Actors, Do You Know What "In Perpetuity" Means?
Your agent sends you on a job that if you book it, pays you $1000. Just think of all the things you could do with $1000! You could pay off your credit card, take a trip to your favorite Caribbean spot, or buy those court side seats to the Knicks.
Yes, short term that $1000 is something you could really use. Long term, you just signed your life away to that one commercial that they can run FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE AND NEVER HAVE TO PAY YOU AGAIN.
Here's An Example. Let’s say a fictitious company called “Farmhen” books you to be the lead in their commercial for farm hens. Hooray! It pays you $1000 but the fine print reads “in perpetuity,” which means they can run it forever without having to pay you ever again.
Why Is This An Issue? Let’s say you’re living your acting life dreams, booking jobs left and right and have an amazing agent. Suddenly, a SAG commercial booking comes along that will run for at least 12 weeks and pays you residuals every time it airs. This is your dream come true! However, it’s a conflict with that “Farmhen” commercial you did eons ago, so they can’t book you on the job. You're released. End of story.
What Can You Do? READ your contracts! Be sure to look for the words “in perpetuity” as they exist in both Non-Union and SAG commercials. If you happen to see these pesky little words anywhere in your contract, politely decline to sign the contract BEFORE WALKING ON SET as once you’re on set you done for. Technically they are not allowed to begin shooting until the performer has signed the contract so be sure to read your contract the minute they give it to you. This is usually upon arrival, before hair and make-up.
Here’s My Advice. If you intend on being in this business long term, which I suggest you do, then I’d seriously re-think what “in perpetuity” means for you and your career. Yes, that commercial spot is work, but if you’re being paid $1000, which really means around $400 after agent fees and taxes, is it worth the risk of booking better paying commercial gigs in the future?