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.