Quick-Answer Actor Questions

So, it’s time once again for a bunch of quick-answer questions. Woo hoo!

Hi Bonnie,

Thanks for all you great columns; I’ve taken quite a bit of advice from them. My question is about website credits. I’ve done quite a bit of acting for web content (short films, web series, etc.), and I’m not sure how to list it on my resumé. Should I list it under TV or Film or start a Web category? Or should I leave it off my resumé all together?

Thanks for your help, and keep up the great work.
Dave

Hi Dave. It’s a new world, for sure, with this issue. I’ve seen some actors lump the work in with their FILM section (and note somewhere that it is an Internet project, like with an asterisk or in the director/production company column). I’ve seen other actors add web credits to the TV section, because the web credits are a part of an ongoing web series, making them more like TV than film. And, for those who are booking a ton of web work, I have seen a new category pop up: INTERNET (or NEW MEDIA or ONLINE).

So, for now, I think it’s a matter of trying something out and seeing how the industry takes it. Some folks would advise you to leave web work off your film and TV resumé altogether, since your goal with a film and TV resumé is to get in front of film and TV folks… but it’s all so blurry now! So many film and TV people are doing web-based work that I think it is time to let that material have its space on your resumé (especially if we’re talking Quarterlife or LonelyGirl15 or Ask a Ninja).

Obviously, if you have an agent or a manager, defer to those members of your team in using the format they would have you use. But if you’re on your own, try a couple of different placements and see what “works.” But, if the web work you did is something that wasn’t very high profile or cannot be seen online anymore, I’d consider leaving it off the resumé, as its helpfulness as a legit credit gets weaker the less “out there” it is.

Hey Bonnie, how are you?

Your latest breakdown made me wonder if you have ever done a column on what is the “definition” of a local hire. (Meaning: What is “required” to be considered one?) There are certain cities I know I can be hired as a local, but I’m wondering if there could be more based on what the “rules” are.

Thanks!
Lisa Pescherine

Hi Lisa. Great question! I’m sure there are some folks out there who want to check official residency and tax statements to be sure actors are actually true “local hires,” but for the majority of casting that’s going on in Los Angeles for projects shooting elsewhere, all it takes for an actor to work as a local hire is the willingness to get yourself to the location, put yourself up, and basically take care of your own expenses.

For example, if I put out a breakdown in LA for a film shooting in Atlanta and I say I’m looking for local hires, that means an LA-based actor who gets cast in one of the local hire roles would not be paid on the day of travel, would not have his or her travel paid for, would not receive a per diem while on location, and would have to take care of his or her own accommodations (with friends, with family, in a hotel room, etc.). We would basically treat that actor as someone who was based out of Atlanta, whether that’s true or not.

Now, you may look at that and say, “Hey! How are producers getting tax breaks to shoot in other states if all of the cast is coming from California anyway?” Well, first of all, it’s not all of the cast that’s coming from Hollywood. A good number of dayplayers and all of the background performers will be hired from the local talent pool, so that’s usually pretty significant, compared to the number of principal performers cast out of Los Angeles. Also, the vast majority of the crew will be hired locally. So, the tax incentives are not in jeopardy just because a few of the principal performers are not true residents of the state where the film is shooting, but are willing to work as local hires.

What does it take to be able to work as a local hire? Just making us aware of it, usually. My husband, for example, is on file as a local hire anywhere with his reps. And he has worked out of state several times, putting himself up in a shared hotel room with other cast members and spending the dough to get to the location itself. As you’re building credits, being able to go where the work is is a great thing. Eventually, you’ll want to curtail this sort of behavior so that you’re earning more than you’re spending to be able to get the gig. ๐Ÿ˜‰ But in the beginning, being willing to work as a local hire could be a very smart move.

I have an episode coming up this week for my first ever co-star role. I know how to TiVo the show, but how do I get the footage on my Actors Access profile?

First, congrats! Your first co-star is the toughest to get! ๐Ÿ™‚ Second, if you have a friend who is computer savvy, you might want to enlist his or her help in getting the footage off the TiVo and into iMovie for a quick edit right there in your computer (or your friend’s computer) and then you’re good to go with taking the material to your demo reel editor (if you’re putting the footage into an existing composite of your work) and any of the online services that host your demo reel footage.

If, however, you prefer an all-in-one service that takes care of everything for you, I know that Breakdown Services just rolled out Aircheck, which is pretty much your recording, basic editing, delivery, and web-based hosting, all together. Gary Marsh walked me through the thing last week during a meeting we had and I thought it all looked pretty dang cool. No more worrying about how to get it all put together. Just fill out the form, pay the money, and the rest is in their hands.

