The Contract

One day in 1970 I took a break from a session and was summoned into an office by Mel Tanner. It was Mel’s office, really, but Wally had put his enormous self behind the desk, in charge. I had been working for almost a year at WHR and Wally considered me his ‘heavy’ for the SF studios. Mel and Wally faced me and Wally shoved a piece of paper in my direction. It was a work contract.

Now you must know that I had never signed any work contract in my life, ever. But I knew enough to read it before I signed. Wally sighed impatiently while I read. The deal was $12/hour if I just charged to their billable time, and not include setups and tear downs. I figured the math in my head and it turned out to be less money for me than if I would have stayed with $10/hour. I said I would like to think about it and started to take the paper away with me. Wally grabbed the contract and tore it into a hundred pieces. I guess that meant I couldn’t take it away….or there were clauses that he didn’t want another lawyer scrutinizing. It was never mentioned again.

Later Mel Tanner came up to me and stated: “I don’t think you’re a company man… how would you like to be paid $10/hour kickback for projects you bring in?” To my mind, I thought that was a great idea, and took the offer, not knowing about the value of health care (which at Filmways, was top notch, Blue Shield) and other benefits.

What I didn’t get about being independent was that I was supposed to get that ON TOP of what I earned from the artist side. I didn’t know how to ask or arrange it. I didn’t have a manager or mentor to tell me about business. Considering the artists I worked with during that period I could have earned THOUSANDS by being more shrewd and being quiet about the kickbacks, but I just didn’t know how it was done.

Stephen Barncard

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