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Dallas Pay Scales - How To Avoid Laying Off Actors

Discussion in 'Dallas - The Original Series' started by Kenny Coyote, Mar 25, 2020.

  1. Kenny Coyote

    Kenny Coyote Soap Chat Enthusiast EXP: 12 Years

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    This idea was inspired by the recent posts about how various actors got layed off or fired when Dallas started making less money and they made budget cuts, resulting in losing people in major roles like Susan Howard, or actors in smaller but still important roles like Morgan Woodward.

    For the sake of simplicity let's say the network was paying the actors directly. I don't know if CBS or Lorimar paid the actors, but for this, jut suppose it was CBS. If it was Lorimar, this same idea could still have been used, just substitute Lorimar for where I say CBS.

    Depending on when an actor's contract was done and a new contract re-negotiated, they'd offer a certain amount (usually a per episode amount). The actor could accept or refuse and if they refused, CBS might offer more, or they might just let the actor go. The problem appeared to be that some of the amounts offered were made during peak ratings years and then when the ratings dropped, it was difficult to afford to keep paying the agreed an amount.

    A contracts exists to give both the employer and employee security in knowing each has made a commitment to the other. The problem with it is that you can never be sure what earnings are going to be, since they're tied to ratings. If the ratings go up, the actor may feel they aren't being paid what they're worth, but they gave their word to work for that amount so the network doesn't have to pay them more, and likely won't. If the ratings go down, the network ends up paying the actors more than they're able to afford. That means they're going to have to save the money somewhere else, which can and did result in losing important people to the show.

    I was thinking, why didn't the networks use a pay system where they'd offer a certain amount as a base guarantee on income for the actors, writers and producers, and then offer an additional amount on top of that based on productivity? Say Larry Hagman was earning $100,000 per episode (just to have a nice even number to work with, since this is just an example). Why not re-structure the pay system based on productivity? In TV, productivity is determined by ratings and the higher the ratings, the more money the network can charge for commercial time.

    CBS could have avoided a lot of the problems they'd had, and avoided letting go of actors who were valuable to the show, if they'd done things this way:

    Instead of offering Larry Hagman, or any other actor, a fixed amount per episode, per year, instead of offering them the big guaranteed contracts which aren't tied to performance or productivity, have the pay system offer a basic amount, maybe $20,000 pr episode in his case, as a guaranteed base and then offer bonuses tied to the ratings?

    For simplicity's sake, since this is just an outline of a system, offer Larry Hgamnaa certain amount extra for every ratings point above a certain level - say a rating of 15. In his case, every ratings point above 15 would result in a bonus of $10,000 per Neilsen ratings point. If Dallas gets a 16 rating, he gets paid a $10,000 bonus per episode, for a total $30,000 per episode. If it got a 20 rating, he'd get a bonus of $50,000 per episode, for a total of $70,000 per episode. A 23 would give him $100,000 total - $20,000 base plus an $80,000 bonus for being 8 points above a 15 rating. If they did extremely well and got a 27 rating, he'd get $140,000 per episode.

    This system could be used for actors, writers and producers. It ensures people are being paid what they actually earn. It rewards them for doing better, and avoids paying them more money than they're actually worth. It's a merit based system which provides an incentive to give a one hundred percent effort. Since everyone is helping everyone else make money, you also wouldn't have a problem with actors maybe trying to "steal the spotlight' in a scene where they try to make themselves look good, to the detriment f the overall product. It looks like win/win situation to me!
     
  2. Kenny Coyote

    Kenny Coyote Soap Chat Enthusiast EXP: 12 Years

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    Apparently nobody who read this, so far, think it's good idea. That's fine; I don't expect agreement all the time. For the people who did read it and don't agree with the idea I presented, could you tell me what it is about the idea that makes you think it wouldn't have worked?
     
  3. Alexis

    Alexis Soap Chat Warrior EXP: 12 Years

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    It wouldn't have worked because people don't want to have to rely on whatever the ratings are to determine how much they earn. Actors and people in the entertainment industry in general have egos. They also have managers. They like to negotiate big salaries, top billing, special treatment. It's all part of that world. Maybe more so back then than now, though I am not sure.

