Advice and How-To's Especially for ACTORS!

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Monday, December 29, 2008

Actor Poachers- BEWARE


I am starting a war. Let me say it now, and say it clearly. I will not put up with companies that take advantage of actors under the guise of providing "services" or "opportunities" or "advisement." The gloves are off, and I am prepared to fight. So, Actor Poachers, Beware. I'm on to you.

But, hold on. Methinks the title of this article may have a double meaning. Yes, I am warning companies that poach for actors to beware of ME, but I am also asking actors to beware of THEM. Beware The Poachers.

Actors are a valuable commodity. Some of my fellow artists and I have commented that actors fuel an entire industry of service providers- photographers, teachers, editors, accompanists, graphic designers, and even Yours Truly (aka business coaches.) We all have our businesses because actors are pursuing theirs. And actors are known to be a desirous bunch, who will stop at nothing in their drive to succeed. It is no wonder, then, that actors are prime targets for some shady dealings. And, unfortunately, there is very little recourse for an actor when something goes wrong. Even worse, actors have been conditioned to believe that horrific behavior is something we just have to put up with.

Here are some examples of recent concerns I have heard from actors (some are students of mine, some are friends, and some were overheard at auditions):

• Donating their time to shoot a student project, only to find that the student dropped out of school without ever finishing the film and they never got footage.
• Being offered a role in a film, but being required to pay nearly a thousand dollars to do it (with no producing/creative control.)
• Auditioning for a theater company only to find that it is actually a membership-based showcase, and actors are required to pay to perform.
• Being told by their agent that they have a callback, only to have the casting director tell them that the agent lied and they have, in effect, sent you to "crash" the callback.

Obscene, isn't it? Sadly, these stories happened to SMART actors who have been in the business for a while, no spring chickens here. So, if it happens to all of us, what is an actor to do?

First, realize that every dollar you spend on your business should be put through a rigorous test to see a) what goal it serves, and b) how you can measure its effect. One of the most powerful tools in your arsenal is the ability to say "no." And the most powerful vote you have is with your wallet. Do Your Homework. Choose Wisely.

Second, when something sounds a little off don't be afraid of asking for advice from someone you trust. Who knows- maybe your peers have experienced the same thing and can help you steer clear of trouble. If you don't have anyone you can rely on, I offer myself as a sounding board- you can email me day or night.

Third, report your concerns to the appropriate authority. If you are concerned about a business, complain to the Better Business Bureau, as well as the referrer. (For example, if you reply to an ad in Backstage and run into trouble, you should notify Backstage as well the BBB.) You can also alert your union, if you have one. And, tell me as well. I have compiled a "BEWARE" list on the Resource Directory and if I get enough complaints about a company, I will list the concerns in the directory.

We have to stick together on this. Actors will not succeed in a vacuum- keeping this information to yourself helps no one. And, really, if you need some advice, please let me know. As I said, the gloves are off, and I am in your corner.

[ This will now conclude our boxing analogy! ]


Have a comment or question? Leave it by clicking below!

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 a weekly "Expert" column on the business of acting at Backstage magazine. As an actor, Erin has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has appeared Off Broadway, regionally and on national tour with both plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of several major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. To learn more, check out www.theactorsenterprise.org.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Value of Relationships


A brief personal story:

Word of mouth and previous work relationships have had some pretty nice results recently recently in getting me auditions and jobs. I just finished shooting a sketch video for the website New Year’s Nation (which will air sometime next week), for which I was recommended by a filmmaker I worked with 2 years ago. Last weekend I auditioned for a revival of a musical that ran Off Broadway in the early 80s, for which I was recommended by a friend of the director (who happens to be from the same hometown as me.) I also got invited to audition for a wacky interpretation of a classic play, which is being produced by a friend and colleague. I tell you, building and maintaining relationships is THE name of the game in this industry. Not only do you need to audition for new people, but then you need to keep in touch, develop the relationship, and stay on their radar. And doing good work can lead to future good work. It’s a wonderful part of this crazy business.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Starting a Production Company


I recently gave advice to a new film production company that was looking for a good name, and I realized that actors may benefit from this advice as well. In particular, this brainstorming advice is perfect for actors who plan to start a production company to produce their own work:

There are a couple of things to consider when brainstorming for a company name:

A) What kind of feeling do you want to evoke when someone reads the name? What kind of message are you trying to send? When I created my coaching company, The Actors' Enterprise, I wanted to make sure that people would know that my company deals with business, creativity, and action, and is specifically for actors. I then went to the thesaurus and looked up synonyms for "business" and "entrepreneur" and came up with Enterprise.

B) Is the domain name available? If not, go back to the drawing board and pick another name, or a variation on that name. Make sure you can get a .com or .org name. 

C) Look up your competition, or companies that are doing the work similar to the work you want to do. Put all of the names in a list, and then try out your name in that same list. Does it stand out? Does it sound like any of the others? Then, alphabetize the list- where does your name appear? It it toward the top, or toward the bottom? When companies are listed in directories/phone books/industry sites, they are often listed in alphabetical order. How do you feel about that? I list my name as "Actors' Enterprise, The" whenever I submit my info to directories so that I can be at the top if at all possible.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

What Do Casting Directors Do?


I just read a fabulous article by Bonnie Gillespie answering, in detail, “What do casting directors actually do?” (Hi, Bonnie, if you found this blog via Google Alert!)

One of the parts that beginning actors know little about is the casting director’s role in negotiating the contract with the actor’s agent. I wanted to mention this, in particular, to give you an idea of the kinds of things that get negotiated “above scale.” It’s a good idea to get a glimpse at the process in the event that you land a decent sized role without the benefit of an agent. Here’s an excerpt:

“A casting director will send over the first version of the offer letter and SAG contract for the actor and the agent will come back with a counter. Maybe they need to be assured a specific kind of rental car at the location. Maybe they need to be provided companion tickets for the location shoot off days so their loved ones can visit. Maybe they need more money than originally discussed. Maybe they'll take less money if they're given better billing in the opening credits. Maybe they require approval of all photos taken of them on set for use in promotional materials. Maybe they need assurance that their head will be larger than everyone else's on the poster art (I'm not kidding!) or that the font in which their name is displayed is a minimum point-size larger than the one used for other actors' names.

Point by point, an agent and casting director will hammer out these deals. On larger-budget projects, we'll let the production attorney handle the back-and-forth, but on smaller ones, we'll do the heavy lifting and then just be sure everything gets attorney approval before going over for the signatures. Back to the "handicapping" aspect, above, this is where CDs will go back to producers and discuss whether what is being asked for is "worth it" for what the actor brings to the project. So many producers want to believe casting is DONE once the decision is made, but every now and then the negotiation process is what kills a deal. The actor wants "too much" or the producer will give "too little" and everyone walks away.

And then the CD begins the process of offer-making again, after heading back to the list and going to the second-choice actor. One film I cast earlier this year saw four different actors under contract for the same role within a week. Each of the first three fell through for various reasons. (One wanted WAY too much money, one booked another role after saying yes to us and backed out of our deal, and one tried but couldn't make our dates work and we were way too close to the shoot dates to change them.) Happily, the fourth time was the charm on this one and the dailies on this guy look terrific! So, there ya go. Three deals negotiated and finalized and ultimately put through the shredder, but we ended up with the best possible actor anyway!“

I highly recommend checking out this blog when a new article is published each Monday. And tell her that Erin at The Actors’ Enterprise sent ya!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Handling Rejection


I just read the most incredible transcript of an interview with Holland Taylor. I wanted to pass along an excerpt which deals with handling rejection. What’s interesting is that the best advice for handling rejection is to address why you would call it “rejection” in the first place.

