Advice and How-To's Especially for ACTORS!

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Are You An Expert?

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I was sitting in my musical theater class the other day, taking notes while listening to my talented classmates. We not only practice the art of storytelling through song, but also examine what is needed to deliver a truly electrifying audition. This day was like every other Tuesday, with each student more talented than the next, and encouragement abound. But something struck me suddenly and deeply as I looked at the talent around me:

To survive in this business, we need to be EXPERTS.

One of the men in my class had a big callback for the Broadway show Million Dollar Quartet. For the callback, he was asked to prepare a Jerry Lee Lewis piano tune and an Elvis guitar tune, and be prepared to sing from his book. This actor is a fabulous singer with some mad piano playing skills, but there was one problem: he had never picked up a guitar in his life.

When the actor came into class that day, with the callback the next morning, we noticed that his fingers were taped up. Turns out, in the 3 weeks between the initial audition and his callback, this actor taught himself to play the guitar. And playing the guitar for 3 weeks straight can cut your fingers up pretty good. He did what experts do- he said to himself, "They need someone to play guitar? Well, I'm going to dedicate myself to the guitar so I can nail this audition." In class, our teacher constructed a "mock audition" so he could do all of his callback material in one chunk.

He was, in a word, remarkable. I, and my fellow students around me, sat mouths agape, with a mix of awe and envy as we watched. It was exciting to witness someone put everything he had into an audition. Even more remarkably, this would be an audition where, if he did his job right, the auditors wouldn't have any idea how hard he'd worked. It would appear effortless. That is what being an expert is all about.

Now, you might be thinking, "Erin, are you suggesting that to be an actor, I have to become an expert in every special skill, in case I'm asked to do it?" In short, no. What I am suggesting is that you become an EXPERT in auditioning. Become an EXPERT in bringing your full self to the table, and doing whatever it takes to deliver in the room.

Or, maybe you're thinking, "I am already an expert! I have done hundreds of auditions, and I bring my 'A 'game, every time." Ok- consider these questions:

• Have you ever walked into the audition room without your sides prepared/memorized, hoping your cold reading skills would be "enough"?
• Did you ever have an audition where a dialect was required, but skip the time to brush up on the accent?
• Have you ever changed your audition song right before walking in the room?
• Did you ever go to an audition in whatever clothing you were wearing earlier in the day, because you felt too comfortable to change?
• Have you ever thought to yourself, "I would have done much better if the reader had been a better actor!"
• Did you ever neglect to read the full play before a callback, or opt against familiarizing yourself with the full score before a musical callback?

I think that every actor has said yes to at least one of these (and most of us can admit to more than one.) As actors, we all have days where were don't show up as an expert, hoping that our natural talent will save the day. But consider that your competition, the folks who do this for a living and take it seriously, are doing what experts do: They consider their auditions to be mini-performances, and do whatever it takes to be reading for their "opening" in that audition room. Imagine if you had newspaper critics in the room: Would you allow yourself to be reviewed without polishing your performance?

A while ago I read a casting director's blog, and he was talking about how much sense it makes to book a coach (be it dialect, vocal, or acting) before any big audition. He reasoned that you would be spending a little bit of money for the chance at making a lot of money, and he could not understand why actors refuse to look at auditions in this fashion. To be fair, actors need to be smart about where they spend their money, but this idea made a lot of sense to me. When I have a specific job on the line, why wouldn't I do everything I could to ensure I nailed it?

I tell you- I am so inspired by this actor in my class. The idea that auditions are a chance to present polished work to the industry is so exciting, and liberating. I could really get used to being an EXPERT- how about you?

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.

Holiday Gifts for your Team

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Judy, one of our readers, just sent me a very nice email, asking:

Hi Erin,

Here's a question for you that maybe you want to put out there to the group - how does one keep in touch at this time of year without seeming to be - er - brown-nosing? For instance, there's a casting director I've just finished taking a class with, and in addition to being extremely helpful in the class, she actually called me in for an audition that resulted in a "hold."  I have an idea for a nice little gift for her - as well as a couple for my two agents - but I always feel like this smacks of sucking up!  Maybe there's no way around this?

I've also wondered what people do about holiday cards for agents and casting directors - whether people personalize their usual postcards, send regular greeting cards, make their own from scratch or whatever.  I've asked a bunch of people and they all say "do whatever feels comfortable for you!"  Errgggh.

Anyway, thanks for any advice on this.  And happy holidays to you!


Howdy, Judy! These are really great questions, and I am happy to help! The truth is, the "right" thing to do depends on the recipient, but I will try to give you some concrete explanations to help you make a decision that is best for you.

First, let me start by saying that gifts for agents, casting directors and managers are hot topics of discussion this time of year! I follow number of agents on Twitter, and here is what is being tossed around (some agents have "tweeted" multiple times, which I have included, along with links to their Twitter profiles):

stgactor Our office is asking our actors not 2 bring us gifts. Instead contribute to a cause for holiday family assistance that I am involved with!

diaryofanagent Truthfully I'd rather you do something nice for my Assistant who works her tush off making me look good while I get all the credit! ;0)

diaryofanagent If you want to get a gift, take a look within walking distance of the Agency and get a gift card to a restaurant nearby. It doesn't have to be expensive, just convenient.

TalentAgentLA If you ask your agent they will tell you not to get them anything. That's code for, a bottle of wine or gift certificates please.

TalentAgentLA Our office is packed with cookies/candies/food baskets/chocolates/nuts/etc. More than our entire office could ever eat. And it's the 14th.

agentadvice Came to the office with 3 packages from clients!! Yay!!! ....all of it is chocolate.... just what these hips need. haha

agentadvice Chocolate covered fruit.... WHAAAAT :)

diaryofanagent Got a wonderful gift from a client today. She went 2 Trader Joes and bought 1 of their reusable grocery bags and put in her fave products!

diaryofanagent It had sweets but they were bagged & won't go bad if I save them till the new year. And the shopping bag will remind me of her when I shop!

So, as you can see, these folks often get (and often expect) some niceties at the end of the year. If you tip your mail carrier, your super, and your stylists, I think recognizing your reps is a good idea, ESPECIALLY if they went above and beyond for you during the year. For my male reps, I usually get some sort of gift certificate, along with a card. Sometimes I will send easy-to-care-for plants (like small bamboo plants.) For women, I'll often send lightly scented candles, or other things that can make their days more tranquil (who knows, maybe the men would appreciate this too!) Anything you would consider giving a boss would be appropriate - and if the gift is thoughtful, it will not seem like "sucking up."

As far as holiday cards, I think it depends upon your budget. It is IMPERATIVE (I know, I'm shouting...) that you include your photo in the greeting, whether it be a photo business card or postcard you stuff into the card, or whether your holiday greeting is written on the back of your postcard. Without your photo, it may be hard for them to put a face to your name. If you can afford to buy holiday cards and put your business card inside them, I'd say that's your best bet. I would highly recommend choosing a card that reflects your personal style and attitudes- if you're funny, send something humorous. If you a cheerful and warm, perhaps something that reflects that sensibility. Let them get to know you a little bit as a result of this holiday greeting.

I hope this has been helpful. Let me know if you have any questions, and good luck with the giving!


