Friday, April 18, 2014

HOLAwave: On Negotiating

[HOLAwave represents a series of guest blogs by industry insiders giving informative and educational tidbits for the Latino performer. They can range from acting and auditioning advice, tech tips, legal advice, marketing, producing tips, and so on. Get caught up in the wave– the HOLAwave.]

Here is a really quick, very basic primer on negotiation and what you should know about it. I provide this information for educational purposes on behalf of HOLA. Nothing in this blog is to be construed as specific legal advice. You and I do not have an Attorney-Client relationship by virtue of you reading this blog.

Negotiating is communicating for the purpose of coming to an agreement, preferably one that achieves all the expectations you have for the work you want to do, and the remuneration (financial payment or other benefit, for example) you want for it. 
The key to all effective communication is knowing your audience

If you are a background performer ("an extra") and they are a big budget studio, your audience has little if any time for you and you are a plentiful commodity. In order to get what you want in an agreement you have to have leverage. If you are a background performer, you have little to no leverage– recognize that, do your work in a respectful professional manner and create a positive impression of who you are.

Especially early on, you as a performer, will not have much leverage, so understand that any concessions that you get from a producer on the terms or language of an agreement will largely come from their goodwill and interest in fairness and not from their fear that you will walk away. You can get concessions as a polite, professional, respectful little guy, but are not likely to get it as an entitled, brash, nobody.

Whether it be pay, hours or food, you are likely to get concessions if you appeal to their better angels and their sense of fairness, rather than acting insulted by the terms as they have been set out in the first contract they prepare for you. Most producers are not looking to "screw" you and if something seems wrong about a contract it may, in fact, be an error they didn’t know or think about.  

Which individual below is a "Goofus" and which is a "Gallant"? (In the examples below, "XYZ" refers to a particular clause in a contract, whereas "ABC" refers to an additional work duty of some type.)

Example 1: "Can I ask a question? Here where it says XYZ. Does that mean I may have to ABC? That might mean more work, right? Is there any extra compensation for that?"

Example 2: "HOLD UP! It says here I have to ABC, but it doesn’t say anything about paying me more for it? That’s Crazy!"
Clearly the Gallant (example 1) is more likely to get a concession than the Goofus (example 2). The idea it to be a Gallant and not a Goofus.

I hope this blog either enlightened you or reinforced some good habits that you have already developed. I will be posting a few more blogs about some general legal topics that may interest or educate you, however, if you have any questions or comments please feel free to contact me via e-mail here and I will help you in any way I can. Chances are your questions or problems are ones that many other actors want answers to, and I can in the future use a blog post to answer a few common questions that I get.

Juan C. Restrepo Rodríguez, Esq., is a civil litigation attorney at Pellegrini & Associates in New York, specializing in commercial litigation, labor and employment law, as well as entertainment law. He serves as both Treasurer on the Executive Board of HOLA and General Counsel. He has been a guest lecturer at several local colleges on legal topics and volunteers his time in various political and social campaigns.  He was born in Medellín, Colombia and has been a proud New Yorker for over 30 years. He can be reached via e-mail by clicking here.  

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