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August 30 2011

An open letter to the Daily Mail by Eliza Dushku. She takes the newspaper to task for their recent article regarding Hayden Panettiere charging money for autographs at a con.

As much as I love Eliza for doing that I can't help but feel its somewhat lost cause. When was the last time the Daily Mail ever actually listened to any criticism? But still, its great she has spoken up about it :)
I love that she use "For shame". Nice
Still, I'd like to think that the expo pays the celebs enough to warrant a free autograph and such for fans. After all, as fans, we do invest a lot of our time and money into whatever said celeb is doing next in terms of projects.

Having said that, I commend Eliza for standing up for Hayden against all of the other nonsense that the writer said about her.
Engaging with the Daily Mail is self-defeating. All you do is dignify their position.

It's not worth worrying about what DM readers think. They don't. That's why they buy the DM, so that someone can do it for them.
Although it's very probably a lost cause as Ashley and ZodKneelsFirst said, I'm glad Eliza spoke up. I would hate it if actors stopped coming to cons like this because they must fear being degraded in the press. I met some of the Dollhouse actors at Echo-2 this spring, and it was a really nice experience, so now I've signed up for another London con to meet Eliza among others. Yes, I have to pay, for entrance and access, for autographs (if I want more than the free one included), and for photos with the guests (if I want them). I do so happily because I realize they have to be paid for their time, and because I get a unique experience and the souvenirs from it. The actors should instead be commended for agreeing to meet the fans face to face like this.
Bless Eliza for a comprehension of the profit motive, supply and demand, and that neither of these things are immoral.
This is one of those issues with legitimate arguments on both sides of the issue, but beyond that, what I appreciate is that ED takes a stance and is willing to fight for it and to support it. Now, in the scheme of things, this is a relatively minor issue, but this same woman has also taken more dangerous (in real life) stances on genocide and on other important political issues. And she does so sort of quietly and just goes about her business. She uses her fame for real and honest good. And she shares with her fans, through her FB account and through posts such as this. I say more power to her!
Hmm, Eliza on one side, the Daily Mail on the other. Think I'll have to give the vote of credibility towards Eliza.

Afterall, she actually has a heart.
Ugh the Daily Mail. And they present this article as news?

*shakes head*

I go to signings and conventions, paying for autographs and photos - it's my choice and nobody is there twisting my arm.
It seems they fail to realize two things, (having already been said) 1. Fans do so by choice. 2. the entertainment business is a BUSINESS, if fans are willing to pay for an autograph, then celebrity's have every right to charge, and I'm sure Hayden is by far not the only one. I am all for this and I'm really cheap.

and that's my rant
I've never understood the logic that fans are entitled to autographs and photos and hugs and whatever from actors because we "pay the actors' salaries". Because we already get our money's worth back in the form of tv-shows and films and such, that's what the actors are paid to do. Just because my company pays my salary doesn't mean that they can expect me to mop up the floors after work, and likewise the only thing I expect from actors is that they do their job, which is whatever roles they choose to do. I don't really care how much or little they interact with fans.

And like The Do That Girl said, no-one's forcing fans to get autographs - which often end up on Ebay anyway, and would probably end up even more often if cons didn't charge for them.
I love Eliza. That is all.
Still, I'd like to think that the expo pays the celebs enough to warrant a free autograph and such for fans. After all, as fans, we do invest a lot of our time and money into whatever said celeb is doing next in terms of projects.

On the latter point, I agree with ruuger's point: the money (and time) we invest in the celeb's projects means we get those projects; they do not owe us anything after that. On the former, the expo would have to charge much, much higher rates for general admittance to people attending the expo (many of whom enter the expo and have no interest, whatsoever, in getting celebrity autographs, since the expo is for anime, comics, sci-fi/fantasy, horror, and gaming, many of which have few celebrities in attendance and mostly shops or demos or screenings) to be able to pay the celebrities any appreciable amount, which would be unfair to general attendees without an interest in autographs and face time.

