Advice and How-To's Especially for ACTORS!

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Friday, August 29, 2008

Background Work, and joining AFTRA

Recommended Reading:
The Truth About Being an Extra
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

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:

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!


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 (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

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

Saturday, August 2, 2008

WHEN to send postcards (Submitted Question)

Submitted question from Anne:

Do you have any info on sending out postcards after meeting with agents/ casting directors? I'm not really sure exactly when to send them or why.

TAE responds:

Ah, the postcard. It's one of the most important tools we have as actors to stay in the game, and yet it is one of those tools that actors never know quite how to master... until now!

The most important thing to remember is that a postcard should be sent only when you have something new to share. Sometimes, in the effort to "stay in touch," an actor might send a postcard that simply states, "I just wanted to send you a little postcard to say hello." While it is a very nice message, most casting directors and agents would say that this type of postcard would be a waste of their time (and yours.)

So, when should you send a postcard?

• As a "thank you" note to a casting director or agent after an audition (be specific about what you are thanking them for.)

• To update industry folks about a project you recently booked.

• To let people know about a special skill you've developed (for example, have you recently completed an intensive tap class and now consider yourself advanced? This is something that musical theater folks would want to know!)

• Alert the industry about a show you are in. List the specifics of the show, including full cast, as well as a way for the recipient to get comp tickets.

A few other hints:

• Some have asked about using envelopes. In my opinion, envelopes are not necessary. (This is one place where you can save your money!)

• I'd suggest only sending postcards to people you have met in person.

• Be sure to keep your address book updated. People change offices all the time, and you want to make sure everyone's contact information is correct before sending out postcards.

• Less is more- don't crowd the card with too much information.

• Write neatly- and if you don't have neat writing, type up the information and either print directly on the postcard, or print on a label to stick to the postcard later.

When learning the marketing side of our career, almost more important than the "How" is the "Why." The "How" is very easy to go over on a website, but the "Why" is something best done one-on-one. So, why not consider a coaching session with TAE?

Contact me to set up your free consultation (NYC actors- we'll do it over coffee. Those outside NYC- we can do everything by phone!)


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:

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