Monthly Archives: May 2016

The Need For An Entertainment Lawyer In Film

Does the film producer really need a film lawyer or entertainment attorney as a matter of professional practice? An entertainment lawyer’s own bias and my stacking of the question notwithstanding, which might naturally indicate a “yes” answer 100% of the time – the forthright answer is, “it depends”. A number of producers these days are themselves film lawyers, entertainment attorneys, or other types of lawyers, and so, often can take care of themselves. But the film producers to worry about, are the ones who act as if they are entertainment lawyers – but without a license or entertainment attorney legal experience to back it up. Filmmaking and motion picture practice comprise an industry wherein these days, unfortunately, “bluff” and “bluster” sometimes serve as substitutes for actual knowledge and experience. But “bluffed” documents and cture production procedures will never escape the trained eye of entertainment attorneys working for the studios, the distributors, the banks, or the errors-and-omissions (E&O) insurance carriers. For this reason alone, I suppose, the job function of film production counsel and entertainment lawyer is still secure.

I also suppose that there will always be a few lucky filmmakers who, throughout the entire production process, fly under the proverbial radar without entertainment attorney accompaniment. They will seemingly avoid pitfalls and liabilities like flying bats are reputed to avoid people’s hair. By way of analogy, one of my best friends hasn’t had any health insurance for years, and he is still in good shape and economically afloat – this week, anyway. Taken in the aggregate, some people will always be luckier than others, and some people will always be more inclined than others to roll the dice.

But it is all too simplistic and pedestrian to tell oneself that “I’ll avoid the need for film lawyers if I simply stay out of trouble and be careful”. An entertainment lawyer, especially in the realm of film (or other) production, can be a real constructive asset to a motion picture producer, as well as the film producer’s personally-selected inoculation against potential liabilities. If the producer’s entertainment attorney has been through the process of film production previously, then that entertainment lawyer has already learned many of the harsh lessons regularly dished out by the commercial world and the film business.

The film and entertainment lawyer can therefore spare the producer many of those pitfalls. How? By clear thinking, careful planning, and – this is the absolute key – skilled, thoughtful and complete documentation of all film production and related activity. The film lawyer should not be thought of as simply the cowboy or cowgirl wearing the proverbial “black hat”. Sure, the entertainment lawyer may sometimes be the one who says “no”. But the entertainment attorney can be a positive force in the production as well.

The film lawyer can, in the course of legal representation, assist the producer as an effective business consultant, too. If that entertainment lawyer has been involved with scores of film productions, then the motion picture producer who hires that film lawyer entertainment attorney benefits from that very cache of experience. Yes, it sometimes may be difficult to stretch the film budget to allow for counsel, but professional filmmakers tend to view the legal cost expenditure to be a fixed, predictable, and necessary one – akin to the fixed obligation of rent for the production office, or the cost of film for the cameras. While some film and entertainment lawyers may price themselves out of the price range of the average independent film producer, other entertainment attorneys do not.

Enough generalities. For what specific tasks must a producer typically retain a film lawyer and entertainment attorney?:

1. INCORPORATION, OR FORMATION OF AN “LLC”: To paraphrase Michael Douglas’s Gordon Gekko character in the motion picture “Wall Street” when speaking to Bud Fox while on the morning beach on the oversized mobile phone, this entity-formation issue usually constitutes the entertainment attorney’s “wake-up call” to the film producer, telling the film producer that it is time. If the producer doesn’t properly create, file, and maintain a corporate or other appropriate entity through which to conduct business, and if the film producer doesn’t thereafter make every effort to keep that entity bullet-proof, says the entertainment lawyer, then the film producer is potentially shooting himself or herself in the foot. Without the shield against liability that an entity can provide, the entertainment attorney opines, the motion picture producer’s personal assets (like house, car, bank account) are at risk and, in a worst-case scenario, could ultimately be seized to satisfy the debts and liabilities of the film producer’s business. In other words:

Patient: “Doctor, it hurts my head when I do that”.

Doctor: “So? Don’t do that”.

Like it or not, the film lawyer entertainment attorney continues, “Film is a speculative business, and the statistical majority of motion pictures can fail economically – even at the San Fernando Valley film studio level. It is insane to run a film business or any other form of business out of one’s own personal bank account”. Besides, it looks unprofessional, a real concern if the producer wants to attract talent, bankers, and distributors at any point in the future.

