VO Agreements & Contracts (sample contract in thread) May 25, 2018 1:34:23 GMT -8 Rebekah Amber Clark and alexanderdoddy like this
Post by LadyStardust on May 25, 2018 1:34:23 GMT -8
OBLIGATORY DISCLAIMER: I am not a lawyer and this post is not a substitute for legal advice. If you are looking to create a legally binding contract, I recommend consulting with a legal professional to make sure you cover your bases.
On several occasions, I've had both actors and content creators ask for advice on a basic agreement or contract they can put in place as a sort of "insurance" if either side runs into trouble with the project. If you need to draft your own agreement, you can Google "freelance actor contract templates" and take a look at a few of them to get ideas. Many contracts are overkill for simple indie projects, so just put what you need as it directly relates to your project.
Here is a sample VO agreement that can be used by either side:
Feel free to change to suit your needs. Also, please keep in mind that this document has not been reviewed or prepared by anyone in the legal profession, so we recommend consulting with a legal expert on any project you are independently being hired/hiring for where a large sum of money is involved. However, this can give a decent baseline for content creators or actors who are unsure how to write up an agreement.
A contract or other type of agreement ideally protects the interests of BOTH parties. Contracts are not necessary for free/hobby projects because there is no money at stake. However, for paid projects involving any significant sum of money, they may be a good idea. If you are asked to sign any sort of contract as a freelance actor or producer, make sure you read it thoroughly and feel free to bring up any questions or concerns you may have about its contents.
For the intents and purposes of this post, we are going to assume that this is a non-union contract hiring a freelance actor and there are no agents, managers or other third parties involved.
Contracts should always include the names and titles of both parties and include a space for a signature and date. PDF format is highly recommended as it will easily allow the other party to digitally sign and send back.
Here are some things you may wish to think about including.
- The rate should be clearly stated in the agreement. By signing, the actor is agreeing to perform the work for this rate, and the producer is agreeing that they are obligated to honor this payment. A deadline for delivering final payment should be established (for instance, payment will be delivered within 30 days of services rendered.) In the case that payment or partial payment is delivered to Actor before work commences, Actor agrees to refund this deposit in the event that they are unable to deliver the work.
- Be clear about what work this rate entails. Is it hourly? Per line/word? Flat rate for the project? Does it include editing (and if so, what constitutes "editing" on the actor's part)?
- Establish an agreement for retakes/pickups. A sample clause could be, "Actor agrees to perform a limited amount of revisions as part of the included rate as deemed reasonable and necessary by Producer. Should the revisions be deemed excessive, a rate of $xx per revised line will be assessed." In the case live directed sessions are required, there may be an additional hourly/session fee assessed by Actor for each pickup session.
- Deadlines should be communicated and established. Even if explicit deadlines are not stated in the agreement (as deadlines often change), Actor agrees to deliver the completed work by the deadline set by Producer, except in case of a personal emergency. (In certain situations) reasonable accommodations may be made at Actor's request; however, should Actor's failure to deliver the work in a timely manner cause unacceptable delays in production, Producer reserves the right to dismiss Actor's services and Actor will not be entitled to any compensation for the portion of work they did not complete.
- Cover what happens in the case of a recast or the actor's role being cut from the final production (regardless of which party, if any, is at fault). Producer is not obligated to use the work provided by Actor. However, payment shall be made for all services rendered regardless of whether the work is used in final production. In the event that the project is canceled, payment will still be delivered to Actor for any portion of the work already completed.
- Establish a clause for ownership. Producer becomes the sole owner of the work and can use, modify, and release it in their project and related materials as needed. Actor has no claim of ownership to or copyright of the work rendered in service to Producer. Actor may wish to have a clause stating that use of their work is limited to the scope of this project and its related materials only and Producer may not sell or reuse it for other unrelated franchises without express permission. (The last portion won't always be agreed to; however, it can be helpful for there to be some kind of assurance that Actor's work will not be recycled by Producer for unrelated work without additional payment/permission, or used in unrelated work that could be considered objectionable by Actor.)
- Establish rules for whether and how Actor's name and/or likeness can be used for marketing purposes. For example: "Producer reserves the right to use Actor's name, voice, and/or likeness for the purpose of promoting the project. However, Producer agrees not to use it in any manner which is seen as intentionally misleading, derogatory, or untruthful. In the event that Actor chooses to use a pseudonym, Producer agrees that at no point will Actor's true name and identity be disclosed to any third parties unless required by law."
- Continuity. If you plan to have sequels to a game, a second season to a series, etc down the line, you may optionally wish to include a clause that states that in the interest of project continuity, Actor agrees to make reasonable efforts to reprise their role in future installments so long as their schedule permits. (Whenever I've seen contracts with this clause, it usually has some sort of expiration date, such as five years.)
- (In the event that Producer has/is a company) Actor is considered an independent contractor and is not an employee of X company or entitled to any such claim or benefits. (In most cases, it is Actor's responsibility to pay taxes on the income received.)
- Confidentiality. The nature of the work involved may require the exchange of proprietary information. Both Producer and Actor agree that such information is to remain confidential and is not to be disclosed publicly or to unrelated third parties except with permission from the other party or as where required by law. (If it is a large project that requires strict confidentiality, you may wish to include a separate Non-Disclosure Agreement, or "NDA". This basically means that the actor may not talk about working on the project or any other details related to it until they have your permission and/or it is released in the market.)
...So what happens if the agreement is breached?
Assess the severity of the offense. Problems can often be solved, or at least the damage mitigated, by communicating clearly and openly and working toward a solution. In most cases, disputes can be resolved internally between the parties---pursuing legal action against someone is costly and time-consuming, especially if a relatively small amount of money is at stake. Keep records of all communications related to the incident in case evidence is needed (for instance, if you are an actor who has a client who disappears and refuses to pay you after the work is delivered, you will have evidence of their signed contract stating that they agreed to pay you X amount by X date as well as timestamps of your e-mail communications with them where you followed up on payment.)
Got anything else that you think needs to be added? Have a sample contract template you want to share? Feel free to post it here!
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