Last week’s column on the need for providing your contact information brought quite a bit of email about the downside to being so very reachable: the safety issue. You’ve heard horror stories about identity theft, stalking, and the less-serious issue of simply having strangers all up in your business. So, you guard your personal information carefully. I’d like to address that, as well as a few other issues of safety facing actors every day.
Know Who You’re Dealing With
Obviously, you should protect yourself by submitting on projects with principals who have a confirmable track-record in the industry. IMDb, the CD Directory, and the trades are your first resources for getting background information on producers, directors, writers, and casting directors involved with any project. First-time filmmakers may be tough to track, but they should have someone on their team who has a verifiable background in the industry. If you’re dealing with student films, however, you’ll have to be a little more resourceful. Ask for filmmakers’ professors’ names and the titles of the courses they’re taking. If you’re met with resistance, when you ask for such information, consider that a red flag.
Never attend an audition at a residence. You should know that Backstage and Breakdowns’ Actors Access both have policies against running the audition notices of parties who are known to hold auditions in private homes (as well as any “producers” who are reportedly conducting shady auditions of any kind). You should verify that any other source for audition information is also doing due diligence to prevent its customers from encountering potentially dangerous situations (and, if the owners of that audition information source aren’t watching your back, that’s another round of research you’re going to have to do, on every breakdown you see at their service).
If you keep a record of audition experiences using Holdon Log or even in your own notebook, be sure to indicate producers who made your “spidey sense” tingle, and watch out for their future breakdowns, so that you don’t inadvertently get into trouble. Consider posting warnings on Internet forums for actors that allow for anonymous postings. Obviously, there’s more accountability at web-boards that require real-name posting, but there’s also the issue of industry retaliation for speaking your mind, so consider all of that (both when you post warnings or ask for confirmation about those suspicions you may be having).
Share Just Enough of the Right Information
As a manager friend shared with me for the next edition of Self-Management for Actors, there are certain rules of the sign-in sheet that all actors should follow. “They aren’t sending you a paycheck, so don’t sign in with your Social Security number. They aren’t sending you a birthday card, so don’t sign in with your mailing address. However, they could be calling you on Sunday night at midnight with an 8am callback for Monday, so do sign in with your phone numbers (not just your agent’s numbers).” Absolutely true! Until you’ve been hired, no one needs your Social Security number or mailing address on a sign-in sheet or a size card. In fact, some actors decline to even provide their SAG numbers on sign-in sheets. Anything you leave off, just write in “on file” or “available upon hire.” It won’t hurt our feelings and until you have been cast, it’s really true–we only need your contact information (and by that, I mean phone, email, agent and/or manager info).
When you’re submitting on a project by mail, use your agent’s address as your return address on the envelope or get a Post Office Box and always use that address. Never put your Social Security number on your resumé. Certainly, we need age information for young actors (and yes, the date of birth is very useful in many casting scenarios, since it can make a difference in how long we can keep you on set and we may not have any way of knowing how old the resumé we have on file is), but consider noting something like, “Age: 12 as of December 2005.” That gets us “close enough” to knowing your true age, based on when we’re looking at the resumé, and protects your actual date of birth, which certainly helps scammers with that whole identity theft thing!
I always recommend that you keep one, never-changing phone number for industry work. This can be a pager number, answering service, or your cell phone — but I don’t recommend you use your home phone number, nor your cell number if you are one of those folks who seems to constantly change numbers (for whatever reason: moving, losing your phone, not paying the bill regularly, giving your number to too many psychos, etc.). By having one, regular number for industry calls, you can assume that, no matter what version of your resumé we have (and whether you’ve changed agents and managers several times since we last received your resumé), we can still track you down easily. By using your cell phone or a service number of some kind, you also prevent the “bad guys” from being able to trace your number to your residence. That’s an added layer of safety, of course.
Communicate Your Timeline
Just as you’d never go on a blind date without letting one of your friends know where you’re headed, who you’re meeting, and what time you’ll be calling to check in “safe,” you shouldn’t go to an audition at a location with which you’re not familiar or with a producer whose track record is unverifiable without first leaving a trail of breadcrumbs. We’ve all heard horror stories about actors or models who’ve agreed to meet up with photographers only to go missing (or worse). I’m not saying that giving out information about your whereabouts can prevent such things from happening, but certainly you will have someone hot on your trail with information about your last-known destination sooner if you’ve fallen prey to someone posing as a producer or photographer.
Fun fact: When I met my husband in person for the first time (after traveling out of state alone to do so), I had given my three best girlfriends all of his pertinent information and also shared check-in times with each of them. If I didn’t call each of them with the “all clear” message within an hour of the assigned times, they were to execute an extraction plan! We even had a “code word” that I could say, if I were being “allowed” to make calls but wasn’t alone to speak freely about my situation. Sure, you could say that taking such precautions takes all the romance out of a situation, but you couldn’t say that to someone who ended up dead because they didn’t take precautions when they should have! Absolutely, you won’t be going to such extremes, but just the same, if something in your research threw up a red flag, either take a friend with you to the audition, have a plan for checking in with a friend or family member when you finish up, or simply decline the invitation to meet. There will always be others!
You are an artist with intuitive instincts for a reason. Yes, some of those instincts are there to help you with your creativity. Others are there to keep you safe while you do your job!
Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/000301.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.