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[For an audio version of this blog story click here.]

Almost all of us have felt this frustration at some stage. You get what you think is a good deal at the time but later you discover it could have been so much better.

Agents of short-change

‘You do the work, we’ll take the majority of the pay.’ ‘Great!’

In most cases, brooding over it is of little help. What’s done is done and all that. Take whatever learnings there are from it and move on. Nonetheless, it’s often difficult not to think about what could have been.

Now, if the loss was clearly due to one’s lack of diligence, there’s usually little sympathy for the “victim”. For example, when you buy a product in one shop only to see it at a cheaper price in another. The additional costs incurred here are simply down to the purchaser not shopping around.

Fair pay?
There are occasions, though, when at least the appearance of something more sinister is at play, when we believe, or indeed realise, we’ve been had, been taken advantage of.

One party acts in good faith and expects the other to do likewise. In Rewarding the reckless, I wrote about the risks I take in lending money to some barrio buddies. I have to take them at their word that they’ll pay me back. They could just renege and I’d have practically no legal route to get the money back.

Here, it’s not a case of money lent but rather somebody else taking more than their fair share of pay for what can loosely be described as teamwork.

And it’s back to the business we call show for this latest, um, episode. Yep, I’m still being lured by that siren call.

This time, it’s not the actual production team that has raised my ire. It’s those third parties, the necessary evils that are the agencies. Well, I say ‘necessary’ as for somebody in my position, a very occasional “super extra”, they seem practically unavoidable.

‘This agency took over 60 per cent of the pay the production company forked out for my character.’

These agencies do, of course, serve a purpose. Production companies are happy to outsource the finding of suitable extras and the like, particularly when we’re talking about films/series that shoot at various locations and require many additional bodies in scenes.

Thus, like any middleman, agencies take their cut of the pay, a finder’s fee. There’s nothing shocking about that.

What has shocked me, however, is the extent of that finder’s fee at one particular agency I worked with a few weeks back. This crowd took over 60 per cent of the pay the production company forked out for my character. The breakdown: I got 750,000 pesos; the production company paid the agency 2,000,000 pesos.

Now, it must be said, I did agree with the agency to do the work for 800,000 pesos, a fine day’s wages in Colombia, just a few hundred-thousand pesos off the monthly minimum wage (my getting just 750,000 was due to taxes, so I was informed. I found this odd as other agencies have always told me what the net-pay figure will be).

Sign and move on
So, I can’t really have any complaints. What’s more, it was in a somewhat strange manner that I found out about the agency’s exorbitant finder’s fee.

Had I not received a contract to sign — after I’d done and got paid for the work, I hasten to add — I would have never known that my role was priced at 2,000,000 pesos.

I think it’s the first time I’ve been pressured into signing a contract after I both did and got paid for the work in question. Does one not normally sign a contract before engaging in employment? That the agency was very anxious that I signed suggests its payment from the production company depended on my signature.

Ignorance would have been bliss for me in all this. As stated, I was relatively happy with the initial payment offered to me. The casus belli was seeing what the production company was actually paying for my character.

The lesson to be learnt here is to ask for a contract before anything is agreed upon, particularly if it’s not payment in cash on the day. In my experience, having the latter arrangement is usually less hassle.

As for the contract in question here, did I sign it? Call me a softy, but considering I’d been paid and the likelihood of getting more was near zero, I did. In fact, the agency in question is still putting me forward for work, for now in any case.

Sometimes it’s just better to cut the losses and focus on the gains.
Listen to The Corrigan Cast podcast here.

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La vida en Colombia desde la perspectiva de un periodista y locutor irlandés, quien ha vivido en el país desde 2011. El blog explora temas sociales y culturales, interacción con los nativos, viajes, actualidades y mucho más. Escucha su podcast acá: https://anchor.fm/brendan-corrigan.

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