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Knowledge, in this industry, is power. So put on some steel toed boots, ’cause the following websites, podcasts, and like are veritable knowledge bombs that be droppin’
The Actor’s Network
Just did a blog post on them. Check it. If you’re in LA you shoulda become a member 3 weeks ago.
Brains of Minverva
I effing love this blog, and Sarah and Claire are total rock stars. They sent me the following: Brains of Minerva – The Guide to the LA Actor Hustle publishes resource-rich career and lifestyle articles for the industrious working actor. Launched in Sept. 2009, the site now hosts over 100 posts on everything from joining SAG to prepping your web series to navigating the steps of auditioning for a series regular. We’re thrilled to be part of the community of actors using the web to share information and perspective, and we’re constantly inspired by our friends at Playbills vs. Paying Bills (and, yes, you guys win the awesome name contest!). At Ben’s suggestion, we’ve put together a list of posts to introduce ourselves.
- How to Join SAG
- The Lowdown on Using the Breakdowns Pt. One and Pt. Two
- So I Married an Actor
- Using Facebook & Twitter to Grow Your Acting Career
- Things I’ve Learned on the Other Side of the Table
- Grants for Actors
- A Financial and Artistic Wake-Up Call from Abundance Bound Pt. One and Pt. Two
- Dallas Travers’ 6 Steps to Great Headshots
- Emmy-Winning Casting Director Holly Powell on the 4 Steps to Casting a Series Regular
- And for exclusive interviews on auditioning and working on-set with the The Daily Show’s Josh Gad, Avatar’s Dileep Rao and others, visit the Brains of Minerva Youtube Channel…
Come on by, let us know what you think – we’d love to say hello… Claire Winters & Sarah Sido Brains of Minerva
Inside Acting Podcast
Trevor and AJ are two of the nicest, most genuine actors you will ever meet…err, listen to. They host Inside Acting Podcast, the best way to spend your LA commute. I asked them for a summary and some links to their favorite episodes. Here’s what I got: Inside Acting is a free industry audio podcast for actors, by actors. Each episode brings you tips and insights from Los Angeles-area casting directors, agents, producers, writers, actors, filmmakers, personal finance gurus, and more. Get insider information on marketing yourself, creating your own work, and booking the gig — straight from the people who’ve been there, done that, and are doing it again. Check out our website and find the podcast on iTunes. And our Top 5 most popular/favorite episodes so far:
- Episode 03 — Brian Vermiere (note from Ben: Brian is one of the most influential people in my view on Los Angeles. He’s brilliant and is one of the founders of PerformerTrack)
- Episode 06 — Enci
- Episode 07 — Kris Diedrich (note from Ben: Kris is one of the kindest people in all of Los Angeles)
- Episode 15 — Neal McDonough, Part 1
- Episode 24 — Bonnie Gillespie, Part 2
Actor’s Voice/Self Management for Actors/Bonnie Gillespie
Casting Director Bonnie Gillespie writes (I’m guessing) the most widely read actor blog around. And for good reason. Her blog is absolutely brilliant. If you ever have a free second (and by second I mean week), go poke around her extensive blog archives and prepare to have your mind blown. Bonnie has also written the best book available on the business of acting. Self Management for Actors should be mandatory reading for any actor wanting to take their career seriously.
Hollywood Happy Hour
Continuing the awesomeness that is Bonnie Gillespie, every actor should subscribe to the Hollywood Happy Hour yahoo group. This is an e-group of a couple thousand actors, CDs, and industry professionals from all over the globe asking questions and sharing resources. I’m pretty sure you have to sign up for a yahoo email address, but that’s the only time you’ll have to use it…you can have the email digest sent to whatever email you want.
Marci Liroff “Like” Page
Casting Director Marci Liroff (E.T., Spitfire Grill, Freaky Friday, Mean Girls, and many more) has a tremendously engaging Facebook “Like” Page (or whatever the hell they’re called now). Lots of great resources there, her audition tips videos, and always an engaging conversation. Check it!
Secrets of Screen Acting
The best on-camera training I’ve had. But Ben, it’s a PODCAST, you exclaim! Yeah. That’s right. It’s that friggin’ good. Probably the most informative 5 minutes of your day as an actor. David H. Lawrence hosts and Patrick Tucker does most of the talking. Seriously. Check it out (Podcast inspired by the book Secrets of Screen Acting that Patrick Tucker wrote. Find it on Amazon.)
Speaking of David H. Lawrence, check out his website www.ActingAnswers.com. Full of wonderful advice from a very astute working actor.
One of the most informative email newsletters out there. Go to Alex’s Info site and sign up to receive daily awesomeness. It’s fairly LA based, but there are great resources in there for everyone. The email also contains information on thrival jobs, internship opportunities, and the like.
Head over to their website and click on “Subscribe” in the top menu to get daily updates of what the heck is going on in this crazy industry. Get the news that the people at the top of this crazy town care about. You can also watch a 5-minute video of the morning’s news every day if you prefer.
The Hollywood Reporter
Rather than droppin’ a couple hundred bones on actually paying for the magazine, I suggest signing up for their daily email newsletters, or subscribing to their rss feeds. This is the kind of info the people with the money care about. The type of info that is great to have as a general understanding of what’s going on in our industry.
Tons of wonderful industry news on their main site. Lots of networking opportunities and such. Click on the “Register” link in the top right and enter your email to get on the list.
Damn you all of my friends who didn’t tell me about this until 6 months into my Los Angeles experience. If you want to get tickets to anything in Los Angeles, it’s mandatory to check Goldstar first. Pretty much every play, concert, or whatever has extremely (like 50+ %) discounted tickets. Awesomesauce.
Oh, and there are discounted tix for most of the major cities on here, not just Los Angeles.
ActorRated is like Yelp for actors. Basically it’s a place where people can rate and give feedback on the myriad services, products, headshot photographers, membership organizations, and the like. What you’re looking for isn’t there? Put it up! The more information we can give each other as a community, the better.
In short, PerformerTrack is online software that allows you to manage all aspects of your acting career. Auditions, expenses, contacts, etc.
I wrote about PerformerTrack previously, and I would highly recommend you check out co-founder Brian Vermiere’s interview with Inside Acting Podcast.
The Moth Podcast
As actors we’re in the business of telling stories. And The Moth Podcast has some of the best stories around. They are true stories, run about 15 minutes, and are told live without notes. Subscribe on work out those storytelling muscles.
The Actor’s Lounge
I absolutely LOVE The Actor’s Lounge. It is by far the best energy in Los Angeles. So what is it you ask? Great question.
The Actor’s Lounge is essentially an open mic night for actors. Any actor can simply show up and do a monologue (3 min. or less) or a scene (5 min. time limit for 2-person scene, 6-minute limit for 3 or more). There’s a live DJ on stage, phenomenal emcees (led by the truly brilliant In-Q), as well as music, dance, live painting, and film stuff thrown in for good measure. If you have a single creative bone in your body you NEED to check this out.
