Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Court Ruling is a Start in Managing Manager and Client Relationships

My friend long-time personal manager Rick Siegel won an important victory yesterday that potentially impacts every manager/client relationship in the business of acting.

After fighting in court for several years to recover commissions owed him from a client who decided not to pay him for his alleged violations of the Talent Agency Act, Siegel decided not only to take on his former client, but to take on the system, as well.

In today's Los Angeles Times, reporter Josh Friedman writes about the history of this issue and the ruling. It deserves to be read. Here is a direct link:


I sent Mr. Friedman an e-mail this morning with some of my thoughts on the subject. In my e-mail, I wrote:

"This ruling is, indeed, a step in the right direction, (however), as a talent manager for more than 25 years, the issue and ruling currently on the table fail to address one very key issue in the landscape in which many of us conduct business, and that is: what about those actors who either can't find a talent agent to represent them or those who choose to have only a manager represent them?

Remember, whether agent or manager, it is the client who hires us. We work for them.

With about (roughly) 110,000 members of the Screen Actors Guild, tens of thousands of AFTRA members and countless of other non-union actors, there are simply not enough agents in the business of acting to represent all of the actors who seek representation.

It is this imbalance that necessitates that managers do a lot of the same (sales) work previously associated with agents alone, in addition to the 'career development' we allow 'allowed' to do.

The truth is that no actor who seeks a manager wants that manager to do anything less than everything they can do to get them and keep them working, whether or not an agent is a part of their bigger picture.
The unions and the law ought to embrace our efforts. Whereas the unions earn semi-annual dues based on how much an actor earns during a given reporting period, why should they care who is involved with getting that actor work as long as the actor pays what they owe?

We are not a threat to the talent agency community. Many of us do work hand-in-hand in the representation of some clients. But many of us also work with actors who are flying solo. We all need protection on that journey: The actor needs to be secure in the legitimacy of their manager and the manager needs assurance that they will be paid for their work.

This isn't really much of an issue when an actor is young, new and/or struggling. It's when that rare commodity of success strikes that, for some of them, things can start to look a little different in that albeit often temporary light that bounces off a contract to work."

As an actor, how do you feel about this ruling?

Please feel free to share your thoughts on this issue. Post your comments here or you can reach me by e-mail at blemack@TheBusinessOfActing.com.


Thursday, January 3, 2008

All I wanted for Christmas was … a settlement! A new year’s perspective

I was hoping to return from the holiday break to find that Santa (or Hanukah Harry, perhaps) had left a gift of settlement in the writers’ strike for all the connected and not-connected-but-impacted-anyway. No such luck. While this week, you can get up to 50 to 75 percent off on already reduced merchandise in nearly every store in nearly every mall in American, it appears that there are no “salvage the season” deals to be had between the WGA and the producers.

Of course it was good news for David Letterman’s writers that Worldwide Pants (Letterman’s company that owns and produces his late night show) had struck an interim deal with the WGA for those folks to return to work, although it seems to me that Letterman’s playing field is in a different ball park all together, thus, perhaps, the reason an interim deal was possible or easier to structure.

It’s really the movie and theatrical television production areas that are at the core of this battle and it looks like pilot season 2008, already on life support, is about to be given its last rites.

What does all of this have to do with the business of acting? Plenty. At whatever stage your career is currently at, there’s nothing quite like a work stoppage (whether or not you agree with it) to kill your momentum.

As I wrote in my last Blog entry prior to the Thanksgiving holiday, now is not the time for actors to do anything drastic. This is not the time to seek first time or new representation; this is not the time to talk with your current agent or manager (if you have one) about why you haven’t been getting out lately. Instead, this is a great time to work on addressing the other critical needs in the business of your career that matter all the time.

Is your head shot current? Is your resume up to date? Have you updated your profile and resume on self-submission sites such as ActorsAccess.com and LACasting.com (if you are listed with one of these or another similar type service)? Spend some time hunting down and reading new or undiscovered (by you) plays. Get together with fellow actors and perform readings of some of this work.

It’s important that you keep your engine tuned all the time, but, particularly, during this extended down period when the opportunity to audition has been taken away from most (union) actors (commercials and theatre excepted, of course).

Stay positive, keep the faith. Soon, once again, Donald Trump will utter “You’re fired” one last time and the new, heavy crop of reality shows will once again give way to a renewed energy in the production of scripted everything.

The new year is still very, very young. This can still be your best year yet in the business of acting.

Happy 2008.

Brad Lemack