Tuesday, April 28, 2015

99-Seat Theaters to Pay Minimum Wage

National leaders of Actors' Equity Assn. on Tuesday imposed a $9 hourly minimum wage for members who perform in Los Angeles County theaters with fewer than 100 seats...
The minimum wage for rehearsals and performances will take effect June 1, 2016, for scores of theater companies that already work under the 99-Seat Theater Plan. For decades that plan has required only token payments for actors when they perform - and nothing when they rehearse.
New producers who want to hire union actors will have to start paying the minimum wage immediately.
Backers of the wage hike argued that acting deserves the dignity of a minimum wage, and union leaders said they were responding to complaints from the L.A. rank and file about poor pay

(from Actors' Equity imposes $9 minimum wage on L.A.'s 99-seat theaters).

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Saturday, April 18, 2015

David in Bring the Funny screening in festival

See Bring the Funny, which David is in and wrote,
screen as an official selection at Cloud City,
85 N 1st St, Brooklyn, NY 11249 [google map]
at 9pm, Saturday, April 18, 2015.

Bring the Funny was produced for the same show that produced
Corporate Dialects, which David is in and wrote as well.

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Wednesday, April 08, 2015

When Words Don't Work

Sometimes it's easy to get lost in the lines. They give such a nice structure, a cushion, almost like a blanket. Scripts are nice that way. Plays and screenplays are good, constant, acting companions. When in doubt, reach for the blanky and it will make everything better.

It often does. When words are in the right place, the character can be found, sussed out, accessed through the text. What is said is, after all, an extension of the character's wants.

But sometimes, if for no other reason but to change it up (or if the text is not as strong as it might be), maybe we should find what to do without words. What if your character couldn't speak, what then? Instantly I can imagine the stakes feeling higher, need more desperate, and as tactics constrict, pushing against the wordless trap could intensify or even clarify things.

What isn't said? What can't be said? What won't be said, and screams its silence. These are moments of both drama and comedy that we all live, and know. When inexplicably you simply couldn't say, "I love you, don't go," so they did go. When somehow the shock, or shame, or something else that defies articulation defined an instant, and then echoed into a string of days to promise a life of incomprehensible regret. These instances, small and big, where words simply didn't come or couldn't do justice are just as much part of our character's arc and life as the things they utter.

It is not just acting between the lines. It is letting the person live and breathe, during which they may happen to have something said to or by them. The uncertainty of letting go of the blanky, that is sometimes where our work lies. It lies there, where the truth lives.

At least that is what my midday Wednesday musings tell me. Break a leg out there.

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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Cable Bundle Breaking

Years later than I would have liked, it seems the forced bundling together, long a part of the business model of cable companies (big channels carrying the smaller ones that are bundled with them), may be coming to an end. For decades, audience seeking a handful of channels has been sold access to the shows on those channels only if they also buy access to many (sometimes hundreds) of other channels, channels they have little and sometimes no interest in. This has subsidized some channels that, in the 20th century, would have had no other way to get into enough homes to be appealing to advertisers.

One holdover from this period in media distribution include some sites requiring you log in with your cable provider's credentials in order to stream a single episode of some shows (they need to confirm you are paying for the whole bundle, and the restricted access to the show you want is the leverage they use to preserve the bundle model). No business model that needs an obstacle to remain in place in order to survive is robust. Movie theatres used to be able to assume that if you wanted to see the movie, you would rent a chair in their theatre. That stopped being the case for them, and the years of smaller channels getting into homes because they are bundled with bigger ones may also be on the way out.

Another holdover is the impossibility of legally accessing some premium channel's shows in any way other than a full blown cable subscription with premium channels added on. Back when a single show would drive people to sign up for cable (The Sopranos, for example, did that at one time), this was a protective measure; it allowed cable companies to conduct business vaguely as they had for decades. Frustrating as it may be for the audience, there were business reasons for doing it; show producers needed the cable companies in order to be able to offer their show to as many homes as possible. Back in the day, broadcast television and cable were the only meaningful ways to get TV shows in front of an audience (satellite television's business model was close to cable's, so for this post I am lumping them together).

