Commercials

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Commercials
No
Step 0

The Commercials Contracts cover advertising programs generally under three minutes in length and intended for use on television, foreign, theatrical, radio and new media.

Commercials Living Contracts
PRE-PRODUCTION
Yes
Step 1

Prior to auditions, prior to casting, prior to production, to use a SAG-AFTRA member in a commercial, there must be a SAG-AFTRA signatory attached to the project. The signatory could be an advertising agency or an advertiser. If a signatory is not already attached and you would like your company to become a signatory, complete a Preliminary Information Sheet.

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PRE-PRODUCTION
Yes
Step 2

Required Documents

A SAG-AFTRA Business Representative will contact you and provide you with a packet of forms. Complete and return the following five documents from your packet:

 

1) Signatory Information Sheet
2) Corporate Resolution/Limited Liability Corporation/Limited Partnership Authorization
3) Credit Check

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PRE-PRODUCTION
Yes
Step 3

Email the completed form to the Commercials Department or fax to (212) 944-6774.

 

A SAG-AFTRA Business Representative will contact you within two business days to discuss your interest in becoming a signatory.

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PRE-PRODUCTION
Yes
Step 4

Once your SAG-AFTRA Business Representative has reviewed your documents and you have signed the Letter of Adherence, you may begin the audition and hiring process. At auditions, an Exhibit E Sign-In Form must be made available and returned to the Commercials Department within 15 business days of the audition date.

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PRE-PRODUCTION
Yes
Step 5

Upon hiring your cast, you must clear your cast with SAG-AFTRA to verify that the performers you have hired are in good standing. This is referred to as the Cast Clearance (or Station 12) process.

PRODUCTION
Yes
Step 6

Working With Non-SAG-AFTRA Members

 

If any of the cast are not yet SAG-AFTRA members, you should submit the applicable Taft-Hartley Report, along with a head shot and resume, to the Commercials Department within 15 days after their work date.

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PRODUCTION
Yes
Step 6

On the actual shoot day(s), an on or off-camera principal performer is given an Exhibit A-1 Employment Contract and an extra is given an Exhibit A-2 Employment Contract. This contract contains information on hours of work, hours for fitting, pay rate, overtime, use type (seasonal, non-air demo, cable-only, etc.), and any special provisions that apply.

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POST-PRODUCTION
Yes
Step 7

Payment must be made to the performer within 15 business days of the session. The Pension & Health payment is made directly to the SAG -Producers Pension Plan in Burbank, CA. Specific information regarding this payment can be found on the Pension & Health Reporting Form.

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And that’s it!
No
Step 8

At any point, please feel free to contact the Commercials Department with questions. We are here to assist you in ensuring that your experience with producing under the SAG-AFTRA Commercials Contract is a smooth and easy process.

 

Thank you for working with SAG-AFTRA.

What if I am producing multiple Internet/New Media commercials and my total budget exceeds $50,000?

The $50,000 budget is per commercial.

Example 1: A Producer is shooting two (2) Internet commercials over the course of two (2) days with a total budget of $100,000. The production would qualify for the waiver because the cost per commercial is within the $50,000 budget.

Example 2: A Producer is shooting five (5) New Media commercials in one day with a total budget of $150,000. The production would qualify for the waiver because the cost per commercial is within the $50,000 budget.

Example 3: A Producer is shooting a TV commercial and an Internet commercial, with a total budget of $300,000. If, using commercially reasonable efforts, the Producer can determine that $50,000 of the total budget is attributable to the Internet commercial, the waiver would apply with respect to the Internet commercial only.

Are Infomercials covered by a SAG-AFTRA contract?

Yes. Please check with the Union to ensure the company is signed to the Infomercial Agreement before working in the production.

Are public service announcements (PSA’s) covered by a SAG-AFTRA contract?

Yes, members may not work in a PSA unless the company is signatory to the Commercials Contract.  If the union has approved the commercial as a PSA, the session fee and Pension & Health contributions must be paid.  However, residuals are waived for a one-year period as long as the performer agrees to such terms. Use for each additional one-year period requires the written consent of both the performers and the union. For these extensions, the performer may (but is not required to) waive additional payment. The producer may not request a use period longer than one year at the time of the original session.

Are session and residual checks for members sent to the Union?

Normally, session and residual checks are sent to the performer directly, or to whomever the performer has designated on the employment contract (such as to his/her agent).  However, checks for Spanish and Asian language commercials, as well as for claims that have been filed, are sent directly to the Union, and in turn, are forwarded to the performer.  

