Monday, September 28, 2009

An agent's perspective on the business of acting ...

There is no better advice than the advise of a true pro who wants to help those who are on the way up. In academia, we call them "educators"; in the real, post-college world, we call them "mentors"; in the business of acting, we call one of them Sharif Ali.

Sharif is the co-president of the Los Angeles-based talent agency Aimee Entertainment. In our four-part interview on "Inside the Business of Acting," Sharif talks about the nuts and bolts of the business from an agent's perspective. If you're seeking your first agent or feel the need to change your current agent, what Sharif has to say will empower you on that journey.

In short, don't send a head shot or place a phone call to a new or perspective agent without watching these segments first.

Episode #1 premiered two weeks ago; Episode #2 was added today. At just (roughly) 12 minutes each segment, Sharif's advice on "how to" is worth its weight in megabytes.

Happy learning ...


Drawing the line on commissions ...

It’s a tough economy – and while that’s, unfortunately, nothing new for most actors (especially new-to-the-business actors and recent college grads), it is the landscape in which we work (or want to). An opportunity to actually land an acting job is a great thing for any actor, both economically and emotionally, but the terms under which you get access to these opportunities are worthy of highlighting.

All of this is sparked by an e-mail I received the other day from a young actor who has found herself having a decision to make. New York-based, after a search for an agent, she found a company that was willing to take her on, under certain financial terms. The agency wanted to “charge” the actress not the usual across-the-board 10 percent commission on worked she booked, but, instead, 20 percent on any non-union work she landed.

A little understanding of this part of the landscape is in order.

Commission on union work is regulated by SAG and AFTRA; non-union work is not, which is why this agency (and others) often attempt to get a higher commission rate for non-union work out of their clients. While it is true that, generally speaking, non-union work pays less than union work, for the agent, it takes no more time or energy to do one booking over the other, but it is, indeed, you who show up to do the acting job.

Agent commissions should be no higher than 10 percent, whether it's a union job or not. The desperate actor seeking representation under any terms might accept such a deal, but this isn’t a smart move. If an agent offers you this arrangement, tell him or her what your terms are, take or leave it. If they say "no," seek representation elsewhere. Remember, agents work for actors.

It’s hard enough to earn a living as a “working actor.” While you can’t do it completely on your own, you must be comfortable with the terms you accept from any agent you hire. At the end of the day, you want to take home as much as you can, while still ensuring that those who represent you get what they deserve, what they earn – and no more. As your career builds, so, too, will the commission they are entitled to, in dollars, not percentages.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Legendary Hollywood Columnist Army Archerd Dead at Age 87: A Personal Appreciation

I was very sadden this afternoon to learn about the death of a true Hollywood icon. Army Archerd covered stars and the business like no other journalist. His access to the movers and shakers of the industry was unprecedented. His power could also not be denied. For over 50 years, his Daily Variety column (in which I'm honored to say that my name has appeared in) was a must-read for everyone in the business of acting and entertainment. From stars to show publicists, from network presidents to network pages, if being in and being a part of the industry mattered to you, Army Archerd was the only true Hollywood columnist who mattered.

Newspapers and magazines will sing his praises in the wake of his death. They can do what they do best. But, none of those reporters knew the Army Archerd I knew.

I was connected with Army over the years in my role as publicist and managers to numerous actors who were always thrilled to see their names in print in his column. Later, I got to know Army and his wife, Selma, well when I was brought on to head up press coverage and publicity for the mega Hollywood event that honored Army for his 40 years with Daily Variety.

It was a star-studded Hollywood event to beat all other star-studded Hollywood events, and, in the process, those honoring Army helped raised over a million dollars that was shared among three of Archerd's pet charities.

For me, the professional highlight was getting a cover story about Army and his legacy in the Wall Street Journal. A personal highlight was getting to know the man socially in a way I hadn't known him before. "Brady," he called me. I liked that.

There comes a time when the curtain sets on an era. This afternoon was a sad reminder that in a new media, online, hi-tech world where what qualifies as "news" is hardly worth mentioning, Army was the best of the best of the old school. Much like Walter Cronkite's respected reputation as a newsman, Army Archerd represented an era of Hollywood journalism that I also mourn the passing of.


Monday, August 24, 2009

Right place, right time? Sometimes ...

I received an e-mail from Nicole, a young actor, who is looking to get to the next level in the business, having recently graduated from college in the mid-west. She posed two important questions that apply to a lot of other actors, as well.

Nicole wanted to know “How to be in the right places" and "What to do” as she begins her career journey. Her newly acquired agent's advice: "Be patient." I hate that. Indeed, you must be much more than just "patient."