The rise of broadband internet and other technologies and trends has made such bundling less the only option. For many demographics, cable bundling was never appealing and never bought into, literally or figuratively. Now, the premium channels seem to be making noises of letting us all legally get their shows without the hundreds of channels (and dollars spent) we may not be interested in.

Business by crowbar may not be gentle, but short-term it can get things to happen. Like the music industry suing their customers, business by crowbar isn't nice, but seeing it done to those who have done it so long themselves, makes me think turn-about may be fair play. Cable used the shows the audience wanted as a crowbar to force the audience to buy a whole bundle. Now HBO is using Apple as a crowbar to break their shows apart from the cable bundle.

Make no mistake, the scales have tipped. Even old school media heads have ceded that streaming is the future of video. Clearly the bundle is changing. The days of the 500-channel universe are over, CBS chief Les Moonves said Wednesday at an investor conference. The days of the 150-channel universe in the home are not necessarily over but they're changing rapidly. People are slicing it and dicing it in different ways

(from The Fiscal Times, thanks to Romany Malco for putting me onto that story).

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Sunday, March 08, 2015

Keep Your Eyes On the Long Game

photo taken by David August of a sunset with the words below superimposed
Keep your eyes on the long game. No distractions, no matter how tempting they may be or the opiate effect they provide. -@MysteryCr8tve

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Sunday, February 01, 2015

Should I Stay Or Should I Go

Agents and managers, when should you stay and when should you go? An actor was sharing concern that their current representation wasn't getting them auditions, let alone bookings. These are some off-the-cuff comments I made about when to stay with an agent or manager, and when to go:

You are not alone in having encountered a rep with whom you are not effective right now. Oftentimes an ineffective rep is worse for an actor than having no rep; it can keep the actor from seeking, or being seeked out by, a rep with whom the actor will have more bookings and progress in their career. One of the best decisions I've made was once to part company with an ineffective rep once. This is anecdotal, and I did have moments or concern and near panic during the short period I had no rep afterwards, but then connected with reps that were world-class at what they did. Sometimes making room for something better is better than trying to redeem or build something that simply cannot grow well.
That said, trying to rejuvenate, and improve an existing relationship can make a world of difference. Often the rep may not be thrilled with results either. Perhaps a good, honest discussion of what you can do, together and individually, to make your work together more successful, can fix things. The true challenge is knowing when to work on it, and when to go elsewhere. Hindsight will be perfect, but best educated and reasoned guess can be the effective decision. Best of luck!

Please comment with your ideas and thoughts on when to stay with, and when to run from, an agent or manager.

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Friday, January 23, 2015

Scammer Called Out

Me: Hello?
Other person: Hi, I'm [name removed to protect the guilty]. I'm from ['agency' name], and we'd like you to come to our auditions. We're having auditions at [theatre name] on thus and such a date and time, and we'd like you to come in.
Me: Sounds great!
Other person: Okay. And please bring your headshot and resume.
Me: Great, looking forward to it. See you then...
Other person: And we're asking actors to bring $10 as a donation to [name of alleged non-profit charity] to perform.
Me: ...
(I look up the alleged charity's form 990, a tax form charities must file. I find nothing.)
Me: Thank you for inviting me. I'm not finding [name of alleged non-profit charity]'s form 990, so because of the fee charged, I will not be attending.
Other person: (Launches into rant insulting me, protesting way too much: they know they are doing a bad thing.)

This is inspired by an actual exchange I had a few years ago on email. Actors never have to pay money upfront to honest agents and managers. Representatives make a percentage of the money you are paid for work.

Happily:

Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer on Friday announced the launch of a new campaign aimed at warning aspiring actors and entertainers of scams in which managers and agents seek upfront payments and other fees for representation.

(from LA Officials Announce Crackdown on Agent and Manager Talent Scams). Be careful out there.

