In our last post, we introduced you to the contract as a legal document. We further discussed your Feature Actor Agreement and the parts that should be negotiated in the contract on your behalf. Now that you understand the basics of your contract and how “final” your signed contract is, let’s discuss the parts of your contract in some detail.
We work because we want to get paid. Now don’t get me wrong, we don’t work only to get paid, but, unless we are volunteering, we expect to get compensated for our services. It may go without saying…but I’ll just say it anyway– compensation is at the forefront of your agreement. It is imperative, especially if you are a member of SAG-AFTRA, to have a clear understanding of the terms of your compensation before you agree to or sign anything. It may be hard to believe how many performers agree to a contract without fully understanding what their compensation will be. Picture a new actor being there in the moment, having been cast in the role, and ready to start… but he has to get past all the mundane paperwork. So he signs, moves on, and thinks about it later. Of course, this could take place only for someone who has not read our posts.
If you are a member of SAG-AFTRA your minimum compensation is already set. Still, these minimums can vary greatly depending on your medium (television, film, theater, etc.), your experience/credit, your actual work in the role, and the film’s budget. Follow this link for more information.
In just a glance at this information in link, it should be clear why it’s wise to seek counsel for your deal making process.
Before we continue our discussion on compensation, it’s necessary to address the part of the contract called “conditions precedent.” This is a legal term that means what needs to be done by either of the parties before the performance of the contract can begin. If a condition precedent is met, then the contract will be binding (take effect.) Likewise, if the condition precedent is not met, then the contract is not binding (not in effect.)
Conditions precedent are common and their purpose is to make sure that both parties are able to fulfill their obligations under the contract before the contract actually begins. This saves time, resources and potential claims later. Common conditions precedent include obtaining appropriate work visas where applicable or the requirement that the actor must qualify for insurance at normal premiums. Before you sign a contract, make sure you know whether you are required to fulfill conditions precedent and what they are. If you do not feel comfortable with the conditions precedent, do not move forward. If you have not already done so, hire an attorney (how about The Hollywood Lawyer?) for advice on how to proceed.
The Actor’s Quote
If you have earned fees before as an actor, these fees will be taken into account by the producer or studio in its offer to you. These fees are usually a starting point for the negotiations and can be affected positively or negatively by other circumstances during the process. Factors that can affect the actor’s quote include the nature of the role, the length of time required to perform the role, the production budget, etc. Knowing your level of prestige and your goals before going into this complex negotiating process will undoubtedly work in your favor.
Join us next week, as we continue our discussion on Feature Actors Agreements.
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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