Advice and How-To's Especially for ACTORS!

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Social Networking for Actors

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I just wrote this blog for my Acting Blog, but I thought that the subject would be good for this blog too (disregard all of the links if you aren't interested in my acting websites!...)

I took a small break away from blogging to refocus my marketing efforts so I can accomplish more while doing less. So, I have been simplifying my communications and social networks, and I think I have my channels down to a reasonable amount. One focus has been to shift my attentions toward those networks where I can “kill two birds with one stone” - reaching lots of people with minimal effort. Here are some of the places you can find me:

First, I have broken down my Facebook presence into 3 groups, my personal profile (of course), but also My Erin Cronican Fan Page (for acting stuff), and My Fan Page for The Actors’ Enterprise (for my coaching service.) As of Tuesday, my personal profile will be just that... personal (for those folks I know personally.) So I needed to create two other pages where people that want to keep track of my acting and coaching careers can do so, and the Facebook Fan Pages seem to be the best ways to do this. Anything I do on those pages gets added to the fan’s news feed, so it is very easy to keep in touch without having to go to the actual page. And it allow the fans to keep up with the exact information they signed on for and mot have to wade trough anything else. Just because they know me through acting does not mean that they will want to know about my coaching stuff, and vice versa. So, it makes sense to separate those out.

As far as other social networking, I also do this blogging (as you know) which is separated into those two categories- my Acting/Personal Blog: The Erin Cronicals (about daily living as an actor in NYC), and of course, my Coaching Blog: (Bite-Size Business with The Actors’ Enterprise) (which you are reading now!)

Here are some other places you can find me:

Erin Cronican on Twitter - which will be used specifically to share resources with actors across the globe. And Erin Cronican on YouTube - this includes all of the videos that I am a part of, including film, TV, cabaret, and web series that I am a part of. And, of course, there is always my personal website, and my IMDB page.

I am sure you are wondering how one could possibly update all of these sites. One of the tricks to maintaining these kinds of websites is to focus each network on one specific type of communication/update. On my Facebook Fan Page for Erin Cronican, my focus is sharing basic updates on what I have been doing, which I will be doing daily. On this blog, I focus on giving fuller accounts of what I have been doing, but I do these updates less frequently (about 2-3 times per week.) My personal website is designed for folks I don’t know well who are looking to learn more about what I do an an actor. So, when I have an update, it will be fairly simple to figure out where I need to start.

But, sometimes I choose social networks specifically because they have a user base that I can’t find anywhere else. There are people who love to use Twitter or YouTube exclusively- they don’t use anything else. So, in order to catch their attention, it makes sense to bring some of my information to where they are at. Thus, even though I have videos on my personal website and status updates on Facebook, I am duplicating those on YouTube and Twitter so I can reach those audiences.

So... that’s what I have been working on the past few weeks, and now that all of those things are set up, I can get back to blogging! So, please feel free to reach me on any of the sites listed above, and leave comments so I know you were there!

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, July 21, 2009

Leaving Agents Early, or Dissolving Contracts

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This question, posted by Cindy, is specific to those who sign contracts when they are minors, but I thought the advice would be useful for anyone who is thinking of dissolving their contract with the agent earlier than stipulated.

Cindy writes:

Hi, Erin. I love your website!  Thank you for the wonderful questions and especially your wise answers.  Here’s my question…is a contract legally binding if an actor under 18 signs it with me (his mother and his guardian) signing it as well?  My son signed a contract with one agency 3 weeks before his 18th birthday and a very prestigious agency has asked him to sign with them.   He turned 18 years old yesterday and he feels career wise he should sign with the better agency.  We think that since he was a minor when he signed the original contract, he will need to sign a new contract as an adult making the contract signed 3 weeks ago legally void. I hope I’m making sense.  We live in the State of California.  Thank you so much.

Hi, Cindy- Thank you so much for your message! To know for certain, I would need to take a look at your contract to see what the specifics are. As you know, I am not a lawyer so for legal advice, you want to consult a professional. But, let me see if I can help...

It sounds like you are saying that several weeks ago, your son signed with an agency and now, several weeks later, he is thinking he should sign with a different agency. And you are wondering if his contract is binding, since he was a minor when signing it and now he is no longer a minor. Is that correct? 

