Question: From Tom. New York.
Two hours ago I got a call from an old improv friend saying his girlfriend’s production company needed a Brit voice-over NOW.
I told ‘em I was non-union, they said that was cool, and I went. It was for [high-end shoe company - sic]. Crazy. I think it’s just a concept piece, because from what you told me, there’s no way you could luck into a gig like that if it was for air. I was doing a cockney footballer voice.
So, great news! They were nice, and I’m very glad I did it. But what the fuck should I do? I didn’t even ask about money (stupid, but I didn’t want to mess up the opportunity). How would you handle this? Do you think I should broach the topic of money, or let this one slide as a relationship builder? How should I approach getting a copy of the tape for my reel? I want to follow up with them tomorrow and talk about my range, but I want to come off as professional etc.
So… yay! And.. help!?
When I got this email, I knew exactly how Tom felt. I have been in this situation more times than I care to admit. And it’s an especially frequent position to be in if you don’t have an agent. However, it does occasionally happen with the aid of an agent! So it is important to know how to conduct yourself professionally at every point.
So, here is the advice I gave him about this job in particular. Which was one of his first.
Not having all the information about this specific job I was inclined to assume that it was a non-paying gig that a friend-of-a-friend found. Especially considering the way in which he was asked and that there wasn’t a contract to fill out at the completion of the recording AND considering it happened on such short notice (This is not uncommon in the non-union world). So it may be inappropriate to follow-up the next day with an invoice requesting payment. However, Tom is absolutely entitled to request a copy of the final product for his own use and should immediately email the producer/engineer. I say immediately because the amount of work that these people do on a day-to-day basis can be staggering and you’ll want to make it easy for them to find. So the sooner the better. And don’t be afraid of following up. It is your right and I’ve never run into any issues.
To help you here is a copy of a request email I personally sent to an engineer when I needed a copy of the job:
Hey there Davlyn,
How goes it over at JWT?
This is Angela from last weeks DiscoverIreland campaign. Just following up on a copy of the spots.
How did it all work out? Were the clients happy? Did we nail it?? Hope so.
I’d love to get my dirty mitts on either a downloadable link of the ad’s or you can even pop a CD in the mail – I’ll take whatever is the easiest for you.
If you email it, this is the best email for me.
If you snail mail it please forward it to the following:
It was an absolute pleasure to meet and work with you!
All the best,
Now. For the future. There are things to be done to avoid these kinds of conundrums before you accept a job. Here are a few things you should know/ask before going in:
1) What’s it for?
Finding out who the job is for and what it will be used for (broadcast on TV/Radio, in-house/corporate industrial, on-line promo, etc) will help you determine whether you can or even want to do the job.
2) Is it non-union or union? (this may get answered by the above step)
Tom knew to mention his union status going into the job – just not that he was also allowed to ask how much they’re paying. Rather than announce your union status I would probably encourage you to ask them about the use union status of the job followed by the following..
3) How much will you get paid?
Is it a one-time buyout? Or do you get a recording fee and then residuals if it is used. OR do you get a simple recording fee?
4) If you do get paid, who should you email the invoice to and when can you expect payment?
You will most likely need to email an invoice to ensure that you get paid. I would highly recommend putting a disclaimer at the bottom of your invoice requesting payment within an allotted time. I, for example, request payment within 45 days and you should expect to get paid that fast. Although I will say that if the job is not union it can take up to 3 months (!!). You can also go to the job with your invoice in hand to give to the producer after completion. But email is less likely to get lost in the shuffle. AND then again, if it’s non-union there are plenty of times when I’ve been handed a check on the spot directly afterwards, so no invoice was even needed.
5) Request a copy of the final product.
Enquire as to the best way to do this before the job, or you can also ask at the actual job. The easier you make it on the producer/engineer to help you, the more inclined they will be to help you.
I would say the most important factor here is that as actors we seem to be afraid to ask questions. Especially before we get hired. Whether it’s fear of being rude and screwing ourselves out of the job or any future employment; or outright shyness, etc.; you should know that you are making life EASIER on everybody by clearing up any and all gray areas before going in. That way, you can show up with peace of mind and give all your attention to doing the best you can at the actual work.
This is how I approach the work I do. However, as I’ve said many times, this isn’t the holy grail. Please feel free to comment and offer your own advice – even if its contrary to mine. Ultimately this is a forum to help all kinds of actors, new or seasoned, become better at the ins and outs of the business. I’m just one person making my way on my own based on my own limited experiences.
And thank you Tom for sharing your questions and concerns! And by the way… YOU CAN ABSOLUTELY LUCK INTO A GREAT PAYING GIG AT ANY TIME!!