F.U. Money

This week: F*ck-you money

If you watched Conan O’Brien and his very public reaction to the NBC late-night programming debacle then you’ve seen first hand what everyone in life would like to reach at some point before the casket comes calling. The ability to express and/or do (legally) that which is in your heart while knowing that the consequences will not affect your bank account. It’s that wealth that affords your well-being to be honest and it is called; f*ck-you money. For actors, this is something they dream of someday doing to producers when they believe themselves to have been wronged.

I first heard the expletive colloquialism when working on a film for 20th Century Fox. It was uttered from the casting director I was working alongside. She had mentioned in a conversation that another casting director she knew well had been very successful. Because of that success the colleague was able to retire at an early age because she had amassed her own holding of F.U. money.

Viewers of The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien saw not only Conan cash in on his F.U. monies but also his final guests anted up as well. Robin Williams, Will Ferrell, Tom Hanks, Steve Carell and other guests on the last airings knew that they were in a position stronger than NBC/Universal. And with the sale of the mega-media conglomerate to Comcast, this provided an even a greater sense of safety for flipping the bird at the peacock.

Now we all, including me, can be premature at dipping into our F.U. savings. Actors while working regional theater, Broadway productions, as day players on episodics, supporting roles in film or similar often have the urge to burn a bridge when they believed to have been wrongly crossed. That folly must be avoided. Restraint is warranted. For if you feel that you can speak out against a perceived injustice against you every time you’ll be left with a bankrupt career.

Before making a withdrawal against your F.U. savings consider the long-term ramifications. Plus, are you able to knock over one domino without others falling? Conan and his compatriots could. The person at the start or middle of their career can not. Every connection is needed until there comes a time when security is firmly known for the remainder of your life. It’s only then that you can say to an employer, gate-keeper or fellow artist; f*ck you.


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Paul Russell’s career as a casting director, director, acting teacher and former actor has spanned nearly thirty years. He has worked on projects for major film studios, television networks, and Broadway. Paul has taught the business of acting and audition technique at NYU and has spoken at universities including Yale, Temple and the University of the Arts. He writes a column for Back Stage and is the author of ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistakes and Achieve Success as a Working Actor. For more information, please visit www.PaulRussell.net.


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