Residuals for the working man
January 21, 2008 1:09 PM   Subscribe

If Steve Guttenburg never, ever worked again, how much money would he earn yearly?

This is not a dis of Steve Guttenburg. Flipping past HBO and I saw that they were showing Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment. I realized that I had not seen anything with him in it for a while. So I took a look at IMDB. There, I found that he has many film acting credits, some of which were very successful (Three Men and a Baby, Diner). I have absolutely no idea how much an actor of his experience earns in residuals so, any of you MeFites who know, give me a clue? Are we talking $1,000 or $100,000 a month? Can you explain how it is determined (structured)? I always have wondered which actors, who I would never guess, are set for life because of well negotiated contracts coupled with high grossing films (or well received television shows).

Any insight would be greatly appreciated!
posted by zerobyproxy to Work & Money (20 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Impossible to tell. He probably has several houses that he purchased a long time ago, and even in the short-term downturn of the housing markets, are probably worth several hundred percent, or thousand percent, more than they were in the first place. Think of a home in Aspen or LA bought in the 70s and now in a very, very prime place is worth now. Same goes for any cars or other appreciating assets that most of us simply don't have the capital to obtain.

Even if he invested very conservatively, several large paychecks back when he was first becoming a star, even if they simply followed a large based index, would make him very, very rich. This is even discounting the very real possibility he got in on the ground floor on productions or film and stage related companies that no one else had access to. Providing seed money for high growth organizations is profitable, even if more business fail than naught.

I would not be surprised to see his cash flows at something like $20-30,000 a month with very little expenses beyond upkeep, taxes and any servants. Really at the level we're dealing with, the question really becomes how much do you want to work and how much do you want to spend a month. It would be far better to value all his assets and derive how much he could possibly extract from that in the upcoming years, but that's rather hard to do.
posted by geoff. at 1:20 PM on January 21, 2008

To give you an idea, Britney Spears is claimed to be spending all the money she gets from her accountant or whomever, and it being upwards of $100,000/mo. I really doubt this is sustainable in the long-run and probably is the very upper end of what celebrities can extract. It really depends on how prudent they are, like Ty Cobb or Paul Newman, on their big windfalls.

Again the very rich don't see it as how much they make a month, so get out of the idea of month-to-month expenses. There are very few who apparently have a lot of trouble staying afloat because they are so liquid, but money is sort of like an oil well. Extract it as fast as possible and you don't get as much out as you could have being more prudent about spending. Ifyou're really lucky, exogeneous forces outside your oil well will cause the value of your oil to go way up. Investments are spending are kind of like that. You be prudent and if you're lucky it'll be worth a lot more in the future, but you should handle risk so that you don't assume such things would happen.
posted by geoff. at 1:25 PM on January 21, 2008

errr...sorry Geoff, but I think you misread the question a wee bit. I think the OP's asking specifically about residuals from movie and TV shows, not for speculation about how wisely he might have invested. Of course, I don't know the actual answer...
posted by Ziggurat at 1:33 PM on January 21, 2008

Best answer: Well, it is impossible for us to know how much his movies and TV shows actually are viewed or rented. But the structure of the residual structure in the SAG contract can be determined. This Google Answer is all about the residual structure and how it developed. The SAG website also has some information.

This is a link to a FAQ page where a couple of the question are about cable residual rates for commercials. This page has rate sheets for film work, but it doesn't have specific residual rate information.

From my looking around at these and other sources, it seems like residual payments for actors are generally small and that an actor likely could not depend on these for all of their income unless those movies/shows/etc were extremely popular and thus still purchased, shown on cable, rented a lot.
posted by bove at 1:34 PM on January 21, 2008

Best answer: Here is another AskMe about the exact same topic (although the person in question there was Dave Coulier of Full House fame rather than Steve Guttenberg). The general consensus in that thread, is similar to mine above, which is that unless you are a producer or owner of a show, residuals are small.
posted by bove at 1:37 PM on January 21, 2008

Best answer: Finally, here is an LA times article that quotes a veteran character actor Vic Polizos as saying that he makes $35,000 per year in residuals from all of his TV work. I will note that most of his work is bit parts on TV shows that get lots of re-runs, so Steve Guttenberg although a bigger name, may actually make less in residuals if his shows and movies are not shown as often.

The article also gives some details on residuals for writers like Marc Cherry the man behind Desperate Housewives.
posted by bove at 1:45 PM on January 21, 2008

Best answer: There's no way to easily tell. In the 80s (when his most successful films were made (Coccoon, Diner, 3 Men and a Baby)), it wasn't super common for comedic actors of his caliper to get points on a film. Only megastars or super savvy players get points--most players are paid a flat amount for working on a film.

Just as a talking out of my ass example, look at say, "No Country for Old Men," which came out this year and stars Tommy Lee Jones and Josh Brolin. Jones will get points on any film he wants to get points on that he's in (and can of course elect to not get points if it's a low budget film or he's feeling charitable). Brolin, more than likely, is not in a position to get points.

