QUESTION: I submitted myself for and booked a job that I thought was merely an online skit, but turned out to be branded entertainment. Which of my agents get the commission: theatrical or commercial?
ACTOR: Great question! First, lets look at how Wikipedia defines branded entertainment: Also known as branded content or advertisement, “branded entertainment” is an entertainment-based vehicle that is funded by, and complementary to, a brand’s marketing strategy.
More and more when I am watching a movie or TV show, I see actors holding or drinking a certain brand, and it’s very obvious that Apple or Coke or some other product is using this vehicle to advertise to million of viewers. When I’ve worked on a commercial, I’m usually selling the brand in a 15, 30, or 60 second spot.
Secondly, I want to congratulate you on the booking and for wanting to pay your agent even though you submitted and booked the job on your own. The question of whether an actor needs to pay their agent or not has been a big one over the years and actors have their justifications for why they don’t think it’s fair; I’ve heard them all! I, myself, have tried to come up with a good reason, but when it’s all done, if you have a good relationship with your agent or manager, then I say pay them in good faith. If you don’t have a good relationship, then this may be a good way to start one.
Managers and agents work on your behalf, day after day, with the hope you will book a job, so they can get paid for all the hours they’ve worked pitching you to casting directors, and submitting your headshots and resumes. In addition, let’s not forget all the time they (ideally) spend guiding you – making sure your materials and reels are up to date, acting classes are being taken, and all the other little things they do, so their clients stand out amongst the rest.
Coincidentally, a similar situation just happened to me. I moved back to Los Angeles February 1st and within two weeks of being back, an executive producer from a TV show I worked on years ago called to ask if I would be interested in playing the role of a woman with multiple personalities! I said yes, for many reasons. After I booked the job, I let my manager know that I would be giving him a percentage. I didn’t give it a second thought. Though we had not worked with one another for over a year, we had spoken just a few weeks prior about him representing me again. Plus, when I looked back and connected the dots, the TV show I booked with this executive producer years ago was through that management company. I am a big believer in “you get what you give.”
So, whether you should pay your theatrical or commercial agent depends on the agreement of your contract, I would think. Did you shoot a 15, 30, or 60 second spot featuring the brand only, or did you use the brand in an Internet sketch under a theatrical agreement? I believe this is a great opportunity for you to talk with your agent directly; the more you can grow trust and a better working relationship with one another, the harder your agent will want to work for you, and the easier it will be for you to make these decisions. It’s a give and take, and everyone is happy.