The choices of where and how to file an entity are often prompted by entertainment lawyers but then driven by situation-specific variables, including tax concerns relating to the film or motion picture company sometimes. The film producer should let an entertainment attorney do it and do it correctly. Entity-creation is affordable. Good lawyers don’t look at incorporating a client as a profit-center anyway, because of the obvious potential for new business that an entity-creation brings. While the film producer should be aware that under U.S. law a client can fire his/her lawyer at any time at all, many entertainment lawyers who do the entity-creation work get asked to do further work for that same client – especially if the entertainment attorney bills the first job reasonably.

I wouldn’t recommend self-incorporation by a non-lawyer – any more than I would tell a film producer-client what actors to hire in a motion picture – or any more than I would tell a D.P.-client what lens to use on a specific film shot. As will be true on a film production set, everybody has their own job to do. And I believe that as soon as the producer lets a competent entertainment lawyer do his or her job, things will start to gel for the film production in ways that couldn’t even be originally foreseen by the motion picture producer.

2. SOLICITING INVESTMENT: This issue also often constitutes a wake-up call of sorts. Let’s say that the film producer wants to make a motion picture with other people’s money. (No, not an unusual scenario). The film producer will likely start soliciting funds for the movie from so-called “passive” investors in any number of possible ways, and may actually start collecting some monies as a result. Sometimes this occurs prior to the entertainment lawyer hearing about it post facto from his or her client.

If the film producer is not a lawyer, then the producer should not even think of “trying this at home”. Like it or not, the entertainment lawyer opines, the film producer will thereby be selling securities to people. If the producer promises investors some pie-in-the-sky results in the context of this inherently speculative business called film, and then collects money on the basis of that representation, believe me, the film producer will have even more grave problems than conscience to deal with. Securities compliance work is among the most difficult of matters faced by an entertainment attorney.

As both entertainment lawyers and securities lawyers will opine, botching a solicitation for film (or any other) investment can have severe and federally-mandated consequences. No matter how great the film script is, it’s never worth monetary fines and jail time – not to mention the veritable unspooling of the unfinished motion picture if and when the producer gets nailed. All the while, it is shocking to see how many ersatz film producers in the real world try to float their own “investment prospectus”, complete with boastful anticipated multipliers of the box office figures of the famed motion pictures “E.T.” and “Jurassic Park” combined. They draft these monstrosities with their own sheer creativity and imagination, but usually with no entertainment or film lawyer or other legal counsel. I’m sure that some of these producers think of themselves as “visionaries” while writing the prospectus. Entertainment attorneys and the rest of the bar, and bench, may tend to think of them, instead, as prospective ‘Defendants’.

Enough said.

3. DEALING WITH THE GUILDS: Let’s assume that the film producer has decided, even without entertainment attorney guidance yet, that the production entity will need to be a signatory to collective bargaining agreements of unions such as Screen Actors Guild (SAG), the Directors Guild (DGA), and/or the Writers Guild (WGA). This is a subject matter area that some film producers can handle themselves, particularly producers with experience. But if the film producer can afford it, the producer should consult with a film lawyer or entertainment lawyer prior to making even any initial contact with the guilds. The producer should certainly consult with an entertainment attorney or film lawyer prior to issuing any writings to the guilds, or signing any of their documents. Failure to plan out these guild issues with film or entertainment attorney counsel ahead of time, could lead to problems and expenses that sometimes make it cost-prohibitive to thereafter continue with the picture’s further production.

4. CONTRACTUAL AFFAIRS GENERALLY: A film production’s agreements should all be in writing, and not saved until the last minute, as any entertainment attorney will observe. It will be more expensive to bring film counsel in, late in the day – sort of like booking an airline flight a few days before the planned travel. A film producer should remember that a plaintiff suing for breach of a bungled contract might not only seek money for damages, but could also seek the equitable relief of an injunction (translation: “Judge, stop this production… stop this motion picture… stop this film… Cut!”).

A film producer does not want to suffer a back claim for talent compensation, or a disgruntled location-landlord, or state child labor authorities – threatening to enjoin or shut the motion picture production down for reasons that could have been easily avoided by careful planning, drafting, research, and communication with one’s film lawyer or entertainment lawyer. The movie production’s agreements should be drafted with care by the entertainment attorney, and should be customized to encompass the special characteristics of the production.