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, December 2, 2009

Backstage Responds Re: Scammers

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It is encouraging that Backstage is so on-the-ball. As a follow-up to our blog about scammers who troll casting websites for victims, my lawyer friend Nance Schick received a thoughtful response from Backstage, and I wanted to post their comments here:

From:
"Castinghelp Backstage" <Castinghelp@backstage.com>
Date: Tue, 1 Dec 2009 18:33:40 -0500
To: Nance L. Schick<nance@nschicklaw.com>
Subject: RE: Back Stage - Modeling/Acting Scam Report

Hello Nance,

Thank you for contacting us about this!

Our “Find Talent” accounts (used by casting directors, agents, mangers, and entertainment-industry employers to post notices and find people for their projects) has been the target of numerous scammers like this over the past year – these con artists seem to be swarming over thousands of websites and are a serious problem. The scammers especially like modeling websites, un-moderated message boards, social-networking sites, and free sites like Craigslist – but lately they’ve also been targeting professional sites like BackStage.com with increasing frequency.

With over 30,000 legitimate pros using our http://BackStage.com/FindTalent Casting Center & Employer Toolbox system every year, perhaps it's inevitable that a few scammers are able to sneak in.

However, we have a number of security checks in place to help combat this, including: Our team of highly trained Assistant Casting Editors manually checks every single casting notice before the notices are published on BackStage.com. We’re able to eliminate 99% or more of scams from our casting/job notices in this way, and we disable all of the offending accounts we find along the way.

We also conduct regular sweeps of our “Find Talent” client database – both manually and via daily automated red-flag checks – to find people that are searching our Multimedia Resume Talent Database in suspicious or unsavory ways. Through this process we’re able to catch most scammers and spammers in less than 48 hours. However, regrettably, some scammers still sneak through. . . .

. . . So any time a thoughtful Back Stage user like you forwards us a suspicious email or scam complaint (as you’ve done), we can run a scan to see exactly who has been viewing your resume on BackStage.com. We can then investigate the full site-activity details for each of these users, to determine whether or not they’re a likely bogus/scam account. Again, we immediately disable these scam accounts. Luckily, Back Stage's readers' are usually great about letting us know about the scams they run into!

In this particular case, we’d already caught the scammer that contacted you – we discovered their scam over a month ago and disabled their account (completely blocking their account access) and sent them a cease-and-desist email. We’re sorry that they managed to contact your friend before we discovered the scam account, but glad to hear that you didn’t fall for the scam!

We’ve also been reporting these cases to the FBI and other authorities, but we've had little response so far.

However, we have been made aware of the fact that these scammers probably aren't specialized in casting scams – they use variations on the same emails to scam people in all sorts of different industries. And that's one of the things that make this particular type of scam pretty easy to spot once you're aware of it: In addition to having bad grammar skills, the perpetrators usually have a mixed-up understanding of entertainment-industry jargon and procedures. Ask them a modeling-or acting-related question and they'll send you back a bunch of malapropisms. And no audition necessary: They just want to send you a check!

We’re going to send out a SCAM ALERT email message to all Back Stage subscribers soon, to warn them to be on the lookout for these types of scams and to forward all suspicious emails to us via our Casting Help contact form at http://backstage.com/castinghelp

Although we’re working on even more ways to keep Back Stage super-secure, scam reports and feedback from users like you are truly invaluable in our constant quest to keep Back Stage scam-free.

Thank you,

Luke Crowe, National Casting Editor
BACK STAGE


If you need to see the original blog post about the scammers, click here to read.

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, December 1, 2009

Scammers troll casting websites

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Good friend and employment lawyer, Nance Schick, just sent this information to me about an actor’s experience with a scammer. She asked me to pass it along to the actors I knew - her email address is linked at the bottom, in case you have any questions.

And now, from Nance:

Several of my friends are actors and models with profiles on Backstage.com. On 09/30/09, one received the following email message:

Sep 30, 2009 11:57:50 AM, januarymodels2feel@gmail.com wrote:

Hi, I am emailing you as regards your post on BACKSTAGE. I was really thrilled when i saw those wonderful shots of yours, I quite appreciate your looks and would like to work with you on a small contract if you don't mind.

I work as a Talent scouting Agent for CODEWEAR Clothing™ in San Diego, CA. The brand's CONCEPT started in 2004 by Postal Carrier Lonnie Reams. The company now expanding into all markets has created a niche product, appealing to all ages. The unique Community based apparel offers a creative, one of a kind way to represent your neighborhood. You can visit their website: http://www.codewearclothing.comfor more details.

We need models to model for the promotion sales just to help publish them and to boost their sales and help them pave their way up the clothing industry meeting up with world fashion business today. Shot will be taking and pictures will be used to advertise their products. Get back to me know if you are interested in the Job offer and let me know your charging plan for 2 hours just for a day shoot. The shot will be done at a location closer to you.

I await.


Originally, we were forgiving of the poor sentence structure and failure to provide more details regarding the purported talent agency. It’s not unusual for small business owners to take chances on other “little guys” when they’re starting out or doing their first expansion. However, this alleged job has now been “in the works” for two months, and there have been a number of discrepancies that caused me to contact Lonnie Reams directly today.

He confirmed for me that he has no relationship with any such agency, the alleged supervisor or any other such expansion efforts. He has been getting frequent calls about this and is concerned that this scam will make his business look illegitimate. It is not.

We suspect that the scammers will eventually ask for the model’s bank account number or send a check that the model will cash. This might also give them access to the model’s bank account information and possibly allow them to hack into the account. Wikipedia contains a thorough, plain-language explanation of such scams, which it calls the “Cash the Check System.” See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_fraud#Cash_the_check_system. The site also contains links to the various authorities who investigate internet fraud.

It makes me very angry that anyone would be targeted for such a scam, but it is especially unsettling because the models and actors who might accept such a low-paying job are probably struggling financially. Please don’t get sucked in!

Here are some of the Red Flags to watch for:

• Consistently poor grammar, sentence structure, spelling, etc. in what is supposed to be a professional communication. An occasional error is understandable in our electronic age, but frequent inability to express ideas clearly is odd in this competitive marketplace.
• Incomplete or minimal contact information. If you’ve been offered a job and the employer still doesn’t trust you enough to know who you are working for, you probably really don’t have a job.
• Notice that a payment is coming to you in an amount greater than what you had agreed to. We are still investigating, but we suspect the scammers will offer to pay you by check so they can get your bank account information from your endorsement or your bank’s verification. (If you are still writing your full bank account number under your signature when you sign your checks, stop this immediately.)

Take action:

• Google or otherwise investigate the companies or agencies you will supposedly be working for.
• Trust your gut and pass on offers that seem too good to be true or “weird.”
• Contact the purported client (e.g., Codewear Clothing in this case) for verification of the relationship.
• Consider filing a complaint with the Federal Bureau of Investigation or other government authority.
• Never endorse your checks with your full bank account number on them.

Finally, I have filed a complaint with the FBI and alerted the investigators of this latest scam. It could be difficult to trace the perpetrators, but if you have information that might assist the discovery process, I encourage you to submit it. Backstage.com had some system problems last week that might be connected to these scammers and possible hackers, which further complicates the issues. I have alerted them as well.

