BSC Address

Thursday, August 16, 2007


All actors should be aware that when you agree to do a job or you agree to a deal, that verbal agreement becomes the contract. It is a common mistake to assume that you have only contracted yourself once you sign your name on a piece of paper.

In truth, the piece of paper is purely a means to set out the terms of the deal which have already been agreed verbally. But the perameters of the deal were contracted the moment you agreed verbally to the offer.

In the case of any Equity job, it is taken for granted that you know the terms of an Equity contract, so once you've agreed the money, dates etc, the rest is a formality. (It's amazing how many actors have never read an Equity booklet detailing the terms of the contract - Equity will send you one on demand).

And it's not just people leaving drama school who make this mistake. Kim Basinger was successfully sued for many millions for pulling out of the film BOXING HELENA, even though she hadn't signed anything - she had simply verbally agreed to do the film.

If you are unsure about anything when you are offered a job, don't say "yes" until you are sure you want to do it and you are clear about all the terms.

For this advice and great mortgage deals, I charge $127 an hour.


At 5:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not strictly true Neil. Any verbal agreement is subject to contract.

At 6:07 PM, Blogger Neal Foster said...

Absolutely wrong. No verbal agreement is subject to contract unless the agreement is: this deal is subject to contract.

People have to understand this or they can end up in a lot of trouble; ie Kim Basinger!

One recent English businessman was recently sued for £3 million on the basis of one word spoken over a mobile phone, "yes", which was his reply to the question: "have we got a deal?". He only escaped because it was established by the judge that not enough detail on the deal was clear at the point he said "yes".

At 9:32 PM, Blogger Christopher Barlow said...

Its good to know this... i have read the equity booklet but i am not very legally minded, and unless i read it frequently quite what it says slips out of my brain.

i've never really been too clear on these rules. it puts a new spin on the theatre company who recently offered me a job and bypassed my agent, through whome they had asked me to audition, and called me directly and asked me outright if i would take it and wanted to know right there and then.

I was surprised and flattered but also felt awkward because i wasn't sure if i was able to take it as my agent was already negotiating another contract that may have clashed.

I said 'oh gosh! thank you'... which they took to mean 'yes' until i was firm and corrected them and said that i was simply thanking them not accepting and that my agent would deal with it.

now that i know this i am relieved i made myself very clear, they could have sued me for simply thanking them!


- ponders if twitchings of the mouth is to be suffering from verbal contracts - before an explotion of verbal diahorria!

At 9:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whilst a verbal contract is of course binding, the issue comes with providing evidence of said verbal contract. Turning up on Day One of rehearsals denotes a public acceptance of the contract even if it hasn't been signed; a simple "yes" on the phone might be rather harder to enforce, methinks.

Good luck with Iago - a brave bit of casting up against Tim McInerney and Ewan MacGregor as other London 2007 Iagos...

At 4:46 PM, Blogger Neal Foster said...

I hope you're leaving your comments simply to highlight my concerns!

To quote Margaret Thatcher:
No No No

A simple "yes" on the phone is very easy to prove. Most calls are made from an office, full of witnesses. Then just for starters, everyone else who had auditioned for the role would be contacted with the bad news they hadn't got the part. That alone puts the person who accepted in a serious position if they renage. Plus within 24 hours they would start receiving all sorts of information from the employer about the job, again all documented in the day book. And so on and so on. I can only repeat my warning that all actors should avoid making any commitment unless they are ready to accept the job. It is a dangerous game to think you can accept the job until, for example, a better one comes along.

My final word: Don't do it!

At 9:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, not to be picky...

* Most calls are made from an office, full of witnesses - fine. But none of those witnesses will know for definite who's on the other end of the phone, etc. It's circumstantial (and don't bring up phone records; if you're calling from anywhere with a switchboard, you're knackered).

* everyone else who had auditioned for the role would be contacted - well, bless you for the efficiency of your company, but as a professional actor with a few years under my belt, this is quite definitely not always the case.

* within 24 hours they would start receiving all sorts of information - once again, commendations to the BSC for being this efficient, but it's simply not the case, industry-wide. For example, I was cast in a show in May 2006 - full-on Equity contract, all above board and legit - and received my first official communique from the company in question over six weeks later.

Personally, I agree with you, and I may well be nit-picking to a nigh-on ridiculous level, but the point I'm trying to make is that the situation is (perhaps regrettably) nothing like as black-and-white as you make out.

PS I didn't leave the first "anonymous" comment - I'm able to spell your name! - but I did leave the 2nd one. Not sure why I feel the need to mention that.

At 9:40 AM, Blogger Christopher Barlow said...

What i don't get is, why an actor would take a job he didn't think he could do!

I mean, everyone invovled in this situation understands the industry, surely honesty is best here.

where is the harm in saying to the company offering you the job, thankyou so much and i am very interested but can you give me a day or two to make sure nothings going to clash.

maybe the actor is scared they would offer the job to someone else.

But, i am pretty sure the company would understand. as actors we need work and we can have many auditions a week and some will respond faster than others, so where is the harm in asking for a bit of time to make sure they can do it, and chase the other jobs. it saves a lot of hassle for everyone in the end.

Although i can see many young graduate actors thinking 'DEAR GOD A JOB !!! THANK YOU YES!!' only to get called three days later and offered another great opportunity!

You know this is the sort of very simple situation drama schools/universities should cover more. I think too much of this stuff is put on the 'your agent will deal with this' shelf, but a lot of actors starting out don't have agents and will often make these mistakes out of simple desperation to accept work!

I think just ask for a bit of time before accepting, unless you know for sure you can commit.

Chris :)

At 12:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Although i can see many young graduate actors thinking 'DEAR GOD A JOB !!! THANK YOU YES!!' only to get called three days later and offered another great opportunity!"

I was guilty of this. My first theatre 'gig' out of drama school was an offer to play Hansel in a schools tour. I said yes straight away, then found out that instead I could have been understudying at one of two huge theatres. Oh, how foolish I did feel.

At 6:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi all
My deal with my agent stipulates explicitly that all negotiations are carried out by him - it's a great way of resisting pressure to be able to say "i'm delighted, but my agent has to do the deal, I can't break my agreement with him" I've used it several times, and on one occasion it earned me a great deal of money!


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