So it has come to the attention of Nerd Nation via an article written by Lesley Goldberg of The Hollywood Reporter that celebrities at fandom conventions are raking in “Garbage bags full of 20’s”.. Have a look at the original article HERE.
Well Lesley, you could not be further from the truth, and well, as a person who has not only been a convention attendee as a regular, paying spectator, but also as a guest who GOT PAID to be there, and someone who has helped to run their own convention, let me spell this out for you… YOU. ARE. DEAD. WRONG!
Let’s break this article down, and look at the absurd crap this “journalist” and her publisher, The Hollywood Reporter are trying to convince people of.
“It’s like a scene from Blow or Goodfellas: a room full of money with professional cash counters.” This isn’t a description of a drug den or casino cage. It’s the backroom of a fan festival, says one producer familiar with such events, where thousands of die-hards — many in costume — pay admission to fork over bigger bucks for autographs and photos with their favorite stars. Nearly all of this money is going into the pockets of talent big and small who, in many cases, now can earn more from weekend fan events than from the shows and movies making them famous.”
A convention even the size of DragonCon or San Diego Comic Con do not have a back room with money counters ticking off the Benjamins and going off fat and happy. In reality, the money a convention takes in, maybe 2-3% at most go to actual profit; the rest? Contract guarantees, any paid staff, food, paying the usage fee at the venue the convention is held at, basically the meat and potatoes of what fans deem a successful convention runs on their price of admission to keep going year after year. You can’t just pull a Donald Trump and say “oh, well you’ll make TONS of money in business just from having my con here, so I’m not paying you.” Yeah, that’s a first class ticket to the blacklist and the poor-house.
“Fan conventions, where stars can take home hundreds of thousands of dollars in exchange for a few hours of time, once were the domain of has-beens and sci-fi novelties. But the business has become so lucrative — think $500,000 for Captain America’s Chris Evans or The Walking Dead favorite Norman Reedus to appear — that current TV and film stars are popping up at events like Salt Lake City Comic-Con and Heroes and Villains Fan Fest. The demand has become so overwhelming that agencies including WME, CAA, UTA, ICM, APA, Paradigm and Gersh have in the past three years added “personal appearance” agents to sift through the hundreds of annual events, book talent and (of course) score their 10 percent commission.”
Are You Kidding Me!?!
This has to be one of the most asinine, ill-informed statements I have ever seen. First off, just because comics and sci-fi have not been what you call “mainstream” but for a few years does not mean that every actor/actress that go to them as guests are in any way has-beens, hack novelties, or anything other than a bona fide celebrity. I would like to see you tell Sir Patrick Stewart, that just because he was Captain Picard, that he is a novelty, or a has-been. Second.. $500,000??!! where are you getting your numbers from?! Oh, right, those mysterious “sources” that you keep citing, that you can’t name because you probably talked to some random con-goers about what they thought these people have as a guarantee. News Flash: a half-million dollars could run a successful convention, bookings and all, for several years at a financial loss.
Not even the top conventions would fork out that much for one person to appear. Third, actors and actresses, no matter how active they are in front of the camera, ALL have a booking agent, or as you call it, a personal appearance agent. Booking/talent agencies are where you go to find the people you want to attend your convention, and also how contracts and fees are negotiated; the celebs do not do this by themselves, so of course the agents get a commission, that’s their damned JOB! Okay, maybe one or two might do all their own booking, who knows, but I can assure you… as talented and cool as he is, Stephen “Arrow” Amell is NOT pulling in $500,000 per appearance. B-period-S-period. We’ll get to him in just a moment…
“If somebody wanted to do a convention every weekend, they could make more on the convention circuit than their episodic fee,” says Arrow star Stephen Amell, who became so enamored of the festival business that he started his own talent agency, WFA Entertainment, to help other actors navigate the space (and score a buck for himself). The actor, who is said to have irked traditional agents by competing with them, says he “wanted to control the whole front- and backend of my operation. I didn’t see a need for representation.” One source deeply involved in the convention circuit estimates that Amell walks away with $250,000 a weekend — more than he makes per episode for Arrow — though he denies that figure.”
Okay, let’s talk about this…
Here we go with that mysterious “source” again. So an actor starts his own talent agency to help other actors navigate bookings and such, good on him, also not anyone else’s business because that is a personal business venture for him and outside the relevance of the article. I would like to have Mr. Amell verify this quote he supposedly made about an actor walking away with that amount of money each weekend they do, which is very, very wrong again. Conventions, like any other large event, is subject to every factor that would either bring people out or cause people to stay home, to say that an actor would make this consistently is a LIE. I have it on very good authority from another mysterious “source” that you need to go back to journalism school and learn about fact-checking, Ms. Goldberg.