For actors looking to put up individual clips from projects, rather than hoping to edit the material into an existing reel, this is a really simple solution. I know Breakdowns offers more sophisticated editing services too, but at additional charges. Still, the idea of having your clip from The Big Bang Theory up and on your profile within two days of its airing is pretty dang cool to me!

Again, congrats! I hope it turns out just great!

Hi,

My name is Caryn and I just joined the Showfax site. I have never done any theatre performance. Does this mean I can never get a audition? Thanks!

Hi Caryn. Welcome! Welcome to the site and to this career. ๐Ÿ™‚ Hope you love ’em both.

While having had no performing experience may put you at a disadvantage (in terms of knowing what to expect), you absolutely have the same right as everyone else to submit your headshot and resumé (even if all that’s on your resumé is your training, at this point) in hopes of landing an audition.

I recommend that you attend some open calls in your area (like for community theatre, school plays, religious or civic organizations’ performances, etc.) to get your feet wet, just so you won’t be terribly nervous when you do get your first “big” audition on which you submitted your headshot.

Everyone was a beginner at some point, and we’re always looking for the next, greatest actor we haven’t yet met. So, don’t worry about having no experience. This is how you get it! Just be ready for the opportunity when you get it, by training and practicing in the mean time.

Break a leg!

I’m not in SAG. Can I submit on SAG projects?

This has to be one of the most frequently asked questions! I’ve even covered it here in my column before. But it’s asked so often, it’s gotta be worth covering again (and not just with a link back to where I did it before).

You do not have to be in a union in order to submit on union projects.

Now, the casting people may only want to see union talent for auditions, so you may not score an audition slot too often without having that SAG or SAG-eligible status, but absolutely, you can submit. Because one of the ways you can become a member of SAG is by being cast in a SAG project! So, that would mean you’d have to be non-SAG first, right?

So, of course, submit! Make sure it’s the right role for you and that your skill levels match up with what’s being asked of the actor who will play that part. If you’re not yet ready to tackle a lead role, submit on “guy number two” for now and build up your credits and experience. But if you’re the best “guy number two” candidate we’ve seen, we’ll get you that SAG eligibility. You leave that concern to us.

Hi Bonnie,

When I read movie reviews I occasionally see the word “miscast” being used, and as an actor I’ve always wondered about that term. It’s understandable if, for example, a 50 year old woman playing an ingénue would be considered a miscast, but apart from such extremes I don’t see how that term would apply. What is the difference between a miscast actor and an actor who just didn’t put enough effort in the role to be convincing?

Sincerely,
Leslie Ezeh

Frankly, Leslie, I don’t think there’s any difference. To me, a “miscast” actor is any actor who wasn’t up for the job, ultimately. While I agree with you that a huge age leap from what is logical to the story is a great example of a miscast, there’s also family matching miscasts (like there’s no way this actor could play this other actor’s father), and plain ol’ lack of chemistry between romantic leads (which can be considered a miscast).

But really, I think the term is used by reviewers any time an otherwise capable, competent, and talented actor just didn’t deliver the goods. Sure, you could say that’s not “miscasting,” but instead “bad acting” or “phoning it in,” but because the bottom line is the same — that another actor in that role might’ve been a much better choice for the finished product — movie reviewers will go easier on the actor by saying he or she was “miscast,” rather than calling that actor’s professionalism into question.

I mean, c’mon, the reviewer wants to get invited to the next junket, right? So, they can’t be too cruel. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Dear Bonnie,

I am an actor based in Virginia and am getting things in order for a move to the west coast. I am working on my demo reel, which is the basis of my question. What is the maximum time limit for an acting reel? What is the industry standard on reels? I would appreciate any insight on that. Thank you and I’m looking forward to your response.

Sincerely,
Sean Michael Doherty

Hi Sean, and good luck with your move! Most demo reels come in at under three minutes, total. Online clips and Speed Reels are more like one minute. While an agent or manager or director might watch longer reels (up to five minutes or so), to learn your range or to see what other directors have had you do, most casting people want “in and out.” We want to know if you’re the right actor for this role, right now. And we can get that question answered usually in the first ten seconds of your demo reel.

So, for me, the shorter the better. Make it great and leave me wanting more. I’ve never heard myself say, “Wow, I wish that demo reel had been longer.” But I frequently wish I could get those five minutes back, when I’ve forced myself to watch an entire reel. So, three minutes, max. That’s my answer.

Hey Bonnie.