I am not certain what child labor laws state when it comes to signing contracts, but unless it states otherwise, I would imagine that the contract is still binding, even though he is now an adult. One question- is your son a member of any of the unions (SAG/AEA/AFTRA?) If so, the contract he signed would be a contract mutually executed and agreed upon by your son and the agent, and the contract is filed with the union(s). Your best bet in this case would be to call the union and ask to speak to the contracts department- they will tell you what your options are. 

If the contract ends up being binding, you do have some options (though, not ones you can execute immediately.) The union agency contracts all have a stipulation which allow actors to dissolve their contract if certain provisions aren't met- namely, if the actor does not secure a certain amount of paying work in a specified amount of time, the actor and/or the agent has the right to walk away. For AEA contracts, this is typically 90 days. For SAG contracts, it is 180 days when the actor and agent first start working together, and then it is 90 days thereafter. 

With non-union contracts, there are no real standards in place. Either way, you'll want to read the contract carefully to determine what action, if any, the agency can take if you choose to walk away prematurely. Oftentimes, they will require that commission be paid on any projects that your son booked during the time of the contract (in this case, 3-4 weeks.) If he hasn't booked anything, there would be no commissions due but that doesn't mean that there wouldn't be repercussions. 

I am curious- what happened during the time between the signing of the contract and the more prestigious agency showing their interest? It seems a shame to walk away from the first agency based solely on the reputation of the second agency, though I know it can be tempting. But, oftentimes a smaller agency can help an up-and-coming actor more than a large agency because "developing clients" (ones who are newly professional) can sometimes be lost in the shuffle. It is quite possible that your son's best move is to stay where he is and give them a chance, and then move on to the other agency if it doesn't work out. I don't think anyone in the industry would look down on you (or him) for keeping your commitments, even if they are only a few weeks old! Of course, if you choose this course be sure to keep in touch with the other agency so that you can maintain that strong relationship and keep them interested.

I realize I haven't given you concrete advice, but it is hard to reply with certainty without looking at your paperwork. It may be best to contact an entertainment lawyer and see if they can look things over for you. You can also ask the new agency to look over the contract and give you their thoughts, especially since they have thrown a (delightful) wrench into the situation!

Thanks so much for stopping by - I hope this has been helpful. Have a wonderful day, and best of luck to you both!

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.


Monday, July 13, 2009

Take Care of the Newbies



I subscribe to a couple of message boards so I can keep in touch with what actors are discussing in the industry. When a new post comes in, I am either emailed directly by the message board, or the board's RSS feed is delivered to a special section of my inbox. It really is a wonderful way to stay "up to the minute" without having to go to their websites each day.

About 10 days ago I happened upon a set of posts that really made me sick to my stomach. Apparently, someone (or a group of people) have been scamming actors with fake audition notices. But it wasn't the actors' safety that was in danger - it was their wallets.

It's hard to understand exactly what happened, since I only know what was posted on the message board. But apparently, some actors (and many of them children) submitted for a feature film via an audition notice posted online. The film was listed as shooting in the Southern US, and many actors were offered roles in the project. But these actors were told that in order for the production company to book their flights to the location, the actor would need to wire money to the production company via Western Union. Some actors were asked to pay $250, others were asked to pay as much as $400. Some actors were told that a portion of their fee would be applied to their SAG initiation fee, which the producer said they were getting at a discount (the normal price being $2500.) And, as all scams end up, the money was sent to the producer and the producer was never heard from again.

I invite you to take a look at the list of complaints that I saw - just be sure to come back here when you are done. I'll wait...

... Ok- did you take a look at it? APPALLING, isn't it? I wouldn't typically ask you to venture away from my newsletter before you are finished reading it (you might not come back!) but I really wanted to drive the point home: We really need to help our fellow actors avoid scams like this.

How can you help?

1) Take the time to make friends with actors who are new to the business. Remember back to the time that you were starting out, and think about all of the people who made an effort to offer advice and support. Perhaps you can reach out to a newbie and encourage them to contact you if they need some advice, especially if they feel that they might be taken advantage of.

2) When you have a negative experience, tell others about it. You can blog about it, post it in Facebook, or send a mass email to your group of actor friends. If you are uncomfortable with having your name associated with negative feedback (understandable) sign up for one of the message boards under a username that is not identifiable, and encourage readers to send you a private message if they want more personal details. That way, actors can get the information they need while you protect your privacy.