Be careful “out there” (online)!
Nance L. Schick, Esq.


UPDATE: Nance received a response from Backstage. Check out their message here.


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 25, 2009

Questionable Acts in Acting

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I just happened upon an interesting thread on a message board, where the actors discussed smoking in films. There are several factors involved in the discussion: Is the actor notified of the smoking requirement in advance of the auditions; Will smoking herbal cigarettes or their alternatives cause a recovering smoker to become addicted again, and; What should an actor do if they are morally/ethically against smoking? I found the actors’ contributions fascinating, and thought you might like to see it (to view the article, click the “interesting thread” link above.)

A while ago I responded to a reader who inquired about nudity in projects, another contentious topic. With nudity, the most important element is making sure that all details are put into writing so that all parties are protected and no one is surprised with what happens with the footage. If you don’t have an agent, you may want to consult an entertainment lawyer to help you go over the contract details. You can also look online for sample Nudity Clauses/Addendums, in case you want to provide your own before appearing nude in a project. Here is a website I found particularly helpful. And here are a few other blogs that are very useful on this issue: The Naked Truth: Part 1 and The Naked Truth: Part 2.

What other personal issues have you come up against when working on projects? Post your questions here, and I’ll answer them as soon as possible. In the meantime, hop on over to Bite-Size Resources, where I’ve organized hundreds of links to helpful sites and articles.

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, October 24, 2009

Should Actors "Pay to Play"?

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I got this very interesting question from a colleague who prefers to remain anonymous due to the nature of the question:

Dear Erin,
You being from the Left Coast (California) and all, and being well-versed in the mechanics of our fine industry...have you heard of this practice? A filmmaker (director/writer), collaborates with actors to write a film of any length, featuring said actors with characters based on their types. The director then collects money from the actors, in proportion to their screen-time -- leads pay the most, day players the least -- hires a professional crew and goes about shooting, editing, and finalizing the film for festival submissions.
I'm told this is all the rage in Los Angeles.

How say you?

- Eager on the East Coast.

Howdy! What a contentious topic. I can see why you’d prefer to present the question in “Dear Abby” format! I have heard of this... it is very similar to theater "membership" companies who charge actors a monthly fee in exchange for having stage time. The actor’s membership dues pay for the actual production of their shows, and often pay for the salaries/stipends of the producers and crew members.

The practice of paying to create work is not a new one- in the best cases it is called "self producing." But the problem with what you are describing is that actors are not being brought on as producers- they are paying for the "privilege" of having a role to perform. Without a producing credit, the actors have no authority over the script, over the direction, over the editing, or over the final product. And, yet, the actors are the ones making the production financially possible. For that reason, I think that this practice of charging actors is deplorable.

From a fellow actor's perspective, it is frustrating to think that a "professional crew" would be hired, but the actors are expected to shell out money to work. Why is the actor's role valued so little? In part, it is because producers know that there are more actors than parts available, and actors will do almost anything for their "big break." So, in effect, many actors allow themselves to be marginalized. But there's also another side to this - crew members almost never work for free. While many actors will bend over backwards to volunteer their time (or even pay for the possibility of work), most crew members refuse to take on jobs without compensation. The producers you mentioned know they need a "professional crew" in order to make the film happen and, thus, they are willing to offer paying work. Added bonus- they know they can find actors who will pay to be a part of the project. One hand feeds the other, and the producers get their film made.

In my opinion, the lesson here is less about the producer's actions (which, again, I think are deplorable) - it’s more about actors standing up for themselves and commanding respect. Sure, every actor starts out needing to take as many roles as they can get (even non-paying ones) in order to build up their experience and skill set. But when other members of the team are being paid for their time, the actor needs to take a step back and ask, "Why not me, too?"

That all being said, if the actor is still willing to "pay to play," I think it is a good idea to request an actual producing credit, or at least have some say in the final product. For example, script approval or "final cut" authorization might be some of the things negotiated by actors who are contributing money to the project, or a percentage of net profits down the line. The more actors speak up and negotiate for what they feel they are due, the easier it will be to raise the standard of conduct toward them.

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 6, 2009

Exclusivity in Agency Contracts

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We’re on a role with the topic of CONTRACTS! Chantelle writes:

Hello Erin,

I'm an aspiring actress in North Carolina, and I made an effort to seek new representation. It has been a while since I have been able to pursue a career, due partly to the slump in production in my state. Now that is turning around, and I want to be ready to jump back into the game! My concern is with a local agent that offered me a contract. I am in no way looking my nose down at the situation, but I am a bit concerned. Since I was sidelined (by life), I am not sure if the contract is something I should enter in to. For one thing, the agent said that the exclusive contract is world wide (except for LA & NY). The wording used in the agency's overview, made it sound as if they get a commission for work booked, even if it is global (even if they didn't submit me). I don't know if one of the agents wasn't clear, and I am going to ask before signing. My question for you is, have you ever heard of this type of thing concerning agency contracts? What should actors look out for, and what are some red flags to take heed of? I appreciate any feedback you could provide, and if you get the chance, check out what's going on in NC.

All the best,
Chantelle
North Carolina


Hi, Chantelle. Thank you so much for your email. I am very glad you reached out, because contracts are very tricky things to work with.

The language of the contract that you mentioned sounds like standard language for agency contracts. When you sign a contract, it grants both you and the agent an exclusive relationship - this means that for any work that you get while on contract, you must pay a percentage to your agent as a commission, even if they did not "get" the work for you. This is a typical arrangement, because it guarantees that whatever work the agent does for you (initially unpaid) will be rewarded at some future date.

The good news is that there is usually an "out" clause in standard agency contracts, which allows the actor and/or the agent to bow out of the contract if neither of you have procured work over a certain period of time. In union contracts, this time is anywhere from 90-180 days; in non-union contracts, it can be anywhere from 90-365 days. You'll want to read your contract carefully before signing to see if there are any provisions for this. If there is nothing in the contract about an "out" clause, it would be perfectly reasonable to negotiate one.

Also, while the idea of a "global" contract (outside LA/NY) sounds scary, it probably isn't as massive as it seems to be. Generally, you'll only want to be represented by this agent while you are living in your current city/state. If you planned to move to another city, you would cancel your contract with that agent, and they would not have any claim over future earnings. So, even though "global" sounds like this agent will receive commissions on work anywhere in the world, this would only occur while you are under contract and, ideally, you would only be under contract with them while you live in the same vicinity. And, of course, it sounds like your contract is null-and-void in the Los Angeles and New York markets.

I usually recommend that any actor (union or non-union) show the contract to a lawyer to make sure that all provisions are clearly understood. At the very least, read over it carefully and then share any questions you have with the agent. When you talk to them, I would suggest asking:

1) How long is the overall contract?
2) When the contract expires, does it automatically renew, or do you both take the time to sign another one?
3) Is there an "out" clause, whereby one of us can cancel the contract if there is no work procured during a certain length of time?
4) If you move out of state, can you get out of the contract?
5) Does the contract include theater as well as film and TV? Does it include commercials? Does it include print work? And, is the agency commission the same across the board?

... and any other questions that come up for you when you read the contract.

Hope this helps- congratulations on being offered your contract, and I wish you the best of luck in your career!