“First of all, I have had any number of instances where I've met people in later years -- 10 years later after an audition or something when they said, ‘That was the most brilliant audition I ever saw for such-and such,’ and I hadn't gotten the job. And I had been crushed by not getting it, and I had suffered over it and often remembered it and my face would get hot with embarrassment.

And then I would find out that I had actually done superbly, even, but that there were many other reasons why people get or don't get jobs -- I'm sure you know this too. And after a while, I really understood this and I understood that it was very rarely me getting the job, and I say to young actors, ‘Don't go into an audition saying, 'I've got to get that job, I'm going to get that job,' because it isn't up to you.’ ”

When auditioning for a role, I have always said that there are only two things you can control in the room:

• Being Prepared
• Playing Full Out

Getting cast is not in your control. There are too many other factors in casting that you are completely unaware of, so how can you begin to control them? 

“And if you don't get it, then of course you feel that you have failed, that you have crapped out, that you did badly. And the fact is that the only thing -- it's like running a race. I say to students, "Can you win a race?" I'll say to a young, athletic man, and he'll say, "Yes, I can." And I said, "Well, what if someone's faster than you?" And he said, "Well, then I'll just have to run faster?"

I said, "But what if someone runs faster than you?" And then I said, "Then you won't win that race, right?" And he said, "I guess not." And I said, "So you aren't in charge of winning. You're in charge of running.’ ”

When I coach actors on setting goals, I teach them how to look for results that are manageable and empowering. Instead of "My goal is to be cast" (which you cannot control) I encourage actors to strive to be put in the “YES pile." YES means that you have what it takes to compete, and they'll keep giving you chances until something connects perfectly. Using Holland's analogy of the runner, you wouldn't strive to say, "I won," but, "I am someone that they'll want in a future race."  

As someone who has cast a fair number of shows, I can tell you that getting into my YES pile is ultimately more important than getting cast. If I like your work and your spirit in the audition room, I will do whatever I can to get you cast in my projects because you are going to make me look good- bringing in good actors impresses the producers and means job security for the casting director. So I would bring you in every time a role is right for you until something clicks. 

So, strive to be in that YES pile - go into the audition prepared, listen to what is being asked of you and act accordingly, be respectful and HAVE FUN! You'll find that if you show up to auditions using these principles you will be a much happier actor and you'll quiet that little negative voice inside you!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Financial Core

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I just received an email from Julia, who asks:

"I'm curious if you have any information on Financial Core, Fi-Core, SAG-Core or whatever the heck it is that they call it these days. I've been getting a lot of non-union work, especially dance work. Since union rates for dancers are so high, no production seems to want to pay it. But at the same time, I need to catapult my career to the new level and not do non-union films that pay me $50 for a 14 hour day. So I keep hearing about Financial Core. More and more performers are opting to be Fi-Core vs SAG so that they can do both SAG and Non-SAG projects. Do you know anything about this mumbo-jumbo? There seems to be certain stigmas associated with Fi-Core but it seems like such a smart business move to be able to do both SAG and Non-SAG projects...”

Thanks for your email- this is an excellent question, Julia! Here is information about Financial Core, as I understand it.

First off, many actors believe that Fi-Core was created by the unions to give actors the option to take non-union work when there is not enough union work to be had (or when non union work is paying more than the union work available.) This is not why Fi-Core was established, so let's start with its origin.

The Supreme Court made a ruling that states no one should be forced to pay dues to a union that uses the dues for political purposes (this invades constitutional rights of the worker.) So the option of Financial Core, or Fi-core, was put in place. In this case, an actor will pay only partial dues to the union, avoiding paying the dues that would go towards political action. More info on this website.

Actors who claim fi-core would be considered a "non-dues-paying member" which means they can work union jobs but they do not enjoy the same rights, benefits and privileges of the full paying union members. And because they are not a full union member, they would be eligible to audition for non-union projects. The fact that you can claim fi-core is very troubling to the unions- it is a tense and rarely talked about subject over at SAG (there is a good article about this on Backstage.com )

I have also heard of current union actors officially withdrawing from the union for financial reasons but continuing to pay partial dues, and they have considered this "going Fi-Core." But there is no documentation that I could find online that would support this as a sanctioned procedure by the unions. As far as the unions are considered, you are either a full member or you are not a member at all, yet the Fi-Core provision provides this murky in-between that no one really wants to talk about.

I know many actors who feel their union fails them because they don’t provide access to enough paying jobs. They feel that it is the union’s responsibility to organize the non-union productions, and until they do the actor deserves to take advantage of the Fi-Core option.

As a member of all three unions who also struggles to find paying work, I understand this position. In the end, it's a personal choice that you will have to make for yourself. One thing to consider when making this decision: after working on many union sets and then visiting several non-union sets, the differences in the way actors were treated were glaringly obvious. Not to say all non-union producers treat actors badly (many treat actors very well) but as a Fi-Core union member you lose the strength of 120,000 members to back you up on basic minimums like pay, rest periods, meals, etc.

Here’s my professional option: You should choose one or the other // union or non-union // and avoid the in-between. This Fi-Core option undermines what the union is trying to do, and I think it can be detrimental to actors as a whole. The whole point of the union is to secure basic minimums in salary, work conditions, and benefits for all actor members, and if some of its members opt to be Fi-Core, then the entire union loses power in negotiating with producers. You also lose bargaining power with your non-union producer when they know that you are a union actor willing to overstep the union to work with them.

To address you current situation (needing to be paid more for your work), here is an option: Negotiate for higher pay for your non-union gigs. Take out the middle man (the union) and set your own pay rate. To learn the best way to negotiate with a non-union producer, it is a good idea to talk to your agent or manager, or hire a career coach. Agents will be the ones to negotiate the actual contracts for you, and the manager and/or career coach can guide you towards the right kinds of projects that can help lead you higher on the ladder towards your ideal career.

(Note: Agents who are signatories of SAG are generally forbidden from negotiating contracts for non-union projects, so you'll have to use a non-signatory agent.)

(Second Note: There is no such thing as Fi-Core with Actors' Equity, reportedly because they do not use member dues for political purposes...)

The bottom line... In life, getting around a rule usually serves people in the short term, but can hurt you in the long term. If your end goal is to work only union projects, it may not be worth the hassle and the headache to try this middle road. You mention that it may be a good business move to be Fi-Core - I think it can be an equally good business move to build your skills so that you can compete at the union level for the top jobs. You can also use your agent, manager and career coach to guide your overall career, making sure that you have the training and experience to compete at every level you attempt. If you don't have an agent/manager, a career coach can be an incredible tool to help you learn to do these things for yourself.

So, get out there and network, build relationships, take classes, hone your skills, create buzz about yourself, and express yourself as the valuable and unique commodity that you are!

UPDATE: There was recently a very interesting discussion on one of the message boards about Fi-Core- take a look at it here.


