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Monday, December 29, 2008

Actor Poachers- BEWARE

I am starting a war. Let me say it now, and say it clearly. I will not put up with companies that take advantage of actors under the guise of providing "services" or "opportunities" or "advisement." The gloves are off, and I am prepared to fight. So, Actor Poachers, Beware. I'm on to you.

But, hold on. Methinks the title of this article may have a double meaning. Yes, I am warning companies that poach for actors to beware of ME, but I am also asking actors to beware of THEM. Beware The Poachers.

Actors are a valuable commodity. Some of my fellow artists and I have commented that actors fuel an entire industry of service providers- photographers, teachers, editors, accompanists, graphic designers, and even Yours Truly (aka business coaches.) We all have our businesses because actors are pursuing theirs. And actors are known to be a desirous bunch, who will stop at nothing in their drive to succeed. It is no wonder, then, that actors are prime targets for some shady dealings. And, unfortunately, there is very little recourse for an actor when something goes wrong. Even worse, actors have been conditioned to believe that horrific behavior is something we just have to put up with.

Here are some examples of recent concerns I have heard from actors (some are students of mine, some are friends, and some were overheard at auditions):

• Donating their time to shoot a student project, only to find that the student dropped out of school without ever finishing the film and they never got footage.
• Being offered a role in a film, but being required to pay nearly a thousand dollars to do it (with no producing/creative control.)
• Auditioning for a theater company only to find that it is actually a membership-based showcase, and actors are required to pay to perform.
• Being told by their agent that they have a callback, only to have the casting director tell them that the agent lied and they have, in effect, sent you to "crash" the callback.

Obscene, isn't it? Sadly, these stories happened to SMART actors who have been in the business for a while, no spring chickens here. So, if it happens to all of us, what is an actor to do?

First, realize that every dollar you spend on your business should be put through a rigorous test to see a) what goal it serves, and b) how you can measure its effect. One of the most powerful tools in your arsenal is the ability to say "no." And the most powerful vote you have is with your wallet. Do Your Homework. Choose Wisely.

Second, when something sounds a little off don't be afraid of asking for advice from someone you trust. Who knows- maybe your peers have experienced the same thing and can help you steer clear of trouble. If you don't have anyone you can rely on, I offer myself as a sounding board- you can email me day or night.

Third, report your concerns to the appropriate authority. If you are concerned about a business, complain to the Better Business Bureau, as well as the referrer. (For example, if you reply to an ad in Backstage and run into trouble, you should notify Backstage as well the BBB.) You can also alert your union, if you have one. And, tell me as well. I have compiled a "BEWARE" list on the Resource Directory and if I get enough complaints about a company, I will list the concerns in the directory.

We have to stick together on this. Actors will not succeed in a vacuum- keeping this information to yourself helps no one. And, really, if you need some advice, please let me know. As I said, the gloves are off, and I am in your corner.

[ This will now conclude our boxing analogy! ]

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 a weekly "Expert" column on the business of acting at Backstage magazine. As an actor, Erin has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has appeared Off Broadway, regionally and on national tour with both plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of several major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. To learn more, check out

4 COMMENTS - Click to READ:

Anonymous said...

Great post, Erin!

As someone who is very careful to be ethical in his business practices, I have a hard time understanding people who deliberately use underhanded techniques to get ahead.

Anonymous said...

Rock on Erin! I'm in your corner. Actors get taken advantage of way too often and producers need to fight the battle just as hard as service providers.

Kate @ Manhattan Actress said...

Love the post and the blog in general!

Thanks for the add!


Talk About Knowing It All said...

The said part about the whole thing is that you have major production companies playing a part in the heist. Then you have actors who have become so desperate they accept it. Its not trickery here. Everyone knows as I call it "no pay to play the part"
rule. So I for one am appreciative of this blog.

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