Over the last few weeks, we have reviewed the different parts of your Feature Actor’s Agreements and presented information that will prove invaluable to you as you negotiate your deals (see Part 1 and Part 2). As we have discussed, even if you have hired the Hollywood Lawyer as your counsel, the information here is intended make your overall experience smoother—such that before you even begin to counsel with your attorney and long before you put pen to paper, you will generally know what to expect. Keep in mind though, that these posts are designed to give you the “big picture” rather than every minute detail of your contract—such details can be fleshed out directly with your attorney. That being said, be sure to use these posts a reference point during your career. This week, we continue in our discussion on our topic with a look into the “Services” sections of your contract.
You are cast to perform, to provide a service. What that role will require of you is one of the major legs on which your contract stands. It goes without saying that the type of work that you perform under the contract directly affects your compensation package. For example, in several of our previous posts, we addressed how SAG-AFTRA requires pay increases for background actors cast for hazardous, dangerous, or special work conditions. These conditions include, but are not limited to, work involving explosives, wild animals, or wet work. No two roles are the same, just as no two actors are the same. What you do is just as significant as who you are when negotiating a contract.
Hence, your contract should reflect, in both compensation and in its text, the role that you are being cast to perform: for the most part the riskier the role, the more compensation you can negotiate for. In addition, you may, at some point in your career, be cast in a role involving nudity. This should also be considered in your compensation package. Another consideration is whether your role is lead as opposed to cameo. A lead actor’s fee will be more than a cameo actor because the lead actor works more hours.
Other important factors include how many days you will be working per week, the length of your days and the length of your contract period in general. These areas make up the “employment period” of your contract. Keep in mind that these terms are negotiated before the shooting actually starts, so they are approximations of how the shoots will play out. It is not uncommon for an actor to be required to work longer than anticipated, and in that case compensation adjustment can be negotiated. A final, but not conclusive consideration, is whether the scenes will be shot on a standing set or on location. Productions shot on location may require you to travel or face climate conditions such as heat/cold in which cases you can negotiate for more compensation.
Under your contract you will also be expected to perform publicity related work such as interviews and promotional photo shoots. Publicity related work is not usually negotiated as a separate fee, but is part of the contracted services.
Do note, however, that while it is reasonable to take into account how your contract is negotiated monetarily in your favor, it is not unreasonable for an actor to show flexibility in negotiations if presented with the opportunity to work with a famous director or co-star. Think about how working with Steven Spielberg or Brad Pitt, especially if your career is relatively young, will benefit your career. If this is the case, you may find that the experience gained will make up for any variables in compensation. This being said, always keep in mind that negotiating and signing a contract is a live, flexible process rather than a dead one carved in stone.
Join us next week as our discussion on your Feature Actor’s Agreements continues.
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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