Have a comment or question? Leave it by clicking below!

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.


Saturday, November 8, 2008

Agent Seminars & Casting Director Workshops


Tiffany asks:
“I really want to go to industry meet and greets, but I have no experience, print work, etc. Is it worth it to go and meet the agents and casting directors?”

TAE responds:

Hi, there. At your level, my suggestion would be to focus on classes with casting directors offered by places like The Network NYC, and avoid the “meet and greet“ seminars. The reason being: meet and greets are intended for experienced actors to show their audition materials to agents and casting directors for feedback. The industry guests who attend these events expect a certain level of experience and polish, so you want to be sure not to make a negative first impression. If you have no experience, then you are not yet at the level where the networking seminars would be useful to you.

With classes, however, the assumption is that the actor is there to learn new skills or sharpen existing skills, so this is a perfect way to get to know a casting director while also learning the skills you need to be successful.

The reality is: without acting experience, it is unlikely that an agent would opt to sign you at this point, and casting directors may overlook you as well in favor of those with more experience. But not to worry- every actor started out exactly where you are at, so I want to encourage you to really dive into training! So, in addition to classes at The Network I would recommend taking some basic theater acting classes, and I would consider learning to audition by trying out for plays at your local community theaters. Even if you are only interested in film or television, it is very important to get theater training so you have a solid foundation for your acting skills. This will also be the easiest way for you to get some credits on your resume, and theater credits are looked very highly upon in New York.

I hope this has been useful. This is a very exciting time for you, so enjoy it- and best of luck!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Creating "Realistic" Plans for Actors


Just received this wonderful testimonial from one of my students, who prefers to remain anonymous:
“I came to Erin having recently arrived in New York from a much smaller market. I was overwhelmed. I wasn't sure how to market myself - what my type was, etc. Not only was Erin welcoming, and warm, she quickly ascertained exactly where I was and what I needed. She put forth a plan that was realistic. I want to emphasis that word, "realistic." So many out there make promises they can't possibly have control over. Erin isn't one of them. She meets you where you are, gives you what you need, and then coaches you to move in the directions she has set forth. The rest is up to you. But like all good coaches, she checks in, albeit never pushing herself, rather letting you decide if you need a brush up, etc. The best cost effective money you can spend.”

Interested in learning more? Shoot me an email and we can discuss! Or, stop by my website and check out my services and other testimonials.

(PS: I can coach people in person, by phone or via email!)

Inviting Agents to Shows

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A.M. wrote in and asked:
“Hey! I am currently cast in a off-off Broadway comedy show in which I have 2 contrasting roles in it. I have a commercial agent who I am thinking about inviting, but I would also like to invite other agents. Do you think it would be appropriate to invite them to a show like this? Thanks for any advice!”

Hi, there- thanks for your question. I have two quick questions to throw back at you- are you proud of the work you are doing in this show, and does it represent the kind of work you look to do in the future?

***If you answer yes to BOTH of these questions***

You should invite agents to see the show.

A few hints for inviting agents:

• If you are mailing the invite, I'd suggest using a personal postcard (not the show postcard) so that they can connect your face with your name.

• Be sure to list all of the personnel from the show, including the cast, director and playwright. Industry folks are more likely to see the show if they know someone involved with the production.

• Ask your fellow cast members if they are currently represented, and be sure to send an invite to those agents.

***If you answered no to any of those questions***

Send a postcard AFTER your run letting them know you "just finished a successful run of ***name of show***“ and you can update them about anything else you are doing as well. Even if this show doesn't show you off appropriately, you can still benefit from promoting your work.

NOTE: These postcards should only go to folks you have already met and who know your work. Don't worry about sending a card like this to people you don't know.

I hope these thoughts are useful- congratulations on your roles, and have a blast during your run!


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.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

"Notes" on Online Casting Submissions


This question was posted on a popular actors forum, and I replied to their post. Here is a repost of what was posted there:

“On sites like Actors Access and NYCasting... when leaving a note for the casting director what is the best way to do it? How long should it be?”

TAE responds:

I have used Actors Access to cast, and on the main page of submissions the casting director will only see about the first 8-10 words of the note. From there, they can click to read the full note, but they would only do that if their attention was grabbed in the first 5 words or so.

That being said, it makes sense to avoid saying something like, "I would love to be seen for this role" (that is a given, since you are submitting) or "I am submitting for the role of ***" (which is also obvious.) I would look at what characteristics are required for the role and then comment on that. If the roles calls for someone who is "perky and funny" you might want to start with something like, "I have lots of energy and experience with physical comedy." Something that lets the CD know, in 10 words or less, that you perfectly match what they are asking for.

You can also use this space to let them know your connection with the project, since the main page only includes photos of the actors (the CD has to click to view the resume.) For example, if the submission is for "My Fair Lady" and you've done the show, you could say that in your comment.

Also, I want to mention that it doesn't look bad to NOT comment at all. I cannot speak for all CDs, but it makes no difference to me if someone leaves a note or not. But if the comment is relevant and helps me to know why the actor thinks they are right for the role, it can be very useful in making casting decisions.

I hope this is helpful to you- best of luck with your submissions!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Maintaining relationships


Yet another reason to never rest on your laurels. Even when you are talented, well liked, and on a hit TV show your job is never a guarantee. Read here about a shocking layoff on one of TV’s hottest shows, Grey’s Anatomy.

It’s kind of amazing, isn’t it? You hear about things like people getting kicked off TV shows or actors who get into a huge film only to find that they didn’t make it into the final cut (or the credits.) So, if no job is sacred, what’s an actor to do?

Never stop building your relationships.

Imagine if the actor listed in the article stopped networking when she got the big job. She could have figured that the popular show would catapult her to stardom and she’d be set for years. But if she stopped developing relationships, they could well have grown stale while she was gone.

Let’s use the analogy of friendships and new love. We all have that friend who goes AWOL when they start dating someone new. They ignore our calls, never come out to hang with the pals, and only visit when they are having problems with their newly found partner. When they break up, they all of the sudden come rushing back into your life with gusto. How seriously do you think they take your relationship? Surely, if the relationship was important, they would have sustained it whether or not they were dating someone. Doesn’t it sometimes leave an icky taste in your mouth?

It is the same thing in the entertainment industry. You spend all of this time wooing casting directors, producers, and agents, and then when you feel like you’ve got a good thing going your development comes to a grinding halt. Hardly an effective endeavor considering all of the work you have put into it.

So, how do you keep your relationships fresh while you are occupied with said event (you sign with an agent, you get a ongoing gig, etc.)? Acknowledge the change, and create an alternate plan while the change is in existence.

If you sign with an agent, don’t just stop contacting the other agents you’ve been wooing. Instead, let them know that you have signed with someone, but will continue keep them updated on what is going on with your career on an occasional basis. At any point you decide to dissolve the relationship with your new agent (be it in 90 days or 10 years) you’ll still have a foundation of relationship with folks in the industry, and your hard work would not have gone to waste. You’ll minimize the amount of downtime between jobs/partners and maintain deeper and more fulfilling relationships overall.

(Sadly, this solution doesn’t really apply to love relationships. It would be kind of wrong to keep the fire stoked for other guys/gals while trying out a new partner. But it DOES apply to friendships!)

