January 30, 2024
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The Actor Offer Letter & Hiring Talent

Tom Waddick
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Casting—the heartbeat of filmmaking where characters come to life and stories find their voices. Casting is when characters cease to be words on a page and morph into living, breathing beings.

Enter the actor offer letter—an often underestimated but powerful document that connects the vision of a filmmaker with the talent of an actor. A well-structured offer letter is not just a formality; it's the foundation of a collaborative journey. It sets expectations, outlines commitments, and serves as the initial agreement that propels the casting process forward.

In this post, we'll explore how to hire actors, the significance of well-structured actor offer letters in hiring talent, and how these foundational documents can be your guiding light in the casting process. Let's delve into the nuances of these letters and how they navigate the complex landscape of hiring talent.

Download our free actor offer letter template

Before we begin walking you through how to hire talent by crafting a detailed and compelling actor offer letter, we invite you to enhance your understanding by downloading our free actor offer letter template.

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Actor Offer Letter Template

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Our actor offer letter example provides a strong foundation to guide you through hiring talent as you draft your next actor offer letter. You can use the actor offer letter template to follow along as we explain the core components of a professional actor offer letter. 

What is an actor offer letter?

An actor offer letter is a formal letter from a producer’s representative to an actor’s representative offering the actor a role in a production. It outlines the terms, conditions, and expectations of the role, laying the groundwork for a formal employment agreement.

It is important to note that the actor offer letter is not an employment agreement. It sets the stage for negotiations and collaboration, ensuring both parties are on the same page before a formal employment agreement is drafted and casting is finalized.

What are the key components of actor offer letters?

Every actor offer letter should include the essential details of the job, as these letters are one of the most important first steps in establishing the terms of collaboration with actors for hire. 

The offer letter should include details about the project and the terms of employment, including: 

  • the length of the shoot and the location(s) at which filming will take place
  • the amount of the actor's salary for his/her work on the film
  • amounts or percentages of deferred and contingent compensation 
  • credit provisions 
  • travel, accommodation, and per diem expenses

Below, we’ll break down each of these essential sections of the actor offer letter as we walk you through how to hire actors and detail everything that goes into a well-structured letter. Feel free to reference our actor offer letter example to better understand how each section works in practice.

Introduction

First and foremost, every good actor offer letter should begin with a professional and friendly introduction. This is where the individual writing the offer letter—the producer’s representative—addresses the actor’s representative and introduces the producer for whom they are working.

The Actor Offer Letter and Hiring Talent - Wrapbook - Pen
A formal introduction—it’s good letter-writing etiquette. SOURCE

Not only is a proper introduction good letter-writing etiquette, but also it establishes an amicable foundation for this new professional relationship. Plus, it makes crystal clear all the parties involved in hiring talent and their roles in the casting process.

Project details

After the important introductory formalities are out of the way, every well crafted actor offer letter continues by disclosing the details of the project.

This includes the title of the project, the length of the shoot, and dates of the shoot. If there is the option for additional shoot days, the length, start date, and end date for these potential additional days should also be included. The letter should list all shooting locations

Finally, and perhaps most essentially, this section of the actor offer letter should specify the role being offered. After all, the main purpose of this letter is to offer an actor a role—actors for hire will want to know whom they’re being hired to play.

Compensation

Once you establish all the details of your project, it’s time to talk dollars and cents. The next section of a well-written actor offer letter covers the actor’s salary and your proposed payment structure. If you’re wondering how to hire talented actors, the answer is simple: Pay them well.

The Actor Offer Letter and Hiring Talent - Wrapbook - Cash
Wondering how to hire actors? Pay them well. SOURCE

Fixed compensation

The basis of an actor’s pay is almost always fixed compensation—guaranteed money not subject to any specific events. How much you’ll pay the actor in fixed compensation will be dependent on a few things, including whether they are a member of SAG-AFTRA, your project’s budget, and the length of your shoot.

When outlining the actor’s fixed compensation, it’s also important to specify if they will be paid all at once in a lump sum, or paid over the course of the project in several installment payments.

Deferred compensation

In some situations, it’s advantageous to pay an actor later, after the occurrence of a specific, agreed upon event such as the production receiving funding from a distributor. In these cases, you will want to include a deferred compensation clause in your actor offer letter. 

Deferred compensation is a fixed sum, payment of which is deferred until after a specific event. If the actor will be receiving deferred compensation, you’ll want to specify in the actor offer letter both the amount of their deferred compensation and when they will receive their deferred compensation.

Like directors, actors may also receive deferred compensation in the form of a box office or awards bonus. These fixed amounts can be paid at different levels, based on domestic or worldwide box-office gross receipts (for box office bonuses) or specific awards such as “Best Actor” or “Best Supporting Actress” (for awards bonuses). In all cases, you will want to specify the amount of the bonus and criteria for payment in the actor offer letter. 

Contingent compensation

The third and final pillar of the traditional actor compensation model is contingent compensation. Like deferred compensation, contingent compensation is pegged to a specific, agreed upon future event. However, unlike deferred compensation, contingent compensation is not fixed.  

Usually, contingent compensation is a portion of the production’s net proceeds or profits. Contingent compensation for actors typically ranges between 5% and 10% of the film’s net profits. If you’ve ever heard the phrase “points on the back end,” this is what that refers to.

