Protect yourself by making sure all partnerships, deals, options and decisions are backed up in writing, and preferably with the help (or at least the scrutiny) of an entertainment attorney. Most people you're going to be dealing with have the most honorable of intentions—but not all of them. Besides, minds get changed, misunderstandings occur, finances run out and grievances, lawsuits and insurance claims are filed every day.
When you start a new job, make sure you have a deal memo, even if you're working for free. The deal memo should specify your salary (including overtime rates and payment for sixth and seventh days worked); how you will be traveling to location; how much your per diem will be; if you'll be receiving screen credit, etc. Signed deal memos protect both you and the production company. When you're working for free, are you getting gas money? Will the company supply your lunches? Will you be getting screen credit? To ensure that you receive what's been promised, get a deal memo. In addition, when you're working a show, cover your ass by:
• Keeping careful inventories and noting when something is lost or damaged.
• Keeping a log detailing dates and incidents when you're experiencing difficulties with another employee.
• Confirming all major decisions and commitments in writing; and if an official agreement or contract is not drawn up, writing a confirming memo detailing the arrangement.
• Having an attorney review all agreements and contracts before you sign them.
• Treating favors just like any other agreement. Favors involving any type of exchange are nice but can also backfire on you. All such agreements should be backed up with a letter in writing stating the exact terms of the exchange and releasing the company from any further obligations.
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