Monday, August 13, 2007

The Actor's Lead Role, Both Pre and Post-Union Card

I had a remarkable experience this past week. Simon Anthony Abou-Fadell, Program Director at SAG Foundation, had invited me to present my “Business of Acting” seminar to an audience of union members through the “Liferaft” program he heads.

At the end of our more than two-hour session with a very smart group of actors, I came away with an interesting, maybe even helpful, perspective: Union actors face many of the same career issues that non-union actors face.

Let me clarify. The career journey doesn’t seem to be any easier with a union card than without one (which will be very disappointing for non-union actors to learn; many of them think that a union card is the ticket to a lucrative career in and of itself: it is not).

It’s not any easier getting an agent; it’s not even any easier getting seen for work.

Union actors may have the opportunity to earn more money when they do work (compared to what their non-union counterparts might earn for the same kind of work), but the frustration to find and get hired for this work remains a force to be dealt with for most.

Becoming an empowered actor is becoming a smarter actor. Learning where to put your energies and where not to waste your time is key. As I wrote on the Book Updates page at, there has never been a better time to be either a union or non-union actor. The technology we all have available at our fingertips has made us all potentially better at what we do – and what we want to do more of.

The availability of online services that allow actors to 1) keep up to date on many projects being cast and 2) the opportunity to self-submit yourself on those projects that have roles in them that you believe that you are right for has changed the business of acting landscape. It has also necessitated that you be smart in your assessment of the various sites out there, what these various sites charge for their services, and the value of those services for the money they get.

Clearly, Breakdown Services’ and Casting Network’s are the Los Angeles-based leaders (these services can also be used for actors based in other cities) and every actor needs to learn how to use these services to their fullest. It is one of the many positive things an empowered actor can do every day to avoid the negative feelings that can be stirred simply waiting for a phone call from an agent or manager for an audition for a job that you probably won't get. That's not me being negative; that's just the statistical truth.

I met a lot of terrific people at the SAG Foundation event. What struck me most was the positive attitude in the room. These SAG actors wanted to know how better to help themselves, certainly issues not unique to union actors, but issues and questions at the root of keeping a career journey moving in the right direction.

We talked about the self-submission services; we talked about empowerment in the audition process; we talked about communicating with talent representatives. We talked about the myriad of challenges in the new landscape that is the business of acting now.

I hope that one of the most important pieces of advice I left these folks with was a reminder note: Represented currently or not, never forget that agents and managers who you retain work for you. It’s not the other way around. As such, you have to be the CEO of your business. The product is you. Have a business day every day where you do something positive, some pro-active, in the interest of promoting your product.

It’s a big responsibility. I have met some actors (not at this seminar) who “just want to act.” Really, they belong in some other industry. You must take care of business. You will never have an agent or manager (even if you really like each other!) who will have as much passion for your career as you will have for your own career.

Take the reins and guide your team. Even if you are unrepresented and are a team of one, creating a business plan to follow will help guide you and inspire you.

There’s an entire chapter in The Business of Acting that will help you create your own, personal business plan; you can also read more about it in my Back Stage West article “The Product is You,” available on the Press Room page at

Knowledge is empowerment and the SAG Foundation knows it and is doing something about delivering this knowledge to actors.

I want to give a special nod to the work Simon is doing at the SAG Foundation. His impressive and important “Liferaft” program offers assistance and leadership to members of all three unions (SAG, AFTRA and AEA). More of those who qualify for these services should take advantage of this opportunity.

I also want to send a special nod of respect to those actors who attend these free seminars. So often, actors feel competitive with each other. These events, instead, create, provide and foster a community where actors can come together to help and support each other – not just benefit themselves.

Bravo to Simon and those of you who take the time to become better at what you do through the process of the education and networking these events provide. To all of you who were present last Wednesday night, I thank you.


1 comment:

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