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Monday, January 5, 2009

Non-Union Commercial Contracts


I have had a bunch of students recently ask about non-union contracts. Sometimes, these non-standard contracts can be confusing, and sometimes it is hard to get a written agreement at all! Here is a recent question about commercial work, sent by one of my students:

I'd like your opinion.  A guy called me last week from upstate NY about a commercial he was doing there (he saw my profile on Backstage.com.)  He asked me what my rate was, and of course, who has a rate if you're not SAG? He offered to pay transportation, food and lodging for 3 days, but he wants to pay $50/day for a 3 day shoot over a weekend.  He made the offer, and accepted, asking him for a formal agreement.  Aside from going out of town, I wanted to make sure it won't do me more harm than good-  for example, it's a buyout (i'm guessing) with no residuals, so how long do they want to use this commercial?  I tried to explain to him that this was my concern.  If it's a year or two, and it's just up in that area, I'm thinking it's acceptable, but not in perpetuity, right?  I would love your opinion.  Thanks, as always. 

TAE Responds:

As far as the commercial- you are right to get all of that hammered out in advance. Even though it is only $50 per day, I think it is a good that you accepted. It sounds like it might be fun, considering you are getting all of your expenses paid, and it doesn’t sound like it will be interfering with your work too much.

When I started out, I did a ton of non-union commercial work, and usually the initial payment is considered the buyout, and they can use the spot for any reason, at any time, for as many times as they'd like (I have a commercial that is STILL running during the holidays in San Diego.) My suggestion would be to have them put together a contract for you which explains everything so that you both understand what will happen. Most importantly, you need to have a provision for getting a copy of your work. If they don't have something like that in contract form, you can print out a standard "Copy Provided" contract (courtesy of Holdon Log) and ask the producer to fill it out with you. I would ask them what date they plan to air the commercial, and then ask if you can arrange to pick up a copy of it around that time.

Obviously, this isn't a union gig, but sometimes looking at a union contract can help you understand what provisions should be considered when asking for a written agreement. Here are some documents regarding SAG commercial work that you can use to do some research: http://www.sag.org/content/commercial-contracts. (For blog readers: if you are not a SAG member, you will not be able to access the full contract from this page. Email me, and I will send you a PDF version.)

Hope this was helpful- let me know how it goes!

7 COMMENTS - Click to READ:

Linda said...

Thank you! I was looking for some info on non-union commercials & this was very helpful!

-Linda

Erin C. said...

You are so welcome! I am glad you found this blog useful. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Hi! I wanted to just clarify some things just so I am sure I'm understanding correctly. I just did a non-union commercial and on the contract it said compensation: $500 per day for 4 days (inclusive of all rehearsals, wardrobe fittings and session fees). underneath that it said $1500 (representing the BUYOUT fee for all usage as outlined in this agreement. I thought that meant I would be receiving both sums of money. My pay for the 4 days shoot AND then the buyout pay. My agent said the buyout is inclusive in the pay I got and they included what the buyout fee was as the amount that would be paid 110% if they decided to use it a second year. It looked confusing on the contract. Is my agent correct? Are you saying that the buyout is usually included in the initial payment? Thanks so much

Anonymous said...

Ditto - same question as above!

Erin Cronican said...

Thank you for stopping by! I'll answer this question in an upcoming blog. Stay tuned!

Anonymous said...

I'm having a hard time getting an agent is there any advice that u can give me so I can seek representation?Thanx

Erin Cronican said...

Thanks for your question! In order to give good advice in this area, I would have to know more about you and the reasons you think it's been difficult finding an agent. The basic advice is: do good work, and get a referral from those who know your work... but, of course, that's easier said than done and seems like a Catch-22.

For anyone who wants career coaching for this and other topics, I offer a free consultation in person, via phone, or Skype. You can email me to set something up.

Thanks for stopping by!

Erin :)

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