Are there any differences between Spanish language and English language commercials in how Internet and New Media residuals are calculated?

No, for Spanish language commercials exhibited on the Internet and New Media, the residual payments are identical to English language commercials (see above).

Are there any differences between Spanish language and English language commercials in regards to the minimum session fees or working conditions?

No, the minimum session fees and all working conditions for Spanish language commercials are exactly the same as English language commercials. All provisions of the contract apply. In addition, if the producer wishes to also hold the Spanish language performer exclusive to the advertised product in the English language market, an additional 50% of session and use is paid to the performer.

Can a producer require the performer to accept a “clean contract” as a condition of auditioning for a commercial?

No. Performers cannot be required to accept minimum fees as a condition of auditioning.  A producer is permitted to state the company’s intent to offer a performer the minimum fees; however the producer is obligated to advise the performer at the same time of his/her right to negotiate for better terms and conditions. 

Can the Low Budget Digital Waiver be used for audio commercials?

No, the waiver only applies to the SAG-AFTRA Commercials Contract.

Can the Low Budget Digital Waiver be used for television commercials?

No, the waiver is only for commercials made for Internet and/or New Media.

Do performers get paid for auditions?

• 1st and 2nd Auditions:  No payment is due for the first hour from the call time or arrival time, whichever is later. For each additional half-hour, a performer is entitled to $42.00.

 

• 3rd Audition:  No payment is due for the first 2 hours as long as 3 or fewer performers are called back per role, and none of those performers is on their first audition. Otherwise, a performer is entitled to $167.94 for the first 2 hours. For each additional half-hour over 2 hours, $42.00 is due.

 

• 4th Audition & thereafter:  No payment is due for the first 2 hours as long as 3 or fewer performers are called back per role, and none of those performers is on their first audition. (For each additional half-hour, $42.00 is due.) Otherwise, a performer is entitled to $335.87 for the first 4 hours. For each additional half-hour, $42.00 is due.

 

• Remember to use your SAG-AFTRA member ID number, not your Social Security number, to prevent identify theft and to sign in and out. If you are entitled to audition overtime and do not receive a check within 15 business days, contact the SAG-AFTRA office so that a claim can be filed.  Do not use “on file” on the audition sign-in sheets. Please be aware that if you do not put down an ID #, you may not be paid. Additionally, Pension and Health contributions are made on audition payments – yet another reason to make sure you are properly compensated.

 

Does a principal performer continue to receive residuals if he/she is edited out of the commercial?

Downgrade.  A principal performer is entitled to residuals and may not be downgraded as long as his/her face appears in the commercial.  If his/her face does not appear but his/her performance otherwise remains, the performer must be notified of a downgrade and paid a downgrade fee. A downgrade fee is not less than a session fee. Thereafter, the performer will not receive residual payments.

 

Outgrade. If a principal performer’s photography or soundtrack is completely edited out of the final version of the commercial, the performer must be notified of the outgrade.  The notification must be made within 60 days after the completion of employment but in no event later than 15 business days after the first use of the commercial.  No additional fees or residuals are paid to an outgraded performer.

Does SAG-AFTRA monitor the payments for Spanish language commercials?

Yes, all checks for Spanish language commercials are sent to the Union for verification before distribution to the performers. That way, Union can file claims for late or improper pay immediately.

How are performers paid when the producer makes a Spanish language commercial from an English language commercial?

If the commercial is filmed twice, performers receive two separate session fees and the commercials are considered separate spots for residual purposes. If the commercial is only filmed once and then the voice-over changes, the on-camera performers receive one session fee and one set of residuals.

How is foreign use paid on a Spanish language commercial?

For use in South America and/or Central America and/or Mexico, 4 session fees are due. For use in the Caribbean, 3 session fees are due. If the producer elects to exhibit the commercial in any country in South America, Central America and/or Mexico IN ADDITION TO any country in the Caribbean, a total of 4 session fees are due. For use in countries outside of those listed, the residual payments would be the same as an English language commercial (UK: 3 session fees; Europe: 2 session fees; Japan: 1 session fee; Asian-Pacific countries: 2 session fee; and anywhere else: 1 session fee). For use throughout the entire world, 9 session fees are due. Session and holding fees cannot be credited against foreign use.

How is overtime paid on a commercial?

