With or Without Contract?

  • Sally Beaumont

    Actor

    I've been approached by an agency via CCP who would like to take me on without meeting me, and without a contract.

    They seem very above board (I'm far from green in this industry) and the agent in question has been around for a long time.

    My question is: am I being overly cynical to want a contract with an agency?

    I'm aware of a sort of "gentleman's agreement" tradition in the industry, so don't want to turn them down out of hand. But I'm also keen to have everything in writing, so we both know what's expected of us and to avoid disagreements later.

    Answers on a postcard...

    • 13th Oct 2010
    • 2784
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  • Lee Ravitz

    Actor

    Generally speaking, in my experience, the longer the agency has been operating for, and the more confident it is that trust issues will not arise, the more likely it is that they will work on the basis of tacit agreement. I appreciate that working on the basis of a verbal contract could be subject to difficulties, but this cuts both ways: it also means that there is absolutely *nothing* binding you to the agency should you wish at any point to give notice to move on over 'issues'.

    Naturally, you should be asking verbal questions about everything of significance that would appear on a written contact (e.g. what percentage is taken on each piece of work, how much work are you allowed to source for yourself, is a cut taken on work you find for yourself etc?). But I have personally never had any problems with agents working on the basis of the 'gentleman's agreement' in practical terms.

    The only real issue may be that, given the freedom to waive stated 'duties', you have very little hold over the agent's accountability to you, which may make it harder to ask them for progress reports etc. if they do not feel available to give you time and instruction. When an agent signs a written contract with you, it should define their responsibilities clearly as well as your own, and this can be to your benefit.

    However, I see no reason, if they are very eager to take you on, and you would appreciate *some* kind of agreement in writing (even if it's not a full contract as such), that they couldn't be prepared to write something down for your records.

    • 4th Oct 2010
    • 1
  • Guy Press

    Actor

    Unfortunately I come from this with my business head on. It's a business so technically a contract IS required regardless of years in the industry for the agent and if they baulk at this then I would walk away. Gentlemen's agreements are all well and good but there are fewer gentlemen around when the push comes to shove.

    You also need a basic contract to define percentages on Film, TV, theatre, Corporate work + . As well as obligations and writes.

    Any decent agent should be able to see and respect your side of things. This is a two way street they deserve to respect you and a contract implies this.

    • 4th Oct 2010
    • 2
  • User Deleted

    This profile has been archived

    I think it's pretty normal to not sign a contract straight up. It will serve as a kind of probationary period where both parties can establish whether they want to carry on working together and then literally sign on the dotted line. I would recommend going ahead but only if you've checked them out and feel like they are right for you right now...

    • 4th Oct 2010
    • 3
  • Mark Kempner

    Actor

    I actually don't think a contract is the ultimate paperwork!! Not with a good solid middle of the road agent and their reliable trustworthy actor.

    I think you should insist on a written "TERMS & CONDITIONS" agreement....but I hate the thought of being tied into a contract. I always think...why would you want to limit your chances...and I have seen some terrible instances of lost opportunities and situations arise accordingly.

    A signed contract won't stop an agency going down owing you thousands, and neither will it mean an agency will def get you work.

    The agency's terms and conditions is all you need I feel, if they do not adhere to them after the first paid gig....you can walk away relatively unscathed having taken them to court for not paying you what was agreed in their terms and conditions.

    I know actors make a big fuss over the "trust" issue....but unless it was a big London management, signing me because I was contracted in a soap and major films etc, I cannot see the advantage of having a contract....which unless it's really well written, is often restrictive for the actor.

    as for being taken on without being seen...that's another matter!!

    • 5th Oct 2010
    • 4
  • Guy Press

    Actor

    Simple one page contracts exist, outlining exactly that terms and condition and what is expected from both Actors and agent. and rates of commission in respect of Payments and timings to be paid.

    When all is said and done it's a business and you'd get the same from any other PR company so why down grade yourself?

    Every Agent I have had big and small has given a basic contract detailing the above just to cut out grey areas.

    • 5th Oct 2010
    • 5
  • Mark Kempner

    Actor

    ....it should also list how long this agreement is valid till and from.

    Its the deeper "tying" clauses where they say: You are signed to us and us for 1 year and us only I don't like!!

    Perhaps a 3 month trial on the basis of a T&C agreement...and after that actor and agent can decide if they wish to carry on in which case following a sucsessful relationship...perhaps then.. a simple contract, which is fair to both parties, could be considered.

    • 5th Oct 2010
    • 6
  • Sally Beaumont

    Actor

    Thanks for your comments, everyone!

    At the moment I've got interest from about four agents and the remaining three would like to meet me and may or may not have contracts. I'm attempting to compare apples with apples, which is slightly difficult.

