My son has learned a little trick that anyone who has more than one child may have experienced. Whenever he wants to do something, or get something that my wife and I may frown upon or say no to, he’ll get his younger sister to ask us.
The number of times she’s asked to play a video game, or watch a TV show, or eat something that really wasn’t her taste began to make my wife and I suspicious that someone else was behind the actual request. It’s an effective tactic because if there was any negative response—a lecture about the importance of reading or not spoiling your dinner—he’d avoid it and be able to stay in our good books. (And his sister is younger and cuter and less likely to get reprimanded.)
When I used to work in the entertainment world, the same scenario played itself out. Rather than an actor having to make expensive or inconvenient demands, they’d have their manager or agent negotiate it for them. It meant that the actor could stay on good speaking terms with the producer and director while still usually getting most of what he or she wanted.
This also had another advantage: it usually meant that the deal was actually completed. Often times those who are too close to what they want, or feel that they deserve, will let emotions get in the way of the bigger picture.
An all-too-common experience in the film-making world is a producer making a deal with a potential financier (executive producer) and yet eventually having the agreement fall apart. They both want the same thing: to make a good movie that is profitable.
As laid out in the producer’s business plan, everything makes sense, and they’re excited to finalize the agreement, make the movie, make the money, and win the Oscars. But before any of that can happen, the deal has to be papered. And this is where 95 percent of deals fall apart.
Why? Weren’t all the deal points covered?
They were. But in making it an official contract, language and terms have to be detailed that tackle rights, obligations, and penalties.
The contract itself has to address worst-case scenarios, and when it does, the tone of the agreement can become confrontational. Instead of both sides giving the other the benefit of the doubt, and working to ensure everyone’s interests are met, they’re now assuming the worst, and positions become locked in.
When left to the producer and financier to work it out, the tone can quickly go from friendly, to suspicious, to hostile. This is why it’s good in these cases to let someone else, such as a lawyer or agent with no emotional investment, finalize all the details. They can keep their focus on the bigger prize of closing the deal, which should be good for everyone, rather than having it fall apart and benefiting no one.
Being part of a union has many benefits, but one of the simplest ones is letting someone else—an experienced expert—be the one negotiating on behalf of your interests and staying emotionally detached. When it’s all done, you hopefully have a great agreement and can stay on good terms with your employer. And going to work can be a pleasant experience instead of a tension-filled one.