As an entertainment lawyer, I have seen non-lawyer film producers try to do their own legal drafting for their own pictures. As mentioned above, some few are lucky, and remain under the proverbial radar. But consider this: if the film producer sells or options the project, one of the first things that the film distributor or film buyer (or its own film and entertainment attorney counsel) will want to see, is the “chain of title” and development and production file, complete with all signed agreements. The production’s insurance carrier may also want to see these same documents. So might the guilds, too. And their entertainment lawyers. The documents must be written so as to survive the audience.

Therefore, for a film producer to try to “fake it” oneself is simply to put many problems off for another day, as well as create an air of non-attorney amateurism to the production file. It will be less expensive for the film producer to attack all of these issues earlier as opposed to later, through use of a film lawyer or entertainment attorney. And the likelihood is that any self-respecting film attorney and entertainment lawyer is going to have to re-draft substantial parts (if not all) of the producer’s self-drafted production file, once he or she sees what the non-lawyer film producer has done to it on his or her own – and that translates into unfortunate and wasted expense. I would no sooner want my chiropractor to draft and negotiate his own filmed motion picture contracts, than I would put myself on his table and try to crunch through my own backbone adjustments. Furthermore, I wouldn’t do half of the chiropractic adjustment myself, and then call the chiropractor into the examining room to finish what I had started. (I use the chiropractic motif only to spare you the clich√© old saw of “performing surgery on oneself”).

There are many other reasons for retaining a film lawyer and entertainment attorney for motion picture work, and space won’t allow all of them. But the above-listed ones are the big ones.

The Psychology of Entertainment

On the private and public forms of entertainment and the psychological mechanisms in entertainment

Entertainment has many dimensions and could be personal/private or more general and public forms of entertainment. When we play with our mates that is a personal form of entertainment and when we sit and watch a movie on the screen that is a more general form of entertainment as we are sharing the experience with many others. There are some differences in our perception of private and public forms of entertainment as personal entertainment will always be based on personal experiences, our personal worldview and will be determined by personal interactions.

The more general and public forms of entertainment are less interactive and there seems to be this basic contradiction as all personal forms of entertainment are more interactive and public forms of entertainment are more personal and private. This scenario has been changing with television programs increasing audience participation in the program however interaction patterns between entertainers and viewers in any public entertainment scenario remain within strict limits and boundaries.

Entertainment takes us to a different world and feeds our need for fantasy and an escape from real life. This is especially true for entertainment that is more public or provided by the media and entertainment provided by films, theatre, music, and all forms of creative art. Films and theatre transposes us to a world of fantasy and grabs our attention so we remain engrossed as almost a part of this alternative reality. Entertainment could also be in the form of magazine stories and gossip or even celebrity culture and the psychology of entertainment could also explain the extreme craze of celebrity culture that we have in the modern world.

Celebrities seem to open up a world of fantasies and for some people knowing every move of celebrities could bring immense satisfaction as it would almost mean participating in fantasies. Fantasies help in overcoming frustrations and serve as therapeutic as they aid in the escape from realities of life. Real emotions and real life are stressful and entertainment helps us to move beyond real life and moments of stress to participate in fantasies that are soothing as we do not have to be directly involved in these fantasies and yet as spectators we can still participate in a tacit or passive manner.

Participation in any book, film or creative art is almost like sitting on a reclining chair that has the technology to soothe your muscles while you relax. In the case of entertainment we participate almost in a passive manner and although we may be very alert and awake in the process of watching a movie, entertainment gives us the illusion of non participation as we don’t have the opportunity to get voluntarily involved in the scenario. Anything that gives us some form of pleasure could be considered as entertainment although entertainment could also give us pain as when we cry when we get emotionally involved with characters while we watch a movie.

Entertainment could trigger emotional involvement and emotional reactions such as happiness, sorrow, anxiety, fear and despite these strong emotional participation, there is little or no physical activity necessary on the part of the viewer. This active-passive process is the main attraction of entertainment as entertainment enables us to be both active (in terms of emotion) and passive (in terms of physical or voluntary mental involvement). Entertainment means like films are influential yet they influence subtly rather than aggressively and this subtle influence seems to work better on the human mind than any aggressive forms of influence. We see work as duty and entertainment as pleasure although both involve some form of emotional involvement. Work at the same time requires voluntary participation, decision making and physical involvement along with emotional involvement.