Thanks for reading. I’m here every day...

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The reason I coach actors


I just retook a Jung/Myers-Briggs style personality test, and came up an ENFJ, as usual. My specific type is named the “Idealist Teacher” and those of you who know me know that this is a PERFECT description of me... (Learn more about my type at this website.) Here is an excerpt from the findings...

"Even more than the other Idealists, Teachers (around two percent of the population) have a natural talent for leading students or trainees toward learning, or as Idealists like to think of it, they are capable of calling forth each learner's potentials. Perhaps their greatest strength lies in their belief in their students. Teachers look for the best in their students, and communicate clearly that each one has untold potential, and this confidence can inspire their students to grow and develop more than they ever thought possible...

In whatever field they choose, Teachers consider people their highest priority, and they instinctively communicate personal concern and a willingness to become involved. Warmly outgoing, and perhaps the most expressive of all the types, Teachers are remarkably good with language, especially when communicating in speech, face to face. And they do not hesitate to speak out and let their feelings be known. Bubbling with enthusiasm, Teachers will voice their passions with dramatic flourish..."


So... What’s your type?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Market Your Acting Career (Tip #3): Agents, Headshots and Casting: Oh My!

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This question was posted on a popular actors forum, and I replied to their post. Here is a repost of what was posted there:

“Someone please point me in the right direction! I graduated in May with a BFA in Acting from a grade-A conservatory and moved to New York soon after. I did quite well at our showcase and proceeded, like a good little actor, to follow up with the agents I met with both immediately after as well as upon my arrival in New York. Unfortunately, the interest had diminished and I got no bites. A trooper, I self-started by calling the agencies that had attended our showcase and managed to snag a few more meetings. However, the interest was lukewarm and nothing seemed to pan out. I've been going to the open calls and have been seen at around 50%, have gotten good feedback, which I view as a positive sign, since the casting director/associate is actually taking the time to compliment me. I've self-submitted through Actors Access and New York Casting, and am lucky enough to be doing a thesis film in the upcoming weeks. I've attended agent and casting director seminars and have had, once again, positive feedback on my work and "look." I follow up, but responses are nil. What else can I do to get an agent??”

Hi, there. Thank you so much for your question- there are many, many actors who are in your situation and I imagine they will be anxiously awaiting responses to your post!

First off, I want to tell you that what you are experiencing is more typical that you'd think. Graduates are often told that all they have to do is go to a good school, have a successful showcase, move to New York, follow up using good business instincts, and you will get an agent, lickety split. What they don't tell you is that you will be competing with thousands of other actors with the same accomplishments, and there just aren't enough slots for agents to take every qualified actor. Add to that the number of actors who graduated the year before you (and years earlier) who are also vying for those spots, and you can see what a long and difficult process finding an agent can be.

There certainly are actors who gets agents right away, and this can be for all kinds of reasons. Most often, it is a question of timing. Sometimes, actors meet an agent at the exact time that agent has an opening for someone just like them. In your case, it is likely that the agents called in far more actors than they had room to take. Keep these agents on your short list of people to update, and submit again in 6 months. You never who when or why the agent might need someone like you- actors come and go from agencies all the time, and you want to be sure they have you in mind when a slot becomes available.

As far as meeting agents and casting folks at networking seminars... think of these events simply as introductions, kind of like a handshake at a party. It is rare that someone would get called in for an interview or brought in for an audition right away after that first meeting. Usually it takes that introduction, plus rigorous follow up before an actor moves to the next level (and most often, they'll wait until they see you in a show or in a film before bringing you in.) So, rest assured, even if you aren't being called in yet, the seminars can make a big difference as long as you keep in touch and steadily build your relationships.

However... If you feel like the response you are getting is less than you deserve, it is possible that there is a disconnect somewhere in your audition presentation. It could be that your audition material(s) are stale or ill-fitting, your headshot may not match the "you" that walks in the room, or you may not have the level of resume the agents are expecting. Or it could just be that these agents already have a numbers of actors who fit your type and they are reluctant to take another on (this is often the case.)

Since I don't know you, it is hard to say which of these might be true. I will say that with most actors I meet, there seems to be a divide between who they truly are as actors, and how they present that package to agents and casting directors. The more clear and specific you can be about your place in the industry, the better your results will be. A good career coach or acting teacher should be able to help you determine your niche in the market. In business, they call this kind of query "market research" and I think it would be very useful for you.

My suggestion would be to find someone in the industry that you can trust and go over all of your materials with them. See if they have any suggestions about how you can bring your audition/marketing package to the highest possible level. Ask a current teacher, hire a career coach, or talk to an actor who seems to have a knack for the business- this should go a long way in making your auditions more effective.

I hope that this response makes sense to you- I would be happy to elaborate if needed. Best of luck to you as you navigate the business, and Welcome to New York!

The actor then posted a response:

“Erin, you happened on a key point! I have found that about 50% of the time, the industry people I encounter have a negative reaction to my headshots. To remedy this, I am getting them redone, simply to have more of a choice. I know I can't please everyone, but I'm going to try to maximize positive results. However, if someone is meeting with me in person, how much do headshots matter?”

TAE responds:

You're right one one respect- if you meet with someone in person, that can have more influence than the headshot itself. However, industry folks are going to use your headshot to sell you to those who don't know you, so it is vitally important that your headshot looks exactly like you and reflects the kind of roles you will realistically play. It is probably one of the most important investments for your career.

As far as how to meet casting folks- you've listed the main avenues of meeting them. To help in the process, you want to make a thoughtful list of what types of projects you are interested in, and then note which casting directors work on these projects. Then, get to work on building relationships with them. That way, when you get a meeting with an agent down the line, you'll have a list of casting directors who already know and love your work, which will make a huge difference to the agent you are considering.


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.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Great Way to Get Plays & Acting Related Books

PaperBackSwap.com - Our online book club offers free books when you swap, trade, or exchange your used books with other book club members for free.

Rates for Background Actors

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I have been asked lately to share pay rates for background actors. Here are the most recent published rates for SAG, AFTRA and non-union actors (published 2008):

SAG & AFTRA Background: $130 for 8 hours of work on primetime TV or feature films, plus overtime (does not include 1 hour non-compensated lunch break). $145/8 for stand-ins. $140/8 for daytime background work.

Non-Union Background on Union Projects: $75-$85 for 8-12 hours of work

Non-Union Background on Non-Union Projects: Anything from $0-$100 for any number of hours.

Note: On union projects, you are contracted to be paid for a minimum of 8 hours, and will be paid as such even if you are released earlier than 8 hours have transpired. On non-union projects, there are no protections, so anything goes!

Have a comment or question? Leave it by clicking below!

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.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

TAE Blog Wins Awards!


I just found out that TAE’s blog has been named #1 Acting Blog by Networked Blogs - check it out the awards page here. Amazing!

It was also listed featured as a Top 50 Marketing Blog. Check it out here.

Where can you be "found"?

