What To Do When You Don’t Get Paid

Ginny writes in about what to do when you’re not paid on time (or at all)–

Hope all is well. I’ve got a question. So I worked on a production a month back in Atlanta.  I still haven’t gotten paid (for the day), and now I’m hearing that the production was shut down. Accounting and the producers have ignored all my emails, and I have no idea what do apart from writing it off mentally. What recourses do I have as a PA?If not, do you think there’s anyway I could use this as a tax write off? The job had required me to take a DP across the state, so about 250 miles.

To be clear, a lot of people start out working for no pay. This is what we call “paying your dues.” It sucks, and it’s hard, but that’s what happens when thousands of people are competing for a tiny number of jobs that don’t actually require much experience or skill. Wages are basically a function of how many people want to do a job and how many people are able to do the job. For PA’s, both numbers are high, which drives the pay low. Basically, zero, if the company can get away with it.

But Ginny is past that point; she wasn’t interning. She was not paid on a job that promised to pay. Some productions will try to get away with paying you a flat rate, no overtime. That’s technically illegal, but a lot of crew let the productions get away with it because some money is better than no money.

Most productions pay you on a weekly basis, but not all. Some hold your check for two weeks, or even a month. This is probably for some sketchy reason, like they don’t have enough cash on hand until they return the gear and get their deposit back.

But that does not sound like Ginny’s situation. Ginny was flat out not paid. That’s not cool.If the production was shut down, that probably means they ran out of money. This means you will probably will not be paid, no matter what. It’s still worth filing a wage claim, though, if for no other reason than to discourage these producers from trying to pull these shenanigans again.

In California, we have the Department of Industrial Relations. It’s pretty easy to file a complaint if you were not paid and owed some money.

Georgia, unfortunately, is another story. They don’t have an equivalent governmental department to  help out. Instead, you have to go to the US Department of Labor. I don’t imagine they work quickly.

As for a tax write-off, I don’t think you can deduct unpaid wages. You can, however, deduct mileage that was not reimbursed.

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2 Responses

  1. Ginny. If the movie was FSMQ which it sounds like, email Jesse Ikeman ( He is the auditor the movie hired to sort out the finances.

    My friend worked on the movie, and has informed me that they secured additional funding after it got shut down, and that people are slowly getting paid.

    Obviously not cool, but much better late than never. If it wasn’t this movie then good luck!

    1. Hey Albert,
      Unfortunately, it’s not FSMQ. This was a show in Savannah. But thanks for the heads up!

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