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

Friday, October 2, 2009

Submitting in NY & LA from Other Cities

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One of my students is based in Louisville, KY, and though she comes to New York City on a fairly regular basis, she is not able to take full advantage of the audition opportunities. Here, she asks me a question about being out of town and submitting for NY Projects (and I think this is relevant for folks on the West Coast interested in LA projects.)

Hi Erin-

I am back in Louisville now. I have been organizing and sending some mailings and doing a website, but first, I have a couple of question for you or for the blog.

How effective is responding to call postings on Actor's Access? The convenience is fabulous- but will it get me results? Do the casting people even see our responses? I am trying to do this remotely as you know- but I don't want to waste time and money either. Is there anything else I should be watching for postings I can respond to? And finally, should I include my Midwest representation? Is it better to be represented or just solo?


Hi, there! Generally, I consider Actors Access to be one of the very best resources for actors to get work in NYC, though not all of it pays a huge salary. Because they don't always have large paying jobs posted, it may not be worth it for you to do much submitting unless you are already planning on being in town. But once you have a trip planned- it would be the first place I'd check for audition notices.

Regarding your agent- If your agent doesn't have relationships with NY casting directors, then you are better off just self-submitting (solo) through Actors Access. So, there is no real reason to add your agent's name to your account.

Now, one thing you CAN do is see if your agent could subscribe to the NY breakdowns through Breakdown Services. I am not sure what the yearly fee is for that, but if she subscribed she would be able to submit you to all of the breakdowns that New York agents are seeing. In that case, you would add your agent to your Actors Access account, because Actors Access and Breakdown Services are run by the same company. (She would be linking to your Actors Access account when submitting via Breakdown Services.)

I hope this helps- let me know when you are back in the city!

NOTE TO READERS:

To see my list of reputable casting websites for NYC, click here.

For those of you on the West Coast, there are other casting websites that also have great notices for the Los Angeles area, namely Now Casting and LA Casting...


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 29, 2009

Negotiating Non-Union Commercials

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I received a series of great questions from Alessandra, one of our readers, and I thought I would post the dialogue here:

Dear Erin,

It is of great value reading your blog, thank you for your time!

I would like to follow up on the union/non-union issue regarding residuals; can the company that hires you put "non-union" into the contract at their free will just so that we, the voiceover artists (in my case), don't get payed residuals? Or are they adhering to a law when putting this in a contract? What decides that it is union or non-union? Do I have a right to question this and what are my rights exactly? Also, I am not part of a union by the way. Thank you, and best wishes.


Hi, Alessandra- very good question. The distinction "union" is applied when the producer employs union actors on a project, and the union provides the physical contract that is signed by the producer and actor.

When producing a project, the producer has full control over what kind of contract they want to use. A union contract provides a certain set of conditions and standards that the producer and actor must adhere to. A non-union contract also has basic provisions, but these provisions are determined by the producer and it is up to the actor to accept the terms or negotiate for better terms before beginning work on the project. Once a contract has been selected and actors have been employed, the producer cannot change the nature of the contract at their will (nor can the actor, for that matter.)

As you probably know, residuals are an important part of the working actor's livelihood, and it is one of the key benefits to being a member of the union. The union provides minimum set of standards under which their members will work (also know as scale.) If you are not a member of the union, you have no rights or claims to these union benefits and wages, and this includes residuals. So, in your case it sounds as though the producer acted within their rights to note the contract as "non-union." There are rare cases where non-union contracts provide residuals - I'd suggest reading your contract carefully to learn what, if any, benefits are due to you as a condition of your employment.

I hope this makes sense- thanks again for writing, and I appreciate your stopping by my blog!

Wow, thank you, you sure know how to formulate :o) You have helped me immensely.

One last question: Do you think I should somewhat negotiate or not? By the way, their pay is usually around $100/hr- that is not too bad is it, compared to other voice-over companies? I’ve heard people getting payed way less.

Thanks again! I will forward your blog to a big mailing list :o)


As to negotiating- it depends. Have you already accepted the contract and done the shoot? If so, it is too late to negotiate. For future jobs, the best time to negotiate is before you accept the role. But, typically, it is very difficult for actors to do their own negotiations, which is why the unions have been created to begin with. So, most non-union actors either accept the terms or turn down the job- they rarely negotiate (though the actor is well within his/her rights to do so.)

If you haven’t done the job yet, what I would do is ask them if they have any wiggle room for negotiating the session fee, since you have worked with them a couple of times before. I don't think that you would be able to get residuals, but perhaps they'd be willing to bump your base salary/session fee. It doesn't hurt to ask, as long as you feel ok with them saying no.

As far as the pay you mentioned: That sounds like a great rate for non-union work, considering that the day rate for union actors is anywhere from $600-$1000 for an 8 hour day (depending on the kind of work- commercials pay more than industrials, and national commercials pay more than regional commercials.)

Where you earn less money is the fact that you are paid per hour. Union actors are pay for a half day or a full day, depending on the stipulations of the contract. I shot an AFTRA on-camera commercial recently that had a day rate of $750, plus 10% for the agent (for total of $825.) I was only there for 2 hours, and still was paid for a full day. These are the kinds of things that are negotiated by the unions and incorporated into the standard contracts so that individual actors do not have to negotiate for these minimums.

So, congratulations on landing what sounds like a very good gig! And thanks for sending my blog on to your friends- I am so glad it has been useful, and thanks again for sending me your questions!


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 26, 2009

If It Seems Too Good To Be True...

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I am going to start this blog post by sharing an unsolicited email I recently received from a “manager.” (Note: All grammar and spelling has been included, as originally written.)

"I was looking on IMDB and noticed you do not have a Talent Manager.  As you may  know we are doing Talent Management..  A manager is different from an agent but in a way better as I have more fields to get you work.  I feel I could be a great assett to you to help you not only get your more acting roles but we are doing something no other Management firm does.  We are also going to provide free to our clients our Publicity Services.  We are a NON-EXCLUSIVE company so if at anytime you want to end services with us that is ok.  I really hope you will give me a chance to further your career and make you more money.  If you are interested please let me know and I'll send you my information packate." - Mike  [click his name to visit his website]

File this one away into the “If it seems too good to be true, it is” mailbox. Of course, there are warning signs all over the above email that tell the actor that they should stay far away. So, how does an actor gauge the validity of these types of emails, which become more numerous as the actor gets more and more well known?

1) Does the manager know the difference between managers and agents? (Do you?)
Agents and managers are very different from one another, primarily because it is illegal for managers to procure work for their clients. Agents are required to be on file with their state as a “licensed employment agent” and managers are not given this clearance. Thus, a manager’s job takes on a different form. Directly from the Talent Manager’s Association website: “A manager, by nature, does not seek employment for a client, but rather council, market and network on their behalf making it easier for the agent to secure employment. A client, manager and agent should function as a team.”

You can see by the email above that the manager is not accurately conveying his role. This should be a very big “red flag” to you.

2) Why are they contacting YOU?
Yes, we are all fabulous, and we usually feel we deserve to be represented. But, as I said on a recent post on the Backstage message boards if you are ready to seek management, you want to seek out a management company that has a good track record and a solid client base. Typically, companies that fall in that category do not need to troll the internet to locate new clients, and they don’t typically seek to represent actors with small resumes. To get to know up-and-coming actors, managers spend time seeing plays, going to film festivals, and taking meetings via referrals. They may use IMDB or the actor’s website as a research tool, but rarely do solid companies “discover” talent on the web. So you have to ask yourself- if it is normally so difficult to be represented, why has THIS offer come so easily?