The requirement, from the Business of Acting philosophy, is that you are (or have to learn how to become) pro-active in every way possible. Being in the “right” places requires you to define and discover where those places are. Anywhere you can hone your craft, develop your skills and network with other like-minded people is the target.

If you are a SAG member (or as soon as you become one), you are eligible to participate in the many, varied and wonderful SAG Foundation events and seminars, all for free. If I were you, I’d be at every one I could possibly attend. L.A. Casting regularly offers free seminars for its members. I highly recommend both of these.

I would also look at some “private” groups that might also be beneficial for you to join, such as The Actors Network. I would also (if you don't already do this), make it a point to regularly read at least one of the two trades and Backstage every week. Knowledge is empowerment — and the more you know about the business in which you want to make your living, the better prepared you will be for every opportunity that comes your way.

If you haven’t read The Business of Acting, I think you will find a lot of helpful perspective contained in its chapters. In it, you’ll read that agents work for you. To be told by your agent to “be patient” isn’t good enough. The book teaches you how to take charge of your career and be the leader of your team. You might also find a lot of helpful advice and information on the Business of Acting Blog, accessible through a link on the home page at

In an effort to be totally self-serving, as well as helpful, I would urge you to check out many of the interviews with working actors and other industry professionals now playing on-demand, for free, on our Web TV series Inside the Business of Acting.

Another book you might find helpful is Acting and How to Be Good At It, by veteran actor and acting coach Basil Hoffman. Basil writes from his many years of experience and serves up some very helpful advice for all young (and older) actors.

Go forth and become empowered. There will be a test on this. :)

Got a question about the business of acting? Post your question here or e-mail me directly at

Brad Lemack

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The impact of "reputation" in the business of representation ...

I found myself in an interesting position the other day. A young actor who recently purchased a copy of and read my book contacted me about one of the agents I interviewed for Chapter 4, “The Business of Talent Representation: Navigating the Muddy Waters of Association.”

Without naming names here, this actor was inquiring about some negative word on the street he had come across about this agent and his agency. He wanted to get my take on it.

I told him that I, too, had heard some of the same information. I also told him that it was important to recognize that your reputation is based on both the positive and negative experiences that any given person has had with you. Some people will say glowing, glorious things; others will say just the opposite. Being human, none of us are immune. Me included.

If you are an actor, particularly a young actor, seeking representation, this is worthy of further examination.

Such comments, whether actually true or not, cannot and should not be easily dismissed. This particular agent has attempted to reinvent his company and his image, having left his old agency behind and begun a new venture. I was happy to hear that. However, I remind you that agents (and managers) work for actors. If you accept representation from any agent (or manager), he or she would be working FOR you; not the other way around. You must perform due diligence in this process. If you have concerns over what has been said about him or her and how he or she conducts business, ask the question. If he or she refuses to discuss it, brushes it off or won't otherwise give you an explanation that you're satisfied with, then move on. Clearly, at that point, this person and this agency are not the right place for you.

Too often, too eager actors will sign with anyone who is willing to sign them, regardless of issues of reputation or complete comfort on the actor's part about the association they are about to enter into. Not a smart move at all.

There are a lot of decent agents (and managers) out there. If you have reputation concerns about an agent (or manager) you are interested in signing with and that agent (or manager) cannot adequately address those issues and your concerns, and in the process assure you that he or she is one of the ones worth being in business with, then wait until you find someone who can.

Class dismissed.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A career journey "One Day at a Time" ...

Fans of the 1970's/1980's hit CBS-TV series One Day at a Time won't want to miss our four-part interview with series star Bonnie Franklin -- and actors at all stages of their careers will want to hear Bonnie talk about her remarkable career journey on our Web TV series Inside the Business of Acting.

From earning a Tony nomination for her critically-acclaimed role in Applause, on Broadway, to landing a television series that ran for an impressive nine years, Bonnie's story and the lessons learned along the way will inspire you.

Episode 1 is now playing on-demand at


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

How to ease resume stress at the beginning of a career launch ...

I recently received an e-mail from Dennis, a young actor living in Seattle. He just graduated from college and is preparing to relocate to Los Angeles to start his career journey. I think his question might be very relevant to may of you.

Dennis wrote:

“My acting resume is loaded with credits that I earned in high school and college productions. I read in your book that agents and managers and even casting directors won’t really care about that work. I’m confused and a bit concerned about what to do and what to actually put on my new LA resume.”

I wrote back:

“What’s relevant to list on your resume has more to do with what stage of your career you’re in than any standard that applies to everyone.