So, even though Brolin is featured in more screentime, he will get zero extra dollars if the movie's a major smash whereas Jones stands to make extra money. (In addition, of course, Jones got a larger fee to begin with as he's a bigger draw than Brolin.)

Lastly, I wouldn't compare tv to film. TV has reruns built in inherently, so to speak. Studios have done their best to learn from the example of TV. So, though networks been paying residuals for years, Hollywood had ample time to slant things in their favor as they didn't have to start thinking about video/dvd residuals until the early 80s (though of course films had been playing on tv before that).

Remember, this is exactly what the current writer's strike is about: residuals. The studios currently have it in their favor to jack the writers of residuals for DVD sales. Writers have had enough of that shit and are striking to get things more on their side.

With actors (and other people involved in filmmaking) these residuals are pretty much negotiated for each film. So, Jones has it in his contract to get X pts. (The number will never go down unless his star fades.) Actors work hard to get their numbers up. So... when you hear that Tom Cruise gets $25M per picture, it means that he gets that for *every* picture (unless he chooses to take less) (as well as his points) from then on out (again, assuming his star doesn't fall).

The above is a gross oversimplification of the process but I think for the terms of your question, it's pretty accurate. So... we don't know how much Steve gets. However, I doubt it's much (considering he's comedic and his time period), but in his day, he probably caught some nice amounts for some of his "bigger" films (probably $1M-$3.5M) and hopefully invested it wisely.
posted by dobbs at 1:57 PM on January 21, 2008

Response by poster: I have not seen Pauly Shore's house. I think that he has a bit of family money too.
posted by zerobyproxy at 1:59 PM on January 21, 2008

Ugh, Pauly Shore's family started The Comedy Store...his money may be family money....tho I'd love to see the current income stream for Bio Dome :)
posted by legotech at 2:00 PM on January 21, 2008

You might find this article interesting. He doesn't explicitly answer your question, but he does hint that he is quite comfortable.
posted by madajb at 2:26 PM on January 21, 2008

That article that madajb links does support the point that dobbs is making pretty well. It implies that Mr. Gutenberg made a lot of money from his successful films (during the time he was a bankable star) and that he is living off of that money (probably invested). I doubt he is making any significant portion of his income from residuals.

Also, Pauly Shore had a couple of decent sized hits. He was the start of those movies and probably made over $1M for at least one or two of them. Wisely invested, that will last. (Plus, I have read a few articles online that suggests that he does invest).
posted by bove at 2:36 PM on January 21, 2008

Just to give you an idea of how important points are to a star's income: Keanu Reeves' became the highest paid actor in history thanks to his contracts on the Matrix movies. His take for the trilogy was $40M before points and $250M including points. And that's just from box office numbers (ie, doesn't include dvd sales (which were significant) and tv).
posted by dobbs at 3:16 PM on January 21, 2008

The general consensus in that thread, is similar to mine above, which is that unless you are a producer or owner of a show, residuals are small.

True, which is also why many actors work producer credits and so forth into their deals. Which is why you'll note small producer credits on IMDB listings for various actors.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:51 PM on January 21, 2008

Just as a slight aside, it's pretty easy to think that because he's not listed in recent stuff in IMDB or on TV he is having trouble getting work. The guy could be involved in all kinds of things like background work, other businesses, etc.

Or he could be washed up and on the streets right now.
posted by tcv at 4:17 PM on January 21, 2008

Just to be sure there is a distinction between residuals and points. Josh Brolin will certainly get residuals from the future sale or performance of "No Country". Points are not residuals, they are a share of the profits after residuals and other obligations are paid. In some cases this ends up being negligible. In others, it can mean cashing in big-time from things like toys, video games, and other licensed products. Supposedly Nicholson took points instead of cash for Batman (when it wasn't common) and made a bundle as a result.

Residuals may or may not contribute directly to the SAG pension and health care fund. In any case, the formulas have changed over time, and SAG has always made a point of finding ways to take care of the 90% of its members who are not and will never be rich.
posted by dhartung at 4:58 PM on January 21, 2008

Random Related Fact - I remember reading something about Donald Sutherland getting offered either points or $50,000 for his one day's work in Animal House. He took the cash; the points would have netted him many millions.
posted by jalexei at 7:23 PM on January 21, 2008

Eeg, I did misread the question. Sorry, my brother works at a law firm that has a few celebrity clients so I always hear about how they actually make money. I kind of lept on that the first chance I got. Sorry don't know about residuals specifically, only that a lot of actors from the 60s and 70s who invested wisely are doing very, very well for themselves. If anything residuals is a small part for a significant percentage of them.
posted by geoff. at 8:54 PM on January 21, 2008

This is not a dis of Steve Guttenburg.

Good, because one shouldn't dis actors who have co-starred with Laurence Olivier.
posted by kirkaracha at 1:21 PM on January 22, 2008

Here's an Emo Phillips clip for you.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:00 PM on February 1, 2008

Response by poster: Here is an update.
posted by zerobyproxy at 6:30 PM on February 19, 2008

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