Advice and How-To's Especially for ACTORS!

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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?

THE FINE PRINT

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