Freelance Contracts as Performers for Events in Orlando
Being a professional performer or dancer means finding different ways to supplement your income. Especially in the U.S. I can only speak from experience about working events as an independent contractor in Orlando, but I've talked with performers from different areas and there are a few things that come up.
Performing in events has allowed me to meet a bunch of different people, perform at some pretty cool events, and have a bit of fun and variety. It has also allowed me to see how performers are treated and all too often, it is not very well. I have had production companies stipulate in their contract that you might now get paid for up to a year and they have also tried to not follow their contracted schedule/pay/etc. What you may not realize as a performer are your rights contractually. I was not aware of how contracts truly work until I studied them in a law class I took during university and I honestly wish I would have known better sooner.
In entertainment, we are taught to listen, obey, and just do as the employer asks. Because every opportunity is an opportunity and we never know what can happen and we must always do as the director says and blah blah blah. Wrong! This is one of those conversations that we need to have regarding the treatment of dancers and environment of performing. Unfortunately, sticking up for myself has also gotten me in trouble. Trouble in the sense of not receiving job offers from the company anymore, but is that really trouble? Perhaps it is more disappointment because of fomo, but not really. Are the two numbers you are performing really worth the all day event plus six rehearsals plus costume fitting for a grand total of $150? Maybe there is something more productive you can be doing with your time that is healthy and provides more stability or self growth/development.
Photo from an event many years ago! One of the fun things about events is getting to play a bit of dress up ;)
I will give an example. There was a company who had an event, a show, that was to be performed twice in two different locations. The first being in Daytona and the second in Orlando some weeks later on NYE. The idea was that we would rehearse and have all the numbers together for the first and then have one or two brush up rehearsals the couple days before NYE. We were communicated this by text and was agreed upon by the performers and the employer. We also had a contract with the amount we were to get paid and specifics for the days of performance. Here's the thing......texting confirmation constitutes as a contract in law. Read that again-texting confirmation constitutes as a contract in law. We have lives and employers cannot just change rehearsals or shows as they see fit that go against the contract already agreed upon. They can make amendments to the contract, but this company did not do that. They were unhappy with how the first one went so they decided they wanted to change the second performance by adding new choreography and bringing back choreography from a previous show (without giving credit to the choreographer) and adding rehearsals without any additional monetary value. It is the holiday season, people are busy. I stood up for myself after a fellow performer called me crying because they wanted to spend time with their family as scheduled. I told the company that they already agreed to a contract, the same as we, and we would be open to talking about discussing it but there had to be some sort of compensation. Their solution........learn from a video. Are you kidding? Do you know how long it takes to learn from a video? Not to mention that the video they sent did not even have any mention of which side to learn, etc.
When I brought this up to them, they were livid. There was also no mention of any compensation for spending time to learn off a video. It went completely against the contract and that is not what they wanted to hear. I was deemed difficult to work with after having worked with them for years doing all sorts of roles. It is amazing to see how quickly an attitude changes when one stands up for themselves and others and it is an awful shame for companies to think that this behavior and treatment is acceptable and appropriate. Just because someone isn't obeying as a dog makes them difficult? How about these companies actually pay their performers for their actual worth and understand that they can't just change what they want to do as they see fit without adjusting their contract.
This is not the case for all production companies and there are a few in Orlando that treat their performers well, take into consideration the time and effort put into it, and abide by the statements within their contracts. If you are a performer I cannot tell you the importance it is to READ YOUR CONTRACT!!! The whole thing. Carefully. If you have questions, ask. If something seems odd, don't do it. A couple hundred dollars is not worth your health, physical or mental.
As events are happening once again and more work opportunity is coming available, now is the time for performers to be able to stand up for themselves and make sure that they come back strong and protected. For the sake of themselves and for the future.
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