Everyone should listen to their gut instincts. Really, if people were more in tune to what their intuition was telling them, I think there'd be a lot fewer frustrated people. One thing that I've done that both went against my gut and left me feeling frustrated was attend those pay-to-meet agent/casting director sessions. Recently a friend of mine actually couldn't go to one of his sessions and asked me if I wanted to go in his place for free, and when I said yes I STILL immediately regretted it.
While there are several beautifully alliterated phrases that I would like to use to describe my deepest disgust, I'll cut to the chase: Actors - Since when did we decide to pay for a job interview? Would any other job require you to do that?
“But acting isn't like any other job” you may say. Um, bullshit. Let's get real here. Before being an actor you are a human being. If you are a human being who is also an actor, you deserve every ounce of respect that a person with respect for themselves should have.
I frequently argue with some of my friends on this topic. Like...heated arguments. Not some petty banter but deep, philosophical, meaning-of-life style arguments. I may be a tiny voice in the at-times overwhelmingly large world of independent actors, but I'm not alone. Here is something copied and pasted directly off of the SAG-AFTRA website under the section entitled “Scams:”
For those struggling to get a break, these meetings may seem to be the way to
get that long-sought meeting with the big guys, the chance to be seen by casting
agents, to work with directors, to be spotted by managers and agents. Sadly, most
of them turn out to be a waste of time and money, if not an outright scam calculated
to separate you from your hard-earned money....There are certainly many legit
companies that offer a chance to meet and read for casting agents and directors
in a classroom setting; but be aware that if any fee is charged for these sessions,
your participation may be in violation of SAG-AFTRA Rule 11 or California Labor Laws.
This is straight from our union's website! Are we suppose to just ignore or accept the fact that many supposedly respected agents and casting directors are allowed to violate union rules just because some of their clientele (a.k.a. actors- that's us) have done some decent work? Since when is it okay to pay agents to decide if they want to take their 15%? There's a lot of us out there - throwing your money at agents and casting directors won't make you stand out, especially since this seems to be some socially acceptable thing nowadays. It certainly won't win you respect as an actor either. And no, calling a five minute meet -and-greet a "class" or "workshop" does not make it better. If you have to pay someone to take a chance on you, what kind of relationship does that breed? There are a lot of blogs out there written by agents openly discussing how they themselves hate these workshops and don't even need the money but do them anyway. So who is this mysterious middle man that is convincing everyone that this is okay?! I swear, if I hear one more person tell me “it's just the way of the business now” I will fall to my knees, throw back my head, and scream into the sky Antigone's final monologue when she sees the cave that will be her bridal tomb. Just kidding...I'm not one of those actors. But I will freak out. Hopefully someone will be there to record it, I become a viral hit on youtube and boom. Casting directors will be calling ME. #realitytvstar
Who reading this has done extra work? It sucks, doesn't it? You're basically treated like a moving prop. It's almost always an outdoor spring scene that's filming in the winter, no one cares if you're cold, and every other person around you has a hard-on for the opportunity of catching the director's eye and ::gasp:: being a FEATURED extra! After doing background work about four times I swore I would never do it again. I couldn't. That terrified me because I thought for sure working background until I collected three vouchers was the only way I was going to be able to join SAG without having representation. I stressed for about a week before swearing to myself I would find another way. Flash forward three years - I'm part of a production company with some of my best friends who happen to make awesome films and thanks to a wonderful webseries called Kelsey produced by said production company I am now SAG eligible. I got to actually act while earning my SAG eligibility, not just chill in the background. When that first union letter came I turned my speaker's on high and blasted Frank Sinatra's “My Way.” Multiple times. Anyway the point is it's ok to set standards for yourself. You don't have to compromise on something you really believe in just because you think it's the only way to get anywhere.
Now, maaybee I'm just being incredibly naïve. Maybe I'm just so idealistic and old-fashioned that my entire opinion is laughable to you. Maybe right now this blog post is being passed around every industry professional à la the burn book in Mean Girls and I am quickly climbing up everyone's “Never Ever Call” list. In that case - whoops! My bad. But listening to my gut is something I will never regret doing. My instincts are why I am exactly where I am right now, and I'm happy where I am.
Fellow actors, when did we put our worth, our money, and our precious time into the hands of people who are only bothered to see us if we can help pay their bills or expenses BEFORE booking us work? And, seeing as how a lot of the actors these representatives are taking uncontracted money from are still working for free at least 50% of the time, a $35 session may be lunch for that actor for the entire week. I would personally rather donate my occasional “throw-away” $35 to a local filmmaker's crowd-funding campaign. At least that way I know my money is being used to promote work I believe in and is helping to forge relationships in the industry in a different and (in my opinion) more meaningful way. If you've read my first blog, I'd just like to again touch on the message that your talent and who you are are enough to get you where you need to be if you're willing to work hard. I have a lot to thank CongestedCat Productions for, but what's awesome is they are all my friends so being supportive comes with the territory. I wouldn't have gotten that if I had jumped headfirst into representation without developing my freelancer's backbone. I also wouldn't have gotten to work on 95% of the projects I'm most proud of if I had joined SAG immediately.
If you're an agent and you're reading this and you want to make some money, call me. I work really hard and I can book work. You get me an audition, I'll get you a paycheck. Kapeesh? I have an ego-inflating vision of me accepting an Academy Award someday and I promise I won't be saying “thanks to my agent for accepting my $75 check for our meeting that first day!” I'll be saying “Thank you to my agent who always believed in me and got me the work I needed to make it this far. To many more years of working together!”
Being freelance is one of the biggest gifts that fate has given me. Sure, I'm by no means paying the bills solely on acting yet, but I know myself and the roles I want to play better than I ever thought I could. To have that kind of artistic freedom and control in the projects I pick to do affords a kind of assertiveness I didn't use to have. I can only hope I keep that tenacity as the years go by.
I don't think that will be a problem.
“Most actors have done at least one of these; some many more. This niche industry probably costs the community of actors many tens of thousands of dollars per year. (I wouldn't know how to do the math on it.)
-Tim Intravia backstage.com
“The city of Los Angeles is warning casting workshops and talent services that it’s serious about enforcing tightened state rules barring “pay to audition” scams.”
'“People should know that they don’t have to pay for a job interview...It’s sad that people accept this kind of situation in the entertainment industry.”' -Variety.com
Casting directors and workshop providers seem to forget about the actors’ time -- the struggling single mom or the college kid who works part time or the cocktail waitress who has just worked 10 hours – only to pay half of their daily salaries to meet a casting director – or more often, an assistant. What about these actors’ time? Is it not just as valuable? Of course it is. - Billy DaMota “An Actor Grovels”
“Over the last two years, I've been a guest at 19 workshops and I've only signed one actor. She was 22 and gorgeous. Get the picture? Nine out of 10 times, agents are looking for hot, young talent. Another issue is that most actors who participate in workshops don't have a lot of credits. So even if they're talented, I only see someone who's going to need a lot of attention before I start to see a return. That's why I've always felt workshops aren't a very effective way to find representation.”
''At this point, I think I’m going to stop attending these workshops. It’s just not worth it. I don’t need the money, and I rarely meet any actors I want to sign. Unless you’re young and gorgeous, paying for agent workshops is a tough way to find representation. I feel the setting works better for casting directors who are actively looking for talent they can plug in to small roles.” - Secret Agent Man backstage.com and here: backstage.com