General Overview of Actor’s Agreements
There are limitations to what the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) can regulate. They standardize general working conditions for actors as well as travel compensation, residuals, and at times minimum fee requirements for the actor. However, some conditions are outside of SAG’s authority and therefore must be refined in a contract. Some actors are not members of SAG and in-demand actors usually negotiate beyond what SAG requires. There may also be assets produced in foreign jurisdictions that are outside of SAG’s influence.
Before an agreement is even considered, there are some conditional precedents that must be met. These are a few examples of the most prominent condition precedents on an actor’s contract:
- Obtain proper work visas
- Obtain and provide appropriate tax documents
- Qualify and obtain insurance at basic premiums (which may be overcome if a negotiation occurs where the actor agrees to pay more for a higher premium but out of pocket.
- High level actors may negotiate outside of minimum fee requirements but SAG will set the minimum fee for the actors.
- If not part of SAG, then compensation will be determined by the producer (or studio) based on review of previous payments for similar projects.
- Any additional achievements or recent awards may be used to add to the actor’s payout. Winning an award such as an Oscar or having notable box office success should be considered when asking for more money. There may also be a “foreign value” added to negotiations as the actor may garner attention and pull in additional profit from other countries.
- Money is not the only thing that may be used as a bargaining chip. Some actors will take less of what they “deserve” in order to work with a preferred director, for example. Or there may be a particular project they really want to work on so they will opt for less money. There may be a considerable amount of these “back-end” exchanges as opposed to a set rate if the budget is not so accommodating to the actor’s desire.
- Time or involvement in a project will also alter an actor’s fee. The length of which the actor will perform and the importance of the role will be considered. The more complex performance with a longer dedication to the project will have more compensation.
Ideally, the actor would be compensated up front but if unable to obtain all the funds at once, the actor or their representative should ensure that the compensation due must be placed in escrow. Be wary of how compensation is dispersed especially if dealing with independent or foreign producers as well as financially unstable producers. The absence of escrow may encourage the actor to simply drop out of the project.
Always talk to your attorney when discussing the complexities and difficult nature of these contracts. This is a short example of what an Actor’s Agreement may outline. In no way is this article supplanting the analysis or craftsmanship nor sophistication involved in drafting an Actor’s Agreement.