When: First Wednesday of every month, starting at 8:30pm (performers must show up early to sign up)
Where: Greenway Court Theatre, 544 N. Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90048
Cost: $1 (though it might go up to $5 soon)
What are your favorite resources? If they’re not listed here, throw ’em up in the comments section!
If there were ever a shortcut to success, it’s getting really great information and surrounding yourself with incredible people. The Actors’ Network (TAN) does both of those things. If you are in the Los Angeles area, and take your career as an actor seriously, I can’t think of something I’d recommend more in furthering your career than The Actors’ Network. Check out their website, find ’em on facebook, and follow them on twitter.
Full Disclosure: I totally get paid if you join TAN and say my name. And by get paid, I mean I get points. Seriously. Like at an arcade. I think I can redeem them for spider rings or something if I collect enough. In all seriousness, I don’t give a flying patootie about the points (honestly, tell them Superman sent you), I just want to share great resources I’ve come across in my brief time in Los Angeles.
What Is It?
The best way I can describe TAN is that it’s like a “graduate school for the working actor.” Kevin teaches seminars (topicals) a couple times a week on all of the topics a working actor needs to know. There are recitations (power groups) that meet once a month to keep everyone accountable, network, and share resources. And top-notch industry guests like show runners (Jonathan Prince), agents (Tracy Curtis), acting coaches, and casting directors come are there almost every day imparting their wisdom and giving you a chance to create relationships.
Just like grad school you get what you put into it, so sign up for as many topicals as you can, go listen to the guests, and meet as many people as you can. Everything is included in your cost (see below) and there are no requirements…attend when you can, don’t when you have to help Aunt Greta with her chili cook-off.
Like most universities, the school is only as good as the students, and the members of TAN are top-notch.
The topicals are primarily led by Kevin, and cover everything from demo reels, to your resume, contracts, casting director workshops, phone technique, and the like (full list here). It’s kind of like class for an hour and a half. If you have gained any insight from my previous blog posts, then you’ll absolutely take something of value from these topicals. A great deal of my outlook and the information I have comes as a direct result of these sessions. These are a glorious way to learn from Kevin’s 20+ years of mistakes (and successes!) in LA so that you don’t have to repeat them. It makes me feel like I’m skipping classes of life…
These are akin to your guest lectures at grad school. Take a look at TAN’s calendar to see who has come into The Actor’s Network recently, and who’s slated to come in soon. Agents, managers, casting directors (Joseph Middleton, Marci Liroff, Danielle Eskinazi, and Bonnie Gillespie are just a few examples of the casting people who’ve I’ve seen speak), producers, writers, you name it. These industry guests volunteer (they don’t receive any money) an hour of their time to come in and answer actors’ questions. Just watch your feet when you attend these things, ’cause people be droppin’ knowledge.
There are 9 (optional) power groups…kind of like college recitations. These are group of about 30 actors from TAN who get together once a month to discuss goals and progress, share resources, and ask questions. Each group is led by an experienced facilitator. These are a great way to meet other productive actors, and begin to really find a sense of community, one of the hardest things to do in this city, particularly when you first arrive.
TAN has a stellar reputation around town. Being a member provides you with some serious legitimacy, and proves to most that you’re not a ‘whactor’ (compliments to bad boy Kristoffer Kelly for the term). Throw their logo on your resume if you want, and know that TAN is a 99% whactor-free zone.
$50/month. Seriously. I can honestly say that you get more from TAN for your money than any other single thing in Los Angeles (unless maybe you steal stuff…but the guilt and fear of getting caught probably make TAN worth it anyway).
There is also a one-time $55 charge when you join for the membership binder etc. Oh, and there’s a discount if you join for a full year, and once you are a member for 3 years your cost goes down to $200/year. They do ask that you pay in 4-month increments, though you can split your initial payment of $265, paying $165 up front, then your next $100 a month later.
Try going to grad school for those kinds of dollars and cents (I know, I know those are all even dollar amounts, no cents. Cut me some slack, I’m just some dude with a blog. Sheesh).
How Do I Join?
If you are in LA, the first step is to check out a (free) orientation. More details here. From there you fork over some moolah and get crankin’.
For those of you not in Los Angeles, you can still join as an online member, and get access to a number of benefits outlined here.
If I Were King…
…I’d make every actor sign up for TAN, get in a power group, and attend every topical and guest speaker for 6 months. After that you could go on your merry way if you felt like it wasn’t for you, but the information is priceless, and those 6 months would (hopefully) put everyone in the proper mindset to pursue this profession.
Moreover, it’s can be daunting to feel like you’re making progress in your career as an actor. TAN not only gives you specific information and help in moving forward, but it also provides a grounding for your actor life in Los Angeles. Surrounding yourself in this community will be a tremendous benefit as you navigate this nutty industry.
So, finish up that chili and get your butt down to Santa Monica and Fairfax. I promise you won’t regret it.
If you’re like me and SOOO over school, don’t fret. Replace the word “school” in this post with the word “home.”
Ok, smart ass, I know there’s no such thing as a “grad home” but you get my point…TAN is a great place to be.
Yesterday I was talking to a potential employee for one of my businesses, and she mentioned that her boyfriend was an actor. She said that he had come out to Los Angeles for 6 months to act, before “failing” and going home. Failing. That was the perception. I couldn’t help but think that he hadn’t even been her long enough to buy a box spring and take the cover off his couch. Hell, I’ve been stuck on the 405 for longer than he’d been out here. Alright, that’s a slight (very slight…) exaggeration, but you get my point. I’ve written before (here, here, here, here, and here) on being in this for the long haul, and how it almost always takes at least a decade to build the careers we imagine for ourselves. This phone conversation, though, got me thinking about expectations, where they come from, and what people think they can, or should, achieve when coming to this city.
I’ve been in Los Angeles for a little over a year now, and started actively pursuing acting almost exactly a year ago (I had my first audition in Los Angeles last July). And here’s the deal: I haven’t been on TV. I don’t have a theatrical agent or a manager, though I did have a commercial agent for a few months (we have since parted ways, but that’s another blog post). I haven’t had an audition on a studio lot nor have I even auditioned for a major union commercial. There was no “pilot season” for me, and as of right now I’m not “coming to a theatre near you.” I’ve had meetings with 3 agents who decided not to take me on. That’s right. I’ve been here a year, don’t have any representation, no recognizable credits on my resume, and no auditions for major projects.
But guess what. I’m kicking ass. Honestly, my career couldn’t be going better. I stopped clicking and submitting via submission services in favor of relationship-based job getting, and now instead of auditioning I get offers. And when I do audition, I’m doing it for people who already know my work and call me in directly. I have a reel that I’m proud of, and footage coming in the next few weeks that will make it 10x better. A film I was in just got accepted to the LA Shorts Fest. The companies I started allow me to have a flexible schedule and pursue my acting career as I see fit. People read my blog and ask for my advice. I have actual friendships with casting directors, writers, producers, and directors. I’m friggin’ happy.