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I was listening to a monthly podcast by the American Theater Wing, which featured an interview with casting director Bernard (“Bernie”) Telsey, a casting director for many of the top shows on Broadway. He was asked to name one of his toughest casting projects- he answered by talking about how hard it was finding legitimate rock singers for “Rent.” At the time, very few musicals required that style of vocals, and he was having trouble finding exactly what he needed. He looked everywhere he could think to look - he even went as far as to call rock and roll music teachers to see if their students would be a good match. They put out ads in local papers, went to see performances... basically scoured the country to find the right fit. And this started me thinking... if you were perfect for a brand new style of show, how would the casting director find YOU? Bernie Telsey was somewhat new on the casting scene when he took on “Rent” for the New York Theater Workshop (though he had been in NY theater for many years prior.) He didn’t have the luxury of a long list of relationships with actors, so he really had to hunt to find the right cast. So... what are you doing to be on the radar of TODAY’s up and coming casting director?

Start by thinking long and hard about what parts of the industry you are most interested in being a part of (see my article with hints about how to figure this out.) Then, grab a Ross Reports and take note of the casting directors listed. Do a little research online and see what you can find about them - do they hold general auditions or EPAs? Do they teach classes? Do they do lectures or sit on panels for SAG or AEA? Do everything you can to build and maintain relationships with the key casting directors in your chosen medium. Hint: Up and coming casting directors do a lot more public events than the busiest casting offices, because they have to. And they are hungry for fresh, new talent.

There are other ways to get yourself out there. Watch plays and see local films - you’ll often find casting folks in the audience and you can take the time to introduce yourself and acknowledge them and their work (if you already have an established relationship, you can also acknowledge them with a card by mail.) Intern at a casting office or volunteer to be a reader. Volunteer at arts related events (film festival season is upon us...) If you are the competitive sort, do a talent competition (there’s often prize money and industry judges, as well as positive press!) Create demos and short projects and self publish on the internet, making sure that these clips appear in searches when your name is entered. Etc etc etc.

And for goodness sake, make sure your headshot has crossed the desk of every casting director on your list. There’s no excuse- do it!

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.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

How to Network, Physically


I recently read this fantastic blog post about how to network at a party. For many actors, networking at a party seems distasteful, at best, and downright torturous, at worst. Part of the problem is that actors are not sure, physically, HOW to network in a group of people without looking desperate. This blog post gives actors ideas about how to make networking a natural phenomenon, simply by how you position yourself in the room. Have you ever noticed that some people are able to draw others to them easily, and others tend to keep to themselves? This blog post may just give you the tools you need to get a handle on this very important aspect of building your business!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

What does "16 Bars" mean for musicals?

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A question from an actor:

I don't know whom to ask -- I would love to be able to audition for singing parts but not that adept at singing (wish I were because I really enjoy expressing feelings through song...)

There is a song, [song redacted], I have been wanting to learn, a simple yet very loaded tune. I can do that tune, I think, without having to take 27 hours of training. Because it's simple. And I love it!

Most auditions want you to bring 16 bars of music. I have no idea what that means. The only bars I know is one to have a drink at, or to raise. So, uh, could you maybe help me out?

TAE responds...

Howdy! This would probably be easier to explain in person with actual sheet music in front of us, but here's a crash course (which will probably make no sense whatsoever.)

• "Bars" (which are also called "measures") are units of time in music. Songs will have beats, like, "1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4" or waltzes have "1-2-3, 1-2-3." Each SET of numbers (1-2-3-4 or 1-2-3) is called a measure. Measures are separates by a line, or a "bar," which is why "measures" are also referred to as "bars."

• If a song seems like it is set up in 4 beat sequences (1-2-3-4) we would say that it has 4 beats per measure. So, "16 bars" (16 measures) would have 64 beats (16 bars x 4 beats per measure.) For audition purposes, you can listen to a song and find the best 64 beats to sing, which will automatically equal 16 bars. Your best 16 bar "cut"of a song is usually at the end of the song, or one verse and one chorus.

• If a song has 3 beats per measure (1-2-3, like a waltz) you would look for 48 beats to complete 16 measures/bars. Again, the best 16 bars can usually be found at the end of the song, or one verse and one chorus.

Have I lost you yet? If not, here's more...

• 3 beats per measure is called "3/4 time"

• 4 beats per measure is called "4/4 time"

The song you mentioned is in 4/4 time. You can count "1-2-3-4" evenly as the song is played. So, you want to sing along and find the best 64 beats/16 bars that you can. This is a very personal choice, and usually involves finding the part of the story you enjoy telling most, as well as finding the part of the song that shows off your voice the most.

I LOVE this song for you, by the way. There are tons of roles for men who aren't singers but who can carry a tune. This would be a very beneficial skill to develop. I have a friend who auditions for musicals with "Happy Birthday" - And he gets work all the time (of course, he is a character actor and the work he seeks is very specific.) So, this is worth exploring.

LIVE IN NYC? If you are looking to learn more about music and singing, I know of two wonderful voice teachers that you can see to get on track. They work with beginners through advanced singers- Joan Barber and Carolann Sanita.


Have a comment or question? Leave it by clicking below!

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.


Saturday, September 20, 2008

How to keep from "sucking up" (Submitted Question)

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This question was posted on a popular actors forum, and I posted an answer that I wanted to repost here:

“So I've met quite a few actors who are desperate and constantly trying to get their headshots and resumes into the hands of important people. Example - the waiter who tries to sell himself as soon as he sees anyone in the biz. Anyway, I've always found these ploys desperate and annoying, and I know that if I were in a position of power, I would purposely NOT hire people who behave that way.

So recently, I've found myself around multiple studio heads and execs on a fairly regular basis, but I haven't tried selling myself to them because it just seems desperate. Is it the norm for people who are actors to constantly be selling themselves??? It seems to me that with my recent exposure to people in power, I would rather just be myself and be a normal person and I would much rather that they walk away with an overall favorable general impression of me rather than me desperately pawning myself trying to make a fake "connection."

What's the best way to go about things? I'm sure there are lots of people who succeed without throwing themselves at the feet of anyone powerful right?”

TAE responds:

First off- I want to thank you for your post, and for your conscientiousness. I think you're right- actors who appear desperate usually will not win favor with those in the position to advance their careers.

However, there is a very fine line between selling yourself desperately, and promoting your work to someone who is in the position to hire. And I think the first step to being on the "positive" side of the line is to start by being conscientious. The second step is to listen and wait for the right opportunity.

First off- you want to make sure that you are building a relationship with the other person, in a way that has nothing to do with your being an actor and needing their help. This starts by having real conversations about things both in and out of the industry. Then, once you feel as though you have developed a rapport, wait for the right opportunity to let them know that you are an actor and that you would love to be able to keep in touch with them. Or, in your case (since you seem to see them on a regular basis) ask them if you might be able to add them to your mailing list for when you are doing projects, and ask for their support.

Here is an example of how this has worked for me:

I was working on the set of a soap opera doing a recurring Under 5 role, and I was sitting next to one of the crew members. He obviously knew I was an actor, but instead of talking about acting we got into a long conversation about dogs and living in New York. Then he says something like, "blah blah, my good friend, Sean Penn, blah, blah" and I realize that this guy has a bigger position in the industry than I had imagined. I mean, here we were, just shooting the breeze about living and working in New York, and he's friends with a major industry pro!