After 8 hours of work, the 9th and 10th hours are paid at time-and-one-half and all hours after that are paid at double time in hourly units. All hours worked on Saturdays, Sundays or holidays are paid at double time. All overtime for an extra performer is based on the maximum pay the extra performer is receiving on that particular day, i.e., additional compensation for wet, snow, smoke or dust work is added to the daily rate and overtime is based on that new rate.

How is overtime paid?

A principal performer receives time-and-one-half for the ninth and tenth hours and double time thereafter, in hourly units. Principal performers receiving more than two times the session fee per commercial per day receive time-and-one-half instead of double time after the tenth hour.

How long is a performer “held” to a commercial?

The “maximum period of use” of a commercial is 21 months (a total of seven 13-week holding fee cycles). Provided the producer continues to make timely holding fee payments, the performer is held exclusive to the product for the 21-month period. If the performer (or his/her representative) does not send a timely renegotiation letter, the producer can extend the maximum period of use for an additional 21 months at the same rates as for the original 21 months. 

If a commercial produced under the Low Budget Digital Waiver airs beyond the 1-year-use-period on a site other than a social media platform, is Producer required to negotiate with the performers for this use?

Yes.

If performers are asked to translate the script at a session or an audition, do they get paid more?

Yes, an additional 50% of session is paid to any performer asked to provide translation services.

In the event of unanticipated budget overages do we lose the Low Budget Ditial Waiver?

No. From time-to-time unforeseen circumstances will have an adverse impact on the budget, and the Producer should not be penalized for these unforeseen circumstances. Examples of such unforeseen circumstances include your typical acts of Force Majeure (such as weather, illness, acts of God, and injury).

Is Producer required to get permission from the union in advance before using the Low Budget Digital Waiver or provide a final edit to the union for review?

No advance approval is required. Go produce! And it is not necessary to send in a copy of the commercial, although the union may request one if a claim is filed.

Is the producer obligated to send a notice releasing a performer from the commercial?

The producer is not obligated to send a notice releasing a performer from the commercial.  If a performer does not receive a holding fee for a new 13-week cycle, the performer has been released from the commercial. 

Is there a section on the employment contract to indicate working in smoke?

Yes.  The employment contract contains a check-off box indicating work in smoke.  Additionally, the producer must provide each performer with a Material Specification Data Sheet (MSDS) no later than the first day of employment when work in smoke is required.  An extra performer is entitled to additional compensation in the amount of $50.24 per day for work in smoke, wet, snow or dust (or any combination of these conditions).

Should producers use the SAG-AFTRA Commercials Contract standard employment agreement (i.e., A-1 or A-2)?

Yes, please continue to use the standard A-1 and A-2s for production and note the negotiated fees in the Special Provisions portion of the form.

What are holding fees?

Holding fees are paid to a performer in “fixed” cycles, every 13 weeks from the session date, if the producer wishes to retain the rights to air the commercial and wants to hold a performer exclusive to the product.  During this 13-week period, a performer cannot accept work in a commercial for a competitive
product. For example, if a performer has received a holding fee for a Pepsi commercial, he/she may not accept work for a commercial advertising Coca-Cola during that period of time.

What are the differences between Spanish language and English language residuals?

For Class A or program use residuals, Spanish language performers receive a per-cycle payment rather than a “pay-per-play” structure. The major Spanish language networks are either paid as program use or Wild Spot, depending on the media buy. For Wild Spot residuals, the television markets are weighted differently than in the English language market to account for the cities with large Hispanic populations. For example, Miami has a unit weight of 4 for the English market and a unit weight of 17 for the Spanish market. All cable use payments for Spanish language commercials are identical to English language commercials.

What are the payments for cable use?

1. Broadcast commercial used on cable networks: 

Cable residuals are based on the total units (up to a maximum of 3000 units) for all cable networks on which the commercial airs during a 13-week cycle.  A unit value is assigned to each network based on the number of subscribers.  Depending on the number of units, the payment to an on-camera performer will range from a minimum amount of $671.69 (session fee) to a maximum amount of $3,906.00.  (Group performers and voice-overs are paid under a similar formula with lower rates.) Session fees and holding fees may not be credited against cable use.

 

2. Cable-only commercial:

When a commercial is produced only for cable use, the formula described in Paragraph 1 above is used to calculate residuals.  In cable-only commercials, holding fees are paid and a performer is held exclusive to the product. Holding fees may not be credited against cable use. A performer must be advised at the time of audition and/or booking that a commercial is for cable-only. The maximum period of use for a cable-only commercial is limited to one year. The producer must contact the performer and negotiate for any extended use periods.

