Advice and How-To's Especially for ACTORS!

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Tax Advice for Actors

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From time to time I will be offering advice from OTHER industry experts on issues that are on the minds of actors.

This first question I posed to the founder of Abundance Bound on behalf of one of my students. I wanted to know:

Is there a resource/website I can direct one of my actors to regarding taxes? He worked this year as an actor but did not make any income on these gigs (everything was non-paid), but he had expenses over $10,000 for his career. His accountant told him that he could not write any of these expenses off because he did not make any money as an actor, but I have been told otherwise by several tax attorneys. What’s the scoop?

Here is what Miata Edoga, from Abundance Bound, had to say:

It is hugely important as actors that we utilize accountants to assist with tax planning and tax preparation who have detailed knowledge of the tax code as it relates to the business of acting.  There are a number of accountants who specialize in preparing taxes for individuals in the Entertainment industry.  Often (as I believe would be the case with this actor) utilizing entertainment experts will result in enormous tax savings!  

Actors can begin by visiting http://www.chucksloan.com where you will find a great deal of completely free information that can provide guidance with regards to the ins and outs of allowable deductions on the actor’s tax return.  The fact that this particular individual did not earn as an actor this year DOES NOT automatically mean he cannot take the write offs.  Presumably he earned income from another source and as long as he is prepared to prove that he was still engaged in the growth of his acting business, many of the deductions should still be allowed.  However, his method of record keeping and business structure is hugely important because he will be at high risk for an audit.

Any actor who also wants to learn the exact steps they should take immediately with their financial record keeping to clearly establish the legitimacy of their artistic business in the eyes of the IRS, can check out Artist’s Prosperity 101 at http://snipurl.com/actorsenterprise101


This is an extremely inexpensive, step by step program that will guide you through the exact systems you must put in place to ensure you are completely financially organized as an actor.  This can literally result in saving thousands of dollars each year!

P.S. Any actor who decides to purchase Artist’s Prosperity 101 should enter the code TAE101 to get $15 off!

The bottom line: If you think something sounds off... ask someone! There are lots of resources for actors, and it just takes a little bit of digging to find an answer. Come to me if you have trouble finding what you need. And, who knows, perhaps I can get you a discount in the process!


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, March 29, 2009

A Testimonial


I just received this awesome email from one of my students, and she agreed to let me share it with you:

Hi, Erin! You told me to let you know if anything happened with my audition. Well... I GOT A CALL BACK  for the indie feature and I am so excited!! Yeah!! 

I am really happy I met with you! I already contacted my previous films for my raw footage, met with The Network, and feel a little more organized. Will see you soon, and thank-you!

Most sincerely,

Nancy

To see more testimonials, click here.

Want to know what all the fuss is about? Email me to set up your free consultation. (actors outside of NYC can coach by phone!)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Auditioning for American Idol (and other competitions)

I got this question via email, and I wanted to share my response here:

“Erin - I want to audition for American Idol. I was wondering are there any tips you can suggest?”

TAE responds:

American Idol is such a completely different beast than other auditions. I know some excellent singers who didn't make it past the 1st round, because often they are not looking for the best singers. I also know some people who were not very good singers but had a lot of stage presence, and they got all the way to being judged by the Fab Four, only to find out that they were passed that far only because it would be "good TV" to have them berated by the judges. 

I always tell actors that you have absolutely no control over whether you are cast (or passed through) when you audition. So, with that in mind, here are some tips for a contest like this:
 
• Just sing with your heart and soul and be very real. Let your passion show through!
• Don't use any gimmicks. No costumes, no props, no signs. Seriously. 
• Show confidence, even if you feel nervous! 
• Pick the song that you sing the VERY BEST- do not pick something because you think it is hard and that they will appreciate how hard it is. A well done song with small range is much better than a mediocre song with lots of range.
• Come prepared with a 2nd option in case they ask to hear a different song.
• Make sure you know the whole song, in case they ask for more. 
• Plan out your entire audition BEFORE you audition and know exactly how much you are going to sing. Then, don't sing any more unless they ask for it. 
• Connect with the judges. Look at them as you sing- smile at them, think of this audition as concert you are giving to fans who love you. It will make a huge difference in your delivery. (This is markedly different than in traditional auditions, when you look at a fixed point on the wall behind the auditors!)
• Stay quiet when you are waiting to go in. You will probably be there for many hours with many screaming fans. Resist the urge to scream with them- you want to save your voice. 
• Know that NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO, they have a formula for who they advance to the next round and why. Most of this has nothing to do with you or your performance. You will see less talented people advance, while others do not. While American Idol is a talent competition, at this stage in the game they cannot judge on talent alone (there are thousands upon thousands of talented people, and they cannot let them all through.) So, the producers are going to put through the ones that they feel will help them get ratings- some good, some bad. So, just go in there knowing that you will do your best, and knock them dead!

