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Residuals for Santa?

“You deserve the residuals from that.”

I saw the above comment in Facebook Group discussion yesterday and I found it interesting.

Do we Santas EVER REALLY DESERVE residuals? If so, when?

I’ve personally been paid about $50,000 in residuals… and of course, I’m INCREDIBLY THANKFUL.

In one case I was paid over $33,000 for a commercial that I worked 11 hours on… did I deserve $3,000 per hour for that work?

Santa Ed Chrysler Commercial

I’ve also worked many days, long, hot, grueling, 14+ hour days, shooting commercials where my hourly rate came out to well under $50 per hour. Did I deserve that rate?

I’m not sure what we DESERVE doing commercial, TV, and movie work… I do understand that “working actors” do a LOT of work that they are not directly paid for, acting classes, headshots, wardrobe, memberships, auditions, callbacks, rehearsals for auditions & callbacks, hold time when “on-avail”, etc., etc., etc…

The union (SAG-AFTRA) want their “working actor” members to make a living wage while putting in so much unpaid time & effort. The industry, at least those still doing union work, wants quality actors to be available to the entertainment industry. Paying residuals helps maintain a pool of quality candidates to choose from.

I’m NOT a “working actor”, I’m a Santa performer who occasionally gets an acting job. Due to the uniqueness of the Santa character (our look), union jobs can ALWAYS audition NON-UNION candidates (however they must pay them scale on union jobs) so Santas who are SAG-AFTRA members are always competing with non-union Santas for union jobs.  

Don’t get me wrong, my union dues are current and I’ve taken acting classes and workshops and incurred all of the expenses I mentioned above… but “acting” consumes relatively little of my time & effort, I may get 20 or 30 auditions/callbacks all year… working actors regularly do 15 to 40 PER MONTH!

I have a lot of time available to earn other income, real working actors don’t, their “side hustles” are often low paying jobs that give them a lot of flexibility to do auditions, accept acting jobs, etc.


I ALWAYS want to feel fairly compensated for my work. Sometimes the money is only a part (sometime a small part) of my compensation, the learning experience, the contacts, the project added to my resume, etc. makes up a significant part of my compensation (especially when I was just getting started)… but again, I want to feel that I’M BEING FAIRLY COMPENSATED.

Sometimes I’m paid MORE than seems fair for my time… in these cases I look at things a bit differently…

I look at the BENEFIT that I brought to the job. In many of my commercials my “air-time” is a mere 4 or 5 seconds… but those few seconds “make the spot”… and the client benefits… perhaps selling millions of dollars in additional products… and my few seconds may have been partially responsible for some of this revenue… and perhaps the value I bought to the commercial is better measured by the result appearance created and NOT how much time I spent. But mostly this is just rationalization…

One thing for sure… in my case, I’m a working Santa Claus, NOT a working actor, I DO NOT FEEL THAT I DESERVE RESIDUALS. I know there are MANY Santas out there who would do the job just as well as me, and do it for no residuals… heck, I would probably do the job for no residuals. I’m just thankful to be able to benefit from the residual system when I can… and I appreciate it immensely.

If you’re interested in getting on TV consider Platinum Membership in The Santa Claus Conservatory & be sure to attend my session in Denver if you’re going to ISC Denver.

Workshops Session #8: Saturday from 2:45 – 3:45

Maximize Your Income & Impact: Lecture

Facilitator: Santa Ed Taylor

Description: Learn 7 Proven Tips you can use now to earn more money, increase your impact and have more fun portraying Santa or Mrs. Claus this year.

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