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October 13, 2015

"Test Deals" Squeeze More Money Out of TV Actors

by Danny Gallagher, posted Feb 26th 2010 10:00AM
Test DealsLife is hard enough if you're a struggling actor. You have to scrape change out of other people's couch cushions for rent money. You live in an apartment that isn't fit for bacteria. Your parents pray for the day you wake up and realize you can have a much more fulfilling life as a sewer technician or a cat manicurist.

Now the networks are squeezing every buck that they can out of TV actors by a new process called "test deals."

Basically, the networks are getting their actors to agree to residual payments and checks before they even audition for a pilot or a new series. So now they have no leverage to negotiate a fair price. This is a great idea ... if the people getting paid were Goldman-Sachs employees. Somebody get Nathan Ford on the line!

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Thank you Summer, for clarifying. I didn't see the linked article.

This is correct... and is one of the reasons studios are opting to produce shows under AFTRA contracts rather than SAG. AFTRA allows overscale payments to be credited towards residuals, whereas SAG does not.

February 26 2010 at 2:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It looks like most of the fault for the misinformation lies with the original article, which Danny basically paraphrased (The article itself says that test deals "must be signed before an actor auditions -- when he or she has little leverage to extract concessions.")

Reading the article in light of what DB and "me" have written, it appears that it's not saying that test deals themselves are new, but that there are certain clauses regarding residuals that are new.

February 26 2010 at 12:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Sorry but this isn't even remotely new. This is always and has always been the way it works.

You go to an audition for a pilot or show. They narrow it down to about 5 people they really like. Then your agent negotiates your deal. Then you go do a screen test with other talent that has already been cast.

Also, this isn't unfair to actors. It gives them a chance to use their previous work to leverage a deal before the producers even see how they are. It's also good for producers because they know what an actor is going to cost before they hire them.

You guys really need someone who understands this business on your staff. The misinformation you spread about unions, producers and the business in general is obnoxious.

February 26 2010 at 10:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Color me confused. This has been going on for years... decades even. The test deal is put in place NOT before an actor auditions, but before they "test" for the network... the final step of the pilot audition process. All this does is ensure that terms are established when the final choice is made, which alleviates a lengthy negotiation process.

This is only done for series regular roles on pilots...and the folks in play for these roles usually have quotes in the tens of thousands per episode, and could hardly be labeled "starving"

February 26 2010 at 10:40 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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