In my limited view, being a contract girl is like being in a polygamist marriage: We get involved because there is a mutual attraction that doesn't quite resemble true love (the company is attracted to our waist-to-hip ratios and marketability, we are attracted to the company's wallet and future outlook), we interview each other just enough to make sure we can live under one roof — and we jump in. (There might be some courtship in the way of test shoots. Yes, this counts as premarital sex on so many levels). Then there's the honeymoon: The company in question really hopes we're good in bed, the girl in question really hopes the company doesn't toss her out of bed. Then we meet the other wives and settle in to one big sexually deviant family that is ostracized by mainstream society but generally quite happy.
And hopefully the feds don't raid our little porn compound.
As random as this analogy is, and regardless of the creepy mental picture I've created, I really do love being in contract, because it works with my plans for this industry. I love the security and stability I get from it. I love knowing what directors, makeup artists, crew, and actors I'll be on set with, because they are invariably people I have worked with before and am comfortable around and genuinely like. How is this guaranteed? Because I have a very large company behind me that makes sure I'm taken care of and asks me personally whom I want on set. The company backing me helps make decisions that I may otherwise have royally mishandled, and I can trust their advice because we have a common long-term goal.
Marriage is about sacrifice and compromise though, so I'm told. Sometimes the single girls have all the fun. Independent stars get to work with a number of different companies, and for that reason could potentially get their names on a variety of big projects and other high-exposure bookings, in the end exposing them to a wide range of demographics and niches. Contract stars are limited to only the demographics their respective companies reach. Not only do independent girls get to work for a number of companies, but they get to work as much as they want, provided they are in demand as performers. That means they can potentially make in excess of 20 grand a month just from shooting scenes, plus whatever their websites and other streams of income are pulling in. Rolled together, their incomes can rival the payoff of eight years of medical school plus residency.
How many girls can really keep it up long term, though? That's the beauty of a contract. We are paid more per scene to compensate for the fact that we aren't shooting elsewhere. Granted, its not as much as we could make working every day, but our scene value continues to increase since we aren't flooding the market by shooting every day, and the promotional dollars put into us only make us more marketable. Long term, our incomes can exceed that of the independent star who has put much more into the industry hour-for-hour.
That's the common goal I mentioned earlier between companies and their contract stars. The problem is, it is only a long-term goal. The company in question cannot profit if the girl doesn't stick around to see the long term. A lot of trust and hope and finger-crossing goes into signing a new girl. Will the girl embarrass the company? Will she get pregnant or show up with a tattoo the size of Rhode Island on her ass one day? Will her ass grow to the size of Rhode Island? Worse, will she develop an ego or a drug habit or a religious habit? Adverse selection is on her side. Only she knows whether she's worth the time and money.
That is where the interests of the girl and the company diverge. The company has to manage this risk by either creating iron-clad contracts that could potentially piss off and alienate the girl and kill her incentive to succeed in the industry, or they can wait for a girl to really prove herself in the industry first, but then risk losing her to another company — or find themselves competing with scenes she shot prior to signing, hence losing their monopoly on her.
Either way, the contracts in the short run will tend to heavily favor the company to offset the risk that inherently comes with the girl's free will, which is why staying independent can start to look pretty good again (by the way, I'd like to create a mental picture of Adam and Eve balancing elegantly on a pedestal amidst a halo of light and angelic music — kudos for finding that happy medium with the contract). Please note the obvious ass-kissing that went into this article.
Independent girls always have the option of walking away from a bad deal, as well. If a company's image starts to change for the worse, or its production budget dips, or the people running the company are just plain asses, the independent girl can chose to work with other companies and avoid the bullshit altogether.
The contract girl is legally bound to the company she signed with for better or worse, provided they don't breach contract. The kicker is, even if they do breach contract or hit a gray area, they will have better lawyers. The corporate legal budget is going to dwarf the porn star's legal budget every time.
In the end, being in contract vs. remaining independent both have their obvious pros and cons, but success in this industry is born of the same formula, regardless of the route you take: Be reliable, keep your ego in check and stay off drugs, the Bible and fast food.