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An Actor's Cautionary Tale: Cancer With No Residuals

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Actors often complain about late residuals checks, although SAG-AFTRA has cut processing delays lately. But few stories compare to the battle waged by Alex Doe (a pseudonym), a voice actor who was diagnosed with cancer in 2012 and endured a 3-1/2-year residuals runaround from Warner Bros. and SAG-AFTRA that ultimately  threatened Doe's health insurance.

(Residuals are royalties that are paid to actors, writers, directors and musicians when movies and TV shows are rerun or are released in other media such as DVD or the Internet. They're not small potatoes: residuals can amount to 40 percent of an actor's income, and total about $2 billion per year.)

How did this happen? Boomerang, an offshoot of Time Warner's Cartoon Network, failed to report thousands of reruns of the actor's show for several years, and the Warner Bros. residuals department resisted the union's contrary data. The actor filed a claim with SAG in February 2011, and the union and studio began arguing about the number of reruns and whether Doe had been overpaid on a DVD release.

Warners repeatedly promised more information -- surprisingly, collective bargaining agreements don't require that any particular data be provided -- and months often passed between emails and phone calls. In 2012, the head of the union's residuals claims department referred the matter to a legal department attorney.

But even with both departments involved, the delays continued. For more details, and the surprising resolution, see The Hollywood Reporter.

Check out "The New Zealand Hobbit Crisis," available on Amazon in paperback, Kindle and audiobook. Visit my website (jhandel.com), follow me on Twitter or friend me on Facebook or LinkedIn. If you work in tech, take a look at my book How to Write LOIs and Term Sheets