Turns out, he is Danny Aiello III (the son of the great Danny Aiello) who is the lead stunt coordinator on this soap -- and he coordinates stunts for most studio films that come through New York. I knew I had an opportunity to make a lasting connection, but I really had no idea how knowing him could benefit my career (being female and NOT an action type.) But he was such a nice guy and I wanted to find a way to keep in touch, so I said exactly that- "I am not sure how we'll be able to network in the future, but we seem to have really hit it off. I would love to be added to your mailing list so I can support your work, and add you to my mailing list to invite you out to see some of the theater I do." He was thrilled- he wrote his info down immediately. Then he told me he was glad to have my info because he was also a director (for both film and theater) and he was always looking for smart actors. Now, the trick is to make sure I maintain the relationship so that when future opportunities arise, he knows who I am. Maintaining the relationship takes the same techniques- conscientiousness, listening, and the willingness to ask for what you want.

The lesson I've learned is that you can never pre-judge someone. You never know who will value knowing that you are an actor, and you certainly won't get anywhere if you never mention it at all. But, as you said in your post, it is very important that your request does not smack of desperation, and I think this can be achieved by being personable, being reasonable, and believing that in making the connection, you are benefiting THEIR career/life as well as your own.

Wow- that was a long response... sorry about that! I hope this is useful to you. Best of luck in making these lasting connections!

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.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

What kind of career do YOU want?

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I try to take advantage of as many networking opportunities as possible- going to plays and screenings, meeting fellow actors and industry folks at parties, taking classes / seminars / master classes with folks whose work I respect, and so on. Not only do I do this for my coaching business, but also for my career as a professional actor, and networking is vital for the survival of both.

One of the questions I am asked most often is, “What kind of career do you want to have?” This kind of question can be networking suicide for actors, because actors have long been trained to want to do EVERYTHING. When someone asks an actor to be specific about what they want, they either stammer and/or freeze, or proceed to outline a long, tedious list of projects and genres across ALL performing arts mediums. Actors have a golden opportunity to make a real connection when someone asks this question, which can start the wheels of their career in motion. But neither of the above responses really get to the heart of who you are and what you have to offer as a performer.

To take advantage of this type of question, you need to think out your answer in advance. I have developed a short questionnaire that can help you determine what kind of career you want to have. The best kind of answer is simple and specific, and will give the listener a strong vision of exactly what you’re looking for. (After all, isn’t networking all about getting to know the needs of others and communicating your needs in return?)

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

1) What breakdowns are perfect for you?

Go through your audition resources and start to note which breakdowns fit you perfectly. What are the adjectives that stand out (perky, sarcastic, lonely, desperate, dangerous)? What type of work do these characters do (nurse, father, attorney, PR executive)? What is your perfect social class (poor, blue collar, white collar, rich) and what ethnic, racial and national backgrounds resonate with you? There are other factors to consider as well- this is just the starting point. Narrow the list down to 1 or 2 perfect breakdowns (blend characteristics from a few of them together, if you have to.)

2) What genre is perfect for you?

Are you best suited for wacky physical comedy, or do you salivate over brooding, period dramas? Do you love Shakespeare or documentary re-enactments? You can certainly include other genres in your search for projects, but choosing your preferred genre will help you to focus your energy and attention to that which inspires you the most.

3) If you had your dream career, which medium would you spend the most time in?

I think that most of us would say that we would do anything that would allow us to make a good living (short of, say, porn). But what medium really gets you energized? Do you prefer the intimacy of on-camera work, or do you thrive on the energy of a live audience? Or would you prefer to combine the two in a studio audience setting? Getting specific about what you would prefer doesn’t pigeon-hole you into one medium, it simply creates a context for your career that is focused and manageable.

4) Which successful actor has your career path?

This is a very important question, and one that you will be asked most often. This doesn’t mean, “Whose work do you love the most?” This means, when you look at their body of work, which actor looks, sounds, and acts the way you would if you had the same roles. Which actor has the kind of career you could imagine leading? For example, if you are femme fatale type of actor who is exotic looking and has a bit of vulnerable danger to you, you might consider the type of career that Angelina Jolie has. If you are all of those things but are more refined than dangerous, Catherine Zeta Jones may be your best choice. Once you have chosen the actor(s) you feel represent the career path that is most like you, do some research. Find out how they got where they are, and get to know their body of work. Passionately seek out projects that look for that type of actor. And when asked, “what actor are you most like” you’ll be armed with a specific response that is educated and palpable!

Hopefully these tips will get you started down a path that will help you to confidently express your interests in the industry to those who are in a position to help!

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.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Blog Network on Facebook


I have added this blog to the Blog Network on Facebook. Become a fan, and you can read posts without leaving your profile!

Resumes: Listing Partial Education


This question was posted on a popular actors forum, and I posted an answer that I wanted to repost here:

“I was attending a musical theatre program at a large university, and ended up booking a national tour and taking time off to pursue the tour opportunity. I used to have on my resume 'BFA in progress' listed next to my university credits. Now, I am taking a year off from school to pursue some other opportunities that have since arisen.

I feel that having 'BFA in progress' still on my resume will give some casting directors the impression that I wouldn't accept a role if it would interfere with the school year. Especially if it is for lower amounts of pay. Do you have any opinions on whether or not I should keep 'BFA in progress'? or should I take it off? Or maybe something like "BFA on hold" or something along those lines?"

TAE responds:

Hello! This is a great question, and there are lots of ways to handle this. You can either keep "BFA (in progess)" or you can specify how long you have been there- for example:

Pepperdine University (2 years- BFA candidate)

The latter might help address your concern that CDs might think you are unavailable. You could, instead, add the words "on hiatus," like:

Pepperdine University (on hiatus- BFA candidate)

Hope this helps- congratulations on being a part of a great program, and also for getting out there and getting amazing experience. Way to go!

Accentuate the Positive

Sometimes it’s important to share the good news of others to motivate and inspire your readers- so that is just what I am going to do!

One of my students, Jen, writes:

ERIN ERIN ERIN! Tonight went SO well! My monologue wasn't needed--he wanted film sides--so I chose a scene from "Garden State." I felt that, even though I'm NOT like Natalie Portman, I still have my 3 key ACE words that fell strongly in line with her character. The reading went so well, and felt really great, and I felt very prepared in the Q&A with Peter! He was SO friendly and seemed interested, intrigued and entertained. Thank you SO much for the prep work! I was nervous for my first seminar, but was SO pleased with The Network, and your recommendation on their behalf as well as our work together made tonight a success! Go Team Jen!

The event she spoke of was a networking seminar at The Network, which consisted of a Q&A with the guest (casting director with a big company in New York) and then performing material for evaluation. These types of seminars are controversial, at best, but when used correctly can really make a difference to actors who are looking to expand their circle of relationships. I work with my students to help manage their expectations- we discuss the best ways to take advantage of events of this kind, and make sure that we stretch their dollar the farthest. Actors are pulled in all kinds of different directions financially, so we strive to make every penny count.

Do you have any questions about networking seminars/meet & greets? Leave a comment or email me and I will respond in an upcoming post!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Market Your Acting Career (Tip #2): Shameless Self-Promotion

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Have you ever heard an actor start a sentence with, "Just a little shameless self-promotion..." and then go on to talk about a success they have had in the industry?

What IS that? Why is it that something that makes such good business sense is considered shameless? Is it shameless because we are all in competition and, therefore, shouldn't brag?

