From a financial perspective, a single day of work on a commercial can be more lucrative than two weeks of work on a major motion picture with a star-studded cast. SAG-AFTRA scale on a commercial is $627.75 for an eight-hour day, and use fees are paid according to how the commercial runs. If it plays on the internet, as most spots do these days, the move-over rate is $2,511.00 for one year of use. When a commercial airs on TV, the principal actors earn residuals, which are based on many things, such as whether it is running on a network or cable and in what markets it will air. For this reason, it is impossible to calculate how much an actor will make without knowing the exact media buy, and even then, it’s a complicated task better left to professional trackers and agency accounting departments. To keep things simple for our comparison, let’s say an actor shoots a commercial ($627.75), which runs only once in a single cable market (a whopping $10.55) and then moves over to run on the internet for a year ($2,511.00). For a single day of work on a commercial that hardly aired broadcast, an actor could make $3,149.30. Remember this number. The caveat to this paradigm is that an actor only receives the use fees when the commercial is used. This means that all an actor is ever guaranteed on a commercial is the initial session fee of $627.75, because a client could decide to pull the plug on a spot before it ever airs, eliminating any chance of future use fees.


Getting back to Griffin’s situation, a spot like a Louisiana Lotto commercial is quite possibly non-union, meaning it would not adhere to the above scale rates. (IMDB doesn’t list whether Griffin is a SAG-AFTRA member.) We recently cast a non-union commercial for a state lottery, so it would be fair to surmise that the rates on Griffin’s Louisiana Lotto commercial were similar to the spot we cast. Inclusive of a 20% agent’s fee, the session fee was $600, and the use fee was $3,000, totaling $3,600 for a single day of work and one year of use on regional broadcast TV and internet.

Now let’s look at what Griffin made for his work on The Big Short. The current SAG-AFTRA Theatrical scale, as of 7/1/15, is $3,145 per week for actors hired on a weekly rate. (If he shot before July, he would’ve made a little less, but we’ll go with the current rate.) Griffin says in the article, “It went from a day to a week to two weeks.” Scale for a single day of work is $906, and there are no additional use fees on top of that rate. If Griffin had been hired for a single day on the movie, and if the Lotto commercial was non-union, he would have made roughly $2,694 less on the movie than the amount he would have made for a single day on the Lotto commercial. Because he was ultimately hired for two weeks, however, the non-union rates outlined above indicate that Griffin’s gamble paid off, as his two-week total would have been $6,290.00. But if the Lotto commercial was a SAG-AFTRA job, he probably would have made at least $3149.30 (see above), and would stand to make much more in residuals over the course of the spot’s life on TV.

Whether or not Griffin’s decision to back out of a commercial booking was the best one for his career as an actor remains to be seen. According to imdbpro.com, Griffin has worked on 16 commercials and 10 industrials, so maybe he had a close enough relationship with the casting director and producer that his good fortune and opportunity didn’t earn him a permanent note in their databases. Maybe it all ended amicably, and the casting director of the Louisiana Lotto commercial wished him well on his future feature film pursuits. He’s in a major motion picture with a star-studded cast, and he got to work closely with Ryan Gosling and director Adam McKay. Hopefully he forged strong relationships with each of them, as well as others he met on set, to help further his career and book bigger roles in future projects. Whether or not he has truly “won the Lotto” by taking this role, only time will tell. I’ll be looking out for Griffin in the movies. I’ll also be looking out for him in submissions on commercial projects. The article doesn’t say whether Griffin will be moving to LA, but I’m sure he’d do well in commercials while he’s striving for those bigger theatrical roles. If he’s ever faced with a similar situation, I hope he considers his decision carefully.

Justin Radley

Justin Radley is a partner ASG Casting where he contributes his familiarity with both the SAG-AFTRA and non-union talent pools to find the best talent for commercials, television, and web-based content. His understanding of the SAG Commercials Contract and the CoEd (Industrial) Contract allows him to provide clients with sound advice on both bidding and talent negotiations.  Camera Left / Stage Right — a part of ASG Casting — offers a number of acting classes throughout the year.