3) If you work alongside producers/directors, encourage them to treat actors with respect and promote them wildly when they do! Most producers value actors and their contribution to the industry - but sometimes even the most generous producers don't always know the best way to work with actors. So, it is up to you to help them along. And, when you find a company that treats actors like gold, tell all of your friends! Volunteer for these companies, go to their shows, donate to their fundraisers. The more that these producers are valued by actors, the more easily they can value us.

There are so many bottom feeders who will take advantage of acttors as they reach for their dream. The only way to be forewarned is so be forearmed- if everyone who reads this does just one of the ideas listed above, these scammers will have a much harder time in scamming 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.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Market Your Acting Career (Tip #4) Re-Establishing Relationships with Agents

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I just received a question from one of my students, and I thought the Bite-Size Business readers would benefit from hearing the answer. First, the question:

“As I mentioned, I’ve worked in a non-acting capacity with a NYC agent for many years (though I have, since, moved on to another day job.) I would love to invite him to the reading I'm doing in 2 weeks and I am wondering - when is a good time to send him an invitation? Should I send it ASAP with a follow up reminder?  Should I just send one a week in advance?  I know schedules fill up quickly with these people.

Also (as I told you) he had referred me to the commercial agent in his office, but she has not yet seen my work. You had suggested that I contact the original agent to have him help me get back in contact with her. Is this invitation email the appropriate place to ask him about that?

Finally, after I graduated from college in 2006 I was in a show, and the owner of an agency loved my performance and called me for a couple of commercial auditions several times over the course of the next year.  I didn't book any of them, and being young and stupid neglected to follow up with her and keep her in my contacts.  Is it too late to get in touch with her?

Thanks for all your help - I'm really excited about these new steps I'm taking!!

Hello! These are all amazing questions - I am glad you are starting to think about re-cultivating these relationships. Oftentimes, meeting the person can be the easy part (it is also easy to fall out of touch, as we can see.) What is hard is to know what to do when you realize you should have been keeping up your part of the relationship. But, all is not lost!

The first thing I want to mention is: Go easy on yourself. We are human, and keeping in touch can be difficult to do, especially when we don’t have the right tools (contact database, for example) or the know-how (what to say, when to say it, how to say it- aka MARKETING skills). It’s better late than never to get back in touch, so here are a few tips with regard to your specific situation:

Regarding the agent you know: Your relationship with the agent is close enough that you email, right? Send an email invitation right away, and then send a gentle reminder 2-3 days before the performance. As I mentioned, be sure to check with the other actors in your show to see if any of them are repped by this agency. Having other clients there will increase the chances of getting this agent to your show. But if you have non-represented actors in your cast, even better! If there are talented actors, be sure to let the agent know that. There could be a possibility of him signing several clients, including you, which can make attending this reading very lucrative (it’s uncommon, but it does happen.) And don't feel badly if he can't make it- this is rarely personal. Agents often have plans to see 6-8 shows a week and perhaps they just can’t squeeze yours in. In this case, it is still a great opportunity to let him know that you are currently working, and that you are interested in building your relationship with him. 

One quick suggestion- has he ever asked you to let him know about projects coming up? If so, I'd suggest starting your email by checking in with him, asking some personal "catch up" questions. Then, in a separate paragraph, I would say something like, "You asked me to let you know when I have a project coming up, and in a few weeks I am performing in a reading that I am very proud of." Then give him the full details.

Regarding the commercial agent in his office: What I would suggest is to mention this commercial agent in your show invitation email to the original agent. Say something like, "I'll be happy to set aside two tickets, perhaps for you and [commercial agent’s name]? If you remember, you had suggested I contact her (and I did)- this would be a perfect way for you both to see my work..."

Regarding the agency owner you met in 2006: You can send her a postcard/letter/email inviting her to the event, and let her know you are kick starting your career and would love her input. Once the reading is done, I would suggest sending her a headshot/resume with a cover letter and ask for a meeting. You want to let her know how your career has grown and changed since she last saw you, and it would be a good idea to see how her agency is doing to see if you are a good fit for where they are today.

Hope this helps- I am thrilled you are getting out there, and I am looking forward to hearing about the results!

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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