At your age, at this place in your career, anything “appropriate” is appropriate — and that includes high school and college productions and community theatre. As you build your career and your resume, new credits will replace the older ones as you begin to run out of room. It’s the natural law of “early credit falloff.

The most important thing a young actor can do is to quickly begin balancing their high school and college performing credits with professional classes, seminars and workshops. You should begin taking classes as soon as possible after your arrival in Los Angeles (or New York). ‘As soon as’ also means as soon as you can reasonably afford to do so. Rent, food and other “survival” and transportation expenses have to be covered first.

You can show a potential agent or manager that you are serious about becoming a viable candidate for success in the business of acting (and maybe even a successful client of theirs) by showing that you are developing your skills and your talent with some good, solid professional training. This will score you a lot of points.

Getting into professional classes will also introduce you to a new community of other actors, most of them a lot like you, just out of college, just starting out, just looking for a smart way to match their potential with a world of opportunities.”

• • •

I am always being asked to recommend classes or an instructor or coach – and that’s a tall order, quite frankly. Like a head shot session, what works to make a photo session a success for both the actor and the photographer has everything to do with the energy and the connection both people bring into he session. That’s a lot like what make a class or a coach effective, as well.

It’s all about personality, style, professionalism and attitude, on both the actor’s part and the teacher’s.

Having said that, I have personally sat in on classes with a few well-respected teachers in Los Angeles and can suggest that they be on your list of people you check out. You’ll find a downloadable, printer-friendly list on the Resources page at

One of the people I like a lot is Jeremiah Comey. He teaches a great acting for the camera class and I have sent many of my clients to him over the years. You can watch our two-part interview with Jeremiah on our Web TV series “Inside the Business of Acting,” now playing on-demand on the Virtual Channel Network. He offers up some solid advice for all actors, but particularly for young actors.

I hope this helps you, Dennis, and the other couple of you making your ways to Los Angeles this summer, freshly graduated, all pumped up and ready for your career launch.

If you have a business of acting-related question, please post your question (or comment) here on our Blog site or you can e-mail me directly at


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

You can't go it alone ...

Now playing on our Web TV series Inside The Business Of Acting, our two-part interview with noted Los Angeles-based acting coach and author of the book The Art of Film Acting, Jeremiah Comey.

Good advice served up on-demand! :)

Thanks for checking it out.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Flying solo: The Loh down on how to launch a one-person show, now playing at

If mounting your own one-person show is something you would like to explore, actress, writer and solo performance artist Sandra Tsing Loh gives you the Loh down on how-to at

Now playing, episode #3, gets into the nuts and bolts and dollars and cents. What Sandra has to say will help get you started -- and there is nothing quite like a work-in-progress personal performance piece to focus, inspire and empower any actor seeking to create both a challenge and an opportunity.

Another time, I'll tell you about my former Emerson College student Christian Johnsen's "Red Sweater" project. Inspiring and therapeutic.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The message is clear as a sizeable SAG majority gives the green light to a new contract …

It’s a good day in the business of acting today as both union and non-union actors alike – and all other industry professionals – begin to absorb the acceptance of a new two-year SAG contract, which was announced as approved by a stunning 78% of the Screen Actors Guild membership last night.

There is not much need for analysis here. It appears that the overwhelming victory for the new agreement sends a clear message: Stop the infighting, stop the politics and let us, confidently, get back to work.

This new contract has many gains, including its expiration date, which will allow SAG to make nice with AFTRA over the next two years and then work together in carving out a new “new” agreement that will be in the best interest of all union members – and those who will become union members.

Next up, SAG leadership needs to make nice within its own ranks. Too much infighting, too many harsh words, too much “actor vs. actor” … And the winner is … “nobody.” The new contract isn’t perfect, but given the landscape in which the business of acting currently exists, it’s a fine achievement, for now.

Full steam ahead. Let’s all get back to work with some sense of accomplishment. Seventy-eight percent? That’s a strong statement.

Complete details at


Friday, June 5, 2009

Hot tips on how to get your first film industry job now on "Inside the Business of Acting"

Whether you have just graduated from college or have been in the job market for a while, any information that can help you get a foot in the door and an on-ramp to the career journey you seek is hot, valuable and must-have information. It's even better when it's free.

Actor, writer, producer, director ... whatever your career goals and aspirations are in the business of acting, you must make time to watch our three-part interview with industry executive and entertainment career consultant Karen Kaufman Wilson, now playing on-demand on our Web TV series "Inside the Business of Acting."

Karen offers up some critical advice on how to open doors in Hollywood with a strategy that can't fail to get you moving in the right direction, if you follow the proactive plan of approach talked about in our interview.

