The Casting Couch

The Casting Couch

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Deal Memo Dictionary

So I've had a few actors express some concerns to me regarding their test option deals, deal memos, and other legalese that might as well be written in hieroglyphics. Its a complicated matter, that's for sure. So here is the cliff's notes version for the actors out there who want to know what they're signing up for...or anyone else that is curious as to what issues are discussed when hiring an actor for a job.

Test Option Deal--this is the document that an actor signs basically agreeing to the terms and conditions of the job, should the network decide to hire them. Once this is signed, there's no going back. An actor must work, if chosen; however, the ball is in the network's court and they may choose to pass.

Deal Memo--This document goes through many drafts. Eventually, it is given to the actor once a deal has been closed and the actor is hired. It includes all the elements of the deal that were negotiated, and lists what is expected from both the actor and the company hiring them.

So, what goes on these two documents? and what does it all the mean? Well...for that...See Below:

Pay--The MONEY. Everyone's #1 concern. This should be clearly listed. How much you should get paid is a topic I'll save for a later date.

Start Date--This is the date you're expected to begin working. While this date will likely get pushed back (happens all the time), you still must be available from this day forward.

Work Days--Usually you are guaranteed a certain number or work days depending your role. This number should be clearly listed on the contract. No matter what happens, you should be paid for the days that you are granted "Guarantee."

Shooting Location(s)--Where the film/show will be shot. Pay attention here, b/c if its out of the country (even Mexico), you're gonna need a valid passport so get on that.

Accommodations--You are entitled to some sort of dressing room for each production. Furthermore, if the shoot is taking place away from your current residence, they should be providing you with somewhere to sleep...and I'm not talking about the director's couch. Make sure all of this info is in writing as well.

Meals--Obviously,they should be feeding you...this is required per SAG regulations already, but if its a non-union production, make sure it mentions something about this on the contract.

Billing--This is how you will be billed (receive credit) for the production. Main Title billing is that listed in the opening credits. The Stars usually have a single card, meaning they're the only name listed at one time. Supporting actors have a shared card, and all other actors usually end up on the "crawl" (end credits). There are some instances where there is a cameo or special guest star. In these situations, it is typical to have "and" or "with" billing, which is where the notable actor is listed as a single card with "and" or "with" in front of the name, at the end of the main title credits.

Important things to note:

A.P.D--This phrase stands for "at producer's discresion" and basically means that you are not guaranteed the element that is listed before it, so be careful with this one. What you seem promised may, in reality, just be potentially offered (or taken away) at the wim of the producers.

Personal Information--Your personal information (real name, SSN, birthdate, address, etc.) will likely all be included on the final deal memo. This is standard procedure so that the producers, network, or studio can get in touch with you directly if any issues arise.

Favored Nations--Sometimes its necessary to ensure that no one is getting paid more than you for a production. In this case, you should request a line of "favored nations" which guarantees this...particularly in situations where you're not getting paid at all, because you would hate to be the only person working for free.

Likeness Approval/Consultation--In situations when you've become a recognizable face, you may request to have approval or consultation for whenever your image is used in publicity, etc. That way, you can always make sure that you're looking your very best. Approval is rare unless you're super famous...but it doesn't hurt to ask for consultation at the very least.

So there you have it, folks. That's mostly everything that an actor should be looking out for when they're hired for a production. Its important to make sure you're treated correctly in every situation...whether it be a huge SAG feature or a non-union commercial. Now you just gotta book that job...

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