Finding out you might be on a Reality TV show is a big deal. It's a cause for celebration, but it's also a time for caution. The producers of the show are going to want you to sign a contract. Many people are so excited for the chance to be on TV that they eagerly sign whatever piece of paper is put in front of them. It is important to realize that when you sign a contract, the consequences could affect you for the rest of your life.
Before you sign a potentially disastrous deal, make sure you understand what is in the contract that you are signing. You probably have more leverage to negotiate than you realize.
How Hollywood Contracts Work
In Reality TV, the producers of the show have all the power. If they are considering you for their show, their first priority is to get you to sign a contract. You may not even be guaranteed a part on the show yet.
The contracts are all written to favor the show and the producers. But keep in mind, the contract you are given is just a first offer. If you have reached the contract stage, that means they are interested in you. You have some leverage. You owe it to yourself to make sure you know what is in the contract and to negotiate for better treatment.
Virtually all Reality TV show contracts have a provision that any disputes over the contract must be heard in a California court. California courts often side with the show and the producers when it comes to upholding the contract. You cannot count on the court to bail you out of a bad deal.
Contract Clauses to Watch Out For
You should carefully read through your entire contract before signing it. You should also get the advice of an experienced entertainment lawyer.
Here are some clauses you should pay special attention to:
- Termination Clause – Understand what happens when things go bad and someone breaks the contract.
- Release of Liability – Make sure you understand what you are promising not to sue them over. If you are not comfortable with the release, it's time to negotiate.
- Hold Period – Once filming begins through some time after the last episode airs, you will need permission from the producers before you can appear on any other show. If the period is too long, you may want to negotiate better terms.
- Life Story Rights – Producers often add an exclusive right to sell your life story not in conjunction with the TV show. This means that they can sell your life story for theatrical motion pictures, stage plays, radio, internet, or through any other media and you will not be compensated. You should never accept this term in your contract.
- Right to Defame You – Most contracts will allow the producers portray you in any way they want, even if it is false and misleading. This clause requires you to give up your right to sue the producers for defaming you.
- Royalties on Future Earnings – Producers will try and claim a percentage of all your future earnings outside of the show for a period of time. Be cautious with this clause. You don't know what your future holds. Both the percentage of future earnings and the time period should be negotiated.
Role of an Entertainment Lawyer
The fact is that as excited as you are about the opportunity to be on a Reality TV show, you never know what your future holds. You most likely have never signed an entertainment industry contract before. You may be unfamiliar with many of the terms.
An entertainment lawyer can help educate you about your contract and help you negotiate a deal that better protects your future rights without jeopardizing your current opportunity.
Getting a part on a Reality TV show may be an incredible once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Make sure that you get expert advice so that you don't regret being on the show for the rest of your life.