Signing Away My Life?

Here’s something you might not know about me: I am a singer. Recently, I thought I’d try my voice at an audition for a new NBC reality show being produced by Mark Burnett. The working title for the show is “The Voice”. It is apparently going to be an “American Idol” type competition/elimination show, but the concept is based more strictly on the vocals of the contestant. In fact, according to the video that was up on the audition website page earlier this month, it looks like the judges will be in some kind of swivel-chair which they will turn around to face the contestant only if they are choosing them to proceed in the competition. Also, age is not a factor for auditioning, which it always has been for “Americal Idol.” I was always too old to audition for them. Let’s not look at that fact as indicating that I am an old woman, but rather as an indicator that “American Idol” is ridiculous in its age limits.

The auditions were cattle calls, and were held in several cities across the nation in January and early February, also like “American Idol.” I knew there would be little hope of success in going to the audition, but you never know, and the Los Angeles area audition was held here in Burbank. So, I printed the application, and prepared for standing in line all day.

The night before the audition, I sat down to fill out the roughly ten-page application, and to sign the included waiver. Then came the period of stunned staring after reading said waiver. I guess I always knew that such shows were not primarily concerned with the rights of the contestants, but the language of this waiver was unbelievable. I suppose the producers know that contestants on these shows are often desperate for a break of some kind, and willing to sign whatever they need to in order to get that shot. But it temporarily brought my plans to audition to a standstill. I actually was not sure I could sign the thing. I woke up the next morning and desperately tried to reach at least four people to get their advice, two of whom were my pastor and my friend who is a lawyer.

I was concerned about two aspects of the waiver. Since I no longer have a copy of it, I will have to mostly paraphrase what worried me, but I can recall one specific phrase precisely that threw me for a great, big loop: “Throughout the universe.” Isn’t that bizarre? That phrasing was actually used more than once, relating to basically any and every potential artistic work of mine to which, if I agreed to be a contestant on their show, they would apparently be claiming ownership rights. My concerns were mainly that the wording of the waiver suggested the show would own any and all artistic works I created from then on, whether I was still a part of the show or not. I realize that makes no sense, but I even read the phrasing to my lawyer friend, who said it sounded that way as well, but would not likely be enforceable.

My other concern was that the waiver explicitly said the producers have the right to do anything they want with the footage they take of you, and stated that could include editing, adding to, taking away from, or putting it together with any other footage they see fit, and could portray me in any light they choose. As a representative of Christ, you might see how this would be problematic. Again, I understand what the general intention is here: they want to be able to use footage as much or often as they like for marketing purposes, but they take their language way too far.

After consulting with four people before 8 am that morning, I did sign the waiver and audition, and didn’t even get a callback. Incidentally, the gimmick with this show- the blind audition- was not the case with our auditions that day. I guess the swivel-chair judging doesn’t kick in until later. I can only hope that any possible future involvement I may have with networks and studios is done with agents and lawyers that I trust representing me. Also, I think I’m done with reality shows. The whole experience makes me thankful to God that I did not come out to Hollywood at a younger, more vulnerable age.

About Kristi Israel
  • http://asksistermarymartha.blogspot.com Sister Mary Martha

    I have always had a morality issue with reality television. Even if what keeps people coming back to a show like “American Idol” is the talent (a theory that I question), what hooks them in the first place is making fun of people, using other people’s pain and humiliation as fodder for our entertainment.

  • Kristi Israel

    Oh, hey there, Sister! I agree. Even when I used to watch AI regularly, I couldn’t stand the embarassment they put some of those people through at the beginning. I know some of them just wanted to get on tv, but I think some really thought they could sing, and were horribly embarrased.

  • Robin

    Really interesting. Yeah, that’s what I was afraid of when you decided to audition, too. The whole reality show thing is so brutal.


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