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How to Not Compromise the Commercial Acting Industry

As more non-union commercials are being produced, a lack of union rules to protect the actor is an issue.

It’s important to protect the industry from the danger of creating a culture of compromised situations that take advantage of actors’ time, terms of agreement and general treatment.

A lack of knowledge regarding how actors can protect themselves can lower industry standards. However, there are ways that an actor can take control and boost up the industry as opposed to being part of a disempowering trend.

All while striving to become union.

Here are points to consider regarding how much you are being paid before accepting a job. If you are doing a non-union spot, make well-thought-out decisions based on the following components of a spot.

Weigh the pros and cons.

Sometimes there are reasons to accept lower-paying jobs. For example, the role might be a great introduction to other opportunities. It could also be the type of role you don’t ordinarily do while wanting to expand your image. A third reason might be if you think it would be a great piece of film for your reel.

Don’t accept a job for low pay just because you are thrilled someone wants you.

Understand the usage of a spot.

Look and understand how the spot is being used. It could run regional, national, spot, foreign, internet, print or billboards. Find out so that you can determine if you are being paid a fair rate for your work.

Know the length of time the spot is being used.

The client may be using the commercial for weeks, months, years or in perpetuity.

Never accept anything in perpetuity. “In perpetuity” means they can use your image in this spot forever without having to compensate you for it.
In other words, when it comes to in perpetuity, you will only be paid to do the job. There are no residuals. In perpetuity can also create conflicts and potentially lock you out of other work forever.

Are they asking for conflicts?

A conflict means you cannot have another spot running with a conflicting product type. Some product conflicts include fast food, toothpaste, soft drinks, banks and shampoos.

For instance, if you’re doing a shampoo spot, be careful that you don’t agree to all hair products. Another example: if you’re doing a commercial for toothpaste without a whitener, don’t agree to toothpaste, whiteners and mouthwashes without being compensated for more than one product.

If you are doing a soft drink, you don’t want to agree to all drinks, as you would be cutting yourself out of milk and juices; that’s a triple conflict.

Be careful of the no-conflicts trap.

Another trap you could fall into is accepting a spot that is not asking for conflicts and thinking you are conflict-free.
Here’s the reality: even though that fast food restaurant commercial you have running is not asking you to hold a conflict, the other fast food restaurant would consider you as having a conflict.

Know how many hours you are being hired to shoot.

If the number of hours is not specified, you could be stuck at that shoot for as long as it takes — this could mean 12 hours or longer — with no overtime pay.
A typical payment for a non-union shoot covers 10 hours. Please note that non-union shoots usually push the boundaries of what they are asking for in relation to how much they are paying you. A union shoot day is eight hours and covers overtime.

Check that your contract matches the original terms of agreement.

Before you start shooting, you should see the deal memo or contract. Make sure it matches the original terms of agreement that you accepted at the time of the booking.

If you have an agent, they will see the contract the day before and check it over. If you don’t, you are handed the agreement the morning of the shoot.

As the talent, you will be putting yourself in a precarious situation by negotiating any fine points, as well as being the talent on the set.

Have agent protection.

It’s best to have an agent who will protect you and oversee your deals, as well as guide you as to when you are selling yourself short and downgrading the industry. Don’t go rogue on your agents by accepting and working on jobs without telling them.

Generally, accepting jobs with lower pay just to work can only lower industry standards, making it very hard for talent and agents to make a living. Be aware of union standards, and know the worth of your work while you are working towards union status.

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