The Art of Negotiation

I just negotiated myself right out of a cool acting job.

Yes, it (just barely) paid enough to make ends meet; but it didn’t pay enough to honor the work that actors do as artists, and the value of one’s time.  The pay was reasonable for stage, but not for screen.  And certainly not for such an established company.  Not for something that will continue to generate strong revenue for them long after the actual performance is over.  Not for aspects of performance that they can re-use as stock footage for future projects, without paying royalties.  I just can’t sell out like that. 

It makes me sound like a jerk, right?  “She was offered a somewhat-decent paying gig and she turned it down – who the hell does she think she is?!” 

I’m still trying to figure myself out, but this much I know is true: I am an artist that just took one for the team.  I am an artist that took a stand for a reasonable wage.  Yeah, I did it for me, but I did it for everyone else in this town, too.  What had to be explained to me by a friend, many times, very clearly, is that if artists keep accepting mediocre-at-best wages for their work, it drives prices down.  Companies know that they can get other actors at a fraction of a reasonable wage, because there are actors out there desperate enough to do it; but what they don’t realize until after the fact is that the actors they get are less qualified.  In our economy, you get what you pay for.

And god, believe me, I wanted to do it.  Badly.  I had a great time at the audition – I thoroughly enjoyed everyone that was in the room – there was a great rapport.  But I had to respect myself enough not to accept their final offer.  And that was really, really hard.  It took the guidance and encouragement of a friend/fellow artist.  It took three (yes, three) books on negotiation techniques, one of them specifically aimed at artists, another specifically aimed at women.  It took time.  And in the end, it took a good cry in the privacy of my living room.

A couple of weeks later, and I still think about that job.  I still think about the what-ifs.  But in the end I still know, deep down, and sometimes after a lot of searching, that I did the right thing.

Integrity versus Gig: 15-love.