If the actor will be paid contingent compensation, the actor offer letter will specify the amount of contingent compensation and whether it will be calculated based on net proceeds, or less typically, a different measure like first dollar gross.

Credit provisions

Along with outlining compensation, actor offer letters set provisions for perhaps the most valuable thing any actor can receive: credit. 

Every letter should include sections that describe exactly how the actor will be credited on the production. This includes both on screen credit and credit in promotional and advertising materials.

On screen credit

The on screen credit section usually includes mention of where in the titles the actor will be credited. This could be on a separate card, before or after the title of the film, or in first or second position. This section also usually specifies whether the cast will be credited in alphabetical order or in order of appearance.

As trivial as it might seem, placement in the credits can be hotly negotiated. During negotiations for the movie The Towering Inferno, leading men Steve McQueen and Paul Newman both insisted their names appear before the title, but Newman and McQueen could not agree on whose name should appear first. 

Eventually producers decided to place the names according to alphabetical order, but to avoid slighting Newman, they came up with this solution: both names were placed on the same card, with Newman’s name to the right of and slightly above McQueen’s. In the clip below, you can see the placement of the actors’ names about 17 seconds into the video.

If that isn’t minute enough, the actor offer letter will also specify exactly how large the actor’s credit will appear in relation to other credits. In our actor offer letter example, we suggest the actor’s name be written in type “no smaller than seventy-five percent (75%) of the size of type used to display the title of the picture.”

Advertising credit 

Much like on-screen credit, this section will specify exactly how and where the actor will be credited in promotional materials and the font size of their credit in relation to other credits.

Travel and expenses

Finally, in your actor offer letter you should offer to cover any applicable travel costs and other expenses that your actors for hire might incur during the production.

Transportation

The actor offer letter should specify arrangements for travel. This includes flights between the primary filming location and any additional locations as well as round-trip airfare to the primary filming location.

If the actor will need a car to travel to and from the filming location, provisions for supplying them a car should be laid out in the actor offer letter.

Accommodation

If your shoot will take place away from the actor’s home, you will probably need to provide lodging for the actor. Whether you opt to book hotel rooms or provide your talent with “housing allowances” so they can secure their own accommodations, the details of their housing should be laid out in the actor offer letter.

The Actor Offer Letter and Hiring Talent - Wrapbook - Motel
Make sure you research your talent and crew accommodations before booking. SOURCE

Even if the shoot will take place close to home, you may need to provide the actor with a trailer, in which case the details should be written into the actor offer letter.

If you’ll be providing the actor with a dressing room separate from their trailer, you’ll want to include specifics about their dressing room in the letter as well.

Expenses

Finally, if the actor will receive a per diem or any other stipend during the course of production to cover additional expenses, these should be enumerated under the travel and expenses section of the actor offer letter.

Next steps

After outlining all the benefits on offer to your actor, you will want to conclude your actor offer letter with instructions to the actor and their representative for how to act on the actor offer letter. 

These instructions should stipulate a deadline for accepting the offer and moving forward with a formal employment agreement. A key component in how to hire actors, or how to hire anyone for that matter, is to create a sense of urgency. You do not want your casting negotiations to stall out here because an agent or manager got busy and forgot about your actor offer letter.

Why actor offer letters matter

Actor offer letters provide a shield of legal protection for both parties, producers and actors for hire. A well-drafted letter is a contract in spirit, laying the groundwork for a solid legal foundation. 

As such, you will want to hire an entertainment lawyer to help draft and review your actor offer letter. As key players in the casting process, entertainment lawyers know the best practices for how to hire actors.

Remember: ambiguity is the enemy of collaboration. Actor offer letters cut through the fog, establishing clear expectations, roles, and responsibilities. They are the compass which helps you navigate the collaborative journey between filmmakers and actors.

How to craft a compelling actor offer letter

No two films are the same, and no two actor offer letters should be the same either. Personalize your letters, tailor them to the nuances of your project, and show actors why they are the missing piece to your cinematic puzzle. A great place to start customizing your next actor offer letter is by downloading our actor offer letter example above. 

In a world of jargon, simplicity is a breath of fresh air. Craft your actor offer letters with clarity and simplicity, ensuring that both seasoned professionals and rising stars can easily grasp the terms and conditions.

Wrapping up

Actor offer letters are not mere formalities, but instead powerful tools shaping collaboration in the film industry. Well-structured actor offer letters empower the filmmaking process, fostering strong collaborations that bring artistic visions to life.

To further support your next casting journey, download our free actor offer letter template. Our template will guide you through how to hire talented actors by drafting your own, personalized actor offer letter. A well-structured letter is the best way to elevate your casting process and set the stage for cinematic brilliance.

Free Resource

Actor Offer Letter Template

Download Now

Disclaimer

At Wrapbook, we pride ourselves on providing outstanding free resources to producers and their crews, but this post is for informational purposes only as of the date above. The content on our website is not intended to provide and should not be relied on for legal, accounting, or tax advice.  You should consult with your own legal, accounting, or tax advisors to determine how this general information may apply to your specific circumstances.

About the author
Tom Waddick

Tom is a filmmaker, producer, and marketing specialist based in Los Angeles.

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