And, more than anything, I am constantly surrounded by amazing people. If there’s anything I’ve learned about success, it’s that it comes as a direct result of the quality and calibur of the people around you and the company you keep. I’m ingrained in brilliant communities that support and inspire me. The people around me have the right attitude, are always eager to help, and believe in me. They introduce me to people, refer me to others, and actively help me in my pursuits. Although it is not as obviously tangible as an agency logo or “NBC” on my resume, the strength of my community is how I define my success…and I have it in abundance.
So, are you in SAG? Who’s your agent?
Why is it that actors ask these two questions the first time they meet a fellow actor? It’s hard enough feeling like you constantly need to justify your career to “outsiders,” so why do we do this to ourselves? How is it that somehow having an agent legitimizes you as an actor? I know someone who has been with (a reputable) theatrical agent for 4 years…and had 4 auditions from them. I know actors with the TOP agencies who never work. And I know actors without agents who work all the time. Finding out someone’s union status or representation just doesn’t really tell you all that much.
For me, I have stopped asking actors I just met these questions, in favor of asking if they have been working on any cool and exciting projects lately? That leaves the door open for them to talk about pretty much anything, and hopefully relieves a little pressure that actors so constantly encounter.
I challenge you to start measuring your success based on your relationships. How many professional industry contacts do you have in your database? (You do keep track of that right?) What is the level of the people you have these relationships with? How strong are those relationships? If you randomly decided to shoot a short film next weekend, how many people could you get to show up as a favor to you ’cause they think you’re awesome or believe in you?
It’s much easier to your friends and family back home that you’re going to be on Criminal Minds next week than it is to say that you just had an amazing coffee date with some producer over at NBC who wants to meet again next month, but I would wager that the latter is a greater career success than the former.
What about you? What were your expectations when you came to LA (or wherever)…?
1. MOVING TO GREENPOINT – WILLIAMSBURG
Today is the day, my good friends. I move – from the Upper East Side (New York’s quiet, family oriented, wealthy, primarily Jewish neighborhood wherein I have found solice in my Bikram Yoga studio/friends, my local vegan salad/sandwich/juice shop, and my Starbucks’ baristas who consistently ask me for my number, give me a discount, and know how to make a gal feel special and loved – also where I have miserably shared a studio with a veritable dipshit) to Greenpoint, Brooklyn! Listed as #5 in The New York Times on April 12, 2010 as one of the top 50 “Most Livable Neighborhoods,” in New York, Greenpoint is up and coming as a trendy place for young professionals and artists who are perhaps too poor for the more expensive East Village or Williamsburg real estate but too “scene” to move North to Wash. Heights, Harlem, or even the Bronx.
“…But Greg Pitts, 53, a ceramics instructor who moved to Greenpoint four
years ago, said he loved the working-class Polish character of the
neighborhood and had wearied of the noisy weekend stampedes of the
young, drunk and club-bound.
“It’s New York, so I guess I shouldn’t be complaining…”
The one thing that wont change will be the smells. The Upper East Side smells of urine. Why? Well, in addition to the homeless people who sleep on every street corner in every neighborhood in New York City, there is an abundant population of small, peppy dogs that adorn my blessed block. It always smells of urine. And, on days when I feel sluggish and just want to wear some oversized slouchy pants that drag ever-so-slightly on the ground below, it makes for a fun little ‘human frogger’ adventure, dodging sliding pools of yellow as the run downhill towards the street wondering if I can pass them before they trickle onto my pant legs and pass safely to my secured destination. More times that not, I win. As for “Little Poland” (my beloved Greenpoint):
“The wind turned, and a pungent blast of something chemical — nail polish
remover? — wafted by. “The smells are bad; you know, they worry me,”
said Ms. Aiuto, as Isaiah ran a few circles on the grass. “I guess a lot
of places in New York are not going to be great for your health.”
Moving in New York (er, moving in Brooklyn) is actually quite a lot easier than I had anticipated. I don’t have a lot of things but having a bed makes it very difficult. If you just have clothes, books, pots and pans (as a typical studio dweller or minimalist may only require), you can move slowly, over the course of days, via the trains, buses, and cabs – if you have the cash. I, however, have a bed. Its small, its a twin. If I weren’t so broke all the time, I’d just leave it or sell it and buy a new one at the Sleepy’s on my block in Greenpoint. Alas, this is my situation. So I give you two words of wisdom:
1) Man with a Van
Man with a Van is cheap and dependable. They are the best deal you can find if you need MOVERS (people to pack your things, carry them, load and unload, etc). I don’t need that – I took boxes from work and am a phenomenal packer if I do say so myself. But they have been recommended to me on more than one occasion. There are Men with Vans all over the country actually so just do a google search and call around. You should be good to go. In my situation, however, the BEST deal is UHAUL. To rent a 10 foot truck for a whole day is only $20. That is, to clarify, IF you pick up and drop off the truck in Brooklyn. Reboot the search and find a pick-up location in the City and the rate becomes $89/day. And, again, we are reminded as to why I 1) have to work four jobs to live here and 2) am moving to Greenpoint! You get the van/truck/whatever you’ve rented for as many hours as you specify and then you pay for miles (either $.99 or $1.79 depending on size of rental) at the end of the day. If you’re moving within the city or between the boroughs, this means not so many miles and a very very very reasonable moving deal. Its an incredible tip!
Upon moving, we discover many things need to be changed: cable, electric, billing address, address change in general, and maybe even your stage name? Oh wait… that’s just ME! Which leads me to my next order of business:
2. NAME CHANGES IN THE PERFORMING ARTS INDUSTRY (often referred to as “the STAGE NAME”)
It’s official. Your New York City contributor is no longer the oft mispronounced Emily Schmidt-Beuchat. From this time forward, I will be Emily Beuchat (and considering even Emily Beauchat). Your comments on this subject matter are GREATLY encouraged and appreciated.
But why this “sudden” change? Why this drop of a Schmidt? Where will the Schmidt go? Will it go peacefully?
According to our favorite resource these days, Wikipedia: “A performer will often take a stage name because his/her real name is considered unattractive, dull, unintentionally amusing or difficult to pronounce or spell, or because it has been used by another notable individual or because it projects an undesired image. Sometimes a performer adopts a name that is unusual or outlandish to attract attention. Other performers use a stage name in order to retain anonymity. The equivalent concept among writers is called a nom de plume or pen name, while the term ring name is used in professional wrestling.”
My fight name, if I were to quit acting all together and really pursue Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with some moxie/chutzpah and a smile, was and will always be “Emily Schmidt BOOM-shaka-laka” (and my song to enter the ring would be the theme song to JAWS… or Black Cat by Janet Jackson). But these are just thoughts I have late at night…
The stage name is a much more serious consideration. And quite controversial. With family names, especially with names less American sounding, it becomes a big question as to whether or not you are “selling out” to fit a certain type or mold in this industry. Let’s face it, the industry is rarely, if not never, going to come to you. Don’t be a sell out but also don’t give them hurdles to reach you. This being said, its completely a personal call whether or not someone changes his or her name for the sake of their career. I have chosen because of various conversations with my mother (the hippie/giver of the “Schmidt” and the hyphen to both my sister and myself) and her reasons are this:
- Schmidt-Beuchat is too complicated to say, spell, and remember. You need to have something that makes an impression (which this name does) but not because its too overwhelming. People remember my name but not as what it is but that it was long and interesting sounding. Contacting me, I can only imagine, has become a task in email rerouting hell.