    My main concerns about working without a contract of some form are:

    having no concrete claim to anything promised to me and knowing what I'm getting into before we work together.

    I'm afraid I have a business head, and each time I've had problems within the industry I've been asked (by Equity among others) "did you get a contract?".

    I know asking for a contract makes it seem like I don't trust an agent... but trust has to be built upon something.

    I think I'll request a terms and conditions agreement and see how that goes. I need further clarification on things like taking a percentage for voice over I've found for myself etc, too.

    • 5th Oct 2010
    • 7
  • Sally Beaumont

    Actor

    Something interesting's just cropped up with a different agency- this clause, on a private webpage for applicants only...

    A two-tier system where Spotlight-only representation is free, but featured on the website and marketted more widely has a fee.

    "This category involves constant & ongoing personal marketing and therefore we would require a yearly £45 payment to offset our own costs of creating and maintaining the package for you. The one annual payment covers as many changes to your marketing package and profile as is required. Compare this to the annual cost of being on Spotlight, plus the additional cost of having showreel material etc added to your profile, and you will see it is an extremely low payment for the work involved and the many extra benefits it brings to you."

    • 5th Oct 2010
    • 8
  • Guy Press

    Actor

    Hi Sally

    I think you're wise to insist on a T&C contract why should actors be below other professions?

    As for this below

    "This category involves constant & ongoing personal marketing and therefore we would require a yearly £45 payment to offset our own costs of creating and maintaining the package for you. The one annual payment covers as many changes to your marketing package and profile as is required. Compare this to the annual cost of being on Spotlight, plus the additional cost of having showreel material etc added to your profile, and you will see it is an extremely low payment for the work involved and the many extra benefits it brings to you."

    WHY Would anyone pay an agent upfront for representation costs??? This sort of ad shouldn't be allowed!!

    • 5th Oct 2010
    • 9
  • Sally Beaumont

    Actor

    Rest assured, CCP have been informed and are getting in touch with the agency.

    I'm going to ask for T&C- it can be quite difficult, because it implies lack of trust. But an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as they say...

    Thanks everyone for your opinions and PMs!

    • 5th Oct 2010
    • 10
  • User Deleted

    This profile has been archived

    If they don't want to sign a contract, I wouldn't worry about taking time to consider your options and the other interested parties. Fees aside, I personally think it will be a much better relationship with your agent if you have the benefit of meeting them at least before they take you on, if not regularly! Good luck with your decision making - it sounds like you're pretty much in control. :-)

    • 5th Oct 2010
    • 11
  • Kevin Patrick Buxton

    Actor

    Hi chum, you look like your in high demand, well done you, re contract I have had times when I have been given a contract per engagement thus leaving me free all other times to find my own work and take on roles for other agents if and when required, to be honest as many have already stated a contract dosnt give too many garentees regards going bust or changing names and dropping you mid flow, but not wanting to see you sounds more of a puzzle, good luck what ever and keep us posted x

    • 5th Oct 2010
    • 12
  • Peter Sheldrake

    Actor

    This is an interesting one. All agents are bound by EU Employment Law to get their clients to sign an agreement which allows the agent to collect monies from employers on their behalf, then the agent takes his/her commission. We have a standard agency agreement which covers this and strictly speaking no agent should take a client on without signing some kind of agreement although the wording can be different at each agency.

    • 12th Oct 2010
    • 13
  • Sally Beaumont

    Actor

    Ah!

    That's really useful to know.

    I suggested (in a friendly, polite way) that I would like some sort of written agreement, so that we both know what is expected of us, rather than working things out on an ad hoc basis.

    No response for a week.

    Ahem.

    • 12th Oct 2010
    • 14
  • Blake J Askew

    Actor

    Sally

    Its rare to be offered representation by so many at once- I would meet them all and then make a decision.

    If they're offended by the fact that you ask for legit print to cover yourself, that is a cause for concern.

    • 13th Oct 2010
    • 15
  • Mark Kempner

    Actor

    You have not heard back in a week......and "they" are going to get you jobs??? Their silence say's much I think!

    • 13th Oct 2010
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  • Guy Press

    Actor

    No response does indeed speak volumes about them. Onwards! ;-)

    • 13th Oct 2010
    • 17
  • Kevin Patrick Buxton

    Actor

    Enough said I think !!

    • 13th Oct 2010
    • 18
  • Sally Beaumont

    Actor

    As I'm casting at the moment, I oddly received an agent application for the role from one of the agents interested in me.

    It began:

    Dear sir/Madame,

    Ooops.

    • 13th Oct 2010
    • 19