First of all I want to say thank you for your columns; they have helped me tremendously. The question I have for you today is pretty simple: Is height a big determining factor in casting? I am an 18 year old male planning on moving to LA ASAP. I stand about 5’8″. Is this going to be a setback in the roles I’m auditioning for? Also I wanted to ask if you know of any specific ways to make some money quick. I live in SC and have always dreamed of being a film actor; the only thing holding me back is saving the money. I have about $2500 as of right now and would like to have $7500 to move. Is this realistic? Thanks again for all that you do!

Kyle Carrion

Hi Kyle. Actors — just like “real” people — come in all shapes and sizes. And they all work. Sure, some will work more than others, but there are so many factors that come into the equation that it would be unfair to say it’s due to their height or even in spite of their height. So, there may be some roles you’re less likely to get because you’re a 5’8″ male, but then there will be others that you’re more likely to get because of that. There’s just no way to really quantify it.

Money, however, can absolutely be quantified and you will need a lot of it, when you move to Los Angeles. Take a look at my archived column on The Costs of Acting to get a sense of what other actors have said they needed, when they first got here, and how much it’s costing them to run their acting business, day to day. As for advice on how to make money quickly? I don’t know that I have any advice on that! I’ve found that doing what I love and working my ass off has always been a good formula for me.

Hi Bonnie,

I have a question about working in films and television with nudity. It appears so many more mainstream actors are doing nudity on cable television, or alluding to it rather graphically (Californiacation, The Treatment, The L Word, etc.).

I love shows about controversial issues and I love being able to glimpse in to people’s private lives and I think as a viewer I give license to seeing an actor nude in a more forgiving way. However, I have run in to this reality myself as an actress. I think I am willing to do nudity if it’s in the type of format I mentioned but it makes me very nervous. I’m not sure what my question is so much as I’d love to see an article about this topic and how it is becoming more “mainstream” to see actors at any age now, any type, and any A-List, B-List, C-List actor (not just the petite female ingénue) to show your bare body in cable television.

I have a chance to be on a new cable TV series that would require me to have some rather explicit scenes. I love the content of the show, it’s a timely topic, and a great character but no one trains you how to deal with this stuff. Help!

Helene Taylor

Hi Helene. Congrats on your opportunity! This is a complex issue, for sure, because once the nudity is out there, there’s no taking it back. So, you really do have to be sure you’re okay with it. And not just within the context of the show itself but also as a still-frame plastered all over the Internet, as it surely will be.

I’ve recently been catching up with Sex and the City on DVD (in geeky, giddy preparation for the movie coming out next month) and, having never seen the original episodes on HBO, I have been amazed at how many storylines, how many actors, how much nudity has been left out of the TBS version of the series (which was the only version of the series to which I had been exposed until last month).

There are actors who worked as co-stars (and even guest stars) on Sex and the City whose work I had never seen, because of the way the shows were edited for network and basic cable television, as well as for airplane “broadcast.” So, I was thinking about your question as I saw a whole new storyline in one of the episodes, and realized that “the great character who happens to get naked” might actually turn into something edited down to nothing or, worse, only ever used for the nakedness, and all of that “great character” stuff gets left on the cutting room floor. Editing is key, here.

That’s just it. You can’t know, going in, how it’s all going to turn out. And since you can’t “get it back” once you’ve done it (it’s like your virginity, that way), I suppose it really is both a complicated and important decision to make and make “right” for you.

Yes, more and more stars are showing us the goods these days, but they’re stars! They’re often using the nudity thing as a great way to get back on our radar, if they’ve slipped off a bit in recent years. As you’re building your reputation, it’s far more important to know where “doing nudity” falls within your own personal and professional level of comfort as a performer. When you have a whole career of footage from which to choose and there’s this one “blip” of nudity from that cool cable show you did, that’s one thing. But when you don’t even have a demo reel in which you’ve said anything more than, “More coffee?” to the lead actor, choosing to get that big chance by going bare might be a little more difficult to recover from, should it turn out to be anything other than how you dreamed it would be.

Sorry. I know that’s like a total non-answer. Maybe other readers will write in with some thoughts? Hope so! Good luck to you, whatever you decide!

Dear Bonnie,

I am a long-time reader/fan of your column (and books). Please forgive me if this is a tip you’ve previously covered, but I thought I’d pass it along just in case.

After spending way too many hours trimming the excess .5″ x 1″ from the resumés attached to my headshots, I decided there had to be a better way. As it turns out, there is. Kinko’s will trim a ream of paper for just a few bucks. They’ll even put it in a nice little box for you. No more cramped hands and uneven scissor-cut edges.

