Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Fiscal Fitness vs. Career Opportunity: An Age-Old Question in the New Landcape

The new business of acting landscape generates an age-old question: What are you willing to endure and what are you willing to sacrifice along the journey to build a professional career as a working actor?
Specifically, let's talk money. 

It has always been a challenge for most actors to earn a living from acting work alone -- and the cut-rate contracts SAG-AFTRA have created, introduced and deemed as acceptable work wages for their members (ultra low budget, new media, etc.) have only added to this challenge. 

The goal for most (all?) actors has always been to perfect that delicate balance between building your resume, keeping relevant and being able to support yourself and the costs of your career. The truth is that a lot of actors work for free for the opportunity, the exposure, the footage, the experience, a current resume credit and, perhaps most importantly, the joy of engaging with both the art and craft of the work with a like-minded community of fellow artists. 

The article in today's Los Angeles Times explores the latest impact on the new landscape that has been moved forward by the newly formed Independent Theatres of Los Angeles. 

The dismissal of what has been (previously) known as the small theatre/99 seat-plan from AEA, specifically for Los Angeles small theaters and Los Angeles theatre artists, has shaken up and challenged local theatre producers in significant ways that have challenged their creative and political muscles -- and, most importantly, their economic futures and their ability to survive. 

Can we make this work in Los Angeles? 

ITLA has a plan -- and it seems tailor-made to young and still not union-affiliated actors. This is an important article to take a few minutes to read

It's also an important conversation for all of us in the (new) business of acting to engage in. 

Most non-union actors will eventually become union affiliated. In the meantime, opportunities for professional development for artists, for economic sustainability for small theaters and for audiences to see and support local theatre need to be key components of any plan moving forward. And then there's the no pay/work-for-free piece of this -- and in the bigger picture of the development of an actor's career, does working for free still have long term added value?



Thursday, January 12, 2017

Dreams vs. Reality: A Price Check

I have been teaching The Business of Acting for nearly two decades; I have been practicing The Business of Acting for much longer ... which is why stories of young (and no-so-young) hopefuls who fall victims to their dreams pushes all of my buttons. 

Today there is a report of yet another scam operation.

The lessons seem simple enough. But it's easy for dreams to cloud judgment. 

Here is a teachable moment reminder: Legitimate agents and managers will never charge clients for fees other than the commissions due them for acting work they are involved with/responsible for securing for their clients.

Class dismissed ... for now.

Brad Lemack

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

"Pay-To-Audition" Workshops - Opportunity & Access vs. Cost & Value

The dreaded pay-to-audition workshops are in the business of acting news again in the current edition of The Hollywood Reporter. We address this every semester in my Emerson College Los Angeles Business of Acting class. 
While there may be "pros" to this endeavor (some of my clients and past students have participated and actually benefited from the experience), there are just as many "cons" (other clients and other past students have participated and felt otherwise). Like in any service industry, there are good players and there are bad players. Vetting is crucial. How valuable might it be to pay to see anyone? That depends both on the results of the research you do (IMDB) and how legitimate the provider is.
I have never been asked to participate in one of these workshops. But I have agent and manager friends who have -- and have actually signed actors they have met as a result. 
Assignment 1: Actors ... Know what you're buying before you commit. Have realistic expectations of the experience. Be sure that the person you are considering paying to meet is worth the investment (some are; many are not). 
It's an important discussion to have. Have you paid to play before and what was that experience like for you?
You can read a related story here, also from The Hollywood Reporter:

Monday, January 11, 2016

Pat Harrington - A More Than "Super" Guy ...

Pat Harrington and fellow "One Day at a Time" cast
Valerie Bertinelli, series star Bonnie Franklin and
Mackenzie Phillips.

I have had the opportunity to meet and work with some pretty remarkable people over the years -- and among them was the wonderful Pat Harrington. I got to know Pat from my work on the television series One Day at a Time. Of course he was the actor who played the usually hilarious role of Schneider, the builder "super," in an Indianapolis apartment building where Bonnie Franklin (as newly divorced Ann Romano) and her family lived. Pat won an Emmy Award as Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy for his role on the long running (1975 - 1989) CBS series.

I was sorry to learn that Pat died last week in Los Angeles from complications of Alzheimer's after a fall.

In March 1991, Pat and I reunited for a chat on our live,Beverly Hills coffee shop-based chat show. There isn't much of an opportunity anymore for actors to talk in detail and length about their lives, their careers and the roles that made them famous. I'm forever grateful to my longtime pal Dudley Johnson for creating and producing that little show. I'm even more grateful when I realize how fortunate we were -- and are to have this content and to be able to share it.


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Emerson College Los Angeles to Debut New Sketch Comedy Course this Summer in Partnership with UCB LA

Get your improv on this summer with the brand new, first-time offering of the Emerson College Los Angeles Upright Citizens Brigade sketch comedy course. 

