Honorarium for Vietnamese actors

November 22, 2007

Honorarium for Vietnamese actors
09:37′ 22/11/2007 (GMT+7)

Truong Ngoc Anh was paid VND40 million for a role in You and Michael Jackson in 2002

VietNamNet Bridge – Vietnamese actors and actresses often don’t want to disclose their honorarium but according to published information, a leading actor or actress in a feature film receives around VND20 million ($1,250).


For a television film, often a series, a leading actor can earn VND2 million ($125) per episode and around VND40 million ($2,500) for a 20-volume series. Since the series is shot over several months, the pay is not enough.


Kinh Quoc, who has been in many TV series, said: “I’m invited for many films but I cannot live by honorarium. Whenever a film closes, I have spent the entire honorarium already.”


Along with the development of private film studios, pay for actors also rises. Previously Lasta was considered to offer the highest pay but it is now exceeded by M&T Pictures and HK Film.


According to inside sources, the highest pay for a TV series so far is VND5 million per episode for actor Huy Khanh in Wild Sunflower, 33 episodes by director Vo Tan Binh; and actress Ha Kieu Anh in 30-episode Love Game of Chess by director Tran Canh Don. Both films are invested in by M&T and produced by HK.


Luong Manh Hai and Minh Thu, leading actor and actress in Tropical Snow, also produced by M&T and HK, were paid VND100 million ($6,250) for 30 episodes.


Though the pay for TV actors and actresses is surging, their incomes are still too low compared with honorarium of singers.


While the pay for actors and actresses in TV series is on the rise, that for those in feature films is decreasing. In the golden age of “instant noodle” films in the ‘90s, movie stars like Ly Hung, Diem Huong, Viet Trinh were paid from VND20 to VND30 million per film ($1,250-1,875). Truong Ngoc Anh received up to VND40 million ($6,600) for You and Michael Jackson by director Luu Huynh in 2002. Over ten years later, My Duyen and Minh Thu earned just VND15 million ($900) for Bar Girls.


Justly, this is the law of market. In the ‘90s, Ly Hung, Viet Trinh and Diem Huong were considered the guarantee for success of any film. Now, the conception “movie star” no longer exists so the pay for actors cannot compare to the past.


For state-owned movies, nobody pays attention to revenue from the films so the names of actors, the number of viewers is unimportant and as a result, actors are paid poorly.


In the age of market movies, when private companies also produce films, honorarium for actors seems to be higher but it is not worthy of their sweat. Some films are invested in by overseas Vietnamese, but since these films are co-produced by state-owned film firms, actors are paid at the same level for state-owned films.


For example, Ngo Thanh Van and Hua Vi Van took VND20 million for their leading roles in Saigon Love Story by Vietnamese American director Ringo Le. However, according to Hua Vi Van, he received several thousand more USD to attend film introduction ceremonies in the US.


Honorarium is now paid on routine, not for the name and profit brought about by actors in the film. The revenue of Bar Girls is over VND13 billion ($812,000) but when actor Anh Vu asked for higher pay for the second part of the film, Street Cinderella, his role was transferred to another actor.


Pay for actors based on a certain percentage of film profit is popular abroad but in Vietnam it is not applied.


Professional movies needs fairness


A professional movie industry needs many factors but one of the most important things is having “movie stars” who can lure audiences. Pay for actors is not simply income but the measurement of their fame and professional level.


Minh Thu and My Duyen (right) received VND15 million each for Bar Girls



In Hollywood, the Republic of Korea or China, actors are paid for their names and their attraction and the pay is the result of fair bargaining between actors and producers. Sometimes, producers pay highly but their films are unsuccessful. However, the actors’ pay will be lower in the next film. That’s the rule of a professional movie market.


In Vietnam, the number of feature films produced each year is few so actors are not familiar or don’t dare bargain with producers. There are some workshops on how to professionalise the Vietnamese movie industry but with several films and unfair treatment on actors, the local movies cannot reach professionalism.


Actors have their say


Quyen Linh: Pay for actors has increased a little bit but I think it is still irrational if it is compared to income of stage players (VND500-700,000/night) or singer (VND10-30 million/show). Actors have to work hard but their salary can’t compensate them for their sweat. Pay must be higher so actors can devote their minds to films.


Quoc Thai


I can live by my career, playing in films, dramas and working as an MC as well. However, the gap between income of Vietnamese actors and foreign colleagues is extremely wide.


Viet Trinh


Salary of actors nowadays is lower than in the ‘90s and it is much lower than that of actors in neighbouring countries. In Singapore, pay for a leading role in one film is enough to live for several years but in Vietnam, a film is not finished yet but the actor is out of money. So all actors have to do other jobs to earn their living.


Minh Thu


Salary! Frankly, I suffer losses from film to film. It is easy to prepare costumes for a role of a poor girl but if I play a rich and fashionable one, I have to pay much for costumes. Though I’m paid higher than my colleagues, but with my carefully investment, it is not high at all.


Kinh Quoc


Actors, even stars, can’t live by their salary so most of them have other jobs to nurture their passion for movies.


Ly Hung


Vietnamese films have little investment so actors sympathise with producers and they accept the pay.


(Source: Nghe Sy)

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