Those who know me know that I take a different approach when looking at the industry. If we are all unique in our skill set, our talents, our life experience and the special essence that makes us... well, "us" - then there isn't really competition between us, because we all operate on our own playing field. (How's that for a run-on sentence?) In addition, I know that most people love to help others. So if we are not in competition, and we like to help others, what could be shameless about self-promotion?

Here is the magic answer: You can promote yourself to the ends of the earth, without shame, as long as you are ALSO meeting the needs of someone else.

Did you catch that?

If you have ever worked in sales (or even retail) you will be familiar with the acronym WIIFM (What's In It For Me.) People don't like being sold to, but they love to buy. So, you show them What's In It For Them, and they'll trust you as the promoter and buy. Similarly, when you are promoting (aka selling) yourself, you need to show others how supporting you can benefit them. There are several ways to do this:

1) Appeal to their sense of fun: If you are in a show that will entertain them, tell them so! (PS: Even drama that make you cry or angry are considered entertainment.)

2) Appeal to their sense of altruism: If proceeds from your fundraiser go to benefit a theater company or charity, ask away! People like to know that their time and money are going to a good cause. Just make sure you help them see exactly how their dollars (or time) will be spent.

3) Appeal to their sense of cooperation: Let them know that you want to support them too, and will happily help them achieve their goals as they are helping you achieve yours.

When you think of what you have to offer to the other person, rather than what you need to take from them, you remove all sense of "shame" from self-promotion. So, be proud of your promotion, and GIVE others the opportunity to support you.

Go get 'em!

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.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Great post about Business Finances


Hey, folks. The blog post linked below is well worth a solid 5-10 minutes of quiet contemplation. If you own a business (and if you are an actor, you do) you NEED to treat your finances as such. So, do yourself a favor and take a read:

5 Actions for Financial Consistency- by Abundance Bound

And, for TAE students, grab AB's Artist Prosperity Home Study System for $20 off. Contact me to get the discount code.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Background Work, and joining AFTRA



Recommended Reading:
The Truth About Being an Extra
Outliers
Getting the Part: Opinions of 33 Professional Casting Directors

Rachel writes:

“Erin, I wanted to ask you if you have any advice for me. I have done some extra/background work on motion pictures and also done a music video and I am really interested in doing more work on TV, other movies, etc. What can I do to make this happen? I see you had some interesting posting relating to work on soaps lately, so I look forward to hearing from you.”

TAE responds:

Hey, Rachel! It is good to hear from you, and I am very happy to help. First, take a look at this blog which will give you the basics on finding background work in NYC. While you're there, you can use the links on the right hand side to find blogs on other topics, including an article on SAG Vouchers.

As far as background work on soaps, the best way to get involved with those is to meet the background casting directors through The Network or some other seminar organization. For $32 you can participate in a Q&A with the casting director, and then you will be given a scene to perform with a partner. After you read the scene, you'll have time to chat with the casting director and you can tell him/her that you are primarily interested in background work and see what kind of suggestions they have for you. Most likely, they will put you on their short list of actors to call in and the rest, as they say, will be history!

One thing to note: on soaps, all background actors must be AFTRA. AFTRA is an open union, meaning anyone can join at any time. Here's how it works. You'll get your first job on a soap, and you'll be made AFTRA eligible. Once that happens, you'll have 30 days to join the union. Within that 30 days, you can continue to work as many AFTRA or non-AFTRA jobs that you'd like. But once 30 days hits, you will become a "must-join" and you'll be required to join AFTRA before doing anymore work.

To join, you go into the AFTRA office and sign up. You'll have to pay an initiation fee (as of 03/2011 the fee is $1600.) You can pay that in full, or you can pay half now, and half in 3 months. In 3 months, they will also require a bi-annual dues payment (which is $63.) The good news is that once you are AFTRA, you will be able to do quite a bit of background work. Within one year I paid for my membership with the work I had done on Guiding Light, not to mention the principal role I shot in a commercial.

I also want to note that once you join AFTRA, you are agreeing to avoid ALL NON-UNION WORK in the future. Meaning, once you are AFTRA you are not supposed to do any non-SAG or non-AEA projects. There is a solidarity agreement between all 3 unions that states that once you are a member of one union, you agree not to work for a non-union producer in other jurisdiction. I wanted to mention this, since I know you do quite a bit of theater work.

I hope this has been helpful. Let me know if you need anything else- and good luck!

Have a comment or question? Leave it by clicking below!

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.

Monday, August 25, 2008

A Little Piece of Advice


Just pulled this little tidbit from the “Showbiz How-To” newsletter:

Study The Business

It's never enough to be in love with the idea of becoming a professional actor - you have to know how to do it. This is almost always a matter of understanding how the business actually works - and what opportunities actually exist ... for you. Many actors focus on their thinking on how things SHOULD work - and ignore how things DO work.

Build Business Skills

Advertising, promotion, sales, budget management, networking and a host of other 'business' related skills are important to your acting business. If you expect other people to do these things for you - your business is going to flounder.

That being said- this is a reminder that TONIGHT is the Bite-Size Business Soiree in NYC- email me if you would like to attend.

Hope to see you there!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

TAE Resource Directory


Did you know The Actors’ Enterprise has a resource directory with links to over 400 online resources? It’s true!

Here’s how to use the Official TAE Resource Directory!

Go to: http://delicious.com/theactorsenterprise

View links 2 ways:

- Browse through the list of links (main section, organized from newest to oldest posts)
- Browse by KEYWORD/TAG (right hand column, organized alphabetically by topic)

Each link will have a title, its web address, and a note from me about why I think it is a great site. Here is just a sample of the more than 85 categories:

• Unions (SAG/AEA/AFTRA)
• Casting Advice
• Headshot Photographers
• Commercials
• Design Services
• PR/Promotion
• Technology/New Media
• Acting Articles
• Taxes
• Play/Scripts
• Finances
... and more!

Feel free to leave a comment here if you know of a resource that is missing from the directory. I will then visit the site and make sure it fits the parameters of the resources I offer.

Happy Learning!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Universal Need for Artists: Business Know-How


I just read a blog post by Fractured Atlas (FA) where they give information from a survey they sponsored on the universal needs of artists. Not surprising, “Business Skills” were a part of that list:

7) Need for business and managerial skills – Many artists feel disempowered when dealing with the business aspects of their career, because they have not been given a cursory education in this field of knowledge. They want to better understand the “fog of business,” in order to confidently chart their path and navigate their journey.

This is exactly why I created The Actors’ Enterprise- I felt there was an immense need for business support for actors, and I wanted to create a service that filled a niche and made a difference in the artistic community and the community at large.

Then, FA followed up the article with a second article about how business needs vary based on level of experience.

Emerging Artists feel like they know how to make art, but are ignorant about the operations and infrastructure of their own industry. They don’t know what it really takes to be a working artist... They feel the lack of information is very disempowering and causes a perceived loss of control. Therefore, emerging artists especially want an education in industry structure, functions, vocabulary, and norms; which can be a source of empowerment and create a sense of career control.

Established Artists need help getting “unstuck”, overcoming worries about peaking, taking control of their careers, taking actions toward getting the next gig, managing their “brand”, getting emotional support when their social network changes, and overcoming the negative aspects of the industry.