- Schmidt-Beuchat sounds like a married name. The number one question I get at auditions is, “is this your married name?” So not only am I there, fragile in my auditioning state but I am in addition saddened and reminded of my state of alone-ness in this world as a strong, single lady.
- Beuchat is French and it means Beautiful Cat (Beu from Beau for handsome (m) and Chat for Cat (m)). Schmidt is German and makes me sound like a Nazi. And, according to my mother, in this industry filled with many powerful people of all backgrounds, it is not good to ever be associated with the Nazis.
Other reasons to change ones name, according to Wikipedia, are:
- To disguise a family connection (as in the case of Nicolas Cage who sought to hide his relation to the Coppola’s or Emilio Estevez who chose not to take his father’s professional name, Sheen).
- Guild and association rules: SAG, British Equity, and others have strict rules on having no duplicate names (often actors change their names simply by choosing one that isnt already being used professionally). For example, Michael J. Fox has his lovely J because Michael Fox was already a member of SAG. Or Terry O’Quinn (JOHN MOTHER F*ING LOCKE) is actually Terry Quinn but that name, too, is already in use.
- Involuntary Name Changes: sometimes agents choose for you… This is not something I would advise. I think, and this is just me, if you are going to change your name, do it out of necessity (association rules) or because YOU have chosen to. Don’t let your agent or someone TELL you that you wont succeed without it. If they’re blaming your NAME as the sole reason to your not being an A-list star, you may want to reconsider working with this person. This will only be the first of their long list of excuses.
- Ethnicity!!! or changing a name to disguise one’s heritage. Take Freddie Mercury, born “Farrokh Bulsara” to Parsi parents. At one time, Jews in Hollywood were encouraged to anglicize their names to avoid discrimination, and still happens today. In an extreme example, Margarita Carmen Cansino (an American Spanish actress) underwent electrology to change her hairline to more “Northern European appearance,” and renamed herself Rita Hayworth. … more on this controversy later…
- Ease of use – the AEA (actors equity association) advises performers to select a name that is easy for others to pronounce, spell, and remember.
- “Some performers while playing great attention to their skills and abilities give little thought to the difference that a well-thought-out name can make to their career. Often it is only after the realization that a poorly chosen name results in an undesired impression that a person or group decides on a different name.”
- Relevance to image – (more specific to the music world) – take for example; Sting, Slash, Sid Vicious, Necrobutcher, Rob Zombie, LADY GAGA – who is actually a complete character on stage and in her musical career than she is from her typical, personal self! Every member of the punk band The Ramones took the pseudonymous “Ramone” surname as part of their collective stage persona. And Norma Jeane Baker changed her name to the far more glamorous-sounding Marilyn Monroe.
- Euphony and ease of remembrance – pretty straight forward…
So, peacefully, my mother and I will bade my Schmidt farewell.
In further conversations with my boss at Theatre Communications Group / American Theatre Magazine (for which I am now the official/temporary PR person – funny how things unfold), Teresa Eyring commented that Emily Beuchat has a ring to it. Its very French. Americans love French things because we assume that there is always an element of culture there that we can never truly possess. Furthermore, she suggested I even change the spelling back to the original pre-americanized “Beauchat.”
This is a suggestion that I like… but I haven’t quite made up my mind about it. Beuchat is still very difficult to say and changing it to Beauchat would definitely clear up some pronunciation confusion. However, then I will really have CHANGED my name. And this leads me to more of the “controversy” in this subject;
How much of yourself are you willing to change in order to reach your dreams in this field?
Be careful how much of yourself you change in order to fit a mold or type. Often, the best and most successful actors are their own type or are already a certain niche. Let yourself fill a void rather than try to squeeze into an over crowded section of the industry. Your greatest talents and your uniqueness are your assets. However, in the case of Rita Hayworth, her alterations worked in her favor. SO, my only TRUE and sincere advice can be, again, to do it for you and not to let someone require it of you. Same goes for breast implants, any sort of facial plastic surgery, and other ventures with you which you may feel uncomfortable (porn and prostitution).
As far as stage names are concerned, think of it in this manner: the industry refers to them as “professional names.” If you separate the issue and look at it as “for use in a professional capacity” then the name change becomes less personal. Less controversial. Less offensive to your parents, friends, heritage (maybe).
To my friends, family, and landlords, I will continue to be the sweet, hyphenated, Emily Schmidt-Beuchat from Boulder, CO.
To my colleagues, casting directors, audiences, and THRONGS of adoring fans, I will now be Emily Beuchat (… BeAuchat pending).
(comments on this specific post are greatly encouraged and appreciated)
If you’re like me before I moved to Los Angeles a year ago, then you have absolutely no idea what casting director workshops are. In short, they are places where you pay anywhere from $30 – $50 (or more) to meet a casting director, and perform a scene they give you there or a scene you have already prepared (depending on the workshop location). Basically, you are paying to audition for the casting director, although that language–paid audition–is central to the recent crackdown on these CD workshops. There are a large number of workshop locations around the city with various formats, but in most all cases a casting director, associate, or assistant comes in to the workshop for a couple hours and watched anywhere from 15 – 30 actors perform. It should be noted that while the CD does indeed receive money, oftentimes the majority of the money goes to the workshop place itself. The community has been split for a while on the merits/legality of these workshops, and the recent controversy has sprouted some spirited discussion and opposition to the new law.
Rather than go into great detail on workshops, workshop locations, and the like, I would like to offer you an email response I sent to a recent discussion that started on Hollywood Happy Hour (side note: if you are not on this email list then you are truly missing out). For more information on workshops themselves, please check out this post from Brains Of Minerva, or this incredibly informative post by Bonnie Gillespie on the issue (note: her post was written after I first published my thoughts below, and includes excerpts from it).
So, here it is. Some of my thoughts on CD workshops…
I think the topic of Casting Director workshops is extremely important to our community, and wanted to add my two cents.
