By Art Lynch
Actors are facing audience rapid change, truly international competition, the spread of production outside traditional production centers, and soon a boom in production and distribution methods, of use of our talents, that will make the last decade seem like one raindrop in a storm.
Actors are facing audience fragmentation at the same time of rapid digital growth in programming and distribution methods.
Because of this, and the number of non-trained actors willing to work for free or peanuts, the ability of actors to earn a living is slipping rapidly .
These are challenges similar to but in many ways far greater than the theater screen boom of the 1920's, Sound in the late 20's, Radio Theater, Television and even desktop computing.
Skipping or programs without commercials are the biggest future hit on actors income and ways of making a living. Improved home recording, lowering of standards of the audience and a continuing drive toward "real people" continue to undermine actors’ ability to earn a living. Your talent and image may be used, sampled, reused, abuses and used again on television, video, film, Internet as seen on televisions, phones, pads, laptops, desktops, in vehicles and soon on the watch you wear. Virtual reality is almost here.
What we call VR now is the infant read to start to learn and grow into what will impact actors in many ways. More takes, 360 degree photography, live interaction with users, doing plays or "films" live with actors who are on the other side of the globe, and yes, even less control of your image.
A feeling among "actors" of why study the craft, why take lessons, why practice and why prepare is lowering the opinion of producers, and their willingness to pay for our talents.
Meanwhile everyone has his or her hands out for your limited money. Casting seminars, Agents seminars, listings on-line, submissions online, photos, videos, networking and, yes, education and training, have all gone up in cost as real estate and cost of living increase for those providing the services (and of course greed). Lower residuals and use fees are a reality as well, since product is rushed through and the normal back-ends of syndication or return use of commercials dry up and disappear.
Digital Distribution, in the long run, will keep entertainment affordable but in doing so decrease actors’ long term income. Theater is booming, but fair pay Equity is struggling, with road companies (like most that hit the Smith Center) being non-union and thousands of houses across the country too small, too experimental or too remote for Actors Equity to organize. There are solutions.
One many of you will reject offhand. You should not, not if you wish to be paid on time, protected and have a career. That is to join the unions, SAG-AFTRA and Equity. If qualified talent such as yourself were only available through union contracts, then producers will find a way to pay union scale or above and work under contract. This has proven true too many times as they seek celebrities or seasoned talent.
Another is to refuse to work without pay. And with many anti, or non, or pre-union producers and directors, ask to be paid on the set the day you work. Collections are the most difficult part of being a non-union actor.
Do not do stunts unless you are trained to do that stunt, and only wit a qualified stunt director and some form of medic on hand. Know your rights as an employee, because that is what you are. If we all stood up for these, we would all be better off and could be a stronger part of the movement into new media and the new models for the industry. But as talent you need to work, keep up your skills and be part of new projects and new areas of production. It can be done without selling out.
There are union contracts that protect you even on the lowest budgeted film, web project, experimental project and acting opportunities. Producers need to be encouraged to use these contracts, and to use them as a template for their non-union talent as well. Some do not require direct pay. Actors can earn and find work even with audience fragmentation at the same time of rapid digital growth in programming and distribution methods. There are more parts and opportunities.
The trick is to be paid and grow your talents into a real income and a career. We need to address the number of non-trained actors willing to work for free or peanuts.
Not only do these actors or hobbyist keep the union from organizing a market, introducing the benefits of using union contracts to producers and directors, but they also lower our value to the bottom line. Actors, when under or not paid, become the expendable cattle simply the screen, who will bend over backwards and then more just to be on camera. Producers without money or those seeing only their own potential profits love you, as you help them move upward and onward with little or not benefit for your own career or pocketbook.
When these actors audition for Hollywood or New York Casting Directors, Directors or Producers, proudly showing their resumes’ populated with ultra low budget local credits and background work, their caliber of audition and lack of knowledge of what the industry is really like, only serve to harm the next actor who comes in to audition. Very quickly those in the audition decision making process begin to populate roles with actors they already know or have worked with, gladly adding the small travel and per-diem to the experienced out of town actors cost to the bottom line.
The best bet for younger talent is to go to college, preferably a college where your degree will make you connections and land you auditions (many stars have gone Yale, Harvard, NYU, UCLA, Northwestern, Wisconsin and other schools with internationally known film and television programs. Audition and work while you are in school, do student and low budget films and above all, graduate.
For everyone else it is to study.
Get the skills under your belt. Take your time. Invest in your craft at a pace you can afford. Save up for the high cost of living in LA, NYC. Consider going where there is production (Hawaii, New Orleans, New Mexico, Atlanta, Chicago) to get some strong full union budget film and television under your belt.
At Lynch Coaching we offer audition practice almost every session. In doing so we work on your skills, talents, ability and mastery of craft starting at the level you come in at.
Our local reputation is for beginners, but that is not entirely true as we have working actors, actors returning to chisel the rust off, and via Skype or FaceTime, working actors preparing for auditions or on the set in LA and elsewhere. We also work with Scott Rogers of SRS in Portland and Honolulu. Scott coaches for major studios, major celebrities and actors ready to launch their careers. He is a member of multiple acting and entertainment unions and is active with myself on the National Board of Directors of the Screen Actors Guild
. Feel free to call…just to talk.
We are here for you.
Art Lynch Coaching / Art Lynch Acting Studio