Thursday, February 21, 2013

Low-balling and not telling the whole truth

Lately I’ve come across several instances of what could be called desperate or just sleazy behavior.  Such as budding actors grasping at what they think will be a good credit  for their resume and/or lead to additional work will do a job, say, a radio commercial, for free or very low rates.  Or clients needing to save more and more money to enhance their bottom lines, so jobs that perhaps should’ve been union go non-union, and those that should’ve been non-union via talent agents or respected production companies trickle down to anyone the client can find online who's willing to low-ball already low rates.

I'm not the only one who thinks low-balling hurts everyone involved:
Actors, other feelancers or businesspeople willing to work for well below what should be market rates may get the job in the moment, but they’ve set a low bar for their talents and could drag rates down for their entire industry.  Clients may save dollars in the short term, but may end up with less experienced or less talented talent, which could make completion more difficult and time consuming and cost in terms of quality of the final product and perhaps less additional work from their client. 

I’ve also come across a more subtle form: clients who must get their project completed, perhaps to meet a short deadline, so they withhold information to get you to agree to do something.  After you’ve committed, you learn that the actual assignment is a bit different or more unpleasant and/or for more time but the same amount of money.  Or the working conditions are more egregious than expected (you were told the shoot was inside, but it's outside in 30 degree weather and you can’t wear a coat; they promise food but what you get is subpar or there isn’t enough for everyone, they promise a copy to justify their low rate but never send it, even after  you follow up).  You could try to negotiate for more money, but it’s unlikely that you’ll get it.  You could drop out, but then you won’t get paid or get the credit (or perhaps that copy of the project) at all, and you’d leave everyone else involved in the lurch.  The needs of the many...? 
Of course things can and do change very rapidly in production and many industries.  But I think the client should inform the talent as soon as possible, so we have the opportunity to choose whether to continue or not instead of being put on the spot.  Or get sucked in by something like, “Just a few more minutes, ok?” that turns into a few more hours.    

Other types of desperation include outright lying, stalling and/or placating, perhaps by those seeking to cover their bases or even take advantage of those who blithely trust them...until they realize what’s been going on behind their backs.  Even public figures do this; Jesse Jackson Jr. and the comptroller who stole millions from her small town are two Illinois come to mind. 

Unfortunately, assorted events in the past few years have made me less trusting.  As they say, actions speak louder than words.  But it may take some time to find out what the actions are actually saying.


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