Yet why is work perceived as something heavy and entertainment as methods of relaxation? The answer is unpredictability. In case of entertainment, in most cases we may not even know what to expect from a movie or a music video. This unpredictability triggers our interest as we are unable to predict what emotional states would be evoked during this mental adventure. Entertainment is usually a form of mental and emotional adventure. In cases where we do know what a movie is about, it is the feeling of emotional familiarity that drives us to experience what we already know. Suppose a video game gave us a pleasurable feeling or evoked aggression and competitiveness in us, we go back to feel the same emotion as it was pleasurable or exciting. Stretched too far these forms of entertainment could easily become addictive.

Coming back to the distinction of work and entertainment or play, work involves responsibility and despite the emotional involvement in entertainment, apart from being a passive participant, we do not have to be responsible for anything, there is no problem solving or decision making and that is how entertainment in all its form is so pleasurable as the right brain activities of decision making and the cortical regions of the brain are not activated completely yet the pleasure sensations and emotions such as the hypothalamus and left brain activities are usually activated so we tend to associated entertainment with emotions rather than problem solving and decision making.

We humans are rational beings and yet emotions still seem to rule our lives and form the core of our existence as emotions still draw us to do things that may be irrational. Entertainment being primarily emotion provoking rather than reason provoking has a major impact on people’s lives. Appreciating any forms of entertainment could switch from the stages of interest to emotional involvement and finally addiction. The celebrity culture is a direct result of the last stages of appreciation for entertainment.

An interest in celebrities comes from emotional involvement with characters in movies and there may be substantial lack of differentiating fantasy and reality so fans of celebrities are more in love with the characters these celebrities play or the traits they project rather than the personality of celebrities. The celebrity culture seems to take people to a persistent fantasy world and individuals are seen as discussing all aspects of celebrities from their shoes to their hairstyle to the cars they possess. This sort of culture could however be explained with individual need to escape reality and identify with someone in a fantasy world and would be an important element in the study of fantasy.

The study of entertainment brings out many psychological aspects of active-passive participation in emotional or mental adventure and these could be

1. Identification – Viewers often identify with characters in movies or figures in art and this strong identification helps explain the value of entertainment. Young children have seen to imitate film stars as they begin identifying with movie characters.

2. Fantasy – Entertainment feeds on the need for fantasy in people and provides an escape route from the real world. Addiction to entertainment could be the basis of reality anxiety in people.

3. Projection – Individuals tend to project their own emotions or state of mind on to a painting or a song and could derive pleasure from this

4. Regression – Entertainment could often remind individuals of their past or a part of their own life they may have forgotten and in some cases bring out the child in them. For example when older people enjoy video games, it brings back their childhood and they may become addicted to this sort of entertainment.

5. Sublimation – Entertainment is also a form of sublimation of our impulsive desires and this especially true when we participate in entertainment as in the interpretation of art

6. Displacement – In non participative and passive forms of entertainment, individuals tend to escape from reality and displace their emotions from real people to characters in movies. For example a teenager in love with a girl whom he cannot attain may fall in love with a character of a movie who may have similarities with his dream girl.

All of the above processes are ego defense mechanisms delineated by Freud and the interplay of so many defense mechanisms in entertainment suggest that entertainment is more than simply a source of pleasure and could trigger complex psychological processes in the human mind. More research would be required in this field of psychology for a complete understanding of the advantages or disadvantages of entertainment in modern society.

Live Corporate Entertainment Options

The warm climate and endless selection of tourist attractions makes Orlando, Florida an ideal location for conventions, conferences, and trade shows. In fact, Orlando hosts literally hundreds of national and international meetings every day of the year.  As your attendees attention will often be drawn away from your convention to the theme parks and nightlife in Orlando, it is important to provide extra live entertainment and activity incentives at your event. Whether your event is at the Orange County Convention Center or Walt Disney World, this article will give you helpful tips for hiring live entertainment for your Orlando meeting.

The first step is to decide what convention activities you would like to have live entertainment at. Be creative in your scheduling, because adding a little unexpected fun throughout the convention will help keep your attendees energized and positive. Everyone expects a show after the gala dinner, but what about before a morning session to wake everyone up or during a break of one of a long afternoon meeting. Thinking outside the box with your entertainment will help make your convention a stand-out event.