    They like to have a contract that keeps them secure in the amount of money they make. After all an actor signs a contract not knowing how well a show will do. This contract usually binds them for the best part of a year at first and then gets renegotiated every 3 years or so after the first year. An actor wants to know they are making the most they can straight away up front. They don't want income to rely on whether the show is doing well or not. That doesn't matter to them, that is beyond their control. They are giving all of their time and talent to the network for their show. Usually exclusively so they cant work elsewhere too.

    Also it is hard to determine what an actors role is worth in terms of money. For instance undoubtedly Joan Collins was the star of Dynasty after the first season. However she wasn't being paid as much as Linda Evans or John Forsythe who were the original leads and big names from the first season. During season 5 when she was renegotiating her salary she had to play hard ball to get the money she thought that she worth. She wanted parity with John and Linda which she wasn't getting before despite being the breakout star of the show and a pop culture icon at the time.
     
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  4. Kenny Coyote

    Kenny Coyote Soap Chat Enthusiast EXP: 12 Years

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    This is the kind of situation that wouldn't happen if the industry operated under a merit system of paying people what they bring to show and who well they show does when they are featured in a top role in a show. I didn't include this in my opening post though.

    If they operated under a merit system, then when someone who wasn't the original star of the show becomes the star of the show, the money they would get paid extra for very rating above certain number would be an amount proportionate to their role in the show. The amount of money they get paid for every extra Neilsen ratings point should be relative to the importance of their character to the show.

    The reason for having a merit system is it's flexible - it pays people based on actual productivity as opposed to what they speculate productivity will be. If the show does better than expected, everyone makes more than they would have been paid in a fixed contract. If the show does less well than expected, everyone gets paid less than what a fixed contract would have because that kind of contract os only based on speculation of how much money the show will earn.

    The flexibility of the merit system provides incentive to do the very best you can because you know that the better the show becomes, the more money you make. For the same exact reason, it discourages complacency.

    The objective of it is to pay people the amount of money closest to what they actually contribute to the show's earnings. That way the show never goes over budget, and actors don't get stuck contracts that pay them too little because the show exceeds expectations. Nobody gets paid more than they're worth or less than their worth in a flexible pay system based on actual productivity.
     
  5. Alexis

    Alexis Soap Chat Warrior EXP: 12 Years

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    Only thing is if actors were paid on a merit system based on ratings nobody would get paid with the way ratings are dwindling for even big shows.
     
  6. Kenny Coyote

    Kenny Coyote Soap Chat Enthusiast EXP: 12 Years

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    You're right.

    In the days of Dallas I think it would have worked well though: to pay people an appropriate amount and avoid having to layoff some of the actors to be able to stay on budget, since some actors were in big money guarantee contracts and being paid a disproportionately big amount of money bad on the earnings of previous, more successful years

    Then when they got rid of some characters, anywhere from small but valuable ones like Punk Anderson, to bigger characters like Jeremy Wendell and Susan Howard, it hurt the ratings more, which meant that even after laying off actors, they still were over budget.
     
  7. stevew

    stevew Soap Chat TV Fanatic EXP: 8 Years

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    Monday morning quarter backing.

    The production company, the broadcast company, the actors, they’re all trying to make as much money as possible. You hear about actors taking a cut of the profits all the time. It’s nothing new. Lucille Ball did that back when her and her husband set up the production company to make their tv show in the 1950’s. Who knows how LH felt. He might have wanted more of a guarantee then a percentage of possibility. Maybe the produces felt like they could make more of a profit off of giving him that guarantee. It’s a lot of could have, should have after the fact and a lot of details in the contract beyond just base pay per episode.

