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Old July 11th, 2010, 12:38 PM   #1
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Actor contract for web series?

I'm starting work on a web series - I'm the director and producer. I'm going to start casting soon, and I'm drafting a contract for the actors.

Here's the issue - once I hire the actors to play re-occurring roles, I need to get them to come back for future episodes. The reality is I live in a region with a fairly small film/tv industry, and I have a pretty low budget. After I shoot the first few episodes, I can't guarantee when I'll have the resources to film more episodes. It's likely it will happen on an ad hoc basis - we shoot when we can.

The only way I can think of to phrase this is in the contract, is the actor will make a 'good faith' effort to be available for future episodes. The actors need to take other jobs between episodes, and I can't realistically set shoot dates into the future. If the actors jet off to Los Angeles or wherever, I just have to say bye-bye.

Of course, I'm talking with lawyers with some experience in entertainment law, but I was wondering what other folks are doing, and what you think.
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Old July 11th, 2010, 03:31 PM   #2
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Is this your first go at a web series? The actors will base their decision to weigh in on your past experience and the look of the concept and scripts.

So at casting, you're actually (subtly) selling your concept and you're probably going to hire new talent who are looking to build their portfolios.
With all this in mind if you're paying scale, it's an expensive business and IMO you need to get a sponsor.

So the opening shows are demos and I think a formal contract for your actors won't have enough guarantees for them in it, at this stage. And what are you going to do if they don't 'keep faith' you can't sue 'em. You do need a signed NDA and I think that's about it.

If you can, shoot Eps 3-4 first to get settled in, then 1-2. You should have your chops together by then. Hope this helps.

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Old July 11th, 2010, 05:37 PM   #3
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Well, yeah, that's the plan. I've got enough material to shoot the first few episodes and establish the premise and the characters. Then I have some ideas on how to promote and market the thing, and what sort of demographic I can appeal to. All the actors get the marketing spiel.

Fortunately, they have all responded positively to the concept. Actor friends of mine who read the script called me to audition.

But then it's like anything else. It's gotta attract some dough eventually, or we're doing 1 episode a year.
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Old July 11th, 2010, 06:05 PM   #4
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Most actors want to act. 99 seat theatre contracts (which accounts for the vast majority of work that professional actors get) pay $5 per night to Equity actors. And Equity actors show up and rehearse five nights a week for four to five weeks (no pay) and then to do the show for 6 - 8 weeks. Any actor who is telling you that they aren't going to show up unless you come up with some serious bucks is an actor you don't want to hire - they're going to be a problem the whole way through. And they probably aren't very good.

When you put your ad up, focus on Equity actors who have been doing theater in your region/city for a few years. If they haven't gone off to NY yet, they probably won't. The really good ones have probably already done their time in NY and they're back home to their families. Those people are going to be thrilled to be cast in project that will get them in front of the camera a few times a year. All of this means that you have to look at their resume first, but it's the best way to get stable performers. Look at where they trained and what theatres they have performed in. If all they have is commercials and modeling, they likely aren't that serious - and that's where your problems will come in.

Actors love acting and most of the good ones aren't that concerned about getting paid on no-budget projects. Just do a good job on your end, and they'll love ya' till the end of time.
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Old July 12th, 2010, 07:13 AM   #5
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Sure most actors want to act, just like most race car drivers want to drive a race car, and most baseball players want to play baseball. If you love your job, you enjoy going to work.

But if you were to ask them, most would say that an actor should be paid accordingly for level of craft. In my opinion there is a huge difference between the delivery of a local stage actor and someone who knows on-camera work. By the way, there are a bunch of great actors around the Boston area if you know where to look.

I think you really need to be honest with yourself with this project Dennis, step back, remove yourself for the moment, like it's not your baby and someone is introducing it to you for the first time. If you were an actor would you want to commit yourself to this project in perpetuity, for X amount of time, which at this point is unknown, and X amount of money.

Good Luck with your project!
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Old July 12th, 2010, 07:33 AM   #6
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Thanks Lori - I've read your posts on this topic with interest.

My method so far is anyone with Equity on the resume is at the front of the list. After that, the more theater experience, and an actual degree in theater/acting etc, is on the short list.

I totally understand you have to get the cast and crew to be enthusiastic about the project, paid or not. I guess I'm just asking a question with an obvious answer. If the actors stay interested, of course, they will try to accommodate the shooting schedule.

But obviously, they can't work for me exclusively. If someone gets a dream role, they gonna go for it. It's one of the realities I've found making films in Boston, most of the best actors (at least the younger ones) are in the process of transitioning to LA. They love, love, love good roles in the Boston area, but they see the future is on the West Coast. Just the cost of doing business here.
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Old July 12th, 2010, 07:43 AM   #7
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I should follow up my morose post by saying I have absolute faith in my project. I had 3 different script consultants help with the script, one from the writersstore.com and another I just found doing a google search. They all praised the concept as great and liked the script - though they had a lot of feedback which I incorporated into future drafts.

If I have to, I'll use FrameForge to just make it a sort of weird animated thing and do the flipping voices myself.

One thing I've pointed out to the actors is a web series has some potential to grow. It's not like making a lo-budget short or feature, which is goes off to festival oblivion. (Yes, I've had films in festivals.) I think you can see what works or doesn't, and make some adjustments.

Yes, I'm quite ruthless with my own material. My scripts get shorter in the last few drafts, not longer. My films get shorter the more I edit them, as I cut things that don't work or slow it down.
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Old July 12th, 2010, 11:06 AM   #8
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You might want to check whether a web series would be in the jurisdiction of Equity (stage actors) or AFTRA (film, television, radio).
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Old July 12th, 2010, 04:08 PM   #9
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Steve,

Equity is the union for stage actors. The point being that lots of people who only have a transitory interest in acting belong to SAG and AFTRA, or are non-union. It's usually only actors who are incredibly serious about their career that are Equity. It's the mind-set, not the jurisdiction.
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Old July 13th, 2010, 08:01 AM   #10
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Accidently left out SAG. But jurisdiction does matter if you hire union workers.
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Old July 13th, 2010, 11:40 AM   #11
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Steve,

SAG covers web series, but that isn't the question he's asking. He's asking how to deal with actors who are likely to leave town to go to greener pastures. My suggestion was to find Equity actors because they tend to be the most serious about their work and as such, will take his efforts more seriously.

So, yes, SAG has a contract for web series, and if you're using SAG actors you need the contract. It doesn't cost anything and you don't owe them a salary at this point in time. But that isn't what we're talking about.
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Old July 15th, 2010, 10:02 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lori Starfelt View Post
But that isn't what we're talking about.
Thanks Lori -- I've withdrawn from public view a couple of posts which went off-topic (the topic being how to deal with actors of an on-going series who are likely to leave town).
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