Advice and How-To's Especially for ACTORS!

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Actors who give back


Someone found this TAE blog by typing "actors who give back" into Google. Not only does TAE come up 4th in a search that yield 823,000 hits, but I am responsible for the #3 entry as well, when I was the Communications and Member Services Director at the Actors Alliance of San Diego. I developed a charity night at our annual Festival in which a percentage of our revenues for 2 evenings of theater would go to a selected charity. I also created/produced nearly a dozen other charitable events and partnerships while at AASD.

I am very, very proud, and humbled that little ol' me might be making a difference, somehow.

Monday, January 28, 2008

A Meeting with Mark Sikes


I wanted to share with you all a great thing that happened over the weekend. I am an avid reader of Casting Corner, a blog put out by LA casting director, Mark Sikes, every week through Actors Access. In December, he had this in his column:

"Just when you thought The Casting Corner couldn't get any more interactive, I break down that final wall! For those of you who are still hanging in there this year and reading the column every week or those lucky enough to have popped in this week, you'll be glad you did. I'm going to conduct several generals with readers of my column! I want you to write me an email and tell me why we should have a general. I will read them all over and select a few people who really convince me we should meet. But there are a couple of guidelines.

1) You must be someone I've never auditioned!
2) Please limit emails to 100 words or less total!
3) Please attach a pic and resume, not a link, but an actual attachment!
4) Live in Maine? No problem! I will consider actors from all over the world and we can do our general over the phone!"


So, I immediately sent an email submission requesting a general, and I got it! I could not have been more excited. First, I was excited because based on my materials I look like someone he wants to know more about. And, second, because I would get to ask all of the questions of this CD that I have always wanted answers to.

The phone meeting was done this weekend. Though we had slated 10 minutes to talk, we ended up speaking for over 40 minutes about trends in the business, and how I can best promote myself to casting directors and production companies on the east coast. Towards the middle of the conversation he commented that he found me to be very enterprising and to have great business savvy, and he said that this was not common among actors who are notorious for putting most of their energy into the creative side. He especially liked the fact that I was giving back to the community by providing solid coaching to actors through TAE. We talked quite a bit about what an East Coast actor can do to be considered for film and TV, especially those shooting outside of NY and LA. I feel like I learned so much, and I also received validation for many of the things I am already doing (for example, he loved the fact that I am a member of IMDB Pro, and that I subscribe to the RSS Feed of Production Charts so that I know what is in development in my area.)

So, take this as an inspiration- there are many people out there who want to help you succeed. Mark Sikes is one of them, and I am another. Take control of your career- no one can make things happen except for you, and it is a lot easier than you think! Just reading a blog as a method of research, like I do with the Casting Corner, can yield big returns. If I can do it, so can you.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Day Jobs for Actors

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It's no secret that actors have an uphill battle when it comes to making a decent living through acting. Most actors, even when doing quite well, need to have another source of income that they can rely on for stability. Enter: The Day Job. What should an actor really be looking for when seeking a day job?

First and foremost, a day job needs to be flexible so that you can go to an audition or take a role with a minimal amount of advance notice. Auditions can be scheduled with as little as 24 hours advance notice, and you can get cast in something that needs your full availability in as little as 7 days (sometimes less.) So, having a boss that understands and allows this type of scheduling is critical. When looking for your day job, ask your potential employer if you can make up for lost time by working late, or if they will let you take the hours off without pay. Often, an employer would gladly give you these options of you are a conscientious and loyal employee.

You can also consider starting your own business, so that you can create your own hours. There are many areas of business where you can be successful, depending on your passions. The trick is to find a niche that you love that is not being filled effectively in your area. Adore animals? Consider starting a dog walking or overnight pet-sitting service. Have a knack at business, administrative or computer work? Consider hiring yourself out as a consultant to help small businesses with work they cannot handle on their own. Are you a fan of the healing arts? Get certified as a yoga instructor or a massage therapist. Are you an organized jack-of-all-trades? Maybe being a personal assistant is the job for you. Love cosmetics, candles, or personal care products? Try one of the many home based selling businesses, like Mary Kay and PartyLite, to bring in extra income. There are an infinite number of possibilities- it just takes a little thought and dedication to make something work.