What are the payments for Internet use?

There are two potential use payments, although they pay different rates.

 

The difference in rates is based on whether the commercial is made for television and moved over to the Internet, or made specifically for the Internet.  A commercial may be used on the Internet for a 4-week, 8-week, or 1-year cycle.

What are the payments for New Media use?

New Media is defined as digital, electronic, or any other type of delivery platform including, but not limited to, commercials delivered via podcasts, delivery to mobile phones and other digital and electronic media platforms, whether now known or unknown. 

 

There are two potential use payments, although they pay different rates (and are a separate payment from Internet use).

 

The difference in rates is based on whether the commercial is made for television and moved over to New Media, or made specifically for New Media.  A commercial may be used on New Media for a 4-week, 8-week, or 1-year cycle.

What are the penalties if my check is paid late?

In the event of untimely payment, late payment damages are due as follows: $3.85 per business day up to 25 days or a maximum of $96.30. Additional damages become due in the event that a claim is filed and full payment is not made within a specified time. When a payment is not made on time, generally late payment damages are not included in the check unless a claim has been filed by the union. If your payment is made late and late payment damages have not been included in the check, please contact the Union to file a claim.

What does the Preference provision of the Low Budget Digital Waiver mean?

The goal of the bargaining parties in establishing the waiver is to increase the employment of professional performers in Internet/New Media commercials while also providing relief to signatory advertisers and advertising agencies. That being said, the union recognizes that in some instances (e.g., because of production location or costs) it may be difficult to hire professional performers. As a result, a Producer is permitted to hire non-professional performers, and will not be fined for Preference of Employment or Union Security. The Producer must, however, file a Taft-Hartley for each of the non-union performers.

What does “clean contract” mean?

On the front of the standard SAG-AFTRA employment contract, there are 4 separate boxes to check if you do not consent to use of your commercial on the Internet, as a dealer commercial, and/or on New Media. On the reverse side, two separate paragraphs grant rights to producer for foreign and theatrical/industrial use. Although not a contractual term, “clean contract” is used by producers to mean as a condition of employment, that you must grant these rights at the time of booking at scale, i.e., you may not mark your contract by checking off these boxes or crossing out the paragraphs.

 

In the event that the producer did not acquire these rights at the time of booking, the performer should check the boxes on the front and strike the paragraphs on the back. By doing so, the producer must come back to you and negotiate for these rights. If there is any question as to whether any of these rights were granted to producer, check with your agent before signing your contract.

What if a performer does not receive a holding fee?

If the producer has not paid a holding fee to a performer by the first day of the new holding fee cycle, he/she is released from exclusivity and may audition for, and accept employment in, a commercial for a competing product.  

What if the holding fee payment has been postmarked late?

Holding fees are due (and must be postmarked) no later than the first day of the holding fee cycle.  There are several choices if the holding fee is not paid on time. The performer may ask for late payment damages and accept the holding fee. Or the performer may reject the holding fee payment and consider him/herself released from exclusivity. Or the performer may reject the holding fee payment and renegotiate the terms of his/her contract pertaining to the commercial if the producer wishes to continue to use it.

What is an “omni”?

An “omni” is defined as atmospheric words or sounds, such as cheering at a sports event, spoken by a group. 

What is included in the $50,000 budget limit?

The $50,000 includes the production line only (including, for example, talent, director, producer, props, wardrobe, and location fees). Post-production costs (including, for example, editorial, agency travel, dub and shipping costs) are not included.

What is the difference between a “first refusal” and a “hold”?

When a casting director issues a “first refusal” it means that a final casting decision has not been made; the casting director is requesting that the performer contact him/her before accepting a booking for another job on the same day(s), i.e., giving the original producer the first opportunity to book the person. A “first refusal” is not a booking and the performer has no contractual obligation to get back to the casting director or turn down the second job nor does the producer owe a cancellation fee if the performer is not used. As a professional courtesy, it is suggested that the performer advise the casting director of the second job before accepting the booking.

 

If a performer has been put on “hold,” the producer has engaged the performer and a cancellation fee is due if the producer cancels the engagement.  A cancellation fee would not be paid when a performer is placed on an “avail” and not used.

 

These terms are not always used properly. If you have a question as to whether you have been definitely booked, you or your agent should ask the casting director, “Is this a booking?”

