Written for Casting Networks News by Terry Berland @berlandcasting.
Photo credit: Lightfield Studios/Shutterstock.com.

With a lot of non-union commercials being produced, a lack of union rules protecting the actor comes into play. It is 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 of how an actor can protect themselves can lower industry standards. However, there are ways that, while striving to become union, an actor can take control and boost up the industry as opposed to being part of a disempowering trend.

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 thought-out decisions based on the following components of a spot.

Weigh the pros and cons.
There are reasons to accept lower-paying jobs; one might be that it is a great introduction to other opportunities. Another might be it is the type of role you don’t ordinarily do and you want to expand your image and a third reason might be 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. Some ways it could run are regional, national, spot, foreign, internet, print or billboards.

Know the length of time the spot is being used.
They may be using it for weeks, months, years, or in perpetuity. Never accept anything in perpetuity. Let me remind you that “in perpetuity” means they can use your image in this spot 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 are doing a shampoo spot, be careful that you don’t agree to all hair products. Another example would be if you are doing a toothpaste without a whitener commercial, 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. The reality is even though that fast-food restaurant 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, even for 12, 15 hours or longer, with no overtime pay. A typical payment for a non-union shoot covers ten 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, with overtime thereafter.

Check that your contract matches the original terms of agreement.
Before you start shooting, you should see the deal memo or contract, and it should match the original terms of agreement that you accepted at the time of the booking. If you have an agent, the agent sees the contract the day before and checks it over. If you don’t have an agent, you are handed the agreement the morning of the shoot. As the talent, you will be putting yourself in a precarious situation negotiating any fine points, as well as being the talent on the set.

Have agent protection.
It is best to have an agent who will protect you and oversee your deals and guide you as to when you are selling yourself short and downgrading the industry. Don’t go rogue on your agents and accept and work on jobs without telling them.

Generally, accepting jobs with lower pay just to work can only lower industry standards and make 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 ultimately working towards union status.

If you want to sharpen up on your commercial acting technique, follow this link to Terry Berland’s Commercial Acting workshop.