Author Topic: Contracts?  (Read 3697 times)

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SMeustace

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Contracts?
« on: Aug 26, 2013, 06:53 pm »
In college theater, community theater (maybe even high school) have you ever been part of a show that "actor contracts" and maybe even "tech contracts" were given out?

The only experience I have of this was in high school, where actors were required to sign contracts. I remember it mentioning how if an actor is a no-show (no advance notice) 3 times, they'd would either be re-casted or cut. If they had no good excuse to miss rehearsals, after three strikes they were out. The director has a final say to what was excusable. It also had a code of conduct/morale and such. Emergency contact info was must as well.

I have faint memories that before call-backs, the director and I would meet to put it or take out stuff from the last contract. I hardly remember anything about "tech contract", could of been one though. The tech crews came from a tech theater class where you had to sign up for upcoming shows to get class credit.
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nj_song

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Re: Contracts?
« Reply #1 on: Aug 26, 2013, 07:21 pm »
At my college, when actors audition they sign an audition card that has all of their information, past experience, and schedule on it. When they sign that card, it is a symbol that if they are cast they are committed to the show and are expected to fulfill their responsibilities. So, it's sort of like a contract. As far as techies go, we send them an email detailing the schedule and their responsibilities and then they respond back as a confirmation between the Technical Director, Production Manager, and SM.

I kind of like the idea of having official, physical contracts for actors and technicians to sign. It makes it more serious I think.

BayAreaSM

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Re: Contracts?
« Reply #2 on: Aug 26, 2013, 10:58 pm »
I don't recall ever having something like that in high school, college or community theater - but that was almost 15 years ago.

For any ballet students that are invited to participate in one of our professional company ballets, a few years back I started writing contracts. In a nutshell, saying that they read the rehearsal and performance schedule and were committing to it. It also outlined behavior, costume requirements and a few other things. I feel it's entirely appropriate these days, as some families attempt to over-commit.

Samazon

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Re: Contracts?
« Reply #3 on: Aug 27, 2013, 04:36 am »
I remember signing a few actor contracts when I did community theatre in high school. They were mainly created so that the parents and children knew what was expected.

In college, most of the actor, technical staff and run crew are completing their assignment either for as a practicum credit or as a component of a larger course. At auditions, the actors all complete and sign a course registration slip. The technical staff does the same thing some time at the beginning of the semester. Some of these courses had syllabi. The stage managers and designers instead had a particular handbook to follow. In essence, those were our contracts. (Those who did not need the academic credit tended to be seniors looking to gain resume credit.)
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SMeustace

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Re: Contracts?
« Reply #4 on: Aug 27, 2013, 05:18 pm »
Do you remember what 'guidelines'  or 'rules 'you found in those contracts?
"On the first day the lord said....Light cue 1, GO! Then there was light".

bex

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Re: Contracts?
« Reply #5 on: Aug 27, 2013, 05:59 pm »
We used one in college that all of the actors had to sign at the first rehearsal. I've attached it for reference.
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SMeustace

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Re: Contracts?
« Reply #6 on: Aug 27, 2013, 06:09 pm »
Thank you! this was great information to read
"On the first day the lord said....Light cue 1, GO! Then there was light".

leastlikely

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Re: Contracts?
« Reply #7 on: Aug 28, 2013, 12:20 pm »
In my high school we had to sign a contract. Which I guess wasn't so much a CONTRACT in the sense of "you are hired to perform this role and here are all your obligations in that regard," more like "here are our department rules, and in order to be in/work on the show you have to sign this thing saying you agree to them." It included things like punctuality (and who to notify if you're running late), appropriate language (I mean, we were 15...), appropriate dress (no open toed shoes in the shop, etc), required participation in strike, and so on.

mkristinect

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Re: Contracts?
« Reply #8 on: Dec 11, 2014, 07:25 pm »
Hey everyone!  I've been digging through the archives and haven't really found a post that directly addresses my question.  So I'm going to commandeer this older thread so as not to clutter the forum too much.  :)

Since graduating from university I've freelanced as actor/stage manager for various community and professional houses.  The production I'm currently working on is my first independent production, where a friend had adapted a script and decided to put it on himself using a crowdsourcing campaign, etc.

Even though we are all professionals working in the industry, and even though we are paying a (very small) stipend, I somehow didn't feel like I could ask the actors to sign contracts because we weren't an established institution.  Now I'm running into all sorts of issues and I've sworn to myself that I will never work without a contract again.  Even if it isn't legally binding, at least I can at least wave it in front of them and say, "Yo!  What makes you think this is appropriate behavior?!  You agreed!"  At the moment I have no recourse and now it's too late to start replacing actors.

Anyway, I guess I'm just looking for your thoughts on the subject of non-union, professional actor contracts.  And if you have any examples of contracts you have used with success (I did see the SM contracts in the download forum).

Thanks for reading!