It’s an intense, twice-a-week-for-six-weeks program that is designed for both matriculating students and others who are interested in turning this summer into a great professional training opportunity with UCB. 

You also get to spend some of your summer with me; I’m the person who has adapted this course for Emerson LA and I’ll be involved with every class, along with our amazing UCB instructor. 

You have only one more week to register for this very limited space class. Hope you check this out!

For information and details, visit the Emerson LA website.


Sunday, May 31, 2015

Veteran Actress Betsy Palmer Dead at Age 88

I have known actress Betsy Palmer since I was 15 years old. That’s a lot of years. I have been her manager since the mid-1980’s. That’s also a lot of years. I’m so sad to have to report that Betsy died last Friday (5/29/15), at age 88, of natural causes, in a hospice care center near her Connecticut home. She was one of the most gracious, kind, generous and loving people I have ever known. No holiday, no birthday, no personal event ever went unacknowledged or celebrated. Today I celebrate Betsy and the wonderful life she led. While she achieved fame and success for the work she did, she earned admiration and respect for the person she was.

There are many, many happy memories for me. One of them happened on April 1991, when Betsy and I met for a chat on the live coffee shopchat series my crew and I were doing from Beverly Hills. I have just uploaded that episode onto my YouTube page. If you’re interested in a stroll down memory lane – and some great stories, I hope you will watch it.

Sending love and light to Betsy – and to her daughter Melissa, who survives her. XX


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Actors' Equity Tells Small L.A. Theatres "It's Time To Pay Up ..."

Ilove99 spearheaded the "No" on the
AEA minimum wage campaign
Actors’ Equity – in spite of the views of most of their LA-based members, have imposed a $9 hourly minimum wage for to be paid actors when they secure work in small LA-area theatres (100 seats or less, starting in June 2016). The death of the former 99-seat plan has the entire LA theatre community abuzz about what this bodes for the future of both local LA theatres and LA-based actors who have traditionally and typically seen an opportunity to work in the 99-seat-or-less arena as an opportunity to 1) take on a role that might be counter to their “brand,” 2) to have an opportunity to build their resumes (for new-to-the-business and for “working” actors), 3) to have an opportunity to be seen (also for new-to-the-business and for “working” actors) and, perhaps most importantly, 4) for the opportunity, simply, to work at their craft.

As a talent manager for over 30 years, my process and my perspective on guiding, developing and maintaining a client’s career has never be influenced by what a client would get paid for doing any job; it’s always been rooted in the answer to the question “Is this the right job for this client at this time in his career?”

My series regular clients have always returned to the 99-seat arena whenever time and opportunity allowed; my young and newer-to-the-business clients have always embraced any opportunity to (continue to) do live, local and small theatre, replicating in many ways some of their best experiences from college.

Another business of acting money issue resonates within my recent memory – the introduction of the SAG (now SAG-AFTRA) Ultra Low Budget contract which allows their union members the opportunity to work in small budget, independent (often student, grad student or recent grad student) films) giving these actors (another) platform on which to work, on which to network and on which to build their reels from. All of this for just $100 a day – far less than any actor can live off either, if they’re even lucky enough to get the job.

Actors need to work – and there isn’t, I venture to guess, a single agent or manager out there who doesn’t believe that a great opportunity for a client is worth far more than what they get paid for the job, if they’re paid for it at all.

I also venture to guess that there aren’t any (or many) agents or managers who would take their 10 or 15 percent commission from an actor’s $9 an hour pay check (or from the work in an Ultra Low Budget film, for that matter). I know I wouldn’t. Again, the “added value” of the right opportunity is worth, potentially, far more than that to all of us.

When you impose a minimum must-pay structure on a local, nearly-no-budget small theatre, you impose a process of strangulation that, if it doesn’t put them out of business entirely, will surely curtail the amount of work they can produce. The result will soon be less jobs for actors and less opportunity to be seen, less opportunity to be discovered, less opportunity build their resumes, less opportunity to stretch their acting muscles – and less opportunity for some of the greatest theatre audiences anywhere to see some great performances in wonderfully intimate spaces.

I want my clients to continue to work anywhere and everywhere a great opportunity presents itself. Would I rather they make their livings completely and fully in their chosen profession and get to give up those second and often third jobs they have come to need for the sake of their fiscal fitness? Of course. But I also think that the potential of some being able to earn $9 an hour when performing at a 99-seat venue, will also, most assuredly, cut into the number of opportunities that will exist for everyone..

The talk of the town is focused on this move by AEA – and it should be. At lunch yesterday with my pal Ken Werther, one of the best go-to theatre publicists in LA, we could do little more than bemoan how, once again, the landscape is about to change – and as many of us see it, not for the better.