Thursday, February 28, 2013

Non-disclosure agreements

More and more often, I'm required to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) before auditioning for or working on a project.  Basically, an NDA says actors aren't allowed to tell anyone (even family, friends or their agents, depending on the restrictions in the document signed) or post anywhere anything about the project. The language can be very broad, giving many rights to the issuer and few to the signer.  And some NDAs threaten legal action and may claim irreparable damage should it be discovered that any information was revealed.

The underlying principle makes sense in today's tell-all/TMI world where you never know what may go viral.  Advertisers and casting agencies don't want actors posting on social media things like, "I just had a great audition for X, and here's the concept and copy word for word!"  Nor do they want an actor's FB friend posting, "My friend (insert name) just got a national commercial for (insert product) and here's exactly what she'll be doing." Competitors could see the posts, and might alter their strategies....perhaps even try to beat their competitor to the punch.  All the time, effort and money that went into coming up with the concept for and writing that commercial or entire campaign could be undermined.

On the other hand:
1) If you don't get the copy until you arrive at the audition, preparing can be a challenge. 
2) I had a VO audition and callback. I surmised the product class, but I never knew any specifics.  Tone and approach should vary depending on the product.  If, for example, I knew it was high-end diamonds, I'd probably want to sound different than if the product was costume jewelry geared toward young adults. 
3) It's definitely less fun.  When people ask what I've been working on, I'd like to say more than, "I had a great time shooting an on-camera project Monday," or "I had an interesting audition."
4) You can't put the credit on your resume or get the footage/audio files for your demo reels.  You can ask for permission and a copy of the project at a later date, perhaps after it's been released, but may not get it. Some agreements are boilerplate; you can ask, but may not be able, to have some of the verbiage changed. 

On a related note, some boilerplate documents say things such as, this project can be used in all media in perpetuity.  I have gotten that changed to fit what I was told about certain projects.  

And sometimes, colleagues, friends and family members request an NDA....can you/do you want to keep their secret(s)? 

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