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Does the voice over talent I hired need to sign a release?
Old 15th February 2020
  #1
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Hxd Ped's Avatar
Does the voice over talent I hired need to sign a release?

For the first time ever, I've hired (as in paying them money) a professional voice over person for a project I'm working on. Do I need to have them sign a release like I'm having the on-camera talent sign? This isn't being broadcast. It's only being shown to a convention audience.

This is the first time I've been the head of a project like this, so I've never been the person who had to worry about this kind of stuff before.

Thank you.
Old 15th February 2020
  #2
Lives for gear
Yes. Any professional non-union talent should provide you with an invoice covering the work and its use, which serves as a release. Or if you're paying them at the session, they should sign a release including description, use, and fee.

You're going to want this information at tax time, anyway, so you can document the production expense.

With the latest changes in tax law, talent should also provide you with a W2... or if this is strictly a one-shot for less than a few hundred bucks, at least their Taxpayer ID (SS# or EIN) and full address should be on the invoice or release.

Union talent and talent working as a "for services of" corporation will have their own billing procedures. If the gig is strictly union, I'd advise contacting a paymaster.
Old 15th February 2020
  #3
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I personaly do that depending on the situation. Most of the time (voiceactor is a pro, you are a pro, client is a pro) the invoice will be enough. If you told him that the voice over will be used on a convention - and he named his price based on that information - and the invoice says something like "voiceover for convention" - everything should be fine.

But, if you have any doubt that everybody understands perfectly what they agreed upon, get it in writing. Sometimes an email to everyone involved is enough. Just explain what the recording is used for. If no one objects, you are good.
Old 17th February 2020
  #4
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Farmboy presents's Avatar
If you hired someone to voiceover using words they didn't write, and you paid them for their time then i dont see why they have any say at all in releasing. Its your thing, not theirs. No idea about the union aspect; they dont exist here (nz) in practice. Anyone can change a light bulb or plug in a mic around here.
Old 17th February 2020
  #5
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eoats's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hxd Ped View Post
For the first time ever, I've hired (as in paying them money) a professional voice over person for a project I'm working on. Do I need to have them sign a release like I'm having the on-camera talent sign? This isn't being broadcast. It's only being shown to a convention audience.

This is the first time I've been the head of a project like this, so I've never been the person who had to worry about this kind of stuff before.

Thank you.

YES. Be a pro & get the signed release saying what it is being used for.
Old 17th February 2020
  #6
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jay Rose View Post
Yes. Any professional non-union talent should provide you with an invoice covering the work and its use, which serves as a release.
An invoice and release all in one is nice, but I'd never expect it from the talent. Up until now, I'd spell it out for the talent or the talent's agent and copy anyone else who cares (ad agency, client) and then have a "deal memo" at the session saying the same things. But in 2020 in California, things like this are rapidly falling off the grid, especially at the lower end of the scale. It's in flux.
Old 18th February 2020
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
An invoice and release all in one is nice, but I'd never expect it from the talent....
Maybe it's an East Coast thing, but I've never had talent balk when I said I needed an invoice before payment. The cats who knew me would send an invoice when they got back to their desks. The one-shots might look puzzled, but I'd hand them a piece of paper and say "Name, Address, SS#, Date, something like 'regional voice-over for Smelly's Pizza', and the amount". They'd write for a few minutes and I'd hand them a check.

I'd expect a scribbled invoice from a guy painting my ceiling. Why not from a professional actor?

This was the procedure for industrials, low-budget spots, and other ad-hoc stuff. For bigger projects, I always honored my sig status... because anybody good around here was in the union. But also always kept a bunch of union contracts in a drawer and they'd fill them out. Then I'd send a check through my paymaster.

But this was years ago, and things do change. These days, anyone with a USB mic and a website calls themselves a voice actor... and I stopped recording voice-overs when I moved from ad agency work to features.
Old 18th February 2020
  #8
I have a standard release form the VO talent signs before I hand them a check. We live in a litigious society. Better off safe than sued...FWIW
Old 18th February 2020
  #9
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Im still not understanding, are you saying that the VO talent that you pay and direct could have some claim on the finished product even if they were paid for the job?
Old 18th February 2020
  #10
Quote:
Originally Posted by Farmboy presents View Post
Im still not understanding, are you saying that the VO talent that you pay and direct could have some claim on the finished product even if they were paid for the job?
If they think they have been screwed then yes it is a good idea to have a release form signed and dated and, if necessary, witnessed so they cannot sue you later.

You do a spot for a local client, the client sends the spot to his advertising company and they like it so much that they send it to YouTube or use it for a national spot. Guess what you are going to be the one that is blamed. I always get a signed release form because you never know what is going to happen to the VO once it leaves your hands. FWIW
Old 18th February 2020
  #11
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jay Rose View Post
Maybe it's an East Coast thing, but I've never had talent balk when I said I needed an invoice before payment.
Me neither, but I've never had a talent voluntarily draft an "all media in perpetuity" release.
Old 21st February 2020
  #12
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iluvcapra's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Farmboy presents View Post
Im still not understanding, are you saying that the VO talent that you pay and direct could have some claim on the finished product even if they were paid for the job?
It’s not necessarily the talent’s claim. Actors can often have relationships with clients or businesses where they are the “spokesperson” and their face and voice CANNOT appear in a medium for any other purpose than to sell the one company. Or, even more fun, an actor can have an agreement with a project or producer that their name or voice cannot appear in certain media ads as long as they are principal cast on such-and-such a TV show, or their are restrictions on the kids of products...
Old 21st February 2020
  #13
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Woah. If talent comes to your session knowing who the client is, and then records the script, it’s a good idea to have an agreement with them covering usage and payment...

