Notice to readers: I’m mad as Hell and I’m going to write about it.
Last month, I put out a breakdown for a feature film shooting under the new SAG Ultra Low Budget contract. This is a low-budget indie film for which we needed a few name actors. While I usually post my casting breakdowns for agents, managers, and actors to see, this particular film would not benefit from direct-from-actors submissions. I needed to hear pitches from agents and managers. I needed to know name actors’ rate quotes and billing requirements. I needed to find out which series regulars were on hiatus long enough to be a part of this shoot. This simply was not the time for an actor-level breakdown.
But that didn’t stop the world from finding out about this project.
Now, before you get riled up about the fact that I was trying to keep actors from self-submitting (and after all of that advice I’ve provided about how actors should self-market, self-submit, and self-manage), please note that it is not the fact that actors got wind of this project, the character breakdowns, or even my mailing address that pisses me off. What has me really upset are the changes to the breakdown that were made by people who then sold the information to actors across the country.
What were the changes?
1. The all-caps notice after certain roles that read NAME ACTORS ONLY was removed. That makes non-name actors reading the breakdown feel confident that they have a shot at being seen for that role.
2. My mailing address was added to the breakdown. Since I was only accepting electronic submissions through Breakdown Express (agents and managers) as well as pitch calls, this change makes actors think that I would accept mailed submissions. So, instead of the usual volume of mail I receive (general submissions, postcards, submissions on other projects for which there is time to review mailed submissions, invitations to showcases, etc.), I was subjected to mailed submissions on this film too. Those sat, unopened, in an overflowing bin in the corner, until I had a free day and an intern to help get caught up on opening, sorting, and keeping or tossing those headshots for future projects (NOT this one).
3. The submission deadline was changed. By the time these scam services that charge actors to see breakdowns to which they shouldn’t even have access (by design — not because we hate actors or want to keep information away from you, but simply because these roles aren’t the ones for which you’d have a shot anyway, so why burden you with the extra work to try and get seen when you won’t be seen) put out the ill-gotten breakdown, I had already cast the film. Contracts were being negotiated, billing was being determined, shoot dates were being confirmed, and the first table read was already underway. How do I know these “services” are changing the submission deadline on these stolen notices? Every now and then, an actor from thousands of miles away with a snapshot and list of extra work done in local, non-union commercials sends that snapshot, list of extra work, sad little cover letter about dreams of coming to Hollywood to be famous, and a copy of the printout of the modified breakdown.
And this is where it gets good.
That printout is almost always from one of a handful of sketchy websites that charge actors anywhere from $20/yr. to $20/mo. to have access to “real, Hollywood breakdowns” that are guaranteed to fit the actor’s profile.
Yes, when the breakdown that I put out to agents and managers, asking for pitch calls and electronic submissions with a deadline within days of the breakdown’s release is changed to include no mention of NAMES, a mailing address for submissions, and a modified submission deadline, certainly those now-almost-totally-bogus breakdowns meet the profile of a wannabe actor with no credits, an out-of-focus snapshot, and a dream living in South Dakota looking for a ticket to Hollywood.
And what is really happening here? Several things. I’m getting pissed at being hit with irrelevant, mailed submissions on a project that’s long-been cast; the actors who submit from afar are getting their dreams crushed that no one in Hollywood is responding to their submissions (despite what the website owners are telling them about their chances); the breakdown services I’ve used are having their copyrighted material stolen, changed, and resold; and the folks who are doing all of that devious stuff are getting rich off of the combination of my modified breakdown, actors’ investments in their dreams, and stolen information, resold for profit.
I’m pissed. This HAS to stop. I don’t care WHAT the website owners say about how you are guaranteed access to “top casting directors” in Hollywood by subscribing to their services. What is actually happening is you are paying to see stolen, modified information. “But there’s a testimonial on the website from a casting director about how useful the service is!” Great. Only submit when you see that casting director’s breakdown listed on that website. That testimonial is a sure sign that that particular CD uses the service (or, at least that the CD did use it at one time) and your submissions to that person are welcomed (or at least somewhat anticipated). “But that CD only has commercial breakdowns. I want to do film!” Terrific. Use a zillion tips shared with you in columns, books, and free resources online about building your acting career. You’ll (through effort) eventually build toward making film work happen for yourself. I believe it! Submitting on stolen breakdowns to people who do not use the service you’re paying to use won’t get you anywhere.
If you’ve heard a random story that makes you feel differently (like, “So-and-so submitted on a stolen notice and got cast! He’s famous now!”), great. You’ve probably also seen people holding up giant checks when they win the lottery. Sure, lightning strikes. People win the big bucks. And somewhere, someone gets through the system using shady means. Legitimate work toward always bettering your craft and getting yourself seen beats out the one-in-a-million shot you’re hoping for any day. And remember, no one on the planet chooses to play the lottery FOR A LIVING. If you are serious about acting as a career choice, then you’d better be doing something more than buying (bogus) lottery tickets and throwing pennies in fountains. Sure, dreams come true. But usually, they do so as the result of buttloads of legitimate hard work.
Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/000256.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.