Hollywood Negotiation Tips

10 tips to get the salary of your dreams, according to some of the world’s most successful women.

According to “Grey’s Anatomy” star Ellen Pompeo, women need to demand more of a stake in their work. “I think, like the music business, we need to get to a place where actors have more ownership over what they do. That should be part of this conversation we’re having now.”  In addition to starring in the hit medical series, Pompeo is also a producer of the show and directs some episodes. To Pompeo, “an actor is the least powerful person on set,” so they should be more involved in the business aspect of the industry. Pompeo negotiated a deal that boosted her salary to more than $20 million a year, making her the highest-paid actress on a primetime drama. 

Actress Octavia Spencer revealed in early 2018 that Jessica Chastain had helped her negotiate higher pay for an upcoming film they were both in. “I told Jessica my story, and we talked numbers, and she was quiet, and she said she had no idea that that’s what it was like for women of color,” Spencer said at the Women Breaking Barriers Panel at Sundance Film Festival.

Amy Schumer initially signed an $11 million deal with Netflix in 2017 for her comedy special, “The Leather Special,” according to Variety. But when she learned that comedians Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle were each paid $20 million for their respective specials, she decided to ask for more money. “I believe women deserve equal pay,” Schumer wrote in an Instagram post. “However I don’t believe I deserve equal pay to Chris and Dave. They are legends and two of the greatest comics of all time. I would like to say that I have been selling out arenas these last couple years. Something a female comic has never done. That’s a big deal to me, especially because I know I do my best every night on stage for the audience and they have a good time.”

Less than a year after the release of 2013 film “American Hustle,” leaked emails from Sony Pictures revealed that Jennifer Lawrence was paid less for the movie than her male co-stars, Bradley Cooper, Christian Bale, and Jeremy Renner. This came after Lawrence became one of the youngest-ever Oscar winners for her role in “Silver Linings Playbook.” “When the Sony hack happened and I found out how much less I was being paid than the lucky people with dicks, I didn’t get mad at Sony,” the actress wrote in Lenny Letter. “I got mad at myself. I failed as a negotiator because I gave up early. “I didn’t want to seem ‘difficult’ or ‘spoiled,'” she wrote.

Meryl Streep snagged an Oscar nomination for playing an intimidating, powerful fashion magazine editor based on Vogue’s Anna Wintour in “The Devil Wears Prada.” But she almost walked away from the role entirely because she wasn’t happy with what they initially wanted to pay her. “The offer was to my mind slightly, if not insulting, not perhaps reflective of my actual value to the project,” Streep told Variety. “There was my ‘goodbye moment,’ and then they doubled the offer. I was 55, and I had just learned, at a very late date, how to deal on my own behalf.”

Although Bryce Dallas Howard knows that she lives a “privileged” life, some of her male co-stars were shocked to learn that she doesn’t have “a million dollars in the bank.” The “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” star blames her relatively low savings on the vast pay inequity in Hollywood — and, in the same vein, feeling intimidated during pay negotiations. “I’ve been [wimpy] about it in the past. I didn’t want people to think I wasn’t grateful for opportunities,” she recently told Glamour. “I also get scared off by every threat during a negotiation. They’ll say, ‘We’ll just have to find someone else,’ and I back off. You can’t do that.”

Issa Rae, creator and star of HBO show “Insecure,” said she has attempted to negotiate her salary throughout her career. “As a freelance videographer and editor, I constantly had to set my price points, which was hard in the beginning because I honestly didn’t know my worth,” she told The Root. Rae said that she was so eager for work that she would work for pretty much any price point. “As I grew more confident in my work, I began to set my prices higher,” she said. “Sometimes I’d get resistance and sometimes I wouldn’t get the job at all. I’d often have to convince them that I was worth the money.”