In order for it to be worthwhile for the celebs to do autograph signings for a whole day -- in order for them to break even, even, not even fail to make money -- they have to be paid not only enough to cover their travel time, but get cash at something akin to what they might reasonably be expected to make on a full day's work. Signing doesn't sound like work, but it is -- it is certainly not a holiday. And it is not something owed fans. I don't think there is any way the expo itself could provide that. Conversely, I don't feel celebs who signed autographs for me and charged were doing me a favour, either: there is no reason to demand that there are favours in either direction. It's business -- very friendly business, but business, and I think it's wrong to expect something else between people who don't actually know each other.
Good for Eliza Dushku for speaking up, and she's right - shame on the Daily Mail for mocking Hayden Panettiere for accommodating her fans. Some publications are unfortnately like monsters in fairy tales - if you attract their attention in any way, all they do is attack. It is common practice for celebrities to charge for an autograph - multiply the action of writing the same words by anything from a hundred to several thousand within a specified amount of time, and it is tiring manual labor. (I'm being serious.)
Yes actors are not required to do anything. Nobody is "required" to do anything in their whole lives if they choose (thanks Bartleby the scrivener). And fans are not required to go to cons, pay for autographs, buy the dvds, etc. Similarly, baseball players are not required to sign autographs at the ballpark either. Some do because they love giving one of their fans a thrill.

I think the issue is that many of the people attending these conventions today remember a time, not very long ago, when they were able to meet celebrities and take a photo with them...and not be charged.

At the Chicago comic show a few weeks ago, I had several artists draw sketches in my book and refused payment. I literally had cash in my hand extended and they refused. Thanks Humberto Ramos and Ben Templesmith! Maybe for these two, it's less about being a business and more about sharing their love of comic art with their fans.

As some pointed out earlier, its a supply and demand issue. But its also a personal decision by the celebs. Nobody is demanding that they come to these fan shows and give up their time and effort to LOSE money but at the same time, the people attending these shows are typically the hardcore fans. The fans that, if I were a celeb, I would want to favor with a special moment without making them pay $50 for 30 seconds of handshaking and taking a quick snapshot together. (who knows, maybe my opinion would change after the first hour at a show!)

Another issue for me at this year's show was the way fans were herded through long lines for photo-op's. For me, it took much of the fun out of it. There used to be an organic moment when you'd walk up to a celeb's booth and introduce yourself. Now it feels kind of soulless. Many people noted that this is a business...well it certainly feels like a business now.

The bottom line is that its a choice celebrities make. For someone like Felicia, who I assume isn't a multimillionaire (yet), I think the money she makes at a show is wholly justified. After all, she isn't earning 5 million per film with multiple films per year. But I have to wonder, is the extra $50,000 Christopher Lloyd makes for attending a show for the day really going to mean anything to him with the money he's made over his career? Maybe it would feel more palatable to me if he were donating a portion of his fee to a charity. Again, its his time and money and 100% his choice but personally, it was a little heartbreaking to see several disappointed fans having their eyes opened to the fact that he's not "Doc Brown"; he's a well paid actor who needs your $200 for a photo (his rep broke the news to them).

I dont mean for this to come out so harsh, he can do whatever he likes and I'm 100% in the camp that says, "if you dont want to spend the money for a photo or autograph, dont buy it" but it just makes me a little sad to see this change over the last few years.

I wonder if Joss would ever (or has ever) charged anyone for his autograph or to take a photo with him. Have any of you ever paid for a moment with Joss (other than a ticket to a CSTS screening or maybe a Paley Center ticket)?
There used to be an organic moment when you'd walk up to a celeb's booth and introduce yourself. Now it feels kind of soulless.

This is why I won't do it. I have walked up to one celebrity booth (Ken Foree - very short line) at Comic-Con because I have a soft spot for him from Dawn of the Dead. I asked if he would autograph my official program (his products ranged from $25 up) and he was fine about it, signed, chatted a moment. But I do feel, whichever side you're looking at, these interactions should be based on a comfortability factor. It doesn't make an actor a gold digger if they are charging a fee for their time and effort not spent in a studio filming. However, I don't want to pay people to be "nice" to me as part of a business transaction, wait in long lines etc. That I will never do; I prefer to meet people more naturally. The only money-exchanging to meet Joss I know about is the auction to have dinner with him a few years ago. And you know where that money went.
the newspaper

Calling the Daily Fail a newspaper is way too generous. At best it's pablum and trash. I would generally just call it inhuman filth suitable only for lining bird cages or as fireplace fuel.
Which has nothing actually to do with the question, right? It's just the messenger, so to say.