“Here’s how it works: Actors typically ask for a price guarantee — often paid up front — to show up, sign autographs, pose for photos and sometimes take part in a panel discussion or two. Most conventions charge an entry fee, collect $5 for every autograph and $10 per photo (with a photographer taking another $10). The stars — who receive luxury travel and accommodations — pocket the rest. Anything over the guarantee is icing on the cake.”
Wrong, wrong, and more wrong. Here is how it ACTUALLY works…
The convention will contact the booking agency that reps the actor, the agency has an appearance guarantee that includes travel, lodging, & an appearance fee. This is not always first class flights, limos, and penthouse suites. Actors will tell you that lodging runs the gambit depending on the finances and location of the convention, and the transportation may be a convention volunteer using their very well maintained Ford Five Hundred if the celeb needs it. The entry fee, or weekend pass, that the convention charges is to recoup the money they have spent to get the celebs there, and to make sure they have enough money for guarantees, and to be able to have the convention for more years to come. Actors charge for autographs and photos because that is part of their income when they are not filming. Conventions do not take a percentage fee from the celebs for this (none that I have worked for or with anyway), the photographer is usually a friend or family member using the camera in their phone, or at best, it’s usually a professional contact of someone running the convention (we tend to have lots of those) so that claim is bogus, and yes, anything the celebs make over their guarantee that is contractually negotiated, is “icing” as you call it because again, IT’S THEIR PERSONAL INCOME!! I’ve seen some celebrity guests (as in a couple) at cons that do want first class airfare and a luxury suite hotel room, yes, but I’ve seen many, MANY more (as in 99% of them) that simply want a basic coach ticket and a basic room at the host hotel.
“According to multiple sources familiar with convention deals, the basic guarantee rate for genre stars is in the $5,000 to $10,000 range per appearance — with leads on such current TV series as The Walking Dead, Once Upon a Time, Supernatural, The Vampire Diaries, Netflix’s Marvel shows and The CW’s DC Comics fare commanding anywhere from $35,000 to $250,000 and up, depending on their popularity and the frequency with which they appear. At top conventions, it’s not uncommon for a star to earn anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 on top of their guarantee (more if they spend extra time signing).”
Okay, let’s do little math here…
In order to reach the $250,000 mark, assuming the artist has already been paid $50,000 just for showing up, the artist would have to sell one autograph at $10 each every 6 seconds for thirty hours without time allotted for any other activity. No meals, bathroom breaks, or speaking to any fan for more than six seconds. I’ll just let the math speak for itself on this one.
Then we get into the ridiculous claim of the “garbage bags full of 20’s.”
“Making them more appealing, some of the smaller, privately owned events have been known to deal in cash (though many are starting to clean up their books as audits hit the circuit). “I know someone who literally takes garbage bags full of $20s with him back home,” says one convention regular who wished not to be identified, noting that another star hides convention earnings in art. Says Amell of the practice, “It’s like Andy Dufresne in Shawshank Redemption and hiding dirt.”
Again, no. Conventions are subject to local and state taxes just like any other event holder is. Vendors typically have to fill out tax forms, and the booking agencies handle the taxes that the actors have to pay on their INCOME. First, the TSA would highly question someone that has a “garbage bag full of 20’s,” second, the cash they make is secured and transported in a proper way unless they have a bank that they use in the town they are in; even then, they still choose to wait until they get home. I get that this statement was used as a metaphor… but it’s a stupid metaphor.
The article then goes on to ramble about the financial impact of the “Big 3” convention conglomerates, and how they have had to scale back, etc.. which is a good thing honestly. Conventions are for FANS, and put on by fans. Some of these have went on to try and make it a dominating empire, to the point of using the WalMart tactic of setting up camp in a town with a fledgling independent convention and putting them under… And they are all douchebags. It’s no surprise they have had to scale back from charging exorbitant pass prices and pre-pay autograph and photos before people even make it to the event, with no guarantee that they will actually be able to get what they pre paid for, and no promise of a refund if they can’t.
So here’s some sage advice from your friendly con-going nerd.
Avoid price-gouging “corporate” conventions, if they’ve got all these shows in like 8 different cities, chances are, they are one. If they’re name starts with Wizard, they’re definitely one. If a celebrity guest is charging for a photo or autograph, just know that it is part of their personal income, and they are not living on some kind of easy-street raking in garbage bags full of money, nor are the independent conventions, which is, quite frankly, the ones everyone should be attending anyway.
This is Dave Ward, and you have just warped through The Negative Space.
First Ambassador/Staff Writer: Nerd Nation Magazine
Please Note: the views and opinions expressed by Mr. Ward are entirely his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Nerd Nation Magazine, our sponsors, or anyone else, for that matter. This is an opinion column, and is intended for entertainment purposes only, so please don’t be a d-bag and try to sue anyone over the stuff he writes. If it offends and/or infuriates, encourage you to just go read something else… preferably right here on Nerd Nation!