I hope this helps- let me know when/if you audition and tell me how it goes!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Creative Marketing- Ideas?

A colleague of mine sent this interesting blurb about a job seeker who used postcards to build buzz about herself (note: this woman is NOT an actor!)

For example, one woman I knew found that nobody was interested in hiring during the summer so she backpacked around Europe. She brought addresses for about 150 prospective employers. Each morning she had a cup of coffee and addressed postcards to about 20 of them with notes like, “Wish you were here, Alyssa” and “You would love this place, Alyssa”. Her last card said, “In town in September; I’ll call you.” Everyone wanted to know who was this mysterious Alyssa who had been sending a card a week… soon she had her choice of job offers. (Postcards work better than letters because they cause a stir around the office!) 

How have YOU been creative with your marketing lately? Leave a comment and let us know!

Friday, March 20, 2009

New Look, Same Great Content!


How do you like the new design? =)

Those of you who view this on RSS- stop on by and take a look at our new digs!

Monday, March 16, 2009

What stories do you want to tell?

I read a lot of blogs about the business, and one in particular I follow because this company is doing the same for producers as I do for actors: training on becoming better (and ore empowered) business people. One of their most recent blogs about producing really hit the mark, and I wanted to quote from it a bit:

... You identify what your story is.

Nobody in the press or media world cares that you're putting on a show you love. There are plenty of people putting on a show they love. Nobody really cares if your playwright's a new guy or girl and this is his/her first play. Michael Riedel isn't going to come knocking to comment on your artistic progress on a show that you wrote with your weed smoking roommate who's sleeping with your best friend's girlfriend (unless of course any of the aforementioned have a Broadway credit that fits snugly above the title somewhere) Start with this:

Nobody cares. I need to make them care.

What does that mean?

Have a story. That's right. Think of what it is that is actually worthy of print in your work...

This idea is critically important for actors as well, only I ask YOU to ponder, "What stories do you want to tell?" There will always be another actor who is smarter, better looking, more connected, with better skills, credits and talent, but what makes an actor special is communicating their UNIQUE point of view. So... what stories are you inspired to tell? How can you tell them in a way that no one else can? This is part of a 2 hour marketing/brand exercise I do called the "ACE Strategy" which helps actors figure out their "60 second pitch" and create elements of their marketing plan. Of course, I highly recommend booking some sessions with me so you can have some support in creating your plan, but in the interim, be sure that you are reading everything you can get your hands on, like One Producer in the City ...

Friday, March 13, 2009

Auditioning for a Season of Shows


We are in the season of summer stock, festivals, and general season auditions which forces actors to communicate several different facets of their skill set, often using only one audition piece (be it a monologue or song.) This can leave actors perplexed as the best way to present themselves, particularly if they are right for more than one show but the shows are completely different in style.

For example, here is the season from a theater currently auditioning in New York:

My Fair Lady
Little Shop of Horrors
High School Musical
Doubt
The Wedding Singer
Fiddler on the Roof


Um, so whatcha gonna do for this audition?

Take me as an example: I am a youthful leading lady with pop/legit soprano range, which means I am perfect for shows like My Fair Lady and The Wedding Singer. But with these shows having such different scores, how do I choose a song that can show that I am right for both roles?

Or, how about plays? What if a theater company is doing:

The Glass Menagerie
Tartuffe
As You Like It
Fat Pig
“Untitled”- an experimental movement play based using Suzuki and puppetry

If auditioning is simply the MARKETING of ones skills/ambitions to the acting community, how in the world can you communicate in one monologue that you are perfect for both Tennessee Williams and Neil Labute material?

The magic answer is that you tailor your audition pieces to fit your storytelling strengths, as opposed to fitting them to the season of shows. I’ll say that again, in another way:

Do what you do best and the appropriate project will draw itself to you.