3) Does the email appear to be well written? If they give you a website to check out, does it inspire your confidence?
There are misspellings and bad grammar all over this email. Even if the manager were legitimate, would you want someone representing you when they cannot put together a coherent email?

4) Does the contact information make sense and seem professional?
Often, when you try to verify their contact information, you’ll notice discrepancies in the information. In the above example, Mike gave me a web address for his company, but his email address came from a completely different company. Upon researching him, I discovered that his company was primarily a Publicity Company, where they pay actors to attend parties and events. Also, take note of where their office is located. I am based in NYC and this company is based in LA - it doesn’t really make sense for them to represent me from the opposite coast unless I plan to make a move out west.

Many actors ignore that voice of warning in their head because it feels so good to believe that we are being handed our big break. Believe me, I know- I’m an actor, just like you. I hustle, just like you. I taste the wins and the losses as sweetly and bitterly as you do. But I believe that if you do your homework and listen to your gut, you can protect yourself from those unsavory characters who prey on your dreams and desires.

PS: This article pertains, also, to those folks out there who randomly email actors about mailing autographed headshots. I regularly report these requests on my acting blog to help other actors research the requests, and one in particular has resulted in a very strange, stalker-like situation. Check out this blog post for more information (and be sure to read the comments!)


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, September 24, 2009

"Such a Useful Tool..."

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I wanted to pass along this testimonial I just received regarding our monthly event, the Bite-Size Business Soiree.

Dear Erin,

I’m so glad that I was able to attend the Soiree on ‘Social Networking’ this past Sunday!  It feels so good to be around fellow actors & others in the business.  What’s so great is that during the discussion about networking, we were already on our way to meeting new people & finding common ground, just from our introductions. SMART!  I met some really great people & was able to lend the knowledge that I have to a fellow actor - and that feels really rewarding.  This Soiree really inspired me to take into consideration the ways that I can network & all the technology out there that I can take advantage of.  It leaves me wanting to know more!  I’m excited to start dabbling in social networking on the internet because it can really be such a useful tool.  Thank you so much for your awesome Soirees & I can’t wait to see what’s next!

Best,
Rachel Watkinson

The Bite-Size Business Soiree is held once a month in New York City. It is a “pay what you can” master class which ends with a networking event - and we would love to have you join us!


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 15, 2009

Membership Companies: Yes or No?

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I have had a couple of questions recently about membership companies and the pros and cons of joining them. Generally, membership companies are theater groups that charge members a fee and/or require “volunteering” in exchange for stage time. It has been a hot topic on TAE’s internal message board (a service for those who coach with me.) What has struck me is the almost rabid support for membership companies, so much so that folks have been nervous about speaking out against certain organizations for fear of retribution. But this fear promotes only the positive comments about these organizations, which I think skews the advice and keeps actors from making fully educated decisions.

This blog is no exception. I make an effort to avoid posting negative press about specific organizations, because there is a fine line between opinion and libel (especially when you have an influential voice.) Bloggers can be sued by companies who feel their name has been defamed, so we have to be careful about what we publish. Specifically, we avoid listing the names of people and companies who may later complain that we are speaking unfairly about them.

So, what I thought I would do is post the series of comments then went back and forth on our message board about one particular company, so that you can fully see the pros and cons of working with these types of companies. I have redacted the name of the company to keep it private- but if you want to know more information you can shoot me an email and I’ll help you as best I can.

Here is the first email that was posted:

I've been considering auditioning for [name redacted] for a while now. What is your opinion of them? How professional are they? Thanks!

One member responds:

I have found, for the majority of the time, [name redacted] to be professional.  There are, of course, people that you'll have to deal with that are not.  But they are very few.

I think its a great company if you want to be on stage.  They guarantee you 3 shows a year.  Usually, if you're good, you'll get more.  Directors can request you.  Once you've auditioned for [name redacted], you'll not have to audition again.  You'll just be cast.  It's also a good company to network, since the membership is around 250 people.  I've been there for 9 years and I keep meeting new people. The hours are not that hard to do.  They always need box office people. And you only pay $100 per year to join.

And here was a message that was sent me to outside of the group, by an actor who did not want to make this comment publicly:

Erin - I did not think it was proper to put this out publicly - but I actually had an agent tell me to take [name redacted] off my resume...

Here is my response to her private message:

Actually, your comment is a good thing to put out there. I think that just hearing only positive things can skew the reality of what membership companies bring to the table, so your contribution would be valuable. 

I think that for beginning actors, membership companies can be a good way to get basic experience and develop a sense of community. But if the actor already has a decent amount of credits and is, instead, looking for industry exposure, the actor needs to seek out a company that has an excellent reputation. Companies like The Bats (from The Flea Theater), The LABrynth Theater Company, The Actor’s Studio, have great reputations for putting out fantastic work and giving their members solid training and exposure. These companies are usually part of larger Equity theaters, though some professional theaters have non-Equity internship/membershp companies.

There are several aspects of the aforementioned membership company that lead me to believe it is more suited for beginners (this comes from the posted response above):

• They charge for membership. That, in and of itself, is not a concern, but many professional companies pay its actors rather than charging them to perform. But add to that:

• They take on less experienced actors, and

• They regularly cast actors without auditioning them specifically for each role.

When membership companies do the above, there is a tendency for the industry to overlook these credits or, worse, to think of them as being undesirable on a resume. If the company will take anyone, regardless of experience, and they do not carefully cast their projects, this will often send up red flags to the industry. Now, not all industry members have the same opinion. So, of course, you have to take this agent’s comments with a grain of salt. But, if you value the opinion of the agent who said to take it off your resume, I think this speaks volumes about the reputation of the company. As I said, these companies may be fantastic for actors who are just starting out, or those who are content with performing in a non-professional environment. But for more experienced actors, the company may be more trouble than it’s worth.


MY FINAL POINT:

I think it is important for actors to really examine their reasons for joining membership companies. Before you invest your time and money, use your common sense. Are you looking for experience that this company can provide? Or are you looking for a quick path toward getting an agent? Remember, it is very difficult to find representation in New York. There are thousands of talented actors competing for the minute amount of slots available at any given time. There are always exceptions, but in general you must have a good amount of experience, great training, and top notch marketing materials to make an impact.

There is a particular membership company that does showcases for its members, with the intention of getting their members agent representation. But they accept nearly every actor who auditions for the company. To find new members, this company attends industry nights and combined audition events collecting headshots from every actor (including the newbies), and then invites them to “callbacks” for their company. I have never met an actor who was turned away after these auditions. For many of their members, this is the first time they have stepped on a stage.

This company is very useful for new actors who crave experience and who are looking to join a community of performers. But, instead of focusing in this area, this company promises industry exposure to professional agents and casting directors. Think about this- how seriously is an agent going to take these actors when the company does not have rigorous standards of excellence?

