How much are nerdlebrities making from signing autographs at comic cons and other pop culture events? Plenty. As in, more than they make from acting. And this not so secret underground economy is changing how actors in hit shows approach their careers.
Lesley Goldberg at THR has that long a’brewing exposé on just how much stars are making:
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).
The most sought-after stars include Reedus (one convention owner says he easily could command a $200,000 guarantee and pocket $500,000 per weekend), Andrew Lincoln (who donates his proceeds to charity), Star Wars great Mark Hamill and anyone who played Doctor Who. Sources say ex-Doctor Matt Smith collected $250,000 per weekend at a string of recent events, with any former Doctor said to easily score six figures. Smith’s tally recently was doubled by Marvel film heroes, with the stars netting more than $500,000 each in one Atlanta weekend thanks to an overwhelming demand and rare convention appearances.
While a lot of this information has been whispered about in after con bars and secret FB groups., this is the first time much of it has been laid out in black and white, including Arrow Stephen Amell’s increasing interest in the business, which I’m told, has shoved aside several of the agents who established the whole system. Amell has started his own booking agency, WFA Entertainment, and invested in the Heroes and Vilalins Fan Fest event organization. Although those shows have yet to be profitable, Amell makes as much as $250,000 an appearance, more then he makes for acting on Arrow.
When I first invented the term “Nerdlebrities” (And I did — you can look it up) when I was a consultant on the very first New York Comic Con, I had no idea that it would actually become a job description. Based on the amount of money these people make and the number of shows every weekend, if yuo’re a resonably fit young actor, you can get on some nerd-loved show (which is super easy since there are more and more every week) and then, maybe with a little working out, make a better living on the con circuit than you ever would trying to get new roles. Gil Gerard, born too soon.
But this approach can backfire a little:
“The fact is, a guest star on a TV show can [get] around $10,000, whereas you can work two days at a convention and pull in the same amount — and sometimes double and triple that,” says Firefly actress Jewel Staite, who did 12 conventions last year while pregnant with her son and, as she says, “pretty much not hireable.” She’ll do the same when she has a second child. “Have I turned down smaller jobs that won’t pay as much? Absolutely. It would be silly of me to say yes to the job that pays $10,000 for a week of work and bow out of a big convention where I could potentially walk away with $40,000 in two days.”
That decision, however, can prove shortsighted. Multiple producers say if guest or recurring actors turn them down in favor of conventions, they likely won’t get called again. In some cases, genre shows have started putting their superhero boot down on talent who ask for time off to do a fan event. But some producers use the second revenue stream to lure talent to genre shows. “In a world where residuals don’t mean as much, conventions are like residuals,” says Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow executive producer Marc Guggenheim. Adds Staite, “My actor friends are always saying how much they’re dying for a genre show just to break into the convention world.”
Poor Christopher Eccleston! If only he’d known, he would be raking in the cash now like everyone else who played Doctor Who, instead of playing Romulans in Star Trek movies to pay the rent.
Another revelation from the article: WBTV, which actually puts on Arrow and six other DC themed tv shows, pulled out of New York Comic Con when ReedPOP offered to pay the actors to sign and do appearances. It seems WBTV doesn’t want to mix promotion for shows with profit for their stars. Admirable…or foolsih in today’s get it while you can economy.
There’s also the question of how to feel about some of these people. I used to feel a little sorry for the Virgils of the World, but the way this aspect of con life has gone, really, who cares? No wonder Norman Reedus is willing up put up with a little biting here and there to become a millionaire. For those who seem so thrilled to meet their fans…remember these people are actors! If you could make $250,000 in a weekend by acting like you enjoyed meeting people you’d do it too!
Obviously, there’s a lot more to the Nerdlebrity occupation (in the sense of both a job and the hijacking of comic cons) than this one article can cover. And a few people were tweeting about it.
I imagine this will set tongues wagging in the comic con community, though this kind of info was out there in the wind already. https://t.co/aT5eNBuTus
— Ron Marz (@ronmarz) September 29, 2016
More to come, as they say.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.