Let me start by saying that I have attended dozens of workshops and have, in general, been quite pleased with the result. I have met a number of people in casting I would not have otherwise met at this juncture, and have formed a number of strong relationships that will certainly carry into the future. All this to say that I have no bitterness whatsoever towards workshops, though I have had some growing concerns…
It seems the core of this issue is the idea of paying for a job interview. To me, that it’s illegal is almost beside the point, because so is speeding and tearing that tag off my mattress, and I don’t find the legality of either activity particularly compelling reasons to avoid them. The issue here, though, is that if anyone in a field is allowed to PAY for a job interview, the playing field suddenly becomes very lopsided, and unfairly so. Should Rich Kid Sally have a better shot at that coveted office job with flexible hours, high pay, and an understanding that you’re going to need to leave for auditions over Poor Kid Joe merely because she could pay for a job interview? At that point, we are no longer looking at merit (or even connections, social intelligence, whatever) as a reason for hire. Suddenly the well-to-do are able to (ostensibly) move to the front of the line simply because of money. Restricting this practice does not come from a motivation of restricting choice, but rather to protect large portions of the population as well as attempting to have as level a playing field as possible. It’s the same reason why politicians are allowed to buy advertising, but not actual votes. 🙂
Now, some have argued that workshops are not paid auditions, to which I have to wholeheartedly disagree. Yes, there are actual classes and other one-offs that are more educational, but I have not been to a *single* workshop in which the VAST majority of attendees were there primarily because the CD could potentially give them a job. If the workshops were run by writers instead of casting directors, I have no doubt that workshop attendance would dramatically decrease (which is ironic, because writers probably have more power to hire actors than CDs do, but that’s a whole other Oprah). Even the top-rated, most legitimate workshop places I have attended speak tongue-in-cheek about the “educational” value of the workshops. Everyone knows that in the end workshops are (primarily) a way of attempting to procure future employment. Yes there are exceptions, yes workshops can be good audition practice, and yes some CDs are more edifying than others, but I find it hard to believe that if CDs were suddenly stripped of their hiring power that ANY actor would attend these workshops.
When looking at the actual laws being put in place, I think it’s important to look at who they affect as well. To be honest, I’m not really worried about the actors who are on top of their game, doing their research and everything else in their power to forward their career (read: the actors who most benefit from workshops anyway). It’s the countless masses of others who are unaware and are more apt to need protection. I moved to L.A. about a year ago, and started doing workshops because it seemed to be “the thing to do.” I never thought twice about it until this controversy arose. That concerns me. If we as a community proffer that paying for job interviews is the standard, then it will indeed become so. I recently encountered an actress who had just started acting about 6 months ago. She was deep in research over all the workshop places because that’s what everyone else was doing. I guess I’m less concerned about a law keeping her from attending a workshop, and more troubled with the fact that workshops were her default method of moving forward. She was surrounded by a community of intelligent actors; why was no one saying that perhaps she should get a little more training or do some more research on what workshops actually were before diving in head first? This is the actor who needs protection–be it provided by the law or from her peers.
The bigger question for me, is how we want to be viewed as an acting community. Why is it that we demand for our right to pay for what used to be free? I’m certainly not advocating nostalgia over the “good ol’ days” of general meetings and play attendance (I’m too young to do so anyway :p), but when was the last time someone even asked for a general meeting? We claim to be a community of creatives, and yet when it comes to the business pursuit of our careers we often become myopic, doing the same things as everyone else. We live in a time where there are more ways than ever to get on the radar of anyone with the ability to hire us. From social media to self-submitting to self-producing to web series to networking events to more television shows on air than ever before to good ol’ fashioned phone calls–there are so many myriad ways to get ourselves and our work in front of people on the other side of the desk I worry when there is an uproar over not being able to pay for the privilege. In a day and age where an email or even a tweet can deliver a reel of our best work to anyone instantaneously, I am reticent to think that actors cannot get their work seen by CDs in any other way than a workshop. What if actors simply started dropping off hard copies of their demo reels to casting offices. How much more effective and efficient might that be than paying $40+ and 2+ hours to see a CD for 5 minutes? I would wager that if actors called casting officers saying that they couldn’t afford/were opposed to CD workshops, and asked to send/drop off a demo reel that they would have a 90% success rate in getting it viewed. Don’t have a demo reel? Well get together the 20 actors who were going to go to the workshop, pool the $40 a piece, and take that $800 to hire a full crew (DPs, writers, editors, the whole nine…) for a day to film reel material for everyone. Or take the next $800 from everyone’s next workshop and produce a showcase, or a web series, or a play, or whatever…all ways to get your work seen. Or hell, if it really is about the educational experience, then take all that money and hire one of these CDs to come direct scenes for 2 hours, or see a play, or critique demo reels, or be filming something and have the CD show up to direct/critique. What better way to get Casting Directors to know your work than to invite them onto a set to see how people work…?
I understand why actors do CD workshops. I certainly know why I’ve done them. It’s one of the very few guaranteed ways to get your work in front of a legitimate casting person. More than anything, workshops make me FEEL like I’m part of the greater, more legitimate acting industry in the city. And if I’m honest with myself, workshops are easy. It’s far easier for me to plunk down 40 bones and know that I’m at least starting an industry relationship than it is to pick up the phone and cold call a producer.
I would hope that we wouldn’t need a law to protect us from ourselves. And again, I honestly don’t care that much about the law itself, but I also don’t buy that actors will do workshops no matter what. The same was said about no one wearing seatbelts, or hockey players not wearing helmets. Interestingly, in both those cases the community-at-large desired the law, but broke it individually. When polled, professional hockey players said they wanted everyone to wear helmets, but without a guarantee that everyone would, there was an individual disadvantage to do so. It wasn’t until it was mandated that ALL hockey players wear helmets that they did so…and happily.
If I’ve learned nothing else in my year in Los Angeles, it’s that the community of actors truly is brilliant. People are smart, supportive, and caring. Whether we decide to do workshops or not, I just hope that we can take a hard and honest at look at why we do them, and if they are indeed the best thing for our community AS A WHOLE. We’re all in this together…
Thanks for reading one actor’s opinion. =)
As always, we invite you to add your comments and discussion below.
The subject of student films seems to be coming up a lot lately, and the discussion usually goes something like this:
Actor 1: Student films suck.
Actor 2: Yeah, seriously. Students suck.
Actor 1: Yeah, like, totes. I refuse to do any movie unless James Cameron is already attached
Actor 2: Word. You should hold out. I mean, you had that one line on 1000 Ways to Die. You got cred.
Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit, but my point is that student films seem to get a very bad reputation. (And that actors often have poor criteria in choosing projects.)
Below is a trailer for Dilated, a project in which I played “Private Parts” (true story):
Now tell me that looks like a “student film,” directed by an undergraduate with an entire crew of students. (Impressed? Find out more about FPS Productions.)
Now, I’m not saying that all student films are good, or that you need to rush out and do as many as you can. However, don’t discount a project just because it’s being done by a student. The three absolutely best films I have done in my life were all done by undergraduates in film school. None of those student films paid me anything, but I much preferred them over the myriad projects I’ve done that paid me (sometimes well) but ended up looking like they were filmed by an untrained monkey walking around during an earthquake.
There is also a widely-perceived belief that there are only a couple good film schools in Los Angeles (USC and AFI often rise to the top of that list). Would that it were that easy to judge a film’s potential. I’ve done projects for the “best” film schools that sucked and projects for the “worst” film schools that turned out great. Most stereotypes are there for a reason, but just because a school has a good reputation doesn’t necessarily mean the student has their $hit together.
Before you do any project–student or otherwise–here are some questions to ask yourself in order to determine how worthwhile the project might be (and in the end, trust yourself):
- What are they shooting on?
- How big is the crew?
- Do they have a DP? A sound person? A lighting guy?
- What are the sides like? Is the script any good?
- What is their budget?
- How many days is the shoot? (compare that to the length of the script)
- Did they give me a phone number to call (if they did, call them!…you will find out oodles of good info)
- How professional is the communication from the project?