Again, there is no quick path to representation. If you are a professional actor looking for exposure, make sure that the company you choose accurately reflects your level of expertise and professionalism. Listen to the little voice inside your head- your instincts will almost always be right.


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.

Friday, September 11, 2009

NY Television Production Listings- Fall 2009

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** UPDATE: CLICK HERE for the 2010 Production Listings **

I was doing some research for myself regarding TV shows that are shooting in NY this fall, and decided to share the information with you! If you have additions or updates, please add them to the comments section of this blog post.

Returning Series

All My Children (Soap, ABC) - in NY until Jan 2010. Judy Blye Wilson and Bob Lambert (under five and extras) c/o ABC-TV, 320 W. 66th St., New York, NY 10023.

Army Wives (Episodic, Lifetime) About a woman who marries a soldier and moves her family onto an Army base, where she becomes friends with other women whose husbands are in the military. Casting: Calleri Casting, 70A Greenwich Ave #162, New York, NY 10011. Shot in South Carolina.

As The World Turns (Soap, CBS) Mary Clay Boland (Casting Director), Lamont Craig (Casting Associate). 1268 East 14th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11230.

Castle (Drama, ABC) Castle is a 1 hour witty drama based on a famous crime and horror novelist [Nathan Fillion] who helps the NYPD homicide detective [Stana Katic] solve crimes. Casting (based in LA): Kendra Castleberry, Donna Rosenstein.

Damages (Drama, FX) The series follows the turbulent lives of Patty Hewes (Glenn Close), the nation's most revered and reviled high-stakes litigator and her bright, ambitious young protégé Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne). Tucker/Meyerson Casting, 568 Broadway, Suite 301, New York, NY 10012

Flight of the Conchords (Comedy, HBO) Flight of the Conchords follows the trials and tribulations of a two man, digi-folk band from New Zealand as they try to make a name for themselves in their adopted home of New York City. The band is made up of Bret McKenzie on guitar and vocals, and Jemaine Clement on guitar and vocals. Cindy Tolan Casting: 609 Greenwich St, Suite 401A, New York, NY 10014

Gossip Girl, (Drama, The CW) About young socialites, based on the novels by Cecily von Ziegesar. Shooting from June 29 through March 2010. With Blake Lively, Leighton Meester, Penn Badgley, Taylor Momsen, Chace Crawford, Ed Westwick, Matthew Settle, Kelly Rutherford, and Jessica Szohr. Principals: Bowling/Miscia Casting, 349 Broadway, 3rd fl., NYC 10013. Background: Central Casting New York, 875 Sixth Ave., 15th fl., NYC 10001.

Law & Order (Drama, NBC) Shooting from July 31 through April 2010. With Sam Waterston, S. Epatha Merkerson, Jeremy Sisto, Anthony Anderson, Alana De La Garza, and Linus Roache. Casting Principals: Lynn Kressel Casting, Pier 62, Room 304, West 23rd Street and Hudson River, NYC 10011. Background: Central Casting New York, 875 Sixth Ave., 15th fl., NYC 10001.

Law & Order: Criminal Intent (Drama, USA) With Chris Noth, Julianne Nicholson, Vincent D’Onofrio and Kathryn Erbe. Casting Principals: Kimberly Hope, Lynn Kressel Casting, Pier 62, Room 304, West 23rd Street and Hudson River, NYC 10011. Background: Grant Wilfley Casting, 123 W. 18th St., 8th fl., NYC 10011.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (Drama, NBC) Shooting July 6–April 5, 2010. With Christopher Meloni, Mariska Hargitay, Richard Belzer, Dann Florek, Ice-T, Connie Nielsen, Stephanie March, B.D. Wong, Michaela McManus, and Tamara Tunie. Casting Principals: Jonathan Strauss, Lynn Kressel Casting, Pier 62, Room 304, West 23rd Street and Hudson River, NYC 10011. Background: Grant Wilfley Casting, 123 W. 18th St., 8th fl., NYC 10011.

One Life to Live (Soap, ABC) Julie Madison (casting director) and Victoria Visgilio (casting associate) c/o ABC-TV, 56 W. 66th Street, New York, NY 10023.

Rescue Me (Drama, FX) Rescue Me revolves around the lives of the men in a New York City firehouse, the crew of 62 Truck. Stars Denis Leary, John Scurti, Daniel Sunjata, Steven Pasquale, Michael Lombardi, Callie Thorne, Andrea Roth and Adam Ferrara. Tucker/Meyerson Casting, 568 Broadway, Suite 301, New York, NY 10012

Ugly Betty (Comedy, ABC) an hourlong dramedy for ABC. Shooting for Season 4 begins July 14 and continues through April 16, 2010. With America Ferrera, Eric Mabius, Tony Plana, Ana Ortiz, Becki Newton, Mark Indelicato, Judith Light, Michael Urie, and Vanessa Williams. Principals: Geoffrey Soffer, Silvercup Studios East, Stage C, 34-92 Starr Ave., 2nd fl. studio, Long Island City, NY 11101. Background: Comer & Gallucio Casting, 440 Ninth Ave., Ste. 24, NYC 10001 or candgcasting@gmail.com.

ZRock (Comedy, IFC) Z ROCK is a comedy series that follows three friends leading a double life: by night they're a hard-partying rock band and by day they're a kids party band. Z ROCK is (kinda) based on the true story of the band Z02 (brothers Paulie Z and David Z, and lifelong friend Joey Cassata) and gives a satirical look at the dark underbelly of the rock n' roll dream. Casting: James Calleri, 133 W 25th St, 6th Flr, New York, NY 10001




New Series


Boardwalk Empire (NY)(Drama). Period drama about the rise of Atlantic City in the 1920s and the related buildup of organized crime. Produced by Martin Scorsese and Tim Van Patten. Steve Buscemi stars. The series is expected to begin shooting in October. With Steve Buscemi, Stephen Graham, Kelly Macdonald, Michael Pitt, Vincent Piazza, and Michael Shannon. Casting: Boardwalk Casting, 330 W. 38th St., Ste. 710, New York, NY 10018. Premiere: TBA.

The Good Wife (NY) (Drama, CBS). Julianna Margulies stars as a wife and mother who must take full responsibility for her family when her politician husband lands in jail after a very public sex and corruption scandal. Casting Director: Mark Saks, Casting Associate: Chrissy Fiorilli (NY). C/O Scott Free/RSA Films, 270 Lafayette St, Ste 203, New York NY 10012. Premiere: Sept. 22. Background: Kee Casting, P.O. Box 3175, Guttenberg, NJ 07093. Note: AFTRA project.

Mercy (Drama, NBC). The story of three Mercy Hospital nurses and their loves, lives, and losses. Written by Liz Heldens. Casting: Suzanne Smith Crowley, c/o Chrystie Street Casting, 55 Chrystie St., Ste. 501, New York, NY 10002. Premiere: Sept. 23.