So, how do you do this? Well, start by asking yourself this question: What is it about you that makes YOU perfect for the projects listed? Most likely, there is something they have in common which resonates with you, and THAT is what you should be expressing in the audition room. Using me as an example again: I am someone who is constantly on a quest to better myself and the world around me. “Idealistic” is one of the main words I used to describe me. So, I took this information and looked at the season of shows. The roles of Eliza in My Fair Lady, Julia in The Wedding Singer and Audrey in “Little Shop of Horrors” have a similarity of spirit. All three girls dream of a better life but find themselves in circumstances difficult to overcome. But that doesn’t stop them from trying, and in the end they not only find what they were looking for, but they find it in the least likely of places.

So, you know what your unique point of view is, and you have found that kind of spirit in several of the season’s shows. The next step is to go back to your repertoire of audition pieces, and find something that allows you to express your viewpoint in the audition room. To continue the example: perhaps I would sing something like, “Part of Your World” or “The Sound of Music” which are both about wanting and loving things that are bigger than yourself. Sure, by choosing one song you only get to express your vocals in one style (legit or pop) but you are expressing your own viewpoint, which is perfect for both roles and will ultimately allow you to be seen for all relevant roles, regardless of show format.

By using this example, hopefully you can see that you’d be going into the audition room AS YOURSELF and letting the shows/characters attach themselves to YOU instead of you changing yourself to fit THEM. It’s a subtle distinction, but a powerful one!

The same goes for plays/monologues. Make sure you have monologues in your repertoire that accurately reflect the kind of stories you like to tell, and that you are able to blend pieces of yourself with the material. Now, once you get a role, you’ll use whatever acting technique you’ve chosen to build that character. But for audition purposes (and especially general auditions) the goal is simpler than that. All you need to do is to show your auditors that you are, a) a good storyteller, b) that you would be fun to work with, and c) that you are not crazy. The best way to do this is to choose audition materials that closely match who you are, and who you feel comfortable being an a day to day basis. Then come in and deliver the piece truthfully and believably, with the words rolling off your tongue like it happened to you just outside the room.

Hopefully this is useful- I invite you to leave your comments and thoughts about this blog post and general auditions, and if you have any questions I can address them in a future blog.

There are so many other hints and pointers for preparing for season auditions, but they require getting to know each person individually and working closely to develop a personal, targeted plan. For those of you who live in New York City, I offer one-on-one coaching in this exact area, and it would be an honor to meet with you to see if we would be a good fit. Email me at erin@theactorsenterprise.org and we can set up your free consultation.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Resume: Listing Understudy Credits


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

How does (or doesn't) one list a resume credit when the actor has prepared for a live production (several-day run), and at the last minute, had a medical emergency, and someone else stood in for the performances?

The original actor was cast, and rehearsed, but on opening night, someone had to pick up the role, and was able to pull off the part due to the nature of blocking (and having the "paper" as part of a prop)?

I guess this would be like if an understudy ended up going on in place of the original, but there was no understudy person per se.

TAE Responds:

This is a great question. Did the original actor perform in the role at all? If not, I would say that the replacement actor could list the role fully on their resume. If they only performed partial performances, or if they feel uncomfortable claiming the role outright, then they could list the credit as:

Name of Role (u/s, performed)

You could also ask the theater if they have a preference as to how to list it. I was in a similar situation once- I was doing South Pacific and the lead actor had to leave our show for a medical emergency during tech rehearsals. We did not have an understudy but I had played the role at another theater, so they asked me to step in. I did a few performances, but the lead actress came back in time to finish almost the whole run. The producer told me to just list the role by name (and leave understudy off) because he felt that I had earned the right to list it fully. So, asking the theater might not be a bad idea.

Now, it’s another situation for the actor who has been replaced:

This is, indeed, a tough one because 2 people technically have the right to say that they earned the role. My gut tells me that in this case the actor should only put this on their resume IF they include a special mention of being replaced. If you look at IBDB (which is the internet database for Broadway shows) actors who have been replaced due to illness or injury are listed as "replaced before opening." (For example, visit ibdb.com and search for James Carpinello, who was injured while doing Xanadu.)

If you have any doubts or questions you can, again, contact the theater and see if they have any suggestions. The most important thing is that you have someone to vouch for you if someone decides to call the theater to inquire about your credit (it rarely happens, but it has happened to me in the past.) You want your resume to be as honest and up front as possible, because casting folks can sniff out a fib immediately.

Hope this is helpful. I couldn't tell from your post if this is something that happened to you or a friend, but either way I think congratulations are in order!


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.


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