I remember times far back in my history, when I would to to the Grande Ballroom in Detroit to see rock concerts. I would go in and members of the bands on the docket for the evening would simply be walking around, and they were effectively simpatico with "the fans." I am not sure there was any distinct difference between "the fans" and "the band," really. And as a result I met many musicians just by walking up to them and saying "hi." Frank Zappa and most of the Mothers of Invention, Grace Slick and members of Jefferson Airplane, members of Blue Cheer, ELP, etc. It was all very democratic. But the entertainment business has changed irrevocably; it is in many ways so much about product now, and profit. And to be sure, the salaries and earnings of the people in entertainment is out of whack with what an average American earns- not for all, of course, but for many (I am not sure Amber Benson is hugely wealthy, for example, but she is a known signer and popular draw wherever she goes). So while I support entertainers who use their popularity to make money while meeting fans, I feel better about those who do not charge for doing so. We don't have their income, but we make it possible for them to have that income, you know?
In fairness, if you see an actor at something like a gig and you go up and say hello, I'm sure they'd talk to you, and I'm sure they'd pose for a picture (assuming they aren't busy). And they'd probably like it, too. Same if you saw them in a break between shooting, that kind of thing. They aren't exactly going to make you stop and get your wallet out.

But conventions and events are different. I think people know going in actors are often there for duel purposes; to make money, to meet people, and promote themselves or their work. I doubt Amber Benson is particularly rich, and if she could get acting work instead of a convention I'm pretty sure she'd take the acting work. She is, after all, an actress.

That isn't to say conventions and such like aren't cool. They give fans great experiences. And for many actors, it helps keep them in the acting game.
I think people know going in actors are often there for duel purposes;

You mean with rapiers and fisticuffs? If you can get through all that, you should get a free photo and autograph for God's sake!
Ha. Whoops.
I agree Gossi...and more power to them if they can make some bucks doing a convention.

At this last Chicago show (from my previous post), I was surprised at the amounts of people and money Felicia (in particular) was generating. There was a line to meet her (and Jeff Lewis aka Vork) with no less than 40-50 people all day long.

I spent $35 ($25 for a signed photo and $10 for a quick photo together). I chatted with Felicia for a minute or two before I was pushed to "move along." Overall, I was pleased with the chance to meet her and congratulate her on all of her success.

So after that my mind started crunching some basic numbers. I estimated that she must have conservatively seen at least 400 people per day (45-60 seconds per person multiplied by approx 7-8 hours of signing) times three days at the show for a total of about 1,200-1,300 fans. My $35 purchase appeared to be on the lower end of the scale for actual dollars spent (based on what the handful of people in front and behind me were spending with multiple items to sign and several photos). So if 1,200 people spent the low end of $35, that's a conservative $42,000 for the weekend. I'd estimate that she's going to hit a dozen shows this year. If this $42K number is in the ballpark, she may have earned more than half a million dollars just from convention appearances this summer. Zowie!
I'm with Dana5140. Handing out free autographs certainly isn't ever required but it is always nice and commendable IMO. Nevertheless I admire Eliza for speaking up.

Like Tonya J I personally would never pay to have a talk with someone or get an autograph signed, but I'm glad for both the fans who do want to do so and the actors who can make some money off it that the option is available.
At the one and only Buffy (or any other type of) convention I went to, you had to buy a ticket for the event, which gave you certain "privileges" depending on the level. My friend bought me the gold ticket, which got me a free autograph from each of the scheduled guests (Anthony Stewart Head, Andy Hallett, Tom Lenk, Adam Busch and Danny Strong).

However I still had to pay for my photo ops with Tony and Amber (Not a scheduled guest - she flew in on the red-eye Friday night/Saturday morning because Adam had told her how much fun he was having), the banquet & cocktail party, and the additional autograph from Tony (for a friend). I also had to pay for Kali Rocha's autograph, but I think that was free when I purchased the picture (I think it was $20) of her as Hallie that I got for my friend.