- How thorough is their breakdown?
- Is this a role I would LOVE to play (and might not get to otherwise)?
Pros of Doing Student Films
- They probably have a deadline for their class, which means there’s a good chance there will be a final product
- Students are often super thankful that you are doing their project, and will go to great lengths to help you (like going out of their way to get you your reel footage)
- If something goes terribly wrong, you have someone to go to (their professor)…as well as someone to sue (the University)
- Students often have access to the best equipment in the business
- SAG makes it quite easy for a student film to register with SAG (and thus use SAG actors)
- The student is probably getting a grade, so they have an incentive to do good work
- Many students have an easier time getting money for their films than “normal adults” do
- Students can be young and naive (i.e.: they think their film could make them millions so they work their ass off) 🙂
- Most students aren’t total dicks…some adults are
- Steven Spielberg was a student once…just sayin’
Cons of Doing Student Films
- Very rarely will you get paid
- There is no guarantee the film will be any good (but is there ever?)
One warning I would proffer is to never go into any project expecting that it will yield great footage for your reel. There is never any guarantee (for that, you must produce your own work). Do the project for the experience on set, to meet great people, to look like a bad ass (see trailer above), and to get precious time practicing your acting on camera.
I think it vitally important to be selective about the projects you do. There is a tough balance here. Many actors become fed up with the way they are treated or the final product of lower-budget films, but without more significant credits/a beautiful face/a famous parent it becomes that much harder to get work on more ‘legitimate’ projects. Moreover, if you have only done, say, a handful of student films, it is rather unrealistic to expect that you are going to get a lot of work on full-fledged projects. It takes time. Whatever project you do, please ask yourself why you are doing the project, and keep your expectations in check.
Would love to hear your experiences with student films in the comments below!
Recent Updates to the Internet Movie Database
Let’s start this off with the coolest feature of IMDb, which I have only recently discovered. The Bacon Number.
How do you see how many steps you are from Kevin Bacon, you ask? Go into IMDb Pro and click on “Trivia” in the “Personal Details” section in the menu on the left. If, and only if, you are indeed connected to Kevin Bacon through your IMDb credits, your Bacon Number will show up on the right hand side of the screen. Awesome on a stick.
Linking Your Blog and Twitter
If you have IMDb Resume you can now populate your IMDb profile with links to your recent blog updates and/or your twitter feed. To do this, simply sign in to edit your IMDb Resume page, and click on “Twitter and Blog” in the menu on the left. Follow their (surprisingly helpful) instructions.
General sidenote: You know that things like twitter, your blog, (and even facebook) can be accessed by people other than you, right? You know that these things are in public, right? Ok, great. Now please stop writing how you hate your agent, or think so and so is a dick (unless they really deserve it), or how you hate the business. It’s hurting you, and it makes everyone else look bad. Stop it.
Photos…Lots and Lots of Photos
Again, if you have IMDb Resume, you can now upload 100 photos to your IMDb account. Word to the wise, however, don’t go uploading a bazillion headshots. A few will be fine. Use the extra photos to put up pictures of you on the red carpet, talking with industry folks, or pictures of you on set. You might also put a picture of you with your puppy. People love puppies.
Hiding Your Age
Ok, we get it. You think you still like 17 and don’t want anyone to know your age. First of all, know that once your birthday is on IMDb, there’s no getting it off completely. Get over it. However, when you’re logged in to IMDb resume you can click on “Control my Details” on the left, and remove the following from the pro side of IMDb:
- Also Known As
Now, these things still show up on the non-pro, public side of IMDb, but most industry people will be opening your profile in IMDb Pro anyway, so this should help assuage your age-related concerns.
As detailed in this article from Tubefilter, it appears that IMDb will finally be creating a web series category. Hopefully this means all you folks who are creating your own legitimate web videos will have an easier time getting them listed on ye olde Database of Internet Movies.
Part 2 in this series tells you how to get a movie listed on IMDb
I recently heard Tracy Curtis speak at The Actors’ Network. Like my posts on Jonathan Prince and Lauren Bass, below are lessons I learned from an industry professional. Look for many more of these posts in the coming months. I might be just some dude with a blog, but these people know their $hit. Enjoy. 🙂
Tracy Curtis has extensive experience in the industry, from acting to editing, to being a commercial agent in San Francisco. Her father was an Emmy-award winning producer/director, and she recently opened the theatrical agency Talent House LA which is doing extremely well. Oh, and she has 2 dogs and enjoys the outdoors.
Tracy prides herself on having an eye for talent, but what is talent exactly? Talented people have “charisma,” she said. They are very comfortable with themselves. It comes down to knowing in your heart that acting is your calling. Any doubt you have is very transparent.
How to Attract an Agent
Your Reel: In attracting agents, “the reel is everything,” Tracy said. The goal of (most) any actor in Los Angeles is to get cast in moving pictures, so what better way to demonstrate your value in that arena than a reel? A stellar reel also gives an agent a tremendous tool with which to sell you. But don’t freak out thinking you need 27 minutes of material. Even one 30-second clip (that is good!) is enough to get started. Just know that you should constantly be updating your reel as you get new material.
Tracy also mentioned that she can often tell within 5 seconds of watching a reel whether or not she would be able to help that actor get a job. While at first this might sound like an insanely short amount of time to make a judgment, I challenge you to start watching actor reels and see how quickly you “get” the emotional value of a scene. You might find that 5 seconds is an eternity. J
Relationships: Cliché or not, this is a relationship business. Relationships are absolutely vital, and you need to be aware that they take time to build (which is a primary reason why it takes time to accrue success in this industry). Demonstrating to an agent that you have, and will continue to form solid industry relationships is priceless. Want to blow an agent away? Show up at your meeting with a detailed list of all the casting directors, producers, and other industry professionals you know.
And as an actor, don’t be afraid to ask a potential agent how they develop relationships. The main reason an agent will be able to get you an audition, is because they have a solid relationship with a specific casting director (or are able to leverage a relationship you have). Tracy, for example, takes general meetings herself. Knowing that she is a newer agent in town, she put together a book of her clients which she takes around town as a networking tool. Find out how your representation is developing relationships and how you can both work together to leverage those.
Being Proactive: I don’t have to tell you how competitive this business is, but what does that mean for you? Well, it means that you need to be working harder than the next guy. And I assure you that the next guy is working pretty effing hard. Agents and managers want to see that you will continue to work your ass off in furthering your own career, even with representation. It’s not enough to just get an agent then sit by your phone and wait for a call (which sounds really boring, anyway). Demonstrate that you’re out there meeting people, taking class, producing your own material, doing whatever it takes to keep your career moving forward. Give your agent ammunition to shoot you auditions! Okay, that was the worst analogy I’ve ever made, but you get the point.
What She’s Looking For
As I’ve mentioned before, it’s extremely important to research and understand the individuals you’re targeting (be they casting directors, agents, whomever). Tracy runs a very boutique agency, and perhaps more than other agencies is interested in comedic actors. She views the ability to be funny as a gift not to be taken lightly. Even dramas often require a sense of comedic timing (think Dexter), and more and more improvisation skills are an audition requirement. Furthermore, Tracy commented on the increasing number of ½ hour sitcoms that came out this year, noting that this is likely a trend that will continue over the next couple years.
