Although it sounds like billing might be referring to how much money you’re going to make, it’s not. Rather, “billing” refers to Hollywood’s other form of currency – credits.
An actor’s billing refers to where & how an actor’s name gets credited in a film or TV episode. Agents, managers (and lawyers!) will negotiate tirelessly about how and where your name is placed. Position, font size, and whether your name appears alone or alongside another actor(s) are all negotiable points.
Co-star credits are much harder to negotiate than guest star credits. In episodic, your billing is tied to your pay; meaning if you’re getting booked & paid as a co-star, you must also be billed as a co-star.
Guest star credits, however, are a little more negotiable. Among the most asked for items when it comes to billing is position. Position refers to the order in which your name appears. The most preferential position: 1st, of course! What’s considered even more prestigious, however, is the highly sought after “with” & “and” credits—”and” being the more glamorous of the two. Each studio has its own set of rules when it comes to offering an actor a “with” or “and” credit. Some studios require prior approval while others don’t allow it at all. In fact, to keep the negotiating down to a minimum, some studios don’t even allow for negotiations on position order. The most common ask is for a “separate card.” This means you have your very own “title card” that is not to be shared with other actors. A “shared card” might be shared with 1 or 2 other actors (usually not more).
Will billing really make a difference in your acting career? Meh… arguably not. For most, it’s more for personal gratification and the acknowledgment that they are an established actor and/or the role merits higher billing. While casting directors and producers might not be taking notes on which actors are 1st position vs. last position, you do you. If it’s important to you or your rep, we always try to work out as many asks as we possibly can.
Most actors are more concerned with the credit on their resume vs. the credit in their TV episode. The good news is that you can always ASK the casting office (via your reps) if they are OK with you putting guest star on your resume when you were booked as a co-star, especially if it’s a big enough role to go either way. This is certainly not encouraged for every role and while many casting directors are ok with this, it’s always suggested & more respectful to ask.
#themoreyouknow #terminologytuesday #TheCastingDirectorsCut