Bottom line: Look for a job you would really love to do. No one said that because you have a flexible job, you have to hate it! Think about the things that you are really passionate about, and try you find something within that industry. If you are tenacious enough, someone will pay you to do what you love to do. I've built my life on it, now you can too!

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, January 23, 2008

Non Equity Actors at Equity Auditions




Recommended Reading:
Actors Organize: A History of Union Formation
Audition by Michael Shurtleff
The Color of Style...Make a Lasting Impression

I get a lot of questions about Actors Equity Association (the union of professional actors and stage managers in the US.) by actors who are not yet members. Today I was asked if it is possible for a non-Equity actor to attend an Equity audition, or would they have to wait all day and possibly not be seen.

TAE responds:

The short answer to your questions is: Yes- non-equity actors can audition for Equity projects.

Here's how the Broadway (and other Equity) auditions work in New York City. On the day of the EPA (Equity Principal Audition) the audition monitor will arrive between 30-60 minutes before the audition time to start taking sign ups. Union actors are the first to sign up, and they are assigned time slots in the order they arrive. Equity Membership Candidates (EMCs, or non-equity actors who have worked in an Equity theater and are building points towards membership) will put their name on an EMC waiting list in the order of arrival. And non-Equity/non-EMC actors will also put their name on a list, but it will be a list for non-Equity actors.

Once the auditions start, any time slot that is not filled with an Equity actor will be assigned to the people on the EMC list, until all time slots are filled. In the event that all Equity members and EMCs have gotten a slot, they will then go to the non-Equity list and fill the slots from there.

Most of the time, there are more Equity actors than there are slots, so there is a 4th list called the Alternate list. If an Equity actor shows up and there are no time slots left, they will put their name on the Alternate list. If a slot becomes available (due to no-shows or the audition running ahead of schedule), the first list they pull from is the Equity Alternate List; then the EMC list; then the non-Equity list.

So, as you can see, the non-Equity actor has a bit of difficulty in getting into auditions. That's not to say that it never happens- non-Equity actors do get seen on a limited basis. However, you can see how it might be tough for a non-Equity actor to be seen if there are so many others ahead of them. With regard to waiting: once you have your name on the list, you must be present when your name is called in order to fill a time slot. If you step away and your name is called, you forfeit your spot to the next person on the list. This is why you hear horror stories about non-Equity actors waiting all day with the possibility of never being seen.

Most producers would say that they are very happy to see non-Equity actors if there is time. I have known a few to even stay 15-20 more minutes in order to see everyone on the list. This is rare, but it does happen.

Bottom line- the only way you will get your Equity card is to work at an Equity theater, and the way most people get that job is to go to an Equity audition. I am not sure which part of New Jersey you are in, but I am sure there are local Equity auditions for theaters in your area- and those auditions tend to be a little easier for non-Equity people to get into.


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.



What to expect from Agent Submissions


I was on the Backstage.com message board today, and someone posted a question wondering how long they should wait for an agent response after sending in a submission.

TAE Responds:

It will pay off eventually, but submitting to an agent often takes time and and little tenacity. I have heard agents describe finding a client like looking for a spouse- you are hoping for a long term relationship so you don't make the decision too quickly. There is an introduction, a courtship, and finally a commitment. Sending in a submission is just the very beginning of the process, so you'll have to be very patient with it.

When I was first starting out, I had to submit 5 times over 3 years before my preferred agent met with me and signed me (in the meantime, I had signed with and then left another agency.) Oftentimes they already have someone in their stable of actors who are the same type, so even if you are a good fit for them they may not call you. So, your job is to make sure that you are at the top of the list if that slot ever becomes available. You do this by submitting every 6-12 months and trying to meet agents through classes and seminars.

