Actor Contracts

It’s been said that common sense is far from common. So stick to the basics and you’ll avoid a lot of unnecessary issues.  For instance, there are basically three things you need to keep in mind when you are booked on a gig and faced with signing a contract for the use of your performance, voice, image, or likeness.

 1) AVOID signing contracts that include the term in perpetuity.

Both union and nonunion contracts have used this terminology in a variety of settings with greater and greater frequency over the years, often under circumstances that would warrant greater pay or reuse fees. 
What in perpetuity means is the client, say it’s Playskool for example, proposes to own unlimited usage of your performance regardless of what you were paid as a flat fee (or buyout—a set fee in lieu of residuals). This allows those who have hired you unlimited edits and reuse of your likeness and/or performance. In other words, if you were hired for a local commercial only and you signed a contract that allows the client unlimited access to your performance because it stated they own your performance in perpetuity, then the client has indefinite and unlimited usage and can repeatedly lift and reformat your performance numerous times for years to come if they choose. You’ve already been paid in full and are NOT entitled to any further compensation if you signed such a contract, because you agreed to a single flat-fee buyout. That payment would not entitle you to any other fees for future usage or, for example, for use on network TV, cable, Internet, trade show, film, corporate industrial, or even for resale to an entirely different vendor. 
BusinessGranted, there are some circumstances in which this is perfectly appropriate, but because these contracts are so frequently employed, we can’t caution you enough as talent to let your agent manage this area of your career. Another good reason to have a seasoned agent who has experience with what the industry standards and practices are, as well as what the value of the job is based upon its intended usage! This is precisely what they do. 
The fact is, even nonunion rates and usage are (loosely) based on union rates and usage, because these rates offer value and set a precedent. Agents are concerned with the intended and ultimate usage of the performance or likeness. The agent looks at past experiences with other clients with similar circumstance and determines the rate and length of usage before an additional reuse fee would be required by the client.  (Continued…) 

– Be sure to catch our next blog Actor Contracts 101, Part 2 to learn more!–

The information offered in this and our various blogs from SOUND ADVICE are often excerpts from our book, “THE SOUND ADVICE Encyclopedia of Voice-over & the Business of Being a Working Talent” by founder and casting director, Kate McClanaghan.  Click here to purchase a digital or ‘analog’ copy for yourself through our website:



Kate McClanaghan, Inc. © 2013 All rights reserved.