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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Universe Conspires in Your Favor

Whoever is born of sound mind has been naturally intended by Heaven for honest work and some kind of life. Whoever, therefore, wishes Heaven to be nice to him, will go after this work and this kind of life, and doggedly pursue it. For Heaven favors things it has itself begun. You were made by Nature for this purpose beyond anything else. What you do from your tender years on, what you talk about, mold, fit, dream, imitate, what you try very often, what you can do easily, what you are most of all good at, what you love beyond all else, what you would be unwilling to leave - this is clearly what Heaven, and the Rector of Heaven bore for you. To this extent therefore, Heaven will favor your beginnings, and will smile on your life.

- Marcillo Ficino, physician, The Book of Life, 1485

Peter Skagen sent me an advance reader copy of his book How to Succeed in Hollywood without really Acting and it opens with this, which felt very good to read. Have a wonderful New Years!

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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Pain and Motivation

Pain is temporary. It may last for a minute, or an hour, or a day, or even a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit however, it will last forever

(from Sydney Blu - Motivate). Part of our job is to feel bad. In exchange, we get fulfillment others only dream of. Hard to remember in the throws of whatever inconvenience or even real loss and hardship we may encounter.

Especially as the stress of the holiday season is upon us, remember: it is temporary. Good stress, what scientists call eustress, is experienced by our bodies virtually identically to how our bodies experience bad stress, what they call distress. The body does not physically discern between distress or eustress (according to Jon Kabat-Zinn in Full Catastrophe Living). So remember, when good and great things happen be gentle with yourself just as you are when bad things happen.

Either way, our jobs demand we endure more than typical stress, so it makes sense if, like me the last couple days, you have been feeling a bit stressed. Exercise, relaxation, meditation, and anything else that helps you diffuse stress is probably a good idea, in general, and specifically when things get hectic. Wendy Braun has an audio meditation specifically for actors to have peaceful holiday gatherings, which I'm listening to as I write this.

And remember: we are supposed to have fun, it's part of our job. So enjoy the season, and hope you have a great rest of your day (he says as he plans how to have a good day himself).

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Wednesday, October 01, 2014

TV Financing Is Getting Creative

We see an opportunity to make content that does not necessarily fit the studio model.

(from The Unique New Way for TV Shows to Get Financed, thanks to Aaron Kaiser for pointing me to the article).

Before you ask what does this have to do with me, I'm an actor remember that this is how we get paid too; actor salaries come from the financing. Plus, if you ever want to produce something yourself it is more than indirectly your business how things get financed. Different business models for the projects we do mean different types of projects become possible.

Right now, most network television (as in broadcast, which in the US means ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC) is made with the need to hit certain ratings. Those ratings are what the advertisers were promised by the networks back when the ads were sold to them. If a show's ratings go below certain numbers, then the network has to refund money the advertisers paid. That can sometimes make certain plots or premises seem like a bad idea; they can't risk losing audience. If they do, then the network has to write a check they really don't want to write.

Shows for other markets, like cable or internet, typically don't have the same guarantee of ratings: networks usually promise certain minimum numbers when they presell ads in May for shows that starting airing in September. Internet and premium channels typically don't manage their ad inventories that way. Networks configure themselves and their business to make big expensive shows. Non-broadcast venues don't.

That means that non-broadcast networks usually don't have to capture the attention of quite so many viewers, and therefore can sometimes do riskier material, they can risk having a smaller audience. Or at least they can take more risks with the material because the financial obligations are not as huge. For non-ad supported TV (think pay channels like HBO and Showtime, and some internet platforms) the number of viewers in ratings may not only not be the key to keeping things financially afloat, but ratings may not even get publicly shared (like House of Cards on Netflix).

