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Monday, December 3, 2007

Submitted question: Exclusive Contracts with Agents

Jennifer writes:

I am in LA and have an agent who is interested in signing me but I am not sure I want to sign an exclusive contract with her. Any advice on this?

TAE responds:

Great question, Jennifer. Even if you sign a contract you do have an "out" if things don't work out. Typically, contracts have a clause that states that if the actor doesn't secure work within any 90 day period while the contract is in effect, either party can back out without penalty. This is designed to allow the agent and actor to get to know each other and see how things go, but sets a limit of how much time is acceptable without work being found.

I'd ask to see a copy of the contract and go over it carefully to make sure there is a clause like this (SAG & Equity contracts have those clauses- I don't know if you are union or non-union but even non-union contracts should have a similar clause. If not, add one.)

You could also ask if they'll allow you to freelance for a certain amount of time (6 months, 1 year, etc.) Some agents do that here in NYC, but I have not seen many who do it in LA. Usually, an agent who freelances has far more clients on board than those who only sign exclusive contracts, and you run the risk of being lost in the shuffle. Having someone who wants to sign you is SUPPOSED to indicate that they have a place for your type and would work hard to get you work. But because there is no limit to the amount of people they can sign, and since there is a back-out clause for any 90 day period where there's no work, many agents are now signing people that they wouldn't have before.

Bottom line- you are hiring the agent to be on your team, so if you don't want to sign, then you shouldn't. But there are safeguards in place in case you do end up signing.

Good luck, and let me know how it goes!

Erin Cronican
The Actors' Enterprise

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