In addition, like many of the agents I’ve heard from, Tracy is looking for emerging talent and culturally diverse actors. Agents are often interested in actors who have a good acting background—Second City Chicago, extensive theatre experience, and the like—who are also still young enough to be molded. There also seems to be an increasing demand for more ethnically diverse casts on TV.
As with most agents, Tracy also wants actors to at least be eligible for SAG. (For more information on SAG and how to join check out this post.)
Most agents and managers have their own unique way of conducting a meeting with an actor. Tracy requires 2 scenes from a current TV show or feature film (preferably 1 comedy and 1 drama), which you will read with her assistant. Beyond that, she might require a couple cold reads, and if she’s still not sure about you she’ll call your acting teacher (you are taking classes, right?). Which, by the way, is another reason not to lie on your resume. Talk about an awkward phone call…
Whatever a specific agent requires, I’ve found it wise to always have a comedic and dramatic scene that I have rehearsed and memorized ready to go at any given time. While monologues are a lot less required in Los Angeles, I think it also prudent to have a comedic and dramatic monologue in your back pocket at all times. (And no, I don’t mean literally have them in your back pocket, I mean have them memorized and polished silly.)
The opinions on managers in this town varies greatly, but Tracy’s basic point was that the more people you can get on your team, the better. Obviously you want these people to be good and work with you to further your career, but so long as that’s the case the more the merrier!
(Side note: managers generally charge 10 – 15%. Agents by law can only charge 10%.)
Actor Websites and IMDb
Tracy noted that an actor’s website can certainly be helpful, especially if there is information that she could point a casting director to in order to help sell you. However, she said that IMDb is the most important resource for actors to have updated, as a casting director will immediately pull up your profile when getting pitched.
As with so many others, Tracy demonstrated the importance of loving what you do. The passion and enthusiasm that comes with that is utterly infectious. Tracy is clearly head over heels in love with what she’s doing. Are you?
Alright, people. Saddle up and get ready. This is probably the most valuable information I have ever put on this blog. Seriously, this $hit is priceless. Perfect for our 100th post (!)
What the hell is SAG anyway?
SAG stands for Screen Actors Guild, and is a collection of actors. It is often referred to as “the union,” and it many ways acts like a union, even though it’s technically a guild. Any “legitimate” projects (e.g. things you actually see on TV or in the movie theatre) have agreements with either SAG or AFTRA for every project. These agreements delineate things like how much actors are guaranteed to make, working conditions, the hours you can work people, etc.
Do I need to join?
Eventually, yes. To be a working actor in Los Angeles, you will absolutely have to join SAG at some point. Having SAG on your resume–rightfully or not–gives you a rather giant leap up in credibility. It indicates that you have been paid to act on a seriously professional level.
Know, however, that when you join SAG you are agreeing to no longer work any non-union jobs. Bonnie Gillespie has a phenomenal post on when to join the unions.
How do I join, and what’s all this ‘eligibility’ business?
- Principal Performer: As a non-union actor you book a union job as a principal performer. For SAG, this means you will get “Taft-Hartleyed,” meaning a Taft-Hartley form (see below) was filed for you as a principal performer. This makes you eligible for SAG.
- Vouchers: As a non-union actor you must receive 3 Taft-Hartleys as a background performer to become eligible to join SAG. Basically, 1 principal role Taft-Hartley = 3 background role Taft-Hartleys
- It seems to take people between 3 months and 5 years (I know) to obtain 3 vouchers
- The younger, hotter, and more female you are, the better chance you have of getting a voucher
- On a set, it is usually the 1st or 2nd AD (Assistant Director) who has the ability to give out vouchers (if they have any)
- I have heard of a large number of people who paid someone roughly $100 per voucher. I personally hate the system that engenders this, but more on that later
- Affiliated Unions: If you are a member of one of SAG’s sister unions (AEA, AFTRA, ACTRA, AGMA or AGVA) you are eligible to join SAG one year after working a principal part through the sister union
Once you are eligible, you are free to join SAG at any time. Simply pony up $2,335 at the time of this writing (that’s including the minimum $58 in your first year’s annual fees) and you’re a full-fledged SAG member. And yes, you can pay with Visa or Mastercard.
When do I have to join?
Ok, so I’ve been tracking down this answer for a long time and finally came to my senses and just called SAG for clarification. Here goes…
Once you receive a Taft-Hartley as a principle performer OR receive 3 Taft-Hartleys (vouchers) as a SAG background performer, you are eligible to join SAG and can pay at any time. If you choose not to join off the bat, it works as follows:
“SAG Eligible” Status: From the date you first become eligible, you then have 30 days to do as much SAG work as possible without having to join the union.
“OK 30” Status: After that 30 days, if you book another SAG job and they call to clear you in time, you can be cleared for an additional 30 days to again do as much SAG work as possible without having to join. At this point you are considered to have “OK 30” status.
“Must Pay” Status: After that 30 days, if and when you book another (ostensibly your third) SAG job, you then become a “must pay.” From the first work date of this (third) SAG job you have 5 business days to join.
Payment Plan: If you are an “OK 30” or a “must pay” status, you are eligible for SAG’s payment plan. The payment plan is 40% down on the total ($2,335) , and then 3 equal monthly installments of the balance.
Note, if you are in the midst of your payment plan and book another SAG job, you must pay off the balance you owe in full before you can be cleared for another job.
Station 12 Promise to Pay. If you are “must pay” status and you book another job but don’t have the money, it is possible if you are represented by a SAG-franchised agent to have them call in with a promise to pay for you, which clears you for–and I didn’t receive exact clarification on this–like one more week to pay. However, that agent can only have ONE person in a “promise to pay” status at any given time.
Taft, who? Wasn’t he that fat President?
Wow, you really know your history. But I bet you didn’t know that President Taft had a specialty bathtub installed in the White House for him. So what does this have to do with SAG? Absolutely nothing.
“Taft-Hartley” refers to the Taft-Hartley Act which is a law passed by Congress in 1947 relating to labor unions. Without further boring you, what it means for an actor is that if you get a Taft-Hartley you are then eligible to join SAG as mentioned above.
Getting Taft-Hartleyed is rather difficult to accomplish, as a TV show or movie has to do a (minimal) paperwork and pay a (minimal…like a few hundred dollars) fine to Taft-Hartley you. Fortunately for you, you can get Taft-Hartleyed by doing your own web video or webseries, and pay no fine.
How to form a SAG signatory company for a web-based video project (and Taft-Hartley someone such as yourself)
First of all, know that SAG states you cannot use the following process simply to Taft-Hartley yourself or anyone else. You must actually do a legitimate web project. (There are no listed requirements for what that entails, nor is there any stated way of them checking on this, but that’s what they say.) What I explain below is how to create a SAG Signatory Company, which then produces your web video (or series). There is no cost to forming a Signatory Company through the New Media Agreement.
