Do Actors Need Attorneys?

Since this is my first blog for TAN, I want to start generally as an introduction to contracts in the acting profession.  As a general rule, it’s best not to sign ANY contract unless you have an attorney reviewing the contract and/or you understand EVERY word in the contract and the risks and consequences of signing on that dotted line.  Even if/when you have a full team of advisors, which include an agent, manager, lawyer, business manager and accountant, you should still be educated about the business aspects of your career.  Following is a list of reasons why it is a good idea to get an attorney before you sign any contract:

  1. Industry Standards.  An attorney can inform you about whether the deal terms conforms to industry standard, and if it does not, they can negotiate those changes on your behalf.
  2. Knowledge is Power.  Even if you are in a weak negotiating position (which equates to having little power to change the terms of the contract for your benefit), an attorney can educate you about what rights you are giving away, what your obligations are, and what rights and/or services you can expect from the other party.
  3. Good Cop/Bad Cop.  Using an attorney to negotiate the deal on your behalf allows you to remain in good standing with your director/producer.  With your attorney negotiating the nitty-gritty deal points, you can concentrate on the creative aspects of the project and keep your relationships on the set intact.
  4. Career Development.  A good attorney can help guide and advise you as you develop as an artist, and often they can make introductions to industry folks  (i.e., agents, managers, producers, etc.).

Often actors don’t hire an attorney because they think they can’t afford them.  While attorneys can be expensive, charging  anywhere from $250-$600 an hour depending on their reputation, experience and client roster, some attorneys will work with emerging talent with limited budgets and/or on a percentage basis of talent’s earnings (so they will only earn if you earn), usually at 5%.  It is worth seeking out an attorney who will work within your budget constraints, as the money you spend now could save you a lot of money and prevent considerable headaches in the long run.

Lynn Elliot is an experienced entertainment attorney specializing in representing talent and performing production legal.  If you have legal questions pertaining to your entertainment career, please contact her directly at lynn.elliot@gmail.com.

Please note: The information contained herein does not constitute legal advice and are for educational and information purposes only.

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