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Reality TV Show Pilot - Artist Fee

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Nicholas Cook
Reality TV Show Pilot - Artist Fee
on May 2, 2012 at 2:15:02 am

I am an attorney who does not deal with a lot of television contracts for artists. I have a new client who has been approached by a production company to film a presentation for a reality tv show. I'm not sure of the market rate for these things and want to get your opinion.

How much is reasonable for just filming the pilot?
If it gets picked up by the network, what is a reasonable per episode fee?
If it gets picked up for a second season, what percentage is a reasonable increase?



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Mark Suszko
Re: Reality TV Show Pilot - Artist Fee
on May 2, 2012 at 3:50:52 pm

Probably the best advice to give him or her, in their best interest, is to decline the task and put him or her in contact with an entertainment lawyer; these things are too specialized for a general practitioner.

If you insist on going ahead anyway, you might start by looking up the standard union rates at the SAG/AFTRA web sites, just as a ballpark. But realize that this is like shopping for a car, where the sticker price rarely is what is finally paid. Your client will be unpleasantly surprised at how low, generally speaking, the pay scales are in reality TV. This is one of the reasons those shows are so prolific, is their cost-containment strategies. Your client is looking at something at or below scale rates, but the part where you might help is to work on the non-pay compensation: that is, owning a percentage of the actual show, and a "taste" of any ancillary income from the branding of the show, i.e. if the show spins off a product line of toys, hand-bags, coffee mugs, whatever - your client needs a percentage of that. And residuals for re-runs, and a percentage of any "new media" airplay, i.e. streaming or DVD sales or Netflix rentals.

The showrunner is going to try to contractually bind the actor and everything about the production into a "package", so that no competing production company can copy the show without a lot of effort. Look at this as "non-compete" contract language. It can force your client to be stuck "married" to a dead property that's going nowhere, and they won't be able to jump to another similar show, or make their own, so they need some way to address getting a paycheck even if they are just sitting out the game on the bench for a while. You're looking at an "opportunity cost"; once they are bound to the "package", they will have to turn down other oppotunities. That's worth something. If the show is set in the client's place of business, you will need to protect the business as a separate entity apart from the show.

I am not a lawyer, my advice is worth what you paid for it. But you asked for an opinion.

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Nick Griffin
Re: Reality TV Show Pilot - Artist Fee
on May 2, 2012 at 9:57:54 pm

[Mark Suszko] "decline the task and put him or her in contact with an entertainment lawyer; these things are too specialized for a general practitioner."

Ahh, gee, Mark. You said it in an oh so much more polite way than I was thinking. Just to amplify, experienced representation typically costs less in the long run than does inexperienced. It's true in law just as it is in film & video production. (Isn't it our frequent contributor Scott who quotes Red Adair: “If you think it's expensive to hire a professional...")

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Todd Terry
Re: Reality TV Show Pilot - Artist Fee
on May 3, 2012 at 9:46:10 pm

I'll have to triple what Mark and Nick suggested... this is definitely a job for an entertainment attorney.

There's a reason that most high-powered Hollywood agents are also entertainment lawyers... the stuff they do is not only so complicated but also so different from almost every other kind of lawyerin' that it really takes someone who deals with all the minutiae of that every day to figure it out.

We were in discussions about a feature film once and I showed our contract (which was written by a very well-versed entertainment attorney) to our regular business lawyer, and I thought his head was going to implode. And otherwise he is very good at what he does. It's just such a very specific specialty, with a hundred things to take into account that the average Joe (or general practice attorney) would never even think of.


Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.

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