First of all, thank you very much for asking your attorney friend about this.
Now, the attorney invokes paragraphs 3, 7, and 8 of the release form to say that I would not win any case. However, I was thinking that, because the title of the release form is "48 Hour Film Project Waiver and Release Form", because paragraph 1 states that I am agreeing to participate in the 48 HFP, and because the producers essentially *withdrew* our team from the contest by not submitting the finished film, the entire release form can be declared null and void.
What does the attorney think of that argument?
Also, I notice that you live in California. Is the attorney that you consulted a California attorney or an Illinois attorney?
In order to get minimum wage, all a person has to do is to file a minimum-wage claim with the Illinois Labor Dept. or the Federal Labor Dept. The dept. would examine the claim, and, if the claim were valid, the dept. would order the employer to pay up. If the employer refused to do so, the dept. would use govt. attorneys to go after the employer. The employee (myself) doesn't pay a dime to any attorney.
And, for the record, these producers are not poor people. They spent money on meals, hotels, fuel, etc. They were going over the rules very carefully, trying to figure out what they could
spend money on (meals, hotels, etc.) and what they could not spend money on (services of actors and crew members). It is highly probable that, if the rules allowed the producers to pay the actors, the producers would do so. I did not get the impression that the producers were stingy people.
The problem I have with that reasoning is that, if actors believed that and acted on that belief, then every producer would simply decide to not pay actors. If there is no deterrent to bad behavior, the bad behavior will continue.
Besides, I've already been an actor for many years. I'm not some newbie. For me, the future is now. I can't simply allow producers to not pay me, hoping for some "future" benefit.
Also, while it's true that these producers could someday become big hot shots and give me some major role, it is also true that these producers could become big hot shots and IGNORE all of their actor friends in Chicago.
A few years ago, I had a small speaking role in an independent short film. The lead actor in the film went on to have a big theatrical role in Chicago, and later he moved to New York to do more theatre. I thought: "Oh, cool. This big star in New York is my Facebook friend. This could be good for my career."
Well, guess what? The guy eventually unfriended me. Maybe I just wasn't cool enough to be friends with a big New York theatre actor.
Forgoing monetary pay in order to have industry contacts MAY be a good idea, but only if these contacts actually want to be your contacts.
Well, I'm not really sure why you decided to change the topic to whether I should move to LA. I wasn't asking about moving to LA or to any other city.
I think there are a few things we can all agree on here.
1) No matter how many different ways you've phrased your question or made your case to this forum, the consensus remains the same: You have no case. Period. We think you have a misguided grasp of the legalities. So, right or wrong, that's been the consistent consensus.
2) No matter how many different ways we've responded--including offering a professional legal opinion--you're determined to stick to your original idea that you're entitled to compensation, and it's become clear that nothing has--or will--change that.
So, finally, I think the best thing you can do, if for nothing else than to satisfy yourself, is to move forward with your plan and file a claim. But I have a concern. I'm concerned that when your claim is denied, as I suspect it will be, you'll still believe you were entitled, and go through the rest of your life believing you were wronged, just because some amateur film makers decided their film wasn't ready to be shown.
But I really don't think there's anything to be gained by continuing your inquiry here, do you? I don't think there's anything anyone can say that will change your direction on this.
I think you might be missing the whole point here. You can't file a wage claim if you aren't an employee. It seems to me, you weren't. You were an independent contractor who agreed to non-financial remuneration in consideration of your time and skills. As such, your "case" would be a contract suit and not a wage suit. The labor department does not determine how to interpret a contract or breach of contract, that is a matter for the courts. As others have advised, I would chalk this up to an experience, take what lessons you can from it and move on. I understand your regret and frustration. However, is it really worth balling up these feelings and placing them into a bitter pill you carry around with you? I would think that would do more harm than good to your outlook on life and as an extension your career.
I know that the Illinois Labor Dept. will label a worker an employee if the employer had control of what the worker does and how the worker does it. In any production, the director tells you what to say, where to move, etc. These directors control you to the max. Therefore, the IL Labor Dept. would most likely rule that I am an employee.
I strongly advise you drop this line of thought. You are painting a very vivid picture of an actor directors will not want to work with.
Your goal should be to be an actor directors, filmmakers and producers LOVE to work with! Instead, you are going to be "The actor who said he would do a freebie project, but instead sued everybody when he didn't like it."
People do not like people who sue. They have to have their guard up. People do not like walking on eggshells. People go to great lengths to avoid anyone who makes them feel uncomfortable in that way.
Think of when you were a kid. The teacher leaves the room. All the kids go crazy. Throwing paper planes, spitwads, you name it. The teacher comes back. One kid tells on everybody. That kid is NOT liked.
Don't be that kid.
Even if you are on the right on this, it sounds like its only over a couple hundred bucks. You are risking being blacklisted as a guy not easy to work with, and a guy who SUES, over what you can get in even the lousiest of dayjobs in less than a week.
Give your pride a rest and let this one go.
Here in Chicago, an actor that directors love to work with is an actor who works for free.
I will never be that guy.
I did not agree to work for free. I agreed to work for the chance to have my work seen by judges and audiences of the Chicago 48 Hour Film Project. The waiver that I signed even said so.
Just about all of my acting jobs are for a few hundred bucks or less. If I were to say that a director did not have to pay me if he owed me only a few hundred bucks, then I would not be able to make any money.
Jack, IMO everyone on this board has given you good "advice" and "opinions" and that's what I assume you were looking for. Since you don't agree with anyone - then end this post and file a claim/suit! Be done with it and move on... You're beating a dead horse - there's not much more to say. Noone agrees with you here, so be it. Since all your acting jobs are for only a few hundred bucks then do what you need to do. But please do let us all know the outcome of your claim/suit... Good luck with that~
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