Maren

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Re: Contracts?
« Reply #9 on: Dec 11, 2014, 07:57 pm »
My opinion is always have actors/crew sign contracts- even for Equity NYC showcase code productions, they sign a sheet saying the agree to the conditions within (however, they are allowed to get out of the show for various reasons- but because of the code it's all laid out as to when they can back out and in what circumstances.
Although, I'll add that as an SM, it's not really your job to handle contracts, unless you're also a producer. But that's up to you.
tl;dr unless you literally do not care what happens, like it's an improv show for fun and you don't need a certain amount of people, always have something you and the other people in the show have agreed on as set rules.

mkristinect

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Re: Contracts?
« Reply #10 on: Dec 12, 2014, 02:05 am »
That's true.  I've never had to do anything but distribute them in the past.  In this case I suppose I'm technically co-producer since the director, composer/sound designer and I are the only three on the production team.  Nevertheless, it seems like there must always be something to keep people accountable.  Apparently it's naive to expect them to pull their weight because of passion for the project, or even for pay!, if there aren't dire consequences.

Maribeth

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Re: Contracts?
« Reply #11 on: Dec 12, 2014, 07:32 pm »
The reason contracts are created by the producer is that a contract is an agreement between the producer and the actor (or SM, or designer, etc), for certain services in exchange for an agreed-upon fee. As an SM, I wouldn't be able to create or enforce such a contract- that's something the producer needs to handle.

As a production manager, non-AEA actor contracts are something we create/use every time. Good stuff to include:
Name of employee
Role
Show name
Dates of employment
Fee and schedule of payment
Performance dates/times
Any agreed-upon conflicts
Description of services
Termination conditions

In your situation, if your company does not/will not use contracts, I would suggest creating a list of "Responsibilities of the Actor" sheet- something similar to what is in the AEA SM packet. You can talk through it at first rehearsal, and post it on the callboard. That way, the expectations are clear from the get-go.


mkristinect

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Re: Contracts?
« Reply #12 on: Dec 15, 2014, 05:54 pm »
Great info...thank you!  That's very helpful.  In that case though, as an SM, how do you handle (for example) actors leaving rehearsal or not showing up to rehearsal when the director/producer doesn't want to confront them?  I suppose this is a whole new thread topic.  But is it within our realm of responsibilty to call them on the carpet if they aren't under contract?

PSMKay

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Re: Contracts?
« Reply #13 on: Dec 15, 2014, 06:28 pm »
If they're pulling that kind of stuff repeatedly then they should be replaced. When an actor accepts a role they are making a verbal commitment. The legal contracts simply cover things like liability and payment terms. The verbal contract is a promise that they will be part of a cast, work with the cast to create the production, and make the production a general priority - just like any other social engagement you agree to attend.

Falling back to a contract stipulation is like pulling out an Uzi when you really need a wadded up newspaper. Coming from real estate (my current gig) I can verify that nobody ever reads their contracts anyhow. Besides, verbal/"handshake" agreements have been found to be just as binding in courtrooms. Yes, courtrooms. If you use the contract-enforcement route you're playing the opening bars of the overture to a lawsuit. There is no need to use that tone in most backstage situations.

If they're asking you to change a dressing room litterbox because they're too lazy to go to the lavatory (true story, bro), that's when you start bringing in the legal folk and talking about contracts. Actors have been flaking on rehearsals since the dawn of theatre. I'm sure the audience for Aeschylus' plays had to hold for a few minutes waiting for the guy who plays Prometheus to arrive back in Ancient Greece. Ironing out slacky rehearsal attendance is icky task #1 for community theatre stage managers.

As an SM you need to know how to either a) manipulate the actors so they want to show up or b) manipulate the staff so that they understand that a team member is damaging the process and needs removal. Try carrots, try sticks, try a combination of both. Figure out the tardy actor's hot buttons and push them until s/he bruises.

Maribeth

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Re: Contracts?
« Reply #14 on: Dec 15, 2014, 08:00 pm »
That's true.  I've never had to do anything but distribute them in the past.  In this case I suppose I'm technically co-producer since the director, composer/sound designer and I are the only three on the production team.  Nevertheless, it seems like there must always be something to keep people accountable.  Apparently it's naive to expect them to pull their weight because of passion for the project, or even for pay!, if there aren't dire consequences.

I have been thinking about this topic for the last few days. It's true that you can create contracts that outline the expectations for both how actors will behave, and what the theatre will provide in return, but in truth, the actors have to want to. They can want to for a variety of reasons: because it's their job, because they are getting paid, because they take pride in their work, because they love the company/show/director/ensemble, or some other reason.

The "dire consequences" are that you get replaced, and do not get paid. If they don't want to be in the show, I would replace them.

Now, if it's just a matter of them being late, there are some things that you can try - the primary thing is to talk to them about it. Figure out why they are late and see what can be done to fix it. But, missing rehearsals/leaving in the middle of rehearsal indicates to me that they don't want to be there.


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