving money or are they basically taking on a second lower paying job?
Even very basic early deals that are relatively straightforward aren’t always that way.
Like staff writers on a network tv show have some structure on how much they get paid. But I’ve seen writers on the same level join a show and then 3 seasons in one of them has a producer credit and the other one doesn’t. Suddenly the one without the credit is asking the other to meet with their lawyer and agent.
It can impact the entire trajectory of their career.
Another important aspect is providing some buffer between the talent and the production. You think the actor wants to be in a screaming match with a producer on the phone negotiating and then be on set together? If it’s your agent it’s just “Yeah, deal with them. It’s their job. They’re a bulldog.”
From what I’ve seen the reps earn their money but sometimes I think about when you add it all together. Is a lawyer worth 5%? Sure. And agent 10%? Usually. But before you know it between your lawyer, agent, and manager you’re paying 25% to your reps. Some ever have business managers too.