Animal actors for fair pay
February 25, 2011 6:58 PM   Subscribe

I have a trained animal about to appear in national commercial. What should I be looking for in my contract? Residuals /one off / both?

My animal has been chosen to appear, as a star I believe, in a national TV commercial. The agent that scouted him is meeting with me next week to go over contracts.

What should I be looking for to be included and what should I be looking out for in the contract? I believe residuals are standard for commercials, are they not?

It is worth note that the agency is international and also does movies and other TV, while the client is national I believe. It would be good for me (as a trainer) to get more work from the agency but I also want to make sure to get fair remuneration from the client for what could be a commercial run multiple cycles on national TV.

How can I strike a good balance between playing hard-ball and losing actual or potential work?

Please don't ask for names, I won't give them. ;)
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This is really a question that will completely vary in situation to situation. It's sort of a loose rule, but in many cases the "star" or main actor in the commercial, will get get a very small residual. In the past I've actually worked with a client, where an animal was the principal talent. I found that people were much less willing to pony up, as they felt, how hard is it to find another "Animal X" to do this? If your trained animal is very unique, and wouldn't be easy to replace, you may have a shot. There is also the question of union status that could be a factor.

My best advice would be to use an experienced agent, or an entertainment attorney to deal with the negotiations. This is especially relevant in your case because the talent is a "trained animal". Any contracts involving commercials are extremely complicated, and in my experience the 10-20% fee is well worth it for the chance of a better deal.
posted by EvilPRGuy at 7:27 PM on February 25, 2011

I believe residuals are standard for commercials, are they not?

For humans? Only if it's a union gig and/or you don't accept a buyout.

In other words: no, not necessarily.
posted by scody at 7:59 PM on February 25, 2011

Entertainment lawyer to look over the contract. You need one to get this right.
posted by jbenben at 11:40 PM on February 25, 2011

How can I strike a good balance between playing hard-ball and losing actual or potential work?

This is what agents are for. An experienced agent will know what the market will bear, how much room there is to negotiate, what the tendencies of the particular client are, and of the market that you are in. Depending on the type of production, the union status, the number of shooting days, the nature of the usage, etc. This could end up being a fairly mechanical process. Not really sure how this stuff works in the UK.

From the way you phrased your original post it sounds like this agent scouted your animal somewhere and got him/her a gig right off the bat? And now you're asking how to deal with the client contract that is going to be presented to you? Have you signed a talent agency contract with this agent? What is their commission? An agent is supposed to have your best interest in mind as they get a percentage of what you make, so I'm not sure why you're anticipating playing hardball with him/her.
posted by phaedon at 1:03 AM on February 26, 2011

Ask Frazier at Cinecritters for advice.
posted by scruss at 7:16 AM on February 26, 2011

You must be referring then to some type of commercial advertising agency whose job it is to conceive of and produce a commercial for their client.

This is a difficult question to answer online. I can tell you from personal experience that being totally, absolutely, crystal clear about how much you will be getting paid as soon as possible is essential to maintaining and building healthy relationships in the creative field.

Especially if the partners you are working with are beginning to do things like locking up your locations, your shooting dates, etc. This is something that happens after a contract is agreed upon, and while the locking up of these things may seem like an advantage for you, (since you and your animal are unique) with your inexperience, it can turn into a disadvantage. As you may lose leverage (or the job altogether) by appearing "problematic" on the money end at a critical time in production.

You can of course represent yourself and let the chips fall where they may. There are a lot of things to work out in a talent contract though and its hard to believe that your interests will be maximally represented by your prospective employer, despite how good this relationship might be.

If you have time, I think you might want to start looking at agents, managers and/or an entertainment lawyer (these are the three classic forms of representation in the US) who specializes with animals, to at least look over this contract perhaps in a separate meeting so as to make sure you are not getting hood-winked. You may not want to produce this agent into the negotiation unless you are, as to be honest, it sounds like you might be "surprising" them by all of a sudden seeking representation. And this late in the game that might look like a sign that you are uncomfortable.

In general though success in this type of industry is as you said based on having a career. So dont freak yourself out. You'll have plenty of time to make money. P eople like to work with other people that are clear, reliable and professional. Hope this works out for you.
posted by phaedon at 8:26 AM on February 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Agreed that you need to look for an agent/attorney, but I also want to point out that they are going to shoot in your house for 3 days - there should be a payment for that in the contract as well.
posted by CathyG at 1:04 PM on February 26, 2011

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