Okay, now get moving to the Virtual Channel Network and have a pad of paper and pencil ready!


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Caps and gowns at the ready: Class of 2009, line up!

It’s that time again … cap, gown, post-graduation expectations, student loans lurking. Class of 2009, prepare to launch!

We finished our classes at the Emerson College Los Angeles Center this week, which was proceeded by the Business of Acting class’s industry showcase. It’s a terrific project and I’m thrilled that we are able to make this opportunity available to my students. It’s their final project for the course. We spend the semester studying, discussing and workshopping the issues now impacting the business of acting. We spend the semester exploring the options for creating, launching and maintaining a smart, professional career journey after graduation. We end the semester with a student showcase that the class has being assigned responsibilities from scene selection, theme selection, branding, marketing, reception catering and more, and then, after they get the business of the project done correctly, the joy of performing.

I always tell the class that it doesn’t matter who is in the audience, if anyone. The objective is to learn how to create and pull off a project like this. I hold a safety net under them during this learning process, but after graduation, there will be many times where knowing how to do this well will prove enormously beneficial.

And so it went. An impressive group of both industry and college supporters attended. Sharing food and beverage afterward, connections were made, new relationships were started and the first steps in each student’s transition from student to wanting-to-be-working professional began. It’s an exciting process to participate in; it’s even more exciting (for me, anyway) to observe.

In our last class, we deconstruct the project and the experience. I ask the class to write their individual assessments of how they think they showcase went, from producing to performing; I ask them to discuss what they learned in the process and how they would do things differently next time – because there will always be a next time, for all of us.

Now, with the semester behind us, my students (and senior students everywhere) march towards graduation day, loaded with the excitement, fear, apprehension and possibilities that that day – and more importantly the days after, will bring.

If you fall into this category, I have both a note of congratulations and a note of warning for you: First, brave! You did it! Next, take heed. Emotional fitness during this important time is dependent upon two things: 1) Learning how to manage the expectations others have of you (your parents, for example), and 2) learning how to manage the expectations you have of yourself, in the “what comes next” process.

Relax. Have patience. Prepare for the journey ahead by planning for the journey ahead. Take the time to create a business plan for yourself. There is a chapter in the book to help you with this. You can also read my Back Stage article about this process, which I hope you will find helpful.

Lastly, if you have a minute to check out my Blog from last year at this time, I have a few suggestions about how those who want to gift you can do so in meaningful and significant way that can help jumpstart the funding for the launch of your career journey. It’s a concept I call The Business of Acting Gift Registry. Check it out.

Congratulations Class of 2009! You are about to enter what many define as a “challenged” work environment – and I won’t deny the struggles that so many are having in this tough economy just to make ends meet. But, you are not them.

The truth is that you will never be more employable than you are right now. It may not be the job or position of your dreams (yet), but your youth, your talent, your flexibility and, perhaps most importantly, your potential, will help open doors to the opportunities you seek. Patience along the journey is critical, now more than ever. That goes for you and your family, who want nothing more for you than at least a hundred times what you want for yourself.

Bravo, indeed.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Deal or no deal? At last, SAG members will now have their say on a new contract.

I have been quiet on this issue for some time now, mostly because I really didn't have anything new to say. Today is different; the news is, actually, positive.

The SAG board yesterday approved by 53 percent the new contract with the studios and the producers -- and that's good news. What will be frustrating to those who have watched from the sidelines these many, many months will be the realization that for as long as it took to come this far, very little has been achieved for SAG members.

Yes, some compensation will come their way for use of products they appear in on the Internet; but residuals for this usage are out. That was a huge issue for embattled SAG president Alan Rosenberg; it's a big deal for SAG members because Rosenberg just said "no" many times during this process because the terms -- and specifically this term - wasn't what he claims he was fighting for.

A lot has change in the nearly one-year old fight for a new SAG contract: In short, as we're all experiencing first-hand, the economy has put a serious dent in options and opportunity for most people. The landscape just wasn't right to strive for the kinds of financial gains Rosenberg and the union hardliners were fighting for. Not this time around, anyway.

This new agreement would run for two years and looks a lot like the agreement the other talent guilds have settled upon. Who knows what life will be like two years from now? Maybe, just maybe, it will be a better time then to smartly and realistically revisit these issues taking into account the landscape and the economic climate at that time.

The only remaining hurdle is whether or not the majority of SAG members will vote for this new contract or whether it all goes back to the table -- or worse yet -- to a strike authorization vote.