I hope this helps- good luck!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Submitted Question: Meeting with Agents


S.S. writes (in a 2 part question):

I did a network seminar with a voiceover agent- she gave me direction and had me re-read my piece. Then we talked a bit and she said she would definitely listen to my demo. She asked why I hadn't sent out my demo yet since it was ready in June '07. My answer was that I had gotten wrapped up in looking for legit work, but that I'm definitely ready to go full force now as I start the new year.
 
Do you think there's a better way to answer? There are a few reasons I could have used, such as, a) looking for legit work; b) it was the summer and I had been working full force in theatre for roughly 1.5 years; c) definitely a little fear; or d) i did a show from sept-november and then it was the holidays.


TAE answers:

First of all, congrats on your seminar - I am thrilled that you got some positive feedback! Personally, I think you gave a great answer. There is nothing wrong with focusing on another division of your career, and I am glad you spun it the way you did. Answers A & B are both with regard to focusing on legit work, so I'd say stick with those and leave out the fear and rehearsal stuff. You can also say something like, “I wasn’t as familiar with your agency back then, but I recently did some research and really liked what I learned about you. So, here I am!” Keeping the focus on why you are with them NOW will help steer the conversation into what you ARE doing, rather than what you didn’t do.


S.S. continues:

Another question- I did my voiceover with a teacher who is now back as an agent with a well known agency -- and I honestly haven't asked him to represent me. If I send him a note, should I include my demo since he was the one who produced it? Also, how would I answer other's questions about why this agent isn't representing me (since he produced my demo?)

TAE answers:

I think you should definitely submit to this agent and ask for a meeting about representation. Let him know that you had been focusing on your legit career, and now you are starting 2008 ready to develop your voiceover career. And definitely send him your demo, even though he created it. You want to make it as easy as possible to bring you in. 

As far as why you hadn't signed with him- as you know, just because he created your demo doesn't mean he is going to rep you. He may not have been looking for your type at the time, or he may have wanted a more seasoned voiceover artist. Either way, if you were asked about that from an outside party, I would stick with your first answer about pursuing legit work. You completed your demo, but then legit opportunities came up, and you decided to pursue those fully instead of pursuing voiceover representation. That should be enough of an answer. 

I think in this case, "less is more" when answering questions like this. Not being signed by the agent or not sending you demo to the seminar agent have nothing to do with your skills or talents, nor does it have anything to do with non-acting related circumstances. So, I don't think you should have to worry too much about what to say- a short and sweet explanation just like you gave should do the trick. 

Let me know if you have any other questions. Congrats again, and good luck!

Erin Cronican
The Actors' Enterprise

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

Monday, January 7, 2008

Submitted Question: Cover Letters

J.L. writes:

Here is a cover letter I would like to send to a modeling agency. Can you give me from feedback?

TAE responds:

Thanks for passing on your cover letter. What you have written will certainly do the trick, but to make it stand out even more I would avoid simply re-writing what they can find on your resume and instead write about more personal things, like:

• Why do you want to be a model for them? What excites you about the prospect of being signed with them?

• What modeling experience have you had in the past, and how did you feel about it? What makes you want to continue to pursue it?

• Do they have a website with their model's photos? If so, you can take a look and see if they have people that look like you. Or, if there is no one that looks like you, even better. In your letter you can tell them that you looked at their website and it seems like you would be a perfect fit for them because a) they seem to represent models of your type, or b) it seems like they do not yet have anyone of your type. Either way, the research will impress them.

I would also suggest that you do a bit of research to find the name of one of the agents at Flaunt so that it can be personally addressed. You definitely want to keep the letter short, like you already have it, but infusing it with your personality and passions will go much further than just mentioning your credits.

I hope this helps- good luck with the mailings!

Erin Cronican
The Actors' Enterprise

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