Prepping a Pilot Audition, Negotiating Management Contracts

The Working Actor

Prepping a Pilot Audition, Negotiating Management Contracts

By Michael Kostroff

May 24, 2012


DEAR MICHAEL:

I've never been to a pilot audition, but I was wondering: Do they give you a whole script that you must prepare a day before, or do they give you a scene out of the script to prepare?

Dream Chaser, Irvington, N.J.

DEAR DREAM CHASER:

In my experience with pilot auditions, you'll usually get materials several days or even a week or so in advance, consisting of several scenes ("sides") for you to prepare for the audition, along with the whole script to read for reference. Of course, there are exceptions to everything in this business, but it would be highly unusual to be asked to prepare the entire script.

DEAR MICHAEL:

A manager wants me to sign a two- or three-year contract, but I only want a year, max. Any advice on how to approach this?

Mediocrity Blows, NYC

DEAR MEDIOCRITY BLOWS:

Having done a bit of this type of negotiating, I would encourage you to dive into the discussion fearlessly. As actors, we're not necessarily as accustomed to the negotiating process as are agents, managers, producers, and casting directors. But it's important to push past that discomfort, remembering that it isn't a personal interaction; it's just business. There's nothing wrong with saying, "Listen, I'm thinking a year works better for me. How would you feel about that?" Have a conversation as collaborators and equals; no need to be timid.

Now, I know you're inclined toward a shorter contract, and while I advocate the practice of boldly voicing your desires, in this case I'm also going to suggest rethinking your position.

Here's the case in favor of signing a longer contract: It's not difficult to terminate management contracts early. People do it all the time. And generally, agents and managers don't argue with clients who want to leave. Of course, there are jerks who'll give you a hard time, but if you like and trust a manager enough to sign with him, he's probably not the type who'd try to keep you from moving on.

One of the advantages of the longer contract is that it puts the terms in place so you won't have to renegotiate after a year together. It also demonstrates mutual confidence in the relationship. It says you both expect things to go well, and that's a good way to start.

However, while you're in the negotiation phase, there are some other items you should be taking a look at. Are you paying your new manager the standard 15-percent commission on all your work, or are there variations? It's not unheard of to pay different percentages for different media. (For example, some managers are willing to take a smaller cut on commercials, since they rarely deal with them, and commercials don't render you unavailable for long periods.) What percentage, if any, are you paying on residuals? Do you want your agent to continue contacting you directly or to go through the manager? These things are all worth considering and well worth discussing.


Prepping a Pilot Audition, Negotiating Management Contracts

By Michael Kostroff

May 24, 2012


DEAR MICHAEL:

I've never been to a pilot audition, but I was wondering: Do they give you a whole script that you must prepare a day before, or do they give you a scene out of the script to prepare?

Dream Chaser, Irvington, N.J.

DEAR DREAM CHASER:

In my experience with pilot auditions, you'll usually get materials several days or even a week or so in advance, consisting of several scenes ("sides") for you to prepare for the audition, along with the whole script to read for reference. Of course, there are exceptions to everything in this business, but it would be highly unusual to be asked to prepare the entire script.

DEAR MICHAEL:

A manager wants me to sign a two- or three-year contract, but I only want a year, max. Any advice on how to approach this?

Mediocrity Blows, NYC

DEAR MEDIOCRITY BLOWS:

Having done a bit of this type of negotiating, I would encourage you to dive into the discussion fearlessly. As actors, we're not necessarily as accustomed to the negotiating process as are agents, managers, producers, and casting directors. But it's important to push past that discomfort, remembering that it isn't a personal interaction; it's just business. There's nothing wrong with saying, "Listen, I'm thinking a year works better for me. How would you feel about that?" Have a conversation as collaborators and equals; no need to be timid.

Now, I know you're inclined toward a shorter contract, and while I advocate the practice of boldly voicing your desires, in this case I'm also going to suggest rethinking your position.

Here's the case in favor of signing a longer contract: It's not difficult to terminate management contracts early. People do it all the time. And generally, agents and managers don't argue with clients who want to leave. Of course, there are jerks who'll give you a hard time, but if you like and trust a manager enough to sign with him, he's probably not the type who'd try to keep you from moving on.

One of the advantages of the longer contract is that it puts the terms in place so you won't have to renegotiate after a year together. It also demonstrates mutual confidence in the relationship. It says you both expect things to go well, and that's a good way to start.

However, while you're in the negotiation phase, there are some other items you should be taking a look at. Are you paying your new manager the standard 15-percent commission on all your work, or are there variations? It's not unheard of to pay different percentages for different media. (For example, some managers are willing to take a smaller cut on commercials, since they rarely deal with them, and commercials don't render you unavailable for long periods.) What percentage, if any, are you paying on residuals? Do you want your agent to continue contacting you directly or to go through the manager? These things are all worth considering and well worth discussing.
 
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