Washington Filmworks has recently shared a series of blog posts for emerging actors in our state. You can find those here:
- Breaking Into the Biz – Tips for Emerging Actors (Part 1)
- Breaking Into the Biz – Tips for Emerging Actors (Part 2)
Gordon Adams of Big Fish NW Talent responded by offering additional context to this developing discussion. Big Fish NW Talent is an agency with eleven years in the Seattle market and sixteen years in the Pacific Northwest. This year they are on course to cast their thousandth project in Seattle. Gordon was kind enough to share some of his concerns about industry trends regarding talent. Below you will find his guest post, which gives his opinion and includes advice for big picture issues that actors should take into consideration as they pursue their own careers. We’re all in it together.
An open letter to talent in Seattle and the entire Northwest:
Unmonitored sites are driving the ‘industry standard’ into the ground. Budget conscience clients, passionate yet a little too eager actors, and a race to the bottom leave no winners except for these budget conscience clients.
Knowledge is power and you are being duped. PerformersCALLBOARD, Theatre Puget Sound, Craigslist, the Northwest Film Forum callboard, and others are taking money from you, your future self and your actor friends. You’ve heard that industry standards are getting lower and lower right… well this is how it is happening.
First, understand that there are two major dynamics at work when it comes to talent compensation … money and usage. The money is either inline with the usage or it’s not.
On many callboards, most of the time it is not… and by a significant margin. ‘Usage’ can basically be defined by getting answers to “where and for how long.” Will the usage be 13-week cycles or 6 months or longer? Where/how will the project be used, commercial (local, regional, national, global), industrial video (internal or for public consumption), online/new media (specific website or all over the web), film, others? The thought that you are getting ‘credit’ or ‘exposure’ is ‘hooey.’ Credit and exposure are not a form of compensation.
Of course, we understand budgets, and there are times when these boards are perfectly fine. It’s fine if a student film or PSA (Public Service Announcement) or some other small project comes along and seeks talent that are looking to enhance their skills. That is, in a sense, tuition for an under experienced actor. The problem comes when they are used for “commercial” endeavors. Commercial meaning a company that is looking to create a project to sell/inform about a product or service. Often, you’ll also notice that the clients are not so quick to post what their product or service is. Other red flags to look for are use of the words buyout or flat rate and/or a general silence when it comes to usage rights.
A hopeful actor will see the post and willingly submit themselves for a number of reasons; perhaps it’s in hopes of satisfying their ‘dream’ of becoming an actor, or they are looking to build their resume or they think it will be fun. Whatever the case, they are ignorantly and blindly accepting work that should be paying them more, perhaps should being paying them residuals and is quite likely costing some other actor, as they are forced to now accept gigs at lower rates while giving away more usage rights.
Basically we’re seeing talent “selling out”; but, honestly, it’s closer to “volunteering OUT”. Lower rates for every actor and greater usage rights give-a-ways for every actor. That’s why we have projects that pay just a few hundred dollars.
Call to action. The only way to really create static against these projects and such boards is to educate and continue to educate. A discussion needs to take place among talent so that they can become more knowledgeable and learn not to participate in commercial projects that are being presented to them in unmonitored forums.
Please share this note with other actors, Please share this note with educators and trainers, please share this note with clients, please share this note with casting directors and agents and managers… and consider posting this note to unmonitored sites whenever you see a project that appears to be a “C-POT” (Client, Preying On Talent). Be sure to list this note under the heading: “Casting Actors,” or “seeking talent” or “actors needed.”
I believe that this is particularly timely because of the renewal of the Film Incentive program in Washington, this will clearly bring us more and better work! We love this community and in order to make it work, we all need to have each other’s back.
Big Fish NW Talent
Care to chime in on this conversation? Please do. Washington Filmworks would love to develop a dialogue in the comment thread.