Advice and How-To's Especially for ACTORS!

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

A Magazine for Theater Managers/Artistic Directors


Are you thinking about starting your own theater company or producing your own shows? You should probably be reading DramaBiz Magazine. I have been working with DramaBiz for the past two years helping give theaters all of the tools they need to run their businesses successfully (kind of sounds like what The Actors' Enterprise does for actors, huh?) This is a publication that gives you everything you need to know about running a theater, from management techniques to product features. Take a look at the articles online, or download a PDF version.

If you already have a theater company in existence and you are the primary decision maker, you can subscribe to the print edition for free.

DramaBiz Magazine is published 9 times in 2008. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Actors: Independent Contractor or Employee?


I saw a question posted on one of the many acting related websites that asked how actors are classified as workers: are they independent contractors or employees, and what are the implications of both?

Now, before I move forward let me say that I am not a tax or accounting professional- I am simply hoping to shed some light on these two classifications from my perspective as someone who has been on both sides of the table.

· Independent Contractor: Legally, this type of worker is defined as, "A person or business who performs services for another person under an express or implied agreement and who is not subject to the other's control, or right to control, the manner and means of performing the services; not as an employee." (Lectlaw.com). No federal, states or local taxes (income or employment) are taken by the employer- rather, the independent contractor is responsble for filing these taxes, as he is considered the owner of a separate business. The contractor is also responsible for the health and safety of himself- no health insurance, workers comp, or disability offered. For taxes, contractors receive 1099s from their employers.

· Employee: Legally, this type of worker is defined as, "A person who is hired by another person or business for a wage or fixed payment in exchange for personal services and who does not provide the services as part of an independent business; Any individual employed by an employer." (Lectlaw.com). Taxes are taken out, and the employer is liable for basic benefits- partial payment of employment taxes (Social Security, etc) as well as workers comp. For taxes, employees receive W2s from their employers.

· One vs the other? As actors, we normally don't get to choose which we get to be for each job. This is determined by the employer well before the project is cast. For most union jobs, actors are hired as employees through the producer, with contributions made to employment taxes, health and pension. There are some cases where union actors are paid as contractors- working with promotions, print work, and various industrials. At the end of the year, most actors will have a number of both W2s and 1099s to file when it comes to tax time.

As we head into tax season, it is recommended that you see a tax professional to find out the implications of each classification. It is also a good idea to know your legal rights in both cases, so seeing an employment lawyer is also a good idea.

With a background in non profit management as well as acting professionally, I can give you some real-world advice that can really make a difference. Contact me to set up your free consultation.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Plan to be a Famous Actor?


Bonnie Gillespie has done it again, this time with an article about what to expect when your acting career shoots you into super-stardom. Take a look at it here:

The Actor's Voice

And if you are an actor, please, please, for your own sake, be sure to read her column every week. It is published, without fail, every Monday (possible exceptions are during certain holidays.)

Enjoy!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Submitted question: Exclusive Contracts with Agents


Jennifer writes:

I am in LA and have an agent who is interested in signing me but I am not sure I want to sign an exclusive contract with her. Any advice on this?

TAE responds:

Great question, Jennifer. Even if you sign a contract you do have an "out" if things don't work out. Typically, contracts have a clause that states that if the actor doesn't secure work within any 90 day period while the contract is in effect, either party can back out without penalty. This is designed to allow the agent and actor to get to know each other and see how things go, but sets a limit of how much time is acceptable without work being found.

I'd ask to see a copy of the contract and go over it carefully to make sure there is a clause like this (SAG & Equity contracts have those clauses- I don't know if you are union or non-union but even non-union contracts should have a similar clause. If not, add one.)

You could also ask if they'll allow you to freelance for a certain amount of time (6 months, 1 year, etc.) Some agents do that here in NYC, but I have not seen many who do it in LA. Usually, an agent who freelances has far more clients on board than those who only sign exclusive contracts, and you run the risk of being lost in the shuffle. Having someone who wants to sign you is SUPPOSED to indicate that they have a place for your type and would work hard to get you work. But because there is no limit to the amount of people they can sign, and since there is a back-out clause for any 90 day period where there's no work, many agents are now signing people that they wouldn't have before.

Bottom line- you are hiring the agent to be on your team, so if you don't want to sign, then you shouldn't. But there are safeguards in place in case you do end up signing.

Good luck, and let me know how it goes!

Erin Cronican
The Actors' Enterprise

Have a question? Send me an email and I'll answer it promptly!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Great Glossary of Film Terms


If you ever wanted to know the how film positions and terms are defined, look no further! Bravo TV's "Project Greenlight" program has posted a fantastic glossary of terms in its website. Filled with humor, this is not just any glossary!

Project Greenlight: Glossary

Enjoy!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Handling the issue of Nudity

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Rebecca writes:

I am planning on getting into acting, starting with some extra work because I know in order to break into acting I need to get my foot in the door by doing some small work. But I have some questions and I was wondering can I ask them here. I was wondering what if there is something that I as the actress am not comfortable doing? For example: nude/sex scenes. Do you know of actors/actresses that have decided not to do certain scenes or even movies that deals mainly on something or involves doing something that they are not comfortable with and still had a successful career? As well, can your agent force you to do a scene you are not comfortable with? I personally don't think so, but I want to make sure that I choose the right agent/manager for me. One that will work with me and respect who I am. Thank you for your time.

Hi, Rebecca, and thanks for your email. Nudity/sex scenes are obviously very personal for each actress, and different actresses will tolerate different levels of undress. No one can force you to do anything you don't want to do. There are clauses in both the SAG and AEA contracts that govern nudity (for example, when nude or in a state of undress, the set should be cleared of all non-key personnel.) Also, agents/managers will typically make sure that there are riders for each contract to specifically guard your wishes should they not be sufficiently addressed in the general contract. 

There are many well known actresses who have refused to do nudity in movies, and many who are very careful with how they are portrayed in love scenes. Oftentimes, a lead actress can add to the contract, stating that they have final approval over a love scene, and this allows the actress to feel confident that they will be shown tastefully. However, this type of power is typically reserved for big names- it can be harder to guarantee those protections when you are just starting out. As far as extra work, there is plenty of extra work available where you don't have to be nude or do things you don't want to do. 

The above also holds true for other types of scenes that you are uncomfortable doing- action sequences, scenes with dangerous animals, etc. Now, I would be lying if I said that refusing to do nudity or love scenes would NEVER hurt your chances of getting cast. There are some jobs you won't get because you decide not to do something integral to the script. I myself have been passed over by producers when their projects that required nudity or gratuitous lovemaking that I was uncomfortable with. 

Ultimately, you are the driving force behind your own career, and if you want it bad enough, there is no reason to betray your principles for this industry. You are well within your rights to have an agent/manager whom you trust and listens to your wishes. Just follow your instincts when you build your team- ask questions and weigh the answers. You will know what to do. 

Thanks for writing, Rebecca, and best of luck to you in this career!

Erin Cronican's career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has done national tours of plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. To learn more, check out http://www.theactorsenterprise.org.
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