Once you know where you want the entertainment, then you can begin focusing on what type of entertainment you want. Nowadays, corporate entertainment options are virtually limitless. You could choose to entertain your guests with costumed stilt walkers, magicians, comedians, hypnotists, fire eaters, bands, headline singers, fortune tellers, or acrobats. If your event has a theme then you might want to try to fit that theme. The theme of The Magic of Customer Service fits hand in hand with a magic show. A Mardi Gras event may benefit from fortune tellers, jugglers, and other street entertainers. If you are opening up a session with some entertainment, perhaps you want to consider a comedian or a comedy actor who could present a fake motivational speech to get everyone laughing. Don’t be afraid to break away from tradition. If you always have a stand-up comedian at your dinner, try a comedy hypnotist or corporate game show to give your guests something fresh and new.

When you have narrowed down your selection to one or two types of acts, then you need to begin your search for specific entertainers. You can make your search easier by first deciding on the criteria for what you want in your entertainment. Do you want a national act or a local act? Does the act have to be squeaky clean or is a little PG-13 or R rated material appropriate for your group? Do you want a show that is interactive and involves members of the audience? How long of a show do you want? (Planning hint: Most after dinner shows run between 45-60 minutes, any longer and you risk your audience getting restless). Does the performer have to work with any special performance restrictions (is the show outside, is space limited, etc)? All of these items on your list should be used to screen potential entertainment choices.

You can start your search for entertainers online. There is no shortage of entertainers with websites. If you find a site of an entertainer that interests you, contact the entertainer to find out their fees, availability, and to see if they are able to meet your list of criteria. If they are not on the web site, be sure to ask for references or letters of recommendation from past clients. If the performer is a true corporate entertainer, they will have already performed for a client in the same industry as your company. Also, be sure to convey any special requests or potentially unique situations about your event with the booking manager before signing any contracts. Conversely, it is also important to ask what the entertainer is going to need you to supply for the performance. This will allow you to budget for any audio visual or staging rental needs, and avoid any unpleasant last minute surprises.

When you are searching online for an entertainer, beware of directory sites such as Gigmasters, who list thousands of entertainers who have paid to advertise on the site. Many of these websites will take your contact information and send them to dozens of their entertainers, and you will be barraged with emails and calls from entertainers you are not even interested in.

The Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resorts both have live entertainment departments that organize entertainment for the theme parks as well as for conventions held on resort property. If you are holding your event at a hotel or venue on one of these theme park properties, you can ask your site contact about entertainment options available.The positive side of booking theme park entertainers is that it allows you to bring a little bit of the theme park magic to your convention guests. The drawback is that you will be paying a premium for entertainment that your guests could often see for free while visiting the parks.

The stress-free way to hire an entertainer is to go through an entertainment company who specializes in corporate entertainers. Corporate Funny Entertainment helps companies and associations hire entertainment for Orlando meetings by negotiating the best possible performing fees with their comedians. When you book through Corporate Funny, you can afford to bring national entertainment to your meeting. Their goal is to give you “the most funny for your money”.

Corporate Funny makes the selection of a comedy entertainer easy, because they have reviewed hundreds of national acts to bring you the top six for corporate audiences. These acts have been selected based on having a clean comedy show appropriate for corporate audiences, flawless references, professionalism, and the total entertainment value of their performance.

For Orlando meetings, Brandy Swardson, the booking manager for Corporate Funny, recommends comedy magician, Chris Linn, who has an act that is fresh, exciting, and unlike any magic or comedy show audiences have ever seen. Chris was named best comedy variety entertainer by the 2008 Best of Corporate Entertainers and Speakers awards.

A Guide to Hiring Entertainment for Company

A Word About Agents

In the article ‘How to Plan a Banquet,’ we included a limited discussion about entertainment, and our basic advice was to hire a competent talent agent who specializes in “casuals,” which means one-day or one-night events, such as parties, weddings, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs and other
fun events.

Some agents represent actors and actresses, and unless they have a department that handles variety acts and bands, they would be of no help to you.

Some other agents handle only major attractions and celebrities, and unless you’re working with a serious budget, they won’t be able to help you get a band for Aunt Sarah’s 50th anniversary party.

A variety agent is able to help you get that close-up magician, band, and sometimes even name entertainers like Reba McEntire or The Temptations. Those that specialize in variety entertainment are sometimes called “full-service” agencies.

