I’m not quite SAG (two vouchers down, one to go), but was offered a lead in a nonunion movie. It was a great flick with some “names” involved at the EP level, so I was excited. But some of the material was suggestive, and because I did time at an agency day-job I knew to insist on a “no-nudity” clause in my deal memo. The producers wouldn’t agree, and eventually cut me loose.
Despite my disappointment, in hindsight I obviously I lucked out — I knew enough to protect myself. But my question is this: If you are signed on to a nonunion film, and the director suddenly decides he needs nudity, can you decline? You’ve signed the contract, so are you obligated? SAG won’t help if it’s nonunion. Can you be sued if you refuse to do what they ask? Thanks for your column and guidance.
First, let me commend you on two things: learning from your agency day job that nudity riders (or “no nudity” clauses in your deal memo) are a must, even in a nonunion contract AND insisting that such a thing be in place, even though that meant you’d ultimately lose the gig. Well done! I know that’s a tough pill to swallow when you want the work, need the tape, and like the project, but you and I both know you made the best decision for you.
Next, let’s talk about your rights as a performer (whether you’re in the unions or not). Contract law is simple, in that any contract in which there is no meeting of the minds is unenforceable. Let’s back up. So, you agree to star in a film based on your interest in the script as it existed as of a particular date. Great. You sign a contract in which you state you’ll perform the services of an actor in the designated role in the project of a particular title based on that script and your meetings with the principals involved (producers, director, writer, other actors, etc.). In the contract, there is no mention of nudity and in the script you’re holding, there is no nudity for your character (implied or explicit). But you show up to set one day and are asked to drop trou.
Okay, this is where the script comes into play. If nudity is not spelled out in your contract and there is no nudity in the script upon which you made your decision to participate, there shouldn’t be any nudity asked of you on set. This is why it’s important to hang onto the version of the script that existed as of your contract date, since revisions could suddenly cause you to be topless (all the more reason to be sure your contract spells out that you’re agreeing to do a role based on a script that existed as of a certain date). That way, if you are told that you have violated your contract, you are being bullied! If nothing in your contract or the script says otherwise, you can assume that you signed on to do a fully-clothed role.
Now, to your question about whether or not you can be sued. Sure, you can be sued. Would the filmmaker win? Not likely, if your contract and the script support the fact that nudity was an add-on. So, even though you don’t have SAG backing you (yet), you should still always have someone look over your contract, whether it be an entertainment attorney, small business legal aid, or an agent/manager friend (even the resources at NOLO.com can help you out). Obviously, each person has a different level of expertise with this sort of thing (and accountability for the advice given), but until you have the backing of SAG, you should still check in with others if you are ever unsure of a contract’s language.
Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/000382.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.