But any pre-existing talent arrangements with other clients are besides the point. If the session was a conflict for the talent, they shouldn't have done it. Not your problem. You didn’t sign the exclusivity agreement.

Even in a case with a conflict, all the release says is “actor knew this was a recording for client x, to be used y”.

But yes, of course the talent does have some claim on the recording after they've been paid paid. If you and they agreed to a 13 week local spot, and the recording ends up on network for 26 weeks, talent has a very big claim against you. Ditto if the “closed-audience industrial narration” ends up in a national theatrical trailer.

That’s why the release or invoice or union contract should spell out the use that you’ve both agreed to. Not 'all media anywhere in the universe any time', but exactly where this recording can be used. (Or if not a buyout, that this is just for the session, and a separate payment is expected for use or residuals.)

Last edited by Jay Rose; 21st February 2020 at 04:51 PM..
Old 4 weeks ago
  #14
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Farmboy presents's Avatar
Ok, thanks for those examples. Learned something. On a Tuesday too.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #15
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Dan Popp's Avatar
In the US, when a freelancer like a voice actor does something for you, and you pay him/her, that project is called a "work for hire." That's a legal term that means you own it, he/she doesn't. But, as others have said, it doesn't hurt to have it in writing. I've been a voice actor for more than 30 years and I've been asked to sign a talent release maybe 3 or 4 times. Now, Non-Disclosure Agreements I sign a little more often.

Nobody on my side of the pop filter can make a career out of selling client secrets or pilfering their products. So if you're dealing with a career pro and not one of these hobbyists who got a USB mic for Christmas and now is a voiceover star, you won't have any problem. We want repeat business, and we won't get that by pissing off clients.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #16
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I'd check any legal advice with an actual lawyer. Work-for-hire has a precise definition (by the IRS), and voice actor probably qualifies. But "contractor" is changing even as we speak, and so the terms of the employment contract may modify any ownership presumptions. And not only is there an implied contract in a simple booking, but the industry and union have some pretty well established rules.

In other words, if I hire you to say "Blooper Soap is Good Soap" with the understanding it's a local radio spot only, you've got a good case if that recording turns up in a national TV campaign.

IANAL.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #17
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iluvcapra's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jay Rose View Post
I'd check any legal advice with an actual lawyer. Work-for-hire has a precise definition (by the IRS), and voice actor probably qualifies. But "contractor" is changing even as we speak, and so the terms of the employment contract may modify any ownership presumptions. And not only is there an implied contract in a simple booking, but the industry and union have some pretty well established rules.

In other words, if I hire you to say "Blooper Soap is Good Soap" with the understanding it's a local radio spot only, you've got a good case if that recording turns up in a national TV campaign.

IANAL.
For features and broadcast, like, part of the producer's deliverable to the distributor is a copy of all the fully executed actor's contracts. Don’t ad agencies require this too?
Old 4 weeks ago
  #18
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by iluvcapra View Post
For features and broadcast, like, part of the producer's deliverable to the distributor is a copy of all the fully executed actor's contracts. Don’t ad agencies require this too?
Yes. Most of the talent agents I deal with, though, have been getting away from the practice of having their clients (the actors) actually deal with any paperwork themselves. So on a session, the talent and I will compare notes on what actually went down -- in and out times, number of spots and tags, etc. -- and email the agent with that info, but the agent will do the actual contract-signing, which they can as the talent's legal proxy. The only exception is, or should be, when the talent doesn't have an actual signed representation deal with an agent. But usually the talent and the agent are the only two people who know that.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #19
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YMMV.

I did ad agency work almost exclusively for a couple of decades, with a bunch of NY and Boston agencies (and a slew of Clios).
For big agencies, the agency's producer booked the talent and me separately -- they'd ask recommendations, but rely on their own contracts. So my deliverable was the master (and any dubs or uploads) and an invoice.
For smaller agencies, I'd book the talent as sig, but have the agency sign a proposal that included third-party agreement they'd respect the union terms. I paid talent/agent/P&W/FICA through my paymaster, and agency paid me for all that plus a markup. Plus, of course, my studio charges...
FWIW, I handled needle-drops by paying and marking up the library fee, and specifying the use on my proposal or invoice.

But I got out of agency work c2000, to concentrate on series and features. I wanted a bigger canvas than :30 or :60, and was getting too old to go out drinking with the creatives...

...things might have changed since then.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #20
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jay Rose View Post
I wanted a bigger canvas than :30 or :60, and was getting too old to go out drinking with the creatives...

...things might have changed since then.
Yeah, things have changed. We've gotten even older. And nobody travels for radio anymore. If they're in town doing TV, I can meet up with them if I schlep all the way from the valley to somewhere walking distance from their hotel on PCH. So I find a reason not to. Kinda sucks for the ones who have two more weeks to go and have already pissed away their per diems.
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