Nurse Jackie (Drama, Showtime) A nurse struggles to find a balance between the demands of her frenetic job at a New York City hospital and an array of personal dramas. Starring Edie Falco. Tucker/Meyerson Casting (Ross Meyerson), 568 Broadway, Suite 301, New York, NY 10012

Royal Pains (Drama/NBC). "Good Morning Miami" alum Mark Feuerstein stars as a down-on-his-luck New York physician who saves the life of a supermodel at an exclusive party in the Hamptons and suddenly finds himself in demand as an on-call "concierge doctor" for the rich and famous. Written by Carol Flint. Directed by Don Scardino. Shooting through mid-August. Casting: Bonnie Finnegan and Steven Jacobs, Finnegan/Jacobs Casting, c/o Actors Alliance, 330 W. 38th St., Room 507, New York, NY 10018. Shoots end of May. Premiered: June 4. Seeking AFTRA members only.

Sherri (Comedy, Lifetime) is the first comedy series to be completely owned by Lifetime, which has picked up 12 episodes of the new series. The new show will center around a newly single mom, paralegal and part-time comedienne/actress who is trying to get back into the dating scene and move on with her life after divorcing her cheating husband. Sherri finds solace and support from her girlfriends at the office while juggling her hectic life. Starring Sherri Shepherd, one of the co-hosts of ABC's "The View. The series will co-star Elizabeth Regen (The Black Donnellys), Kate Reinders (Ugly Betty), Kali Rocha (Grey's Anatomy) and Tammy Townsend (Lincoln Heights). Casting: Rosalie Joseph, VP Casting, ABC Entertainment, 157 Columbus Ave. 2nd Floor, New York, NY 10023.

White Collar (Drama/USA). After his release from prison, all a former con wants is to get back together with his girlfriend, but he finds himself coerced into helping the FBI hook other con men. Directed by Dennie Gordon. Written by Jeff Eastin and Clifton Campbell. Casting: Julie Tucker and Ross Meyerson, Tucker/Meyerson Casting, 568 Broadway, Ste. 301, New York, NY 10012. Shoots in early September.

Pilots - Fall 2009

The C Word (Drama/Showtime). Cathy (Laura Linney) has just been diagnosed with cancer and decides to keep it a secret from everyone in her life...Casting Directors: Julie Tucker/ Ross Meyerson, Tucker/Meyerson Casting, 568 Broadway, Ste. 301, New York, NY 10012. Pilot in Los Angeles; series most likely in New York


Casting in NYC but shot elsewhere:

Treme (Drama). Three months after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, the 6th Ward's vibrant music scene is alive but struggling hard. Shooting in New Orleans. Casting: Alexa L. Fogel Casting (Associate: Christine Kromer), 330 West 38th Street, Ste. 1405, New York, NY 10018.


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 5, 2009

Ensemble Based Marketing

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I have been an actor for many, many years, but I recently came upon my 4 Year Anniversary as a New York actor on August 5. It was a thrilling change from my smaller town of San Diego (which is big geographically but still has that small town feel.) One of the toughest things about moving to this big city was building a new community, of which I had so much in my home town. The power of community is so valuable to actors, and most of the time we don't even realize we have it. Most of the time, we feel like are are trudging through this business all on our own.

The idea for this blog actually stems from a Facebook status I saw a few weeks ago. A very talented musical director/singer posted a request to the universe, stating he wanted theaters to elect ONE person to create a Facebook event for their show where everyone can "invite friends to this event," rather than 5 people separately creating events. My friend cited a particular problem where he got invited to one event by two different people and got confused as to where he should RSVP.

As actors have started to become more savvy with social networking and have begun taking their marketing into their own hands, one element seems to have gone missing: Actors are no longer asking for the help and support of their peers.

There are so many amazing ways that you can team up with your fellow actors in support of your marketing efforts, which will really help you work SMARTER and not HARDER. I call it Ensemble Based Marketing. Here are a couple of ideas to help you reach your goals more easily:

1) Poll your cast-mates to find out what their goals are in getting audiences to attend, and then team up to help get the word out. There are two different ways to do this. One: You can divide up a major mailing list (like folks listed in The Call Sheet), with each actor committing to mailing to a set amount of contacts. Two (and even more powerful): You can choose a smaller set of folks, preferably ones you already know, and have every cast member send a separate postcard so that each recipient receives several invitations (Be sure to list all cast members on your postcard!) I once did a show and a fellow actor was trying to get his agent to attend. I had met the agent once before, so I agreed to send a postcard mentioning that I was also doing the show, and that his client so was great that the agent should come to see him. Low and behold, the agent came to the show and brought another person from the office. I'd like to think it was our double team effort that worked!

2) I was on a Facebook event page for a fundraiser produced by Small Pond Entertainment, and I started to notice that a bunch of the "yes" RSVPs were from actors who had the same profile picture. And what was the picture? It was the flyer for a play they were all doing. And this play was the very play for which that the fundraiser was being held. The fact that 4-5 people had the same profile image really caught my eye, and I found myself interested in the project they were doing. And I was very impressed by the teamwork of the cast in communicating their show to the world.

3) For those of you doing non-union or showcase theater, talk to your producer and see if they would be willing to distribute press packets to industry folks at your performances. (For many AEA shows, producers are required to have these available.) Get together with your cast mates and collect 20-25 headshots and resumes along with 20-25 nicely made pocket folders. Collate the headshots and resumes so that each folder has a copy of each actor's information. This is an excellent way to make sure that industry professionals have your information, especially if you give a stellar performance.

4) As my friend suggested- choose one person to create the Facebook or MySpace event, and then each actor can click the "Invite More People" link to get more folks on the list. Not only will it be easier on your potential audience members to have one place to view the information, but the amount of activity on the page will skyrocket (with lots of "yes" RSVPs) which will look very impressive.

Have a success story with ensemble based marketing? Write a comment here and inspires others with your story!


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, August 29, 2009

Agents for Background / Extra Work?

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I have been alerted recently to some companies who claim that they help actors get “bit parts” in feature films and on TV shows. So I thought I would dedicated a short blog post to talking about how to get background work and extra work.

First off, you do not NEED an agent to get background work. Getting background work is very similar to temp work. Background casting directors accept headshot/resume submissions and have open calls where they will take your information and keep it on file. When they have a need for your look/type, they will contact you to see if you are available to do background work. If you are available, they’ll book you. If you are not, they’ll move on and find someone else. And much like temp work, the more that you say yes, the more likely that they will call you again.

The main purpose for an agent is two-fold: 1) They help procure auditions and/or jobs for actors that actors do not have access to on their own, and 2) When the actor books a job, the agent negotiates the contract / salary for the project.

Because background casting directors contact actors directly from their database, and because actors are offered only the minimum scale salary for background work, there is no reason to work with an agent to find you background/extra work. There is one small exception, and that is is you are living in Los Angeles and don't have the time to track all of the different background work that is available. Then, perhaps it is worth it to pay a percentage of your salary to an agency, which is more like a headhunter than a traditional agent. But if you are in any other city, there really is no reason to have an agent for background work.

I am not disparaging legitimate companies who provide background work for actors. But I do have a problem with “agencies” whose sole service is getting background work for actors but who represent themselves as helping actors "get break into the movie business- no experience necessary!" I have seen some companies who post "client bookings" and make it sound as though the actor has gotten speaking roles on these projects. Companies that do this are preying on actors who are desperate to get “into the movies” or “be on TV” and it really concerns me.

Bottom line: There is no quick entry into this business- success takes hard work and lots of training. Before you sign a contract with any agent or management company, be sure that you do your research to make sure their services are legitimate and necessary.

