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Protecting talent: more exposure, more pay, says NZ Actors Equity

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The article 'Why anachronistic talent contracts need to evolve', published in NZ Marketing and StopPress, indicates that industry negotiations between New Zealand Actors Equity, actors agents and producers resulted in a new TV commercial pre-casting brief (PCB) where total performance fees to actors now cover more exposure on different channels.

New Zealand Actors Equity was part of the negotiations, but would like to clarify that the union did not agree with this particular change to the PCB. The union made it clear during the negotiations that Equity believes in separate payments for different types of exposure. It is a long standing principle in TV commercial contracts all over the world that the more actors are exposed, the more they should be paid.

While the landscape is changing (with new digital platforms on which to exploit content), it is still possible to quantify an actor's exposure. An actor who is linked to a particular product in a very exposed way may not be able to get other work advertising a similar product, or competitive product, for a long period of time. It is important that actors are properly remunerated for the amount of exposure they get for various reasons, including to compensate for potential lost income later on. Equity is open to being flexible, but does not believe in allowing actors to be exposed everywhere for reduced remuneration, and hence did not agree that all TV commercials should be uploaded to television broadcasters' Ondemand websites without the actor having the freedom to say no to this.

In Denmark, a similarly small industry, the standard TVC contract allows actors to negotiate different payments for uses on different channels. President of Danish Actors’ Association, Katja Holm says: “The flexibility offered by the Danish collective commercial agreement is highly valued by both producers and members as it makes production of commercials with qualified actors possible, even at productions with a small budget. The reason why our collective agreement works so well is that it gives the opportunity to produce a commercial for less money if you only need to use it in a specific area. The producers only pay for those specific areas where they promote the commercial. Therefore it is an economic advantage for them to gain areas one by one instead of all together." 

The Australian TVC contract is similar in that all uses of the commercial must be individually specified upfront, including television, radio, cinema, press, posters, point of sale, billboards and others. Australian Equity has no intention of doing away with this.

In the new PCB, the fee covers all “non-broadcast and promotional uses of the performance and the commercial by the Client, Agency, Production Company, Performer and Agent”. This clause is very loose and could allow an actor’s performance to be used for practically anything. Equity understands that TVC producers want to be able to show potential clients examples of their work but they have always been able to do this with videos, then DVDs and now through private website pages. Actors use TVC footage in their showreels only. This clause should be re-written to reflect these realities.

Actor’s agents have told the union they are very concerned about online TVCs being pirated and uploaded to multiple sites. Giving several different parties the right to use TV commercials on multiple digital platforms—apart from the channels that the commercial is already booked to appear on—only increases this risk.

Finally, a clause like this also disadvantages the big brands who normally seek high profile actors to promote their product. Established actors are hardly likely to hand over full control of their image and performance for multiple uses by several different parties.

  • Anna Majavu is the NZ Actors Equity industrial organiser. NZ Actors Equity is a fully-funded autonomous part of the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance. 

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