How do you tell who is a competent agent? That’s a good question, because if you asked an agent if he’s competent he’d be a fool to say anything but “Of course!”

Having been in the entertainment business for over forty years, I’ve seen a lot of people set up shop as agents. Some last, some don’t.

A huge percentage of my business comes from people who either have used my services before or were referred by someone who has used my services.

Finding Talent

Finding your own entertainment can be fun. I have spent years watching other acts, bands and attractions, and I never fail to enjoy it.

The internet or the Yellow Pages are a good starting place. Try using a search engine to find what you’re looking for. You’ll find listings in the Yellow Pages under entertainers, party planners, entertainment bureaus, and maybe some other categories.

Try a search for something like “bands in los angeles” or “juggler orange county” or whatever is appropriate. See what you come up with.

Beware that a beautiful website may not mean the best entertainer. Many website are not built by the entertainer and even it is, a nice-looking website does not translate to great entertainment.

Referrals from friends might be useful to you if you follow the reviewing procedures outlined below.

Watch your local newspaper for entertainers that are scheduled to appear for other groups in your area, and make it a point to catch their acts if possible. Of course, if you start going to other events, you’ll see some poor entertainment, too. (I guess it holds true that you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince!) But even that can be helpful, if you are observant and make a note of what made the act good or bad.

Reviewing An Act/Band

If you’re not working with an agent, you will need to review the act yourself. There are three methods of reviewing an act: You can (1) go see the act perform live, (2) watch a video of the act, or (3) have the act come audition for you.

By far the best way is to see the act perform under roughly the same set of circumstances as your event. Seeing people perform in Las Vegas to a night-club crowd does not mean they’ll be able to perform for little Gloria’s 10th birthday party (or vice versa).

The problem with going to see live performances is that it is certainly very time consuming, and you will only be able to see a limited number of contenders before it’s time to make a decision. But on the other hand, think of the fun you’ll have!

Watching DVDs is an excellent method, as you can cover a lot of ground in an evening. Unfortunately, not all acts have DVDs or videos, and it would be a shame to eliminate a topnotch act just because they could not supply one.

Another BIG problem with video is that many acts supply a short, edited version of their act. This can be very deceptive. When reviewing an act by video, I always insist on (but don’t always get) an unedited version of the show. I never hire an act based on an edited video. I’ve heard of instances where an act was hired because they had a very powerful video, only to find that in their entire show, the only part that was any good was those few minutes on the video.

Don’t be overly impressed by a DVD or video of a movie appearance, guest spot on a TV show, or commercial. That still does not mean they can do the job you want them for.

Unless you’re an agent, you can just about forget about having the act audition for you. Maybe an act will drop off literature. In the case of a magician, mime, or similar variety act, you may receive a short demonstration. However, this small segment along with its glib pitch can be very deceiving.

Don’t take chances; be sure of what you’re buying!

When you talk to an entertainer on the phone, ask him to send his “press kit” or literature and a DVD or video tape.

Most variety acts will have printed literature or a complete press kit (which includes a photo, biographical information, letters of recommendation and references or list of past performances).

Please don’t be taken in by good printed material. Usually, but not always, you can get a pretty good idea of their level of professionalism by the materials they send you.

I do know some really great acts that work all the time and have virtually nothing in the way of printed materials. Of course I’ve also seen some really outstanding printed materials but was disappointed when I saw the act. I have a band that I send out to a lot of small weddings and installation banquets, and it took me almost a year to get a photo from them. (I’m still hoping to get a song list some day.) I’ve got another band that is absolutely tops in promotional material and their band is absolutely tops, too!

Some performers no longer use paper press kits but instead prefer an electronic press kit either contained on a DVD they send you or simply up on their website. That’s fine. It’s certainly a more contemporary method of promoting one’s self.

Arrangements

It’s important, once you’ve decided what entertainers or band you’re going to hire, that arrangements be made clearly and in writing. I’ve enclosed a sample letter you may wish to use. Some entertainers have their own contracts, but many do not, making it necessary for you to put everything down on paper and send it to the entertainer. I’m not a lawyer so I don’t know how enforceable the letter is, but at least you have the information down on paper and you both understand and agree to the terms.

If I’m serving as Agent, I fill out a contract based on our conversations, and then forward it to my client for a signature. I try to collect as much information as I can about the event so that I can prevent any surprises. The entertainers also receive a binding contract.

