As you already know, SAG-AFTRA governs the aspects of its members working conditions–from the actual conditions on the set to the ins and outs of compensation (see our previous posts on this). The Union sets minimums for all of its members regarding their regular pay, holiday pay, and overtime. Thus, members of SAG-AFTRA are protected during what could become a complex, contract negotiating process.
Still, that does not mean that this process should be taken lightly. The contract negotiated for you before you begin working is a legal document, and its terms cannot be changed simply because you become unhappy with the terms once the project has started. With this in mind, you should always seek to hire counsel (how about The Hollywood Lawyer?) to advocate on your behalf during the deal making process.
Your counsel will work to get you the best deal possible, advise you during the process, and ensure that you are covered in all areas including the not-so-obvious aspects of the contract. Your producer knows the industry–she does this all day, every day. She knows that this is a business and that there are many actors out there who are hungry to get to work. So, if she sees an unrepresented (by counsel) performer sitting across from her during the negotiating process, she is probably not scratching her head thinking, “Hmmm, what can I do to help this person?” It’s just reality. SAG-AFTRA provides its members with minimums; solid legal representation will work to help you understand what minimums apply to you, take you beyond the minimums, make sure you understand what you are getting and why. That being said, the next series of posts will discuss your contract (Feature Actors Agreement), what it should include and how it works for you.
The Contract: A Legal Document
Entering into any type of contract should not be taken lightly. As stated earlier, it is a legal document and once the agreement is made, it can only be changed (amended) or ended (voided) under limited circumstances. Many people mistakenly believe that if they enter a contract, the terms are flexible, and they can just “talk to the other person” if things are not going well. While this may the case, and the other party may work with you, legally they are NOT obligated to do so. The contract is there for a reason–to tell what the parties are agreed to do, when they agreed to do it and how they will be compensated. If there is a mistake or fraud resulting in no real agreement, or both parties agree to end the contract, then there may be a way to get out of a contract. However, this rarely happens. In short, it’s a done deal.
Your Feature Actor Agreement (FAA) is a type of contract. As such, it tells, among other things, what your job is, when you will perform it and how you will be paid for your work. While a legal contract legally does not have to be in writing (the parties’ actions may form the contract), your FAA will always be in writing. Likewise, your contract covers several areas including:
- Conditions precedent
- Approval/Consultation Rights
- Trailer/Dressing Room Terms
Please note, these are the general areas that your FAA will cover. Keep in mind that every contract deal is different, so some variation from these areas is possible for a valid contract. Over the next few weeks, we will discuss each of these areas in some detail. Our goal is for you, as a party to the contract, to have a general understanding of your deal before you consult with counsel and meet with producers to negotiate.
Source: Hollywood Dealmaking: Negotiating Talent Agreements for Film, TV, and New Media by Dina Appleton, Esq. and Daniel Yankelevits, Esq., Copyright 2010.
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