April 18, 2014

Reader Q&A: W-9 Forms and Signing Contracts

***The following Q&A exchange was taken directly from an email conversation with a blog reader. I felt that the question(s) asked, as well as my response, would be helpful to other readers. No names or personal identifying details have been shared in order to protect privacy.***


Hi Andrea,

First off, great blog.  Thank you for making it—discovered it from the Backstage forums.
So, sorry to bother you, I have a question.  I just booked my first gig with my commercial agent, non-U.  There was a W-9 and a contract that my agent signed and turned in to the production company.  Do you know if I, the actor, was supposed to sign the W-9 form (& the contract)?  How has it worked for you?  Do you sign W-9’s every time you book something?  Also, every time you book something, does your agent send you over the contract for you to look over?  I know that’s probably a stupid question, but the only thing my agent wanted to send me was the call sheet and nothing else.  I had to call him up and ream him a new a**h—le and threatened to not show up to the shoot.

Best Regards and Congrats on Your Bookings,

-Name Withheld-



Yes, you were supposed to fill that out. From what I understand, it's so that whoever you booked the job through will be able to send you the appropriate tax forms when it's time to file taxes for that job. No, I never sign W-9s now, but I have in the past when I was non-union.

Every production is different and they probably don't contract out to a payroll company and are probably cutting the checks themselves. That's the only reason that I can think of for them giving you a W-9. Pretty much all big union jobs use payroll companies and therefore don't need to work with W-9 forms.

As for contracts, you're dealing with non-union jobs and every contract is going to be different. As your agent, it's their job to negotiate contracts on your behalf. If you prefer to see contracts ahead of time, that's something that you discuss with your agent. There's no need to "ream him a new asshole" over it. That sounds like an overreaction. And threatening to not show up to the shoot over something that you were ignorant of was highly unprofessional! I would not recommend doing that again, unless you want to damage your relationship with your agent AND the casting director AND the client that booked you! Miscommunication happens, but can be easily corrected if both parties are up front with each other.

I'm a union actor and all union contracts are the same. Meaning, at the most basic levels, union commercials all have the same terms, TV jobs have their terms, etc. Obviously, there will be some variations in payment terms if that's negotiated ahead of time. In union jobs, you're given your work contracts on set so I almost always sign my own contracts. My agents and manager don't sign anything for me unless I know about it first. I'm just more comfortable that way.

Anyway, I hope I answered your questions and congratulations on the booking! Thanks for reading my blog. :)


  1. Can you talk about things that people advised you to do and it was a total waste of time, and how you dealt with trying to be perfect.

    1. Hmm, I'll have to think on that first part, but I can tell you right now that I've never tried to perfect in any aspect of my life. THAT would be a total waste of time, haha.