Here are some helpful links:

Click here to see my other posts on Background / Extra Work.
Click here for a list of background casting directors who hire actors in New York City.

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.

Friday, August 28, 2009

How Bad is a Bad Audition?

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One of my students recently wrote to me, and I think that her experience is so prevalent that I wanted to post her question and my answer here:

I have something that's really been bothering me and keeping me from auditioning-- and I am hoping you can help. 

I auditioned for a regional company that I have always wanted to work with. They always have a season that I love and feel is perfect for me. When I first auditioned for them, it wasn't one of my better days but I told myself I was doing the right thing by auditioning despite the circumstances.

The following season, another casting call rolled around for this theater. I submitted, and they emailed me back saying that they remembered my work and they didn't want to waste time seeing me again. It made me feel sick - this is something that has never happened to me before. It wasn't as if I wasn't right for their company, I think I just made a bad impression at that first audition.

Did I mess something up by going to that audition? Would I be better off just staying home if I am not feeling 100%? This situation has made it difficult for me to get out there to audition for anything at all. I wish there were a way I could start again fresh and know I can be successful.

I know people think I just need to get out there and audition, and I really do agree. But is this concern in any way valid?"

First off, your concerns are always valid. They are real, and tangible. The question is, are you going to let them make you "play small"? Are you going to let them stand in your way?

I can completely understand where you are coming from- what an awful experience! I have had things like that happen to me (I can tell you some stories in person that will blow your mind!) and it's like someone sucker punches you. There is no real consolation except to know that it happens to everyone at some point, and it very rarely has anything to do with how wonderful you are as an actor. With as many things that were going on in your life at that time, there could have been just as many things happening in that casting director's life that made them say those things to you. I am certainly not excusing them- I am simply saying that most of the time, people's behavior (bad, or even good) has nothing to do with how talented we are.

To get yourself on good footing with them (essentially erasing that bad experience) is go to one of the EPAs or open calls and show them a good audition. Don't wait for permission to audition for them, go on in your town terms and blow them away with what you are capable of doing. There is a chance that they meant what they said- they knew what you could do and they didn't have anything for you that season. If you see a season that you'd love to do, I'd highly recommend showing up at their auditions.

Now, as far as this experience overshadowing getting back out there now... ANYTIME you do an audition you run the risk of making a bad impression. Even if you feel like you are at your peak physically, emotionally and mentally, you may have someone behind the table who just doesn't appreciate what you have to offer. So, why wait? The risk of rejection is the same whether you wait or go for it, but if you put things on hold you are essentially putting your life and dreams on hold until this magical "someday" - and that can seem further away every day.

The question is, can you really afford NOT to take action? And I think you know my answer for that. =)


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, August 26, 2009

Even Big People Do It (Mess Up, I mean...)

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I just stumbled upon this refreshing article about A-List actors who have had problems at auditions. See, even the big people do it! Check out CNN.com: A-List Actors Relive Shameful Audition Moments

What are some of your audition foibles? Leave a comment and share with the other readers!


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.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Market Your Acting Career (Tip #5): Mailing to Different Names at Same Office

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One of my students writes:

"I am doing a mailing and was wondering if it's beneficial to mail to different agents at the same agency, or should I just pick one per agency to mail to? I don't want to overload them, but if they are different agents...not sure how it works.

Also, I have the same question about theaters ... should I mail to just one person there or multiple ones? I have met one of the casting directors at an Off-Broadway office, but would also like for the main CD to get my headshot/resume. Would they be sitting around like thinking, “Why do I have 10 headshots from this one girl?” Or do they keep them all separate?


Help! Any feedback would be helpful."

Hello! Thanks for your email- this is great question and one that I am sure many actors have.

The official answer is "it depends."

Different offices have different filing systems- some industry folks maintain their own files within an office (meaning that they do not share) and some share a central filing system. What I usually recommend is to do some research to find out which person tends to work with your type more often. It certainly doesn't hurt to mail to everyone, but with the cost of printing and mailing, plus the time it takes to put mailings together, it may not be cost effective to mail to everyone. Once you find out who is more likely to cast your type, you can hone in on them and make sure they have your materials at their disposal.

You mentioned that you have met one of the casting directors- good for you! It is a great idea to get in front of these folks to show them your work in person. Go to as many EPAs or open calls as possible. If they have good reputations as teachers, consider taking an audition technique workshop from them. Create a Google Alert for their name and keep an eye out for events where they might be speaking. These are just a few other ways to make an impression so that when you do your mailing, you have some mutual history behind you.

Hope this helps- let me know how it goes!

UPDATE: Just found this great question by an actor, which was answered by Secret Agent Man of Backstage. Check it out here. (Note: at the time of this update, the only response to the question was by the agent- I cannot verify the validity of any other answer posted...)


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, August 19, 2009

Getting Headshot Advice

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One of the biggest questions that actors face is with regard to their headshots. I see these question posted dozes of times a day on the message boards, I often get asked by blog readers and Facebook acquaintances to give my thoughts. And each time I hear/see this, I wonder- how valuable is the advice they are getting? What kinds of feedback can one expect to get from different kinds of people?

Earlier today I got an email from a lovely actor named Mavis, who writes:

“I want to present a new head shot for a showcase I will be doing in a few weeks. Can you look at my photos section and tell me what you think of the shot labeled possibly legit ... Also, I’d like to know- whether you like it or whether it is a ”deal breaker," What kind of look is it, and I'm deciding whether I should get it retouched and printed.“

Hey! Thanks for asking about my thoughts for your new headshot. I dropped by your page and looked around- very nice! I would love to be able to say more about your choice, but it actually is very hard to give headshot advice without knowing exactly the kind of roles you are interested in pursuing. Knowing this information is vital to giving you solid advisement about which shots will work best for you. I notice that actors ask for feedback from their peers, both actors and non actors, and I imagine that the feedback can get confusing- everyone seems to have a different opinion. In my view, the only thing that your friends and colleagues can advise on is, A) If the shot looks like you, and B) If the photo is in the same style as the other headshots out there today. Meaning, when compared to other shots, does it look like a headshot that is ”now“ instead of years ago. (For your shot, the answer is YES on both accounts.)

But, of course, there is much more to a shot than those two minor details, so it is always good to choose your headshot based on what kinds of roles you are interested in getting. Take away this idea of "legit" or "theatrical" or "commercial" for a moment- what kinds of roles are you seeking most often? Is this headshot a perfect match for one or more of those roles? Are there other kinds of roles you are interested in but that do NOT fit this headshot? (It is ok, by the way, to print several shots if you find that you have several different types of roles you seek out on a regular basis.) You want to make sure that you prepare yourself with all of the marketing tools necessary to get the kind of work you think you are capable of doing.

I always work with actors closely to give them objective tools to use when choosing headshots- choosing the shots based on what will get them work rather than what ”looks best.“ The process is simple but effective, and you can do it using brand new shots you’ve just taken or by going through an old headshot session to see if there are any shots you may have overlooked. I am a big fan of working with what you have, if at all possible- you’ve already paid for the shots so you might as well get as much out of them as you can!

Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions about headshots, or email me if you want to set up a session to talk about picking the perfect shot to get you the job you want. Can’t wait to hear from you!


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

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