What is the difference between sweetening and multiple tracking (Singers)?

Multiple tracking, which requires an additional 50% of the original fee for solos and duos, is a re-recording over the original track or adding another track, electronically or mechanically, which contains the same material as recorded on the original track.  Sweetening, which requires an additional 100% of the original fee for solos and duos, is the addition of a new or variant track over the original track. Group performers are paid an additional 50% of the original fee for unlimited multiple tracking and/or sweetening.

What is the effective date of the Low Budget Digital Waiver?

Immediately.

What is the extra performer’s session payment for an Internet-only or New Media-only commercial?

The minimum fees for a commercial made directly for the Internet and/or New Media is the same as a television commercial $366.37.   

What is Wild Spot use?

Wild Spot is a type of use in which a commercial does not air on interconnected stations and does not sponsor a program.  Time is bought on individual stations in individual markets or cities. Each market/city is assigned a unit value based on the number of television households and the performer is paid for all units of use within a 13-week cycle.

 

The Wild Spot payment is due within 15 working days from the start date of the cycle. If the commercial is broadcast in additional cities within the 13-week cycle, the producer may pay for those additional units within 15 working days from the end date of that 13-week cycle.

What is “Class A” use?

This type of use is considered “network broadcast use.” If a commercial is running on interconnected stations (a network) in more than 21 cities, or sponsors a program (“This program is brought to you by …”) it constitutes Class A program use. The cycle begins with the first use date and payments are made on a declining rate formula for each use occurring within a 13-week period. 

 

For example, the first Class A use is paid at the same rate as the session fee. The second use within the 13-week cycle is $157.11 for an on-camera performer. Uses #3-13 are paid at $124.64 each and the 14th and each use thereafter is paid at $59.75.  (Group performers and voice-over performers are paid under a similar formula, with lower rates reflecting their classifications).

What should I do if I don’t believe I’ve been paid properly?

If you see your commercial airing but are not receiving use fees, you should file a claim with the Union. When you do so, it is helpful to provide as much information as possible, including the date of the sighting, the program, the channel, and the time. If you see your commercial on the Internet, take a “screen shot” of it as proof.

When are meals due? What are the liquidated damages if not fed on time?

The first meal period must be called not later than 6 hours from the call time. All subsequent meal periods are due not later than 6 hours after the termination of the preceding meal period. Damages for violations are $25.00 for each of the 1st and 2nd half hours and $50.00 for each 1/2 hour thereafter.

When are payments for residuals due?

Residual payments must be postmarked within 15 working days from the first use in a 13-week cycle.  However, payment for all Class A uses that occur from Monday through Sunday are due within 15 working days from the following Monday. In the event that payment is not made on time, late payment damages become due. 

When is the session payment due for a commercial?

Session payment for a commercial is due 15 business days after the session.

When must a renegotiation notice be sent to the producer (or advertising agency)?

A renegotiation letter must be sent 60 to 120 days (two to four months) prior to the end of the maximum period of use.  Check your pay stub to find the end date of the maximum period of use (MPU), and count back 60 to 120 days to establish when you or your agent must send the notice.  The letter should be sent to the producer (ad agency) listed on your employment contract, as well as an electronic copy sent to the Union.  The letter to the producer (ad agency) may be send via e-mail, return receipt requested, to the producer’s (ad agency’s) address identified on the employment contract.  Sending the letter gives the performer the right to renegotiate new rates or to say he/she does not grant the right to continued use of the commercial.

 

If your agent does not send a renegotiation letter, and the commercial is renewed for an additional 21 months at the minimum scale rate, he/she may not take a commission.

When, exactly, should notification be made to performers or their agents that this job is subject to the Low Budget Digital Waiver?

For principal performers, this information should be in the casting breakdown or stated to performer/performer’s agent prior to receiving an audition call time. Extra performers must be informed prior to booking the job.

Who is allowed to produce under the Low Budget Digital Waiver?

It is only available to JPC authorizers and advertisers and advertising agencies that are signatories to the SAG-AFTRA Commercials Contract. The waiver is not available to 3rd party signatories.

Would a new commercial be created if the ending were changed?

Under certain circumstances, the beginning and/or ending of a commercial made for a particular advertiser may be changed without creating an additional commercial for residual purposes. The Contract provisions governing this area are complicated and we suggest that you contact your local SAG-AFTRA office for assistance.