Show business has historically almost always used the gathering of people together to sell them things as its basic business model, whether it was the show itself, or the products and services sold near it. But with the fragmentation of today's audience into different groups, and the explosion of new outlets and technologies makes more diverse types of shows possible because of these new forms of financing. These new versions of the business model mean we can have new forms of entertainment. News that causes some people anxiety: we can't just do business the way we always used to. But the good news for everyone: new things can thrive.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Setting Limits on Yourself

It's a mistake to set limits on yourself; life will do that whether you like it or not. A successful life must be determined by one's attitude. In a favorite phrase of my brother Ed, "We live between our ears." Sermon over.

- James Cagney

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

If a Film Falls In the Forest

But no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? Maybe, but it certainly won't entertain anyone, nor get anyone paid, and certainly won't lead to more work for everyone who worked on it like it could have.

5 steps of film:

  1. development,
  2. preproduction,
  3. production,
  4. post-production,
  5. marketing/distribution.

Most of our acting lives are in the third, maybe bits of rehearsal in the second, or ADR in the fourth. But even as actors, we do press and such in the fifth, and in the first, our attachment can get the funding going. But, without marketing and distribution, it never gets seen. And that is not good. If you won't do the 5th, don't do any of it. Better to quit before starting. Otherwise, it's a waste of resources, time and heartache for something that will never see the light of day, something that won't really exist in a sense. Film without an audience is rehearsal.

We may not produce, but even if it is only when we self-tape an audition, we are making film. Improving our work is something I think we should always work to do. Not just the externals like figuring out better lighting for self-taped auditions (something I am gently working on), but also how we turn a phrase, pursue a goal, break down a scene or a speech, basically everything in how we act.

I was inspired to start writing this because a project (that I was not involved with) is not finding an audience. It had, and has, great potential. It is not fun to see so much held back by so little. It has completely ignored the final step. It had no plan for how to get seen, sold, or distributed. (note: if you think I'm referring to your project, let's just assume I'm not because you're awesome, I'm awesome, and I wouldn't do that.)

Witnessing this makes me want to cheer film people (including us actors) to get stuff done. Bring things to points of completion. Writing a script for a short/web series/feature/whatever? Get a draft into shareable condition. Working on a web series that doesn't yet have the footage it needs? Choose a day, book out with reps, and get that material shot. Have the footage but the edit and post is dragging on and on? Bring it to the finish line. Have a project that hasn't yet found an audience? Take the time, money and effort and get it out there. And if you don't know how, find out how.

Improve every day. There is a boundary between those 5 steps of film-making that is worth reaching. To do otherwise is to risk activity without accomplishment. I haven't done it as much as I'd like, but I'm getting better at it. Getting better at it is worth it. It isn't the end of your life if somehow something ends up abandoned. But as much as we can, let's avoiding sinking all sorts of time, money and energy into things that don't "go." Also good to mourn as effectively as possible if the wheels do come off, a project goes into turn around or free-fall. We'll have to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and take the next bold step, whatever that is. Speaking of, I'm off to commit a scene from a film (teaser trailer) that has been rattling around in my head, to paper. Have a happy Wednesday!

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Monday, August 25, 2014

Monday Inspiration

I wanted some inspiration today, and I found these:

The best acting is instinctive. It's not intellectual, it's not mechanical, it's instinctive.

- Craig MacDonald

Life beats down and crushes the soul and art reminds you that you have one.

- Stella Adler

Acting is not about being someone different. It's finding the similarity in what is apparently different, then finding myself in there.

- Meryl Streep

That's what makes acting so attractive. You get to break all your own rules.

- Gerardine Clark

I'm a skilled professional actor. Whether or not I've any talent is beside the point.

- Michael Caine

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Bad Rep or No Rep

Your team, the people you are surrounded by, can make a huge difference. But remember, your reps are not the center of your career. Can be tempting to focus all your energy on getting a rep. Try to remember: you didn't move to LA to get an agent. You're here to act, to book work.

Having a rep feels like it solves a problem, when it really may not. The right rep is vital. Having the right rep can really help things, but it's better to have no rep than the wrong rep. Bad representation is worse than none.

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