Friday, February 29, 2008

Post-Writer’s Strike Presents a New Landscape With a New Challenge For Actors

There is danger when one becomes a “Blogger.” It’s a danger that lies within a Blog’s reader or host site visitor that new Blogs will be posted often and regularly and be current with the times. The truth is that, for this particular Blog and this particular Blogger, only three of those criteria apply. I am, admittedly, not a person who posts “often”; I’m not a person who posts with any predictable regularity. I am, however, a person (at least I think of myself this way) whose posts are “current.” That is to say, when I have something “relevant” to contribute, I do so. So, with appreciation to all of the people who write me and ask, “It’s been three weeks. How come there hasn’t been a new Blog lately?” the answer is rather simple. I really haven’t had anything to say.

Having said all of this, I also want to say how appreciative I am of the loyal following “The Business of Acting Blog” has achieved. I value the time you take to return here to check out my ramblings, my opinions and, hopefully, some pieces of sound advice and perspective.

Now, let’s get down to business.

Indeed, today, I do have something to say.

As busy as it has gotten in the last two weeks around town, it’s almost easy to forget there ever was a writer’s strike. Literally, over night, the amount of casting notices sent to agents and managers alone increased by tons. Well, not “tons” exactly. But it was a lot!
In the frantic state to get back to business, it seems to me that several strike-related developments that may have been resolved to the writers’ (and directors’) satisfaction, have the potential for many actors to have to pay a cost far larger than any writer on the strike line paid during the walk out.

The landscape that is the business of acting has forever changed. What has since transpired in just a short period of time is not just a trend that may eventually pass. We have a new level of how business will now and forever be conducted that needs to be addressed.

CBS-TV, in the their search for how to serve up new content in the future that will be as strike-resistant as possible (regardless of which union is the instigator), has decided on filling critical programming slots with purchased programming from foreign producers, particularly Canada. Yes, Canada is a “foreign” country, with a prolific entertainment industry of its own. CBS folk realized that massive dollars could be saved and viewership loss potentially salvaged by purchasing already produced-and-on-the-air programming from Canada for its own American primetime line up.

Then there was word from NBC-TV that they were changing the playing field that used to be known as pilot season. According to NBC, pilots are now out. The peacock network intends to save (GE shareholders take note) millions of dollars each year by not producing pilots. So where will new content come from? Most likely, from seasoned, proven, previously successful producers who will pitch a concept, maybe offer up an abbreviated presentation of their idea and go from there. Not to be outdone by NBC, CBS itself announced in the trades days ago that pilots are all but dead there, too.

Why does this matter to actors?

It’s simple. To me, it translates to less opportunity all around. Less programming locally grown, less product locally developed, less work for local actors.

The writer’s strike, unfortunately, also gave a another life span to a round of ridiculous “reality” programs that any smart viewer should be embarrassed to admit to watching, especially actors. For every reality show on the air, there is less work for actors. It’s a big win for broadcasters who love the fact that this stuff is cheap to produce. With audiences fleeing broadcast television in huge numbers, ratings are down, ad revenues are down and networks are struggling to find a way to both embrace the new technology and to create a new demand (and find new audiences) for their over-the-air programming.

It’s all about commerce and economics. After all, it is the “business” of entertainment.
When all is said and done, in this new environment, actors must be smart, pro-active and forward thinking in new ways to both empower their careers and survive the changes until the dust settles and America has had enough (again) of “American Gladiator,” “Celebrity Apprentice” and the spate of other shows that have overpopulated the airwaves with content for cash at any cost, and with a job loss for actors.

I was also going to carry on about this year’s Academy Awards telecast, to, which you perhaps have heard set a new all-time low record for television viewership of this annual, aging (now apparently former) American tradition.

With gas approaching $4.00 a gallon, movie tickets over $10 each in most markets, and even Starbucks struggling to discover a way to serve up a cup of coffee for $1 to bring back their former throngs and still make a profit, things are changing all around us. It is, indeed, a new world. Broadcasters cannot successfully program the same way they did even five years ago.

What does all of this have to do with the business of acting? Everything. Producers must be in touch with the attitudes of the “new” audiences; actors must be in touch with the demands on producers to create content to attract these new audiences.

Push the envelope. Think outside “the box.” Don’t be afraid to push your own limits in the pursuit and growth of your career in this new landscape by creating content – and thus opportunity for yourself. ABC/Disney has smartly embraced the technology that is the new media by offering up a slate of Web-only series to the previously network-only advertisers. Lots of work for actors in the creation and supply of this content can only be a good thing. This is a trend I happily embrace. It seems that the need for “unlimited” programming for the “new,” global audience potentially presents lots of opportunities for actors. An article on the cover of yesterday’s (2/28/08) Los Angeles Times business section discussed ABC’s move into this new world and is worth reading. I have sent the link to all of my clients and here it is for you:,0,7683008.story

It’s worthwhile reading.

Next time, I’ll tackle something far less important, like how to save some money of your taxes. ☺

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