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Residuals: Now in Color!

0330 jonathanhandel
Like most actors, you no doubt often find yourself wondering, “Why doesn’t somebody make a color-coded, exhaustively researched chart that explains my residuals and looks kind of like a periodic table of elements on mushrooms?” Well, wonder no more, left-brain impaired performers. Jonathan Handel—attorney, law professor, and Hollywood union oracle—has just unveiled a labor of love (and insanity): a one-page document that summarizes how all residuals for members of AFTRA, SAG, the WGA, the DGA, and IATSE are calculated.

“I always thought of residuals as a grid,” Handel said. “There are roughly 10 media you can make something for and roughly 10 media you can re-release it in. Ten times 10 is 100. That’s a grid.”

Navigating Handel’s grid—and its page of footnotes—can be tricky. Some cells, such as the one that covers theatrical releases rebroadcast on domestic basic cable, contain a single, simple formula. Others, such as pay-TV to pay-TV, are packed to the margins, using a font small enough to make a credit-card billing statement look like easy reading. To make the prospect of deciphering so much info in so small a space less intimidating, Handel whipped out his color wheel.

“I thought very early on that color would make all the difference,” he said. “If you imagine it as text against a white background, it would be completely forbidding.”

But the decision to get colorful had more to do with function than form. Blue is used for gross-based formulas, shades of pink and violet for formulas based on percentages of minimums, gold and tan for formulas Handel characterizes as “sui generis” (though they could be less charitably called “labyrinthine” or “nuts”), and gray for areas where there are no residuals. The acid-test color scheme has led Handel’s friends to describe his work as art.

And like most artists, Handel wouldn’t mind getting paid. Though the chart can be downloaded for free at www.jhandel.com, its creator has set up a site at Café Press—www.cafepress.com/residuals—where T-shirts, mugs, and even trucker hats emblazoned with the grid can be bought.

“Everybody’s been calling this chart pretty,” Handel said. “Well, I thought, it’s too pretty not to wear.”

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