When you can't pay your Cast & Crew

When you are funding your own short films, it can sometimes be difficult to find the cash to pay your cast and crew a proper wage.

Instead we rely on volunteer filmmakers and actors. But, this doesn’t mean we can’t offer them something valuable for their time and effort. 

This is what you can do if you can’t pay your cast and crew. 

We aren’t professional filmmakers. Not in the traditional sense at least. We aren’t tied to a studio, we don’t have a budget, we don’t earn a wage from making movies.

We’re amateurs who fund our own short films because we love making them, and the cast and crew who are a part of those films are in the same boat. But this doesn’t mean we can’t offer back something valuable back to those who are helping out.

If you can’t afford to pay your actors, how can you re-pay them for volunteering their time?

Headshots are always a good choice. At our level, most of us are shooting on stills cameras in video mode. Headshots can be expensive for a struggling actor, so if you can shoot them free of charge, you’re on your way to paying back your debt!


If you want to go the extra mile, shoot a video monologue for them. It doesn't have to be over the top, but something sharp, well lit, and sounding good is a lot better than them shooting it on their phone. You never know, it might help them get their next job!

If they are volunteering in your film, give them a copy of it, without watermarks, for their showreel. In fact, offer to edit their showreel for them! Again, it doesn’t cost you anything but your time, which they gave up to help make your movie.


We make our own film posters too, so grab their signature for when they are famous, and print a copy for them to take home too.With crew, it’s a “I scratch your back” sort of deal. Again, if you can’t fork out the cash, make a note of what they sacrificed when they helped you; the hours they worked, the cost and distance of their travel, any kit they brought with them, and their value on set. When they need you, match their value.If you aren’t paying your cast and crew, you should make their time on your film as comfortable and as convenient as possible.

If they need to leave early, they leave early, don’t fight it.

If they can only start late, that's perfect, they start late and you get a few hours with them.

If they need a lift home and there is a car available, taxi them home.

Make their time helping you as simple as you can. Always work around them, not the other way around. If they have to go completely out of their way to help you, they might not bother next time you ask for assistance.

Best of all, feed people. Free food is great, and if you ask them what dietary habits they have beforehand, it's a lot easier to please them. Pizza is a staple student film cliche. But it's not always the best option, so find out what their favorite meal is, and grab the cook book.


And when you reach the stage when you CAN pay your cast and crew, remember those who did it for nothing, and maybe give them a call.

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When you can't pay your Cast & Crew


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