Monday, June 30, 2008

Decisions, Decisions...

To work, or go on an audition?

I've said before that I'd explain the online booking websites, so here goes...

First, when it comes to the entertainment industry you always hear "DON'T PAY FOR ANYTHING!!!" Well, that's not really true. That line is used to keep new people in the business from getting scammed. What it really means is that no one can charge to rep you - agents and managers only get a cut of what you make. Like cheesy attorneys, they don't get paid unless you get paid. Similarly, no agent or manager can force you to pay them to take your headshots. However, you do have to get headshots and make prints of them, which can be costly.

Somewhere along the line I picked up the mentality that "If they like you, they'll pay for you!" That's not true either. Pretty people are a dime a dozen, especially in LA. You have to have something damn special for anyone to pay for your plane ticket, your hair cut, or hell, to even buy you a latte! In my case, I still hope to find someone to pay to fix my crooked bottom teeth, but why would an agent, manager or producer do that when there are a million other pretty, talented, wide-eyed brunettes in this town who already have straight teeth?

With this springs writers strike, constant talk of an actors strike, the rising dues for SAG and the popularity of YouTube and webisodes, even getting representation is very difficult right now. So... the key is submitting yourself for projects via booking website, which are something else you have to pay for!

You can subscribe month to month, but like a newspaper, it's smarter to just cough-up the sixty-some bucks, depending on the site, for a years access. The sites have two functions. First, you can upload your pictures, resume and speed reel for casting directors, agents and managers to view. (Uploading the first few pictures are free, then there's an additional cost to add more. Speed reels are clips of your work, I believe they also cost more.) Second, it gives actors access to 'the breakdowns.' What is a breakdown? It's like a wanted ad published by casting directors that gives you all the pertinent information about a project - when it auditions, when it shoots, who the director is, what it's called, what the plot is and most importantly, the description of the roles they're looking to fill.

If you think the role is right for you and the dates fit your schedule, you "electronically submit" for it. With a few clicks of your mouse, your headshot and resume are sent to the casting director to be considered. Some casting offices still prefer hard copy submissions, but the industry is electronic for the most part. It's important to have a really expressive headshot because the casting directors see them in the form of little one-inch thumbnails on their screens, with the hundreds or thousands of others who have submitted.

So anyway, I'm on two booking sites- LA Casting, which is more commercial, with lots of extra work and Actors Access (aka The Breakdowns) which is more theatrical with plays, pilots and short or nonunion films. Of course, big budget films and guest roles on major TV shows don't typically need to use these services; they have contracts with casting offices who send actors who are already in their files to the producers to audition.

After you submit, if they actually want to see you, you get a call or email. Since I only have a super shitty agent that I don't communicate with, this is where my life gets really stressful. You never know when an audition might pop up; they're few and far between, but when they come they always manage to conflict with something else! Once I get a manager, they'll help me make the tough decisions, but for now I'm on my own.

Last week I had an audition for a play in Pasadena, it didn't pay and Pasadena's kind of far from my apartment, but doing plays gives you a reason to send postcards to all your industry contacts saying, "hey, I'm in this play..." They probably won't come see it, but it reminds them who you are. But then, at the last minute, my acting teacher, who is also a casting director offered me a job. It was a $100 gig for five hours or less to give viewer feedback for the new Eddie Murphy film "Meet Dave." Not only did the audition and gig conflict, if the gig ran the full time, I'd be late to the musical I was doing...

Huge stress! Luckily, since it was my acting teacher, he was able to guarantee I'd be out in time to get to my musical and I ultimately decided that if I got the role in the play, I'd loath driving to Pasadena for the rehearsals and I needed the $100. So I did the movie promo; it was really cheesy, but it paid. I'll ask my teacher tonight where and when it will run, because I have no idea.

The delimma today is that I'm scheduled to work at Universal on Wednesday from like 12:30 to 8 p.m. but I just got an audition for a short film at 1:40 p.m. Hhmm... What to do? It's an unpaid, non-union short film, but I need more film credits on my resume. I also need to work!

Tour Guides are part of a union, so our shifts are based on seniority and those of us who are newbies aren't getting many. The cool thing about the Tour Guide position is that it's supposedly flexible for auditions, but that flexibility comes from doing something called "whipping." You "whip" through your tours, forfeiting your union rights to breaks between tours and your lunch. Depending on the day, you usually give three or four tours during your seven hour shift, as they have to give you a fifteen minute break after each and a forty-five minute lunch. When you "whip," however, you must do five tours to get paid for the full shift. It seems kind of stupid since you rarely give five tours anyway, but those are the rules. I suppose I could go to work late and have to give five tours in a row, but I just don't feel confident in doing that! I'm still rebuilding my speaking endurance and I'm not confident that I have enough information to keep the guests entertained when I get "stalled" on the tram out on our tour route. I've been lucky so far, but the more tours you give, the more likely you are to run into issues!

The other option is to call off work, but I don't think a non-paying short film is worth it...

Damn it! I need a manager!

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