When doing a project through SAG you are agreeing to abide by their rules, and to hire union (SAG) actors for your project, unless for some reason you are unable to find a SAG actor for a specific role (see the actual Taft-Hartley info below). Brains of Minerva has another incredible article on what this all means when doing a web project. You might also look over the FAQs for New Media Projects provided by SAG.
Step 1: Preliminary info sheet
You must first fill out the Preliminary Info Sheet found on SAG’s website. Along with that sheet, you must also turn in the following:
- Copy of the driver’s license of the person submitting the form (whomever is going to be the Signatory company/primary contact)
- A line-item budget for the project
- A script for the project
- Be sure to designate how much you plan on paying the actors
- There are no actual requirements for this, and you can indeed “defer” pay to actors. However, you should know that SAG most assuredly would like to see that you plan to pay your actors something…even if it’s deferred payment
- If you decide to pay, say, $100/day deferred that’s fine, you just need to stipulate when you would actually pay the actors
- Ex: You say we would pay the actors 14 days after receiving any distribution money if you theoretically made money on the project at some point
- If you decide to pay, say, $100/day deferred that’s fine, you just need to stipulate when you would actually pay the actors
- There are no actual requirements for this, and you can indeed “defer” pay to actors. However, you should know that SAG most assuredly would like to see that you plan to pay your actors something…even if it’s deferred payment
- You need to indicate whether we want an OPO (One Production Only) or Term Agreement
- OPO means you are only doing one video, whereas a Term Agreement means you plan on doing more.
- OPO only obligates to do this single project through SAG, whereas a Term Agreement means you agree to do all future productions through SAG until the next round of SAG contract negotiations (which generally happen every three years.
- While there is no official requirement, SAG definitely wants to see that you plan on hiring at least some SAG actors for your project. Again, there is no actual requirement, but the more SAG actors you plan on using, the happier SAG will be.
It generally takes 3 weeks or so to process this form. After it is processed, SAG will send you a a packet with the various forms you’ll need to complete your Signatory status and carry out your production.
Step 2: The signatory packet
After you submit the preliminary info they will send you a large packet of information (that will also have the Taft-Hartley form) that you then fill out to officially form the SAG Signatory Company. Once that gets processed, you’re good to go to begin filming your project.
This packet is fairly self-explanatory. A couple notes:
- It is not required that you form an LLC or separate entity to become a SAG Signatory Company. That is, an individual can effectively act as a SAG Signatory Company
- If you do not have a separate bank account for your production company you can skip the “credit check” section (though you do need to fill out the rest of that page)
- If this is a new project, you don’t need to fill out the “New Media Transfer of Rights” page
Once you submit this packet you will receive an email from SAG within a couple weeks with your SAG Signatory number as well as the SAG production number for your project.
Step 3: Film it!
Pretty self-explanatory. The best advice I can give you: find an amazing DP (Director of Photography) and pay your sound guy. Poor sound makes a project seem incredibly unprofessional.
Step 4: More paperwork
There is some paperwork included with your signatory packet that you are required to fill out during your shoot. Be as thorough as possible.
The Actual Taft-Hartley
If you are planning to hire a non-union actor (such as yourself), then you submit the Taft-Hartley within 15 days of the non-union performer working on the project.
Important Note: For the SAG New Media process outlined here, SAG does not have any fines for a Taft-Hartley, nor do they state anything that would keep one from having their Taft-Hartley go through.
Ever wondered what the actual Taft-Hartley looks like? Are you assuming it’s some monstrous 27-page packet? Well, look no further. Here is the actual Taft-Hartley form. You might notice the myriad ways one might qualify to be Taft-Hartleyed, including “first employment of a person who has training/experience as a professional performer and intends to pursue a career as a motion picture performer.” When filling out the “contract type” section on the Taft-Hartley, you might just write in “___ New Media.”
The performer who was Taft-Hartleyed will receive a letter in the mail from SAG in a few weeks indicating their eligibility to join SAG.
Please know that if and when you produce your own project, there are a number of legal ramifications that you need to be aware of. First of all, if you personally are listed as the SAG-Signatory producer when you fill out the paperwork explained above, then you personally are legally responsible for everything that happens on your set. Someone breaks a leg, dies, scratches a Ferrari…it’s all on you. As such, it might be wise to form an LLC or other legal entity that produces your project.
In addition, there are myriad state and federal legal requirements when you produce something. For example, you can only work children for a certain number of hours, you need a permit to film anywhere (even on private property), and it is California state law that you need to have workman’s comp insurance if you do a project. Entertainment Partners will actually provide you with workman’s comp insurance for everyone on set if you go through them as your payroll company. Contact them for pricing, but my understanding is that often it will only cost a couple hundred dollars, and then you’re protected if something horrible happens. Sure beats getting sued because Joe Actor decided to trip on the banana peel (he’ssooo cliche) and hit his head on the dalmatian statue.
Many people confuse these laws with annoying SAG requirements so they shoot non-union. The hoops and such that you must jump through with a SAG project are there to help you ensure that you are following all of the laws.
I’ve heard from a couple people that the process described here is a “loophole” that SAG is planning to close (they’ve also been saying they’re going to get rid of the voucher system for about a decade now). I don’t see how producing a new media project through SAG is a loophole, nor does it make sense to me that SAG would make it any more difficult to go through them for new media projects. Moving picture entertainment is moving more and more online, and I can only think that SAG wants to be as much a part of that as possible.
If you have any further questions on what is presented here, I suggest you call the appropriate SAG department (full list here).
New Media: (323) 549-6724
Membership: (323) 549-6757
I hope this has been helpful. If you’re a rock star who is out there producing their own work, then you might as well take the next step and make it a legitimate SAG production. When you’re ready to upgrade from new media to actual film, Bonnie Gillespie has a great column on becoming a SAG signatory for non-New Media projects. Happy filming!
Hopefully you’ve heard this phrase a lot, because it’s friggin’ true (and because Joe wrote about it a couple weeks ago). This really is a relationship business.
My acting coach has been around the biz for decades, and has had the fortune of watching countless people make it to the very top. I asked him what sets these people apart: “They do lunch,” he said.
I’ve been feeling a little concerned that a lot of my time is spent “doing lunch” or otherwise spending time kinda just hanging out with fellow industry people. Shouldn’t I be editing my reel right now? Maybe I should go finish that mailing? How many actors DOES it take to screw in a light bulb?
Thankfully, the Universe has a way of sending not-so-subtle hints when you’re on the right track. Today I booked three different projects I didn’t audition for, all because of relationships I had developed with fellow actors. Moreover, these relationships are not necessarily super close friends. They’re people I’ve met through friends of friends or worked with on other projects in a rather limited capacity.
Meet people. Stay in touch. Make a good impression. Be fun to be around. Get creative: use the lunch break of your day job to schedule meetings with industry-friends. The most important thing you do for your career today may very well include a spicy tuna crunch roll. Score.
P.S. I would not have been contacted for one of these projects had I not been Facebook friends with the person…be easy to contact!