Options clauses for TV actors: Time for an overhaul?
Equity is renegotiating the Equity Screen Agreements with the Screen Producers Association for the first time in seven years. These agreements set performers’ wages and conditions for all Australian screen productions. There are some big claims on the table, including "options".
What is an option?
Under the Australian TV Programs Agreement (the Equity/SPA agreement) if you’re a weekly performer or a performer in a Major Role, the producer can contractually require you to return for subsequent seasons for up to three years. These are called “options”.
Why does Equity want to change the current option clause?
Sometimes producers will only offer a performer a few weeks work on Season One but options can jeopardise the performer’s access to work on other projects for an entire three year period because a producer may insist on the performer keeping themselves available for long periods.
Performers need greater certainty with options. Income is too uncertain and unemployment too high in our industry to have any unnecessary barriers to work.
In our survey prior to negotiations respondents (agents and performers) identified the tightening of the options clause as a major priority and there was overwhelming support for the below claims.
What are some of the main changes Equity is seeking?
1. A performer can only be contracted under option if they are weekly and receive a minimum guaranteed number of shoot weeks.
2. The performer will be guaranteed the same pay in the subsequent season plus the 5% uplift, unless the parties agree otherwise.
3. Currently, the producer advises the performer of a window when the next season is likely to start (earliest and latest likely start date) and the performer must keep themselves available. This window needs to be limited, for example, to three months (rather than commonly a year), after which the option lapses. This way performers do not unreasonably miss out on other work.
Negotiations between SPA and the Equity Screen Committee will continue next month.
Members of the Equity Screen Committee are; Fiona Press, Geoff Morrell, Michala Banas, Michael McCall, Dustin Clare, Alan Fletcher, Nadine Garner, Ian Meadows, Dan Spielman, Brooke Satchwell, Michael Balk, Nicholas Coghlan, Glenn Hazeldine, Wayne Blair, Pearl Tan and Rob Collins.
Please discuss your thoughts on options and share any experience you have at your Equity cast visits or please email email@example.com