Thanks for the inspiration and the guidance.

All the best,
Gary Hilborn

Thanks for the kind words, Gary. So glad my columns and books have proven useful for you in your career. I appreciate the feedback!

And big thanks for sharing your Kinko’s tip! I had heard about that (and I think Staples and Office Depot will do it too, in their copy centers) as well as a service provided by most headshot duplication facilities, wherein they’ll print your resumés right on the back of your headshots while they’re duplicating those photos for you for a very small additional charge. This is especially useful when you know you’re going to be going through a bunch of headshots all at once (like in the press kits of a play or showcase you’re participating in, or if you’re doing a mass mailing) and aren’t worried about having to write in updates to your resumé before you use up the stack.

Keep the tips coming! I appreciate ’em.

Hi Bonnie,

I want to start off by thanking you for your great columns every week. Every Monday I get excited to turn on my computer to read them. I also appreciate the optimism you bring to each of them.

I am designing my first website right now and I have a question about my reel page. I don’t have an actual reel put together right now I just have different clips of my work. Is it all right for me to label the page “Reel” or should I label it “Clips?” If I label the page “Reel” would that be misleading? I also have a great clip where I’m really proud of my work and the quality is good, but the content is a little racy and vulgar. Should I put it on my site for casting directors to see or not because someone may be offended?

Thank you Bunches!
Chante Richards

Hi Chante. Thank you as well for the kind words! I look forward to my column on Mondays too. ๐Ÿ˜‰ It’s true! ๐Ÿ™‚

I think “Reel” is still the industry standard terminology for what’s going to exist on that area of your website. I wouldn’t worry too much about the fact that it’s not actually a “reel” that visitors are going to see because, technically, an actor’s “demo” hasn’t physically been a REEL for decades! So, it’s more of a catch-all term for all things related to the footage that shows an actor’s work than a truly accurate description of what’s available.

That said, “Clips” is fine too. Whatever you prefer! We’ll understand what either of those terms is going to get us, when we click on whichever one you choose.

As for the “racy and vulgar” stuff, shit yeah! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Include it, but if you’re worried about the sensitivities of some viewers, mention in the caption of the page that there’s adult content, should the viewer wish to avoid clicking on that particular clip. But, gotta tell ya, anyone working in this industry for more than a minute is going to have to get really okay with “racy and vulgar” things. It’s just a part of the job, it seems.

Hi Bonnie,

I moved to LA from NY a year ago and I still have the same cell phone number, with a 917 area code. My agent has told me that I should change it to a local number (like 818). But, I have friends who are actors that have been living and working in LA for years and they never had to changed their numbers, they still have their 917 area code. Please advise.

Thanks,
Ray

Hi Ray. With cell phones now having “number portability” (remember, a few years back, if you moved out of state you had to change your cell phone, you couldn’t keep the number in your new area), I think everyone in casting has learned that actors can absolutely be LA-based and still have an out-of-state phone number. It’s much less of a big deal now than it used to be.

However, I do know of some CDs who have to pay for their long distance calls on studio lots and in production offices, and you can bet they’re going to do whatever they can to avoid having to dial a long distance number, as those charges can get out of hand. (Good thing your agent’s number is on your resumé, right?)

So, there you have it. I don’t think there’s a stigma attached to it. Sure, you might be a bicoastal actor (and there’s a certain allure to that, actually), but you might also just be an actor who never got around to getting a Hollywood phone number. If you’re going to stay in LA for the long haul, consider making the change eventually. But I doubt it’s a huge big deal, either way.


Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!


Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/000862.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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2 Comments

  1. Avatar Veronique October 3, 2015 at 5:54 pm

    Dear Bonnie,

    I saw the post above and was confused. If an actor is Sag and they indicate they are ” willing to work as a local hire”
    However are truly an ” over night location”…
    Can’t the actor have consequences ( fines etc..)?
    Thank you for your time!

    Reply
    1. Bonnie Gillespie Bonnie Gillespie October 3, 2015 at 10:20 pm

      Hiya Veronique,

      Do you mean fines by the union? I don’t think so! I mean, think about it: The union’s goal is for you to get paid as well as possible, so if your choice to work as a local hire cost you money, the union probably wouldn’t FINE you but might talk to you about whether or not you’re working toward your best interest.

      But never have I heard of the union having even a convo with actors about doing this when they’re at a tier at which doing so is helping them GET to the next tier. The union is far more interested in talking with members who are working off the card or considering going fi-core than those who are working under union contracts but going out of pocket to stay in a hotel room rather than actually living locally.

      Good luck and rock on!

      Reply

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