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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

2 COMMENTS - Click to READ:

Cristina Cho said...

I remember asking Matthew before the headshot shoot when we were killing an hour before our actual scheduled time if they use real cigarettes on camera, and he said they were herbal. Does the same go for stage?

What if you are a they let you smoke the actual thing? Just out of curiousity.

Nance L. Schick said...

You guys always bring such interesting issues "to the table." Although I of course cannot give any specific legal advice on the issue, I do think it is worthwhile to note that while you are working on a production you are likely an employee covered by workers' compensation. As such, in the case of the recovering smoker who is asked to smoke for a role, you MIGHT have a claim for treatment to control your addiction if you start smoking again as a result of this employment. Each case is very unique and decided on its specific facts and circumstances, but if you were my client, we would consider this option.

The good news is that most industry professionals are willing to adapt to keep you safe and healthy. Sometimes, they just haven't thought about some of these details and need to be presented with some options. The herbal cigarettes seem to be a "reasonable accommodation," as we attorneys might say. However, you might also be deemed unable to perform the essential functions of the job if you can't handle the smoking, nudity, etc.

In short, you're still protected by employment laws while you're working in the industry. Sometimes, there are exceptions that allow the employer/producer to get around the laws (because you have effectively waived the protections for a particular role and "assumed the risks"). But don't assumed you've waived all of your rights. When in doubt, consult the union or an attorney. You are welcome to contact me. The Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts might also be able to help you.

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