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.