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The maze hits you in the face as soon as you strike paydirt.  Unions and agents.  Commissions and residuals.  National vs. local. Who gets a %-age, and how much, and when, and who files the paperwork?

 Isn’t there a book that explains all this?  Not that I’ve seen, but a two knowledgeable voice-actors just posted very informative answers to a question in this field, and I thought it deserved to be re-purposed here.

The original question was:

The T-Mobile commercial I shot has gotten some airplay, unlike the last national spot I did — which was for a board game in 1995. The game just didn’t go over.

Would you know how residuals work nowadays? Is a residual check the same amount as the original session fee or is there a payment for each time the commercial is shown? Like when I get a check for a repeat of my bit parts on The Sopranos.

The answer comes from two very savvy voice actors:  Connie Terwilliger and Anna Vocino.

Connie chimed in first:

First, he said “commercial” – so if it was a union job, then a basic session fee, plus usage (markets) is due every thirteen weeks if the spot is aired in that period of time. If it doesn’t air in the next 13-week period after the initial buy, then the client can pay a holding fee to retain the right to use the spot again (this is for the “conflict” issue).

If it was non-union, it is a buy out and would be for whatever he negotiated with the agency producing the spot. No re-use fees – unless specifically stated in whatever contract he signed.


But – seriously, if he did book the job outside his agent and it was a union job, someone filled out the paperwork and a call to the union would take care of the answer. A non-union job is another story – and
perhaps a bit late in the game to wonder.

Then Anna writes:

The reason why you sense people will tell you to tell your friend to call an agent or the union is because that’s the easiest way to get the answer he seeks. I can understand that he can’t very well call his agent  if he’s not running this through his agent.


He may feel he can’t call the union if he’s not union, but that’s not true. If this spot was shot under a union contract (T-Mobile usually does union spots), then he needs to pull out his contract and get the
union on the line. Ask for the commercials department, and they’ll totally help him out.


Residuals are paid based on the usage. A Class A National Network run will pay each time the spot is run out of New York on the networks. If the spot is run a lot during 13 week cycles, then he stands to make a lot of money.


Cable residuals are different, for on-camera commercials, they’re usually around $2700 buyout per 13 weeks at the union rate. This means that the spot can be run on as many cable networks as many times
as possible in the 13 week period. Then there are regional runs, wildspots, regional wildspots, Class B, test market runs, foreign market runs, etc. I don’t understand all of these, but I have been paid for all of them at one point or another.

It is very confusing, and I’ve never done a commercial where I haven’t had to call my agent, the union, the production company or the ad agency to get clarification on payment.

Thank you, Anna, for saying it’s very confusing (btw, my emphasis added above).  I suppose these things have to be protected by rules and protocols and agreements…but sheesh!

CourVO

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