When I was trying to put together my own convention, those in the know told me that a guest costs a certain amount (Getting them to the convention site, putting them up in a suite for the weekend/length of convention) and they also get a per diem. However, lower tier guests (Like Danny Strong, Kali Rocha, any non-headliner) often have to rely on what they make selling photographs, autographs, photo ops and/or merchandise, because their rate of pay is so low. ($2,000 compared to $22,000, for instance) And they are taking time away from any other work they could be doing, so they're actually losing money by doing a a convention.

Yes, I think the "cattle lines" at the larger conventions are unfortunate. I don't want to pay hard-earned money to stand in lines for hours and get a quick "hi," a couple seconds of eye contact and a hastily scribbled autograph. I'd much rather ride alone in the elevator with Tony Head, get a hug from Danny Strong or talk fan fiction with Andy Hallett. In other words, a smaller convention where the guests have a chance to relax and be "just folks" with their fans. And I'm sure they prefer it, too.
Many conventions, especially smaller conventions, don't pay celebrities beyond expenses, instead guaranteeing a certain amount of revenue from autographs & making up the difference if they fall short. Also, people are forgetting that scheduled appearances go through agents, & many agencies dictate the amount that their celebrities charge for autographs at schedulef appearances. It's easy to say that someone should give their time away, but a celebrity's times is not entirely their own & they often have no say on the cost of autographs or photo-ops, beyond their ability to fire their representation if they disagree with an agency's policies... but if their agency otherwise does a great job representing their interests & landing them projects, should they really fire them for dictating certain fees for scheduled events?
I understand people are volunteering their money for these autographs but IMO its exploitative to charge die hard fans for one. For one the event is publicity which furthurs a career (in most cases) and its always nice to see celebrities brightening a fans day. I guess what bothers me most about the situation is that many of these fans are paying to attend, paying commute and lodging and it seems a bit much to charge so much for a minute of their time when it likely took 5 hours to earn the money just for that photo. A fee for a headshot is one thing but 40 for a photo just seems a bit much. I guess I'm just spoiled with my experiences at comiccon and paley where most actors sign and do photo ops for free and chat with fans often longer than is appropriate and to be honest seems a little tacky to write an open letter on someone else's behalf. Personally if it were me I'd rather fight my own battles.
Still, I'd like to think that the expo pays the celebs enough to warrant a free autograph and such for fans.

They may get a speaking fee, but these days a lot of what they make at a con is what they make on autographs. For some actors, it's all they make.

Contrary to popular opinion, actors aren't all rich. And TV actors less so.

There were free autographs - the casts of Lost Girl and Todd and the Book of Pure Evil had sponsored signings.
I'm just spoiled with my experiences at comiccon and paley where most actors sign and do photo ops for free

San Diego Comic Con? The casts have free signings sponsored by their studios, but the autographs in the Sails will cost you. You'll also pay for autographs on the dealers' floor.

Some actors will give free (or less than photo op fees) at their tables but the posed photo ops always cost. This year we couldn't get any photo ops at the tables - that was a rule of the con, not the actors (according to Larry Hagman's people.)
I've been to a couple cons. For the actors with long lines of people waiting for autographs or pictures, it's work. Long exhausting work. At least that's how I see it. Some actors, James Marsters for example, can make you feel like it's not work to them, rather a pleasure, when you are experiencing it even though it obviously is.

Many actors don't ever do it. It's too much work to make it worth it for them. Others do it but don't even look up or make any contact other than 2 seconds it takes to sign.

I have been to other events where photos and autographs are freely given. But these were smaller groups that wouldn't be so time consuming or difficult.

Conventions are a job. A job many actors choose not to do. I feel lucky to be in a fandom that gets to experience this.
This was a snarky hit piece on Hayden Panettiere and I get why Eliza was upset about the tone of it, but I also understand why the article was written. $30 for an autograph is beyond “good business” - it's an embarrassing exploitation of the fans' enthusiasm.

I'm sorry, but the notion that signing autographs is long exhausting work is so absolutely out of context with the general population, it's preposterous. What percentage of people would be absolutely thrilled to pieces to have the opportunity to make $30 an hour – no matter what the work? To have long lines of people waiting to tell you how much they admire you and surrender $30 a piece just for your signature... I think a lot of people could find it within themselves to withstand that kind of difficulty. Though I like to think most of them would have the decency to feel a little bit guilty about it.
Plus, if all the autographs 3were free, think how much more the con admission would be.

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