Good Should Win

“The more things change the more they stay the same.”

Years ago, OK, decades ago, I was in charge of hiring performers to appear on some of the biggest and most famous advertising campaigns in Western Canada.

I was also in charge of the overall budgets of those campaigns. The client would give us a certain amount of money and we had to produce radio or TV commercials within that budget. There wasn’t much leeway. You had to make it work. And I, along with the creative team and account people at the agency, always made it work.

This is why I’m laughing at the hoopla over the “a man got paid more than a woman for a reshoot on a film” issue. The male actor is being called out. What bullshit.

I’m guessing that both actors didn’t have much to do with the final terms of the contract for the work. Their agents would have been the people conducting the negotiations. Performers rarely deal with the money side of their business and there is a good reason for it.

Number one, business is business and agents can usually get you a better deal as well as knowing the rules of the game. Number two, and maybe the most important aspect… the actor gets to be removed from the debate and blame for anything said or done during the negotiations. They can show up on set all nice and friendly and everyone’s pal. This system works very well.

I don’t know if this was done with the actors for the re-shoots for “All the Money in the World” but I would guess it was. So maybe we should have thrown the agents under the bus instead of the actors. We could have stopped yelling.

Even my fav picture with a celebrity follows that same story. I had trouble locating Mr T’s agent and had phoned every place I could think of to secure Mr. T’s appearance on a commercial. Then I got the call… and please imagine this being said in the iconic Mr T voice… (I do a pretty good imitation)

“Hello Trisha Barka, this is Mr. T talkin’. Everywhere I go people tellin’ me Trisha Barka tryin’ to find me. She been callin’ everyone. So I know I betta call her and tell her I hear her. I preciate the hard work to find me. My agent will call you.”

You get the gist of it. Hey, it’s Mr T!! At no time during our conversation did he say he would work on the campaign. All he said is that his agent would call. Luckily we were able to negotiate a contract and I got to meet the man. Even though I acted as his personal assistant while he was in town, at NO time did he and I discuss the terms of the contract. Never. If there was an issue I would have called his agent. Luckily there were no problems and he was a pleasure to work with.

It was the same with every other celeb we dealt with from Lou Rawls to Howie Mandel. From Leslie Nielsen to Ruth Buzzy (look her up!) We always dealt with the agents.

It was all our safety net.

Something else to note. The actors union that controls most of the productions done in Canada designates an actor as a performer. Not male or female, but a performer.

I’m not saying that women should not make as much as men, but I am saying that maybe we are screaming at the wrong thing.

I loved being in control of the negotiations back at my old job. Here’s a little story on what I felt was important.

Our local voice-over performers working on commercials had set fees and often didn’t use agents. This was long before it became the norm for most people in the business.

A few times a year we recorded radio commercials for the biggest selling beer in BC. It was huge and very iconic. The performers that appeared on the commercials were very well known.

The lead male had a set fee for the year. We paid him lots of money and he was worth every penny. He was the star. There were three others regulars. One was a woman that appeared in only a couple of spots and she was compensated well at her usual pay scale for the minor character on the campaign. Another male played an iconic part and negotiations with him were brutal. He pushed too hard and asked for too much each time. The back and forth went on forever before a fee was agreed to. He had us over a barrel and knew it. The last man was a beloved local TV guy. He never negotiated and always seemed so happy to get the call to come work on the campaign. I always paid him the same as the jerk that caused us grief.

I did this because I felt you should never be penalized for being a nice guy.

It was my own way of balancing the playing field.

Life is not fair but a good person should always win the day.

Back in the day when I thought I ruled the world.


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