How much to pay for actors actresses

Between fame and poverty: what actors really deserve

Film stars with high salaries are the absolute exception. Most actors can barely make a living from their profession and end up in old age poverty. We reveal what is really earned in front of the camera.

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Hollywood stars enjoy fame and fortune. Dwayne Johnson was the best-paid actor in 2019, according to Forbes business magazine, earning a staggering $ 89.4 million. Behind them are Chris Hemsworth (76.4 million) and Robert Downey Jr. (66 million).

Such sums cannot be earned in Germany. But our TV stars also earn decent salaries. Til Schweiger, for example, is said to have collected around 300,000 euros per twisted crime scene, according to "Promiflash", Jan Josef Liefers and Axel Prahl each 200,000 euros.

All of these are substantial fees for a single film. The only problem is: these actors are the exceptions.

Heinrich Schafmeister has been an actor for almost 40 years and has played major roles in successful films such as "Comedian Harmonists". As a board member of the Federal Drama Association (BFFS), he knows the income situation of around 15,000 actors in Germany - and it is mostly dramatic.

55 percent earn less than 20,000 euros a year

"Just under five percent of actors can sleep a little more relaxed because they earn 100,000 euros or more a year. However, around 55 percent of German actors and actresses earn less than 20,000 euros a year and therefore cannot make a living from their profession," he revealed in conversation with our editorial team.

According to the association's collective agreement, the starting fee for actors is at least EUR 850 per day of shooting, and EUR 1,000 for productions by Netflix.

At ZDF, for example, there is a fee grid. That means: The actor is assigned a certain fee depending on their experience - it is particularly important how much the actor has already shot on ZDF.

That means: Young actors start with the entry-level salary and work their way up as the number of film and television productions increases. "An actor with ten years of professional experience who has played a lot of supporting roles often comes in at less than 2,000 euros per day of shooting," says Schafmeister.

Only five days of shooting a year - or less

Now these sums may seem attractive at first glance. However, if you take into account that many actors often only have five days of shooting a year or less due to the high level of competition, the situation looks completely different.

So actors have to try to get the best possible income from the few days of shooting. However, television broadcasters and production companies are trying to lower their fees. Therefore the so-called special fees were introduced.

Schafmeister explains: "Special fees are below the normal fee level and are paid for early evening series. At ARD, experienced actors only earn 1,500 euros per day. In a ZDF crime series like SOKO, even stars do not earn more than 2,500 euros per day of shooting."

10,000 euros monthly salary for a daily soap

You can count yourself lucky if you get hold of one of the coveted leading roles in a series and receive a fixed salary - for example in a daily soap such as "Gute Zeiten, Bad Zeiten" or "Alles Wasamt".

An acting agent, who does not want to be named, said in an interview with our editorial team: "If you have a lot of experience, you can easily earn 10,000 euros a month on a soap. Sometimes even more, but often less. Some actors get a fixed monthly salary of 3,000 euros and additionally receive an extra payment for the episodes in which they take place. Beginners then get 4,000 or 5,000 euros per month, advanced users to 6,000 to 8,000 euros. "

The unprofitable dream of the cinema

Movies may be the dream of many actors, but they are nowhere near as profitable as is often assumed. "There used to be more to earn in the cinema than in television. With a few exceptions, that is no longer the case," says Schafmeister.

The exceptions are mostly children's films and comedies - ideally with Til Schweiger, Matthias Schweighöfer or Elyas M'Barek in the lead role. However, such films are often prominently cast down to the smallest supporting role. That means: the average actor hardly has a chance of getting a role.

Cinema films, which tend to only reach a small audience, and this applies to most German cinema productions, have only a small budget and can pay the actors less. 1,000 euros per day of shooting is more the rule than the exception.

Overall, however, Schafmeister also discovers positive trends: "In the past few years the number of film and television productions has declined. This has perhaps improved somewhat thanks to streaming providers such as Netflix and Amazon."

420 euros pension per month

Nevertheless, only a few actors will be able to make a living from their profession in the future. This also has an impact on retirement provision. "Poverty in old age is the fate of actors," says Schafmeister and gives examples: "The renowned actor Horst Janson receives a pension of 420 euros a month, an Eleonore Weisgerber 820 euros."

This is why these and many other actors are still on stage or in front of the camera even in old age - because they want to and because they have to.

Sources used:

  • The Highest-Paid Actors 2019: Dwayne Johnson, Bradley Cooper and Chris Hemsworth
  • 200,000 euros per episode: That's how much the "Tatort" stars earn
  • Interview with Heinrich Schafmeister
  • Interview with an acting agent who does not want to be named