I encourage you to read up on the terms of the proposed new deal at SAG member or not, it's all about the business of acting and it's important to know what is at stake for all actors, both union and non-union alike.

What are your thoughts on the offer? If you are a SAG member, will you vote for it or not -- and why?

Let's start that dialog here.

I'm eager to read your comments.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

"Yes, I Can. Yes, I Can!" Uphill movement in the right direction today at SAG.

So now that Doug Allen has stepped down as executive director of the Screen Actors Guild and head negotiator in the union’s attempt to seek and settle on a new contract, what happens next and what does this mean to the business of acting for both union and non-union actors?

In short, I’m encouraged.

The greatest fallout from what has been the SAG dilemma can be measured in terms of both negative public and internal relations. The infighting at SAG has not played out well in the public arena. Instead of garnering support for the predicament it finds itself in (as the Writers Guild did during the strike), SAG leadership, in fact the entire union, has come off in the public eye as rather unlikable. Then there is the infighting pitting one celebrity name against another in a war of rhetoric and best acting. Next year’s SAG Awards ought to have a category for Biggest Idiot in the War of Words.

Of course all of this has absolutely nothing to do with a new contract that must be secured as soon as possible. As in all campaigns, there comes a time when aiming for a sound bite on the evening news has to end and the real work begin. Even President Obama had a dinner honoring John McCain shortly before the inauguration ceremonies.

My advice: It’s time to start fresh and with a clean slate – and under the new team in place at SAG, under the leadership of David White as interim director, the union and its board have a good starting point and an opportunity to actually get some work done that will benefit both their current and future members.

I’m happy to help SAG spin this in the right direction, when the time comes – and that will be soon. That’s if I’m asked. You see, those of us who represent talent also feel the impact of the stalemate. SAG needs to reassure the industry as a whole that it’s getting it’s act together – and taking it on the road – that is on the road to reasonable discussions, reasonable expectations and a reasonable, new contract that its membership will embrace and the rest of us can support in the journey of getting back to both the fundamentals and to work.

Then there is the curious case of Alan Rosenberg. He’s in a tough spot, personally and professionally. After all, when all is said and done and his term as SAG president has expired, I assume he intends to return to the ranks of “working actor.” If that’s the case, then, indeed, he has some PR strategy to work on, as well.

Full steam ahead …


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Want to know what casting directors really think of actors?

Now playing on “Inside the Business of Acting,” on the Virtual Channel Network, is our four-part interview with the wonderful, Los Angeles-based casting director Michael Donovan. Whether you’re new to the business or looking for a fresh perspective on how the changing landscape has impacted the business of talent casting, what Michael has to say will help, comfort, inspire and empower you. It’s the best 50 minutes you’ll spend in support of your career.

I hope you take the time to watch this – and I hope you’ll share your comments about it with me afterward.

By the way, if you want to really know how to maximize the services of in ways that can help you be both smart and pro-active in both the pursuit and support of your acting career, access our five-part interview with Breakdown Services founder and president Gary Marsh, also available on-demand in the episodes listing section of the “Inside the Business of Acting” Web TV series home page at

It's all free.


Monday, January 19, 2009

Another fine mess for SAG

I have been silent for the last month eagerly anticipating something positive to comment on regarding the internal (and public) bickering with the seemingly endless Screen Actors Guild to-authorize-a-strike or not-to-authorize-a-strike serial melodrama.

Is it just me, or have you had enough of this already?

I know it’s important; I know it’s about what actors deserve. But, I also know that now months into this struggle, it appears that the industry is no closer to a new SAG contract than it was when the issue for the union was focused on their members voting down the new AFTRA contract (which, as we know now, was also unsuccessful).

While it appears unlikely that the SAG leadership will get 75% of their actor members to vote “yes” on a strike authorization (should they still decide to seek it), the bigger picture, which is really the smaller picture, might matter most. That is, aside from seeking a strike authorization, SAG also needs to think about seeking unity from among its membership – and how to get everyone effected back on the same page.

It doesn’t much matter who’s in, who’s out or who’s on first as much as it will matter if the union is ever able regain the respect of all of their actor members they’re supposed to be representing fairly and equally.

Is it just me or is it time for some movement in a positive direction beginning with a fresh look at what makes sense for the people effected and the impact of this long stalemate on the perceived and real health of the business of acting?

The only good news of late is that SAG and AFTRA are actually casually dating again, sitting down together in search of a new commercial contract. Bravo to the SAG powers-that-be that realized the sense of both building this bridge and crossing it. It makes me wonder whether these same people at SAG now wish they did this a lot sooner.

Another fine mess, indeed.