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Entertainment Law Asked & Answered – Does an Actor’s Agent have an Obligation to Tell the Actor about all Job Offers?

In this Asked & Answered video, I answer a common question if an actor's agent have an obligation to tell the actor about all job offers.

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Does an actor's agent have an obligation to tell the actor about all job offers?

Hi, I'm attorney Gordon Firemark, and this is Asked and Answered, where I answer your entertainment law questions, so you can take your career and business to the next level.

Stephen wrote in with this to say:

I have a question that I, and other independent filmmakers I know, have been trying to find the answer to… if I, as a producer, send an offer for hire to an actor's representation, are they legally required to let their client know? Or can the rep just ignore it if they so choose.

Great question Stephen,

Basically, this is a question about the level of legal duty an agent or manager has to the Artist he or she represents. The truth is, it's different for Managers than it is for Agents. That's because agents are licensed, and can do certain kinds of things that Manager's aren't allowed to do.

The most significant of these is procuring employment for the client. Only a licensed talent agent can do that. So, a manager isn't even supposed to field offers, and probably can't be accused of any wrongdoing for not forwarding them. Besides, it's probably in the Manager's interest to forward offers, at least the good ones.

But as for the agent's obligation, I think this really depends on the artist's arrangement with the agent.

Lots of actors have standing instructions about what kinds of roles or they will/will not consider, and what kinds of compensation they'll accept.

Let's face it, part of the reasons that actors hire agents is to be the gatekeeper, so the actor doesn't have to be the one saying “no” to people. So, if a role or a pay-grade doesn't meet the pre-established criteria, the agent probably doesn't need to bother forwarding the offer. In fact, you can see that doing so, might actually make the actor unhappy.

But if there isn't any kind of clear instruction on this subject, I think the agent should keep the artist informed of all offers… Even if accompanied by a recommendation against the gig. You see, Agents are fiduciaries, and as such, they have a high level of duty… actually two duties… a duty of care (that is to do their work in the utmost professional manner), and the duty of loyalty (which is not to have conflicts of interest, and to always be working for the client's best interest).

So the challenge is that sometimes NOT forwarding an offer actually IS in the artist's best interest, especially if there is a better, more lucrative, or just more favorable role in the works, that this particular offer might interfere with… or maybe the agent already has other work lined up for the time-frame in question. Many of the top actors in the business are booked 3-4 years out… so there could be any number of reasons the offer doesn't make it past the agent's desk.

So, if you're a producer, and you're concerned that your offer isn't even being presented to the artist, you could be right… and I don't see that there's much you can do about it. The agent works for the Actor, not for you… so only the actor has any business complaining.

If you're really confident that the actor will want to do the role you're offering, get it to him or her through back-channels. But if you do, you have to understand that you're breaking with protocol, essentially going over the agent's head, and that's no way to make friends in the business.

If you have an entertainment law question you'd like me to answer here, submit it at firemark.com/questions….

See you next time.

 

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This is intended as general information only and does not establish an attorney-client relationship. It is not a substitute for a private, independent consultation with an attorney selected to advise you after a full investigation of the facts and law relevant to your matter. We will not be responsible for viewers'’ detrimental reliance upon the information appearing in this feature.

2 Responses to Entertainment Law Asked & Answered – Does an Actor’s Agent have an Obligation to Tell the Actor about all Job Offers?

  1. Agents, who are fiduciaries, all have “duties” but it’s interesting how the context of the relationship determines the nature of those duties. Real estate agents generally have to forward every offer to their clients, but I’d guess that’s because their relationship with the client is shorter, and focused on a single transaction. A talent agent wants a continuing relationship, and so it’s less likely they’d shirk their fiduciary duties.

    • Thanks for your insight, Brent,

      I’m wondering, though, if a real-estate agent receives explicit instruction from a client, “don’t bring me any offers below $1,000,000”, is he or she still duty-bound to present those offers

      I’m not sure the length of the relationship really alters the scope of the duty.. .but it’s an interesting thought.

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