The Actors’ Enterprise does similar work on a private (one-on-one) basis- which allows for detailed support and service no matter what level the actor is starting from. I specialize in helping both beginning actors chart their first course, and veteran actors who feel stuck and want support getting to the next level. I am so very passionate about empowering actors, and my low rates and community-minded service reflect this passion and commitment.

Fractured Atlas was publishing this information for their own purposes- they are a non-profit service organization for artists and arts organizations. They are looking to improve their services and are using this survey to strengthen their programming. They have other wonderful services as well- access to health insurance, grants for self-producing artists and umbrella non-profit support. This is especially useful if you are planning on starting your own theater company.

The lesson to be learned here is that ACTORS WANT ACCESS TO BUSINESS TOOLS AND INFORMATION. And very few companies offer this kind of service. Luckily, companies like TAE and FA are here to give it to you!

You're Invited!


Join us for our "Bite Size Business Soiree," a one of a kind event with The Actors' Enterprise that empowers actors to take back control of their careers!

These events are best experienced with a friend: Bring a buddy, and please forward this on to anyone who might be interested.

August 25, 2008 6:30pm-9:30pm
"Bite-Size Business" Soiree with The Actors' Enterprise


6:30-7:45pm Part One: "Bite Size Business" Workshop
"How to Use the INTERNET to Your Advantage"
Studios 353, Studio 1
353 W. 48th St, 2nd Flr, btwn 8th and 9th Aves

Led by Erin Cronican (Founder of The Actors' Enterprise) you will learn the ins, outs and nuances of Internet Promotion: How to you build a lasting web presence? What free services are available to help promote your work? What are the do's and don't's of online submissions?

Fees are donation-based, so a $10 contribution is appreciated. But participants on tight budgets are able to contribute whatever they can -- which means everyone is welcome, regardless of income or ability to pay!

8:00-9:30pm Part Two: Networking Soiree
Marriott Marquis Lounge
1535 Broadway, 8th Flr, btwn 45th and 46th Sts

Then, hop on over to the spacious Marriott Marquis Lounge where you can get to know your fellow artist. NETWORKING does not just mean "meet & greets" with agents and casting directors... Networking means building relationships with ANY industry member, and your mutual relationship can help to advance both careers in the long run!

ACTORS • WRITERS • STAGE MANAGERS • DIRECTORS • PRODUCERS • DESIGNERS and OTHER INDUSTRY FOLKS are WELCOME!

Bring your business cards and be ready to walk away with valuable contacts! (Food and drinks available for purchase.)

Reservations Required
Call 917-574-0417 or email erin@theactorsenterprise.org (deadline for RSVP is 12pm noon, August 25.)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Do Actors Need BOTH an Agent and Manager?

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Brent asks (in a comment on the blog about Agents and Managers...):

“Do actors often have both an agent and a manager? Don't they generally have one or the other?”

TAE responds:

Great question! Once you are at the level where you need a manager, you would need to have both. Managers do NOT negotiate contracts, so unless an actor wants to negotiate on their own behalf (not recommended) they will still need an agent. The agent and manager would work together to make sure the actors career is getting the attention it deserves- the manager would be the person who make introductions and encourages meetings, and the agent would come in to negotiate when an offer is made (the agent will fight for the terms that the manager and actor have requested.)

Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule- I imagine many actors have different relationships with their team than what is described here. Oftentimes, boutique and mid-level agents will take on a more managerial type role with a developmental client (a client they feel has potential, but does not yet have the credits or pull to get ahead quickly.) But once that actor gets to a point where they have to weigh multiple offers, hire “handlers” or take meetings instead of auditioning, they will need to have that 2nd team member to manage these aspects so that the agent can do what they do best.

For the definition of Agents and Managers, click here for my article.

Question to readers: Do you have an agent? Do you have a manager? Do you have both? Use the comments field to describe your relationship with one or both parties- how do they interact with each other? Who do you call first, and what needs do you discuss? Share what you can to help other actors!


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.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Interesting article for Male Actors


This article from the NY Times talks about a trend that is changing the types of leading male characters that are appearing in Broadway Musicals. This information is very useful to know as you are defining your brand in the musical theater scene. Start examining the work that is coming out of Broadway to determine where you fit on the larger scale, and look at the similarities or differences. Is this trend something that you can embrace, or you do fall somewhere outside of it? Either way, consider modifying your marketing plan and materials to communicate who you are, in the face of this trend, in your auditions and submissions.

(Note: You have sign up for a free online account with NYT to access the article- highly recommended! They never send emails, by the way...)

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Agents and Managers: Defined

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One of the first questions that actors ask is what agents and managers charge. Short and sweet, here is some basic information about payment that actors make to agents and managers. But first...

General Glossary of Terms

Agent: An individual or organization that bargains on behalf of the actor in contract agreements. The agent is the one who negotiates any pay above the union minimum (or total pay, for non-union folks). They also negotiate other terms of talent contracts, including (but not limited to) name billing, merchandising, accommodations, work schedule, etc. Agents also bargain with casting directors to get their clients seen by the casting office for specific projects, and act as a “voucher” for actor talent and suitability for specific projects. Agents and their agencies are regulated by their individual Department of State offices, as well as their “franchise” agreement with the unions.

Manager: An individual or organization who helps guide an actor’s career. Managers take a more personal role in working with an actor on improving their position in the industry, including (but not limited to) selecting scripts, setting up meetings with casting directors and producers, introducing actors to higher level agents (when appropriate.) Managers also help actors create a brand image for themselves and then help the actor assemble a team of folks to help in the pursuit of a larger career, including publicists, stylists and other handlers. Managers are not bound by state or union contracts, but there are several membership organizations for managers that require their members adhere to a specified code of ethics.

Franchise Agreement: A contract that an agent has executed with a union agreeing to a certain list of standards (like percentage of pay) with the governing unions (for example, SAG for film, AFTRA for TV, AEA for theater)

Gross Pay: Your full pay, before taxes and fees


Pay Details

Union (Franchised) Film/TV/Theater/Commercial Agents: 10% of gross pay

Non-Union (Non-Franchised) Film/TV/Theater/Commercial Agents: between 10%-20% gross pay

Print Agents (no unions cover print): Typically 20% gross pay

Managers: Typically 15-20% gross pay

So, this means that someone with both an agent and a manager would be paying somewhere close to 25% (or more) of their gross pay to their team. Assuming you also pay approximately 25% in taxes- this doesn’t leave that much for your income! So think clearly before you opt to add either (or both) to your team, and choose your team wisely!

Have any questions about agents and managers? Let me know by emailing me or leaving a comment, and I can either update this article or post another!


UPDATE: In response to one of the comments left, I have written another blog post going further in depth about agents and managers. Read the comments below, and then take a look at the post here.


Have a comment or question? Leave it by clicking below!

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.

THE FINE PRINT

This content is offered under a Creative Commons by-NC-ND License.That means you're free to share it, republish it, refer to it, include it in your wedding vows, whatever... - PROVIDED you

a) you don't change anything.
b) you don't use it to make money.
c) credit me (with my blog's name, and a link back to my site.)
d) it's not required, but it would be awesome if you'd email me to let me know you're using it, and then I can help promote your post!

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