    I’m guessing here, but it’s like any business. Take the oil business. I can get paid now, sell you my mineral rights. Or I can take a chance and lease my mineral rights to you at a flat rate or a percentage. Or I could set up my own company to drill. Could I make the most off drilling myself? Sure. But that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing for me to do. It’s risky. So may be I want to lease it to someone who knows what they’re doing and take a cut. But then markets goes up and down a lot. Maybe I just want a big check now to go do something else with it. There is no right answer despite a myriad of experts who will tell you they know best.

    The short answer is, it’s complicated and I think it was more than paying top actors less when rating declined to save the show. Let’s say LH agreed and made more off the high rates than he had (meaning the production company made less). Would he be willing to make less? Not necessarily. Would the production company be willing to keep money tied up in Dallas and miss other opportunities just because their salary costs went down with their revenue? Not necessarily. It’s complicated.
     
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2020
  8. Kenny Coyote

    Kenny Coyote Soap Chat Enthusiast EXP: 12 Years

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    If you're going to agree to be paid what you're worth and you enjoy it when your salary rises then you can't complain when your pay goes down when the show does less well. If he doesn't think he should be paid what he's worth and wants to be paid more money than he's bringing in, I don't know where he thinks the money should come from.

    He could, hypothetically say he wants to be paid just as much if the show doesn't make as much money as it used to, but the employer has an advantage here because they can say: "Go work for someone who will offer you more" - I think he'd have had a hard time finding a show that would have done that. In fact, it seems he had a hard time finding a show that would pay him much at all considering how long it was after Dallas before he got another series he starred in - 1997.
     
  9. stevew

    stevew Soap Chat TV Fanatic EXP: 8 Years

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    You can complain any time you want or anything you want. He is not the only factor in how well the show does in the ratings. And he gets, and did get, as much as he can. That’s negotiating. His value isn’t written in stone, it’s negotiated in a free market. In fact I think he in fact made enough off of Dallas, high and low ratings, he didn’t need another series. It was his error in investing which necessitated his return to working.
     
  10. Kenny Coyote

    Kenny Coyote Soap Chat Enthusiast EXP: 12 Years

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    When I wrote: "If you're going to agree to be paid what you're worth and you enjoy it when your salary rises then you can't complain when your pay goes down when the show does less well" the implication was rationally complain. Of course he could irrational complain he should get paid more when they show does better but not get paid less when the show does worse but that wouldn't be rational, would it?

    I didn't say he was. In fact in the OP I wrote:

     
  11. Lastkidpicked

    Lastkidpicked Soap Chat Addict EXP: 11 Years

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    Very interesting thread, Kenny. Do you think Steve Kanaly and Susan Howard would have stayed if they were told, "We want you to continue here, but can't pay you as much.". I think Charlene Tilton would. Did you ever see the interview where she said, "They told me to say that I'm pursuing other opportunities. I'm not going to say that. I didn't leave to persue other opportunities, they dropped me and that is what I'm going to say."
     
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  12. Kenny Coyote

    Kenny Coyote Soap Chat Enthusiast EXP: 12 Years

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    Thanks Lastkid! Since they were leaving it means their contract was over, so had they offered them a new contract for less money I think they'd have taken it because the show was making less money. As long as they are offered something proportionate - say the show was making 25% less money, so they offered them 25% less, I think it's likely. It's fun work and it's not like anyone else was beating down their doors with other offers, so I would think so!

    What I don't think would happen is that someone would have taken a voluntary pay cut so that the show could afford to keep someone else, since I was asked a similar question once. When you've got a 3 year contract for a million dollars a year and someone asks in the second year of your contract: Would you take $800,000 a year so we can keep some supporting actors" that's not gonna happen.

    The amount in the contract is guaranteed money. You've made the commitment to work there for 3 years and they've made the commitment to pay you that much to do it. You'll probably never see that kind of money again. So I'd expect them to say: "I'm keeping my word to you and I expect you to keep your word to me."

