Are there any legal rights protecting actors investment of time and money who are terminated before payment is otherwise due?

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Are there any legal rights protecting actors investment of time and money who are terminated before payment is otherwise due?

I had an acting contract to perform a lead role in a movie for which I would be compensated $2,400 and 4% of the profit. The studios contract stated I was an “at will” employee. After 4 weeks of preparation and rehearsal, and one day prior to the beginning of the movie shoot, I was terminated without cause and replaced by the actress who originally held the role, but resigned prior to me being hired. The company refuses to pay me for the time I invested (rehearsals) and for the items I was told to purchase for the film (costumes).

Asked on December 20, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Indiana

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

For a definitive answer, you need to bring the contract to an employment law attorney to review with you, since contracts are interpreted as per their plain terms. One position you may be able to take is that the studio violated the "implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing"--the obligation, imposed by law, to not try to deny the other party the "fruit" or benefit of the agreement--by firing you right before the movie, after you'd rehearsed for weeks. Another position may be that you could enforce their promise to pay you under the theory of "promissory estoppel," since you did things to your detriment (spending tmie in rehearsals, which is time you could have spent looking for or at other work; buying items) in reasonable reliance on  their promise, which things they should have reasonably known you would have done. The covenant of good faith and fair dealing and promissory estoppel coud each potentially provide grounds to hold the contractual promise enforceable, even if the explicit terms of the contract would not help you. You  should discuss these theories with your attorney.


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