Reality television is big business and for many aspiring stars, a chance to make it in the entertainment industry. But before the cameras start rolling, an important part of the process is the negotiation and hopeful execution of the contract that will make the reality show, a reality. Most contracts ask individuals to sign away their privacy rights, have stiff confidentiality agreements and may further include defamation waivers.
The contract is the production company and network’s way of managing the value of a potential celebrity and controlling most of the creative and business elements of the show. If the “artist” becomes a star, the contract will spell out what kind of money the production company and network will gain for future shows and licensing. Many reality show contracts are so ironclad, however, that they can portray your image in any way chosen by the producers, throughout various media. Oftentimes, by signing the various waivers accompanying the contract, cast members agree not to sue if something happens to them physically or emotionally.
When you agree to this, you are allowing a show to portray you in any way, even if it is unfavorable. It is important to have a good lawyer review the contract first to make sure your rights and safety are upheld.
Be very wary of any contracts that require upfront payment or minimal or contingent compensation. Reality TV participants must give their consent before a show can use footage of them, as most shows want rights for usage in perpetuity or will want to sell it to someone else in the future. Most contracts are all-encompassing as oftentimes scenes are still in development after the cameras start shooting. The fine print will discuss the potential of bodily harm, fights, sexually transmitted diseases and emotional distress.
These shows will purposefully embarrass or humiliate you and, sometimes, they will even provoke violence, but so many people want to go on them because they think it will be their big break into stardom. If you are not asked for consent, you need to talk to an attorney immediately to safeguard your rights and privacy.
Many contracts also have hefty penalties should a cast member leak the winner or conclusion of the show. It is not uncommon to have a fine between $5 and $10 million in the confidentiality agreement.
The Law Offices of Spotora & Associates specializes in negotiating and drafting contracts, securing copyrights and trademarks, and litigating and protecting entertainment clients’ rights. Many celebrities, upcoming TV stars, studios, agencies, and production houses have sought their expertise and individualized attention.
Reality TV can be a lot of fun, but cast members must take the contract very seriously. It is worth the extra effort to consult an attorney to know what you are getting yourself into.