    I've never heard of that happening once anywhere I've worked. There's something called dignity too. How do you think, say, Morgan Woodward would feel if Larry Hagman said: "I hear they said they have to lay you off. Well, I'll pay your salary out of my pocket so you can stay." He'd feel like he was taking charity! He wouldn't do that. So whether Larry does that, or whether Larry suggest he takes a voluntary pay cut so they can use the money they guaranteed Larry to give it to Morgan, what's the difference? Either way, the man knows he's being offered charity, so I've gotta think there's no way that was ever gonna happen.
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2020
  13. Toni

    Toni Soap Chat Mega Star EXP: 18 Years

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    I would have paid Morgan (Brittany) to stay in the show forever!!
     
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  14. tommie

    tommie Soap Chat Mega Star EXP: 3 Years

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    I just don't think this is a very realistic option to be quite honest, especially as ratings have been going down for decades now. It isn't just something that suddenly happened, but something that's been a trend for ages now; add that ratings doesn't necessarily reflect how profitable a show is. Last season Star got cancelled despite decent ratings because the ratings breakdown showed that it was appealing to a low-income demographic so the network ended up having difficulty charging advertisers to keep up with the cost of the show. Add that most actors just wouldn't want to tie their earnings on how a show is performing in ratings since that's out of their reach; CBS could, as an example, move the show to Saturday nights at 10PM and it would inevitable take a huge ratings nosedive.

    Of course, there has been cases of actors taking pay cuts to keep shows on air though. Mariska Hargitay took a significant paycut on SVU maybe a decade or so ago when the show was doing less great in the ratings in return for a bigger cut of the syndication profits. It of course paid off big time for her. The guys on The Big Bang Theory took a pay cut so that the girls could get a raise, so it does happen.
     
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  15. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Winner EXP: 18 Years

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    I'm sure it would be different for someone like Punk from someone like JR. JR's under a long term contract. Punk and Mavis and the cartel are all freelancing actors, booked for a few episodes here and there as and when they're required. And if they're busy on something else, you just give their lines to someone else.
     
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  16. Kenny Coyote

    Kenny Coyote Soap Chat Enthusiast EXP: 12 Years

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    Absolutely. It wouldn't be reasonable to tie his pay to performance because whatever Punk does in Dallas isn't going to have any big change in the overall earnings of the show; he not on it enough. A merit based pay schedule would be something appropriate for the top few stars, the producer and the top writers.
     
  17. Alexis

    Alexis Soap Chat Warrior EXP: 12 Years

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    Only that model just wouldn't work. For reasons already pointed out. There are too many variables.
     
  18. Kenny Coyote

    Kenny Coyote Soap Chat Enthusiast EXP: 12 Years

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    If you don't think pay should be based on merit and productivity that's fine, but tell me, on what would you base pay?
     
  19. Alexis

    Alexis Soap Chat Warrior EXP: 12 Years

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    But I didn't have a problem with the pay on Dallas? I also don't think that the likes of Susan Howard and others were really let go because of budget. The show was still successful to a point when Susan, Victoria and Linda left. However the female characters were gradually being replaced with younger actresses. Partly because they were cheaper of course, but also because the show was headed toward some fantasy land when these average middle aged men could bag young blonde twenty somethings. Someone there was living vicariously through the characters, be it producers, writers or stars. It seemed that the producers had become tired of most of the female cast and needed a change.

    If Larry Hagman's ever growing pay check was the reason that all those female cast members were cut you have to ask yourself is it really worth it. Is he worth it? Especially when clearly the show was drastically declining in story and quality with all those cast members gone and Larry being executive producer or whatever it was he was credited with.
     
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  20. Kenny Coyote

    Kenny Coyote Soap Chat Enthusiast EXP: 12 Years

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    They got rid of a lot of good people, women and men. In addition to the women you already cited, they got rid of Steve Kanaly, William Smithers and Morgan Woodward. Maybe the one who needed to be replaced was the producer. Or they could have brought in a co-producer with good credentials. I don't know if that was ever considered or not.

    The reason "these average middle-aged men could bag young blonde twenty somethings" is because those women were attracted to men at or near the top their profession. It's a real thing that happened then and happens today. Young men don't marry women who are old, average looking, but highly successful as often. Men and women tend to value different things.
     
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