By the way, this might be a good place to mention that talent agents are like travel agents in that they don’t charge you for their services, but instead charge the entertainers. The agent is really looking out for your interests and can draw from countless entertainers and bands, being reasonably familiar with what each act does. There is an internet subscription service that lists thousands of entertainers, who their personal manager is (if any), and/or how to reach them. All entertainers are available to a full-service agent, rather than just a handful of acts that the agent has been able to put together.

When making your arrangements with entertainers make sure that you discuss everything:

  1. Location. Best to send the act a map.
  2. Date of performance.
  3. Time and duration of performance. Bands usually work 4 hours, with a 10-15 minute break each hour. Talk to them about their breaks and how much overtime will cost. Some bands supply recorded music during their breaks.
  4. Put the fee down in writing. I would hesitate to pay the act a deposit, although some entertainers and bands require it. I’m a licensed agent, so an act knows that once I send the contract their pay is guaranteed. Both you and the entertainer are acting on a trust not yet demonstrated. The entertainer wonders if he’ll get paid, and you wonder if he’ll show up! It’s the only system we have.
  5. Method of payment. Acts always expect to be paid in full following the performance. If any other arrangements are to be made, please not only discuss it with them, but put it in your letter of agreement.
  6. An act will want to know your time schedule… what time is the cocktail hour, dinner, etc. and this brings up an interesting subject: feeding the act. Usually, if you have only one individual doing a show after dinner (e.g. a magician or a singer), you should invite him to join your group for dinner. However, it would not be expected of you to feed the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Even bands are seldom fed. If you use the band for the cocktail hour, during dinner, and then have them take a break while you give out awards or conduct other business, then
  7. it would be appropriate to feed them during that hour. It’s not mandatory, however. (Keep in mind that a meal is a nice consolation for the act if they are giving you a special break on the fee.)
  8. Who supplies the public address system? Bands usually have their own equipment; other acts may not. A guitar player who sings may require two microphones. Four singers might require microphones and expect you to supply them. If you’re at a hotel or other banquet facility, you may be able to get everything you need from them. Extensive sound systems will have to come from a professional sound company. Make sure you discuss this with your performer and put it in writing.
  9. Lighting. Again, your facility may have what you need. Spotlights with an operator can be rented for around $350. Big concerts will require the services of a professional lighting company.
  10. Stage? A banquet of fewer than 50 people may not even need risers, but when you start getting up in the numbers, you’ll need to get your entertainers up to where the audience can see them. A catering facility or hotel will usually have 4′ x 8′ risers at various heights so that you can build a platform or stage for your entertainment.
  11. Is it outdoors? What if it rains? You should really specify what you will do. Will you then hold it indoors? The act or entertainer has blocked out that day for you and perhaps turned down other work. They are really entitled to their fee even if the program is rained out, unless you’ve made other arrangements.
  12. Seating. It’s very difficult for an entertainer to have a dance floor between himself and the audience. If you’re having a dance after a comedian or other entertainer, talk with the act about how close the seats or tables need to be. Maybe he/she can work on the dance floor.
  13. Does the act need a place to change clothes or set up equipment?
  14. Does the act sell albums or other merchandise at the performance? Some musical acts offer albums after the show. Is this all right with you?
  15. Parking and unloading. How nice it is for an entertainer to pull up in front of the YMCA and find a sign “Reserved for Entertainer.” You can’t always do that, but remember that some acts have a lot to carry in. If the only parking available costs money, you should reimburse the entertainers. Talk about it and include your decision in your letter of agreement.

There are plenty of things to inquire about. Take time to picture in your mind exactly how things will be. If there is a question in your mind about anything, ask. Ask the hotel, the band, the act, the agent.

Conclusion

Well, really, that was easy. Just spend months looking at acts and days negotiating and a few weeks wondering if you blew it. (Or give a call to a competent talent agent and let him worry about the hard stuff!)

Perhaps a good rule to remember is “You get what you pay for.” A friend called me and wanted Mariachis for a Church Mexican Fiesta. I quoted him a price for five Mariachis for two hours, but he went out and hired his own for less. He called me up later just sick about it. He had called a group advertised somewhere and got a low price…and low quality. It’s not a new story.

Don’t look for the lowest price; look for quality. If you can’t afford top quality, it’s probably better not to have entertainment at all rather than to hire an act that makes you and everyone else squirm in their seats.