The nitty gritty details pt. 2

There’s a tricky caveat in buyouts.  In each contract, you are guaranteed the session and wardrobe fee, but the buyout is upon the condition that they choose your spot to air.  So, you do all the work regardless, and if they decide when they’re editing the spot that they don’t want to use what you did, you don’t get paid.  Now, this is generally not a problem because if they’re going to the time and expense to shoot the thing, they’re likely going to use it.  However, in the past year, I’ve now had 4 commercials that have not aired my spot.  Yikes.  First time for me.

Several of them weren’t too big of an issue because they weren’t paying that much at the outset, or were union, so they paid a bunch of other checks like holding fees, etc.  But then there was the whopper.  This job I was pretty excited to book, because, all in, I expected anywhere from $8-$9,000.  This is a pretty chunk of change.  Let’s take a trip to the job process itself.

Day one: the audition.  There was a ton of copy for this audition, but I felt like I nailed it and showed my skills well.

Day two: this was the callback with the director.  They were foreign (not abnormal) and liked what I did, having me do every last bit of copy, so I was in the room for a good 10 minutes.

Then I got a call from my agent a day or 2 later saying I booked it and letting me know about all the monies that would be made- $600 session fee per day (likely on set 2 days), behind the scenes footage $750, fitting $84, $2500 print, and $5000 buyout.  Very nice payday.

When I arrived for my least favorite part, the fitting, I sat in a chair in a lobby for 5-6 hours waiting to be seen.  There were a ton of people running around chaotically, fitting other actors, talking over production, etc.  It struck me as pretty disorganized when the 2nd AD couldn’t find my role on the callsheet.

The day of the shoot I arrived early in the morning to yet another chaotic scene- people rushing around trying to figure out what happened next- shooting going on in one part of the location and pictures going on in another.  It was a huge crew and a lot of extras and actors were on set.  I was told they wouldn’t be ready for me for awhile, so I went through hair and makeup and wardrobe and got approvals and then worked on my scenes for acting class that night while I waited…and waited…and waited.  2 hours later they called me to location where they took about 10 photos of me that they had taken of another actor just prior.  Then I got ushered down to wait some more.  30 minutes later I was rushed back to set and told to wait in a chair while they got ready for my shot on camera.  They filmed another actor while I watched on the viewing screen.  She was doing the lines and scene that I was cast to do.  I assumed they wanted something else of me.  So I waited.  And waited.  Until they said they wouldn’t be shooting me and took me back to holding.  A half hour later I was rushed to another location where they took some more pictures of me with some other actors.  Everyone was rushing around and didn’t seem to have things organized with this huge production.

I was ushered back to holding where I waited a bit longer only to have the 2nd AD tell me that he was sorry but they wouldn’t be getting to my shot.  They were wrapping for lunch and then moving to another location, but they would be calling me to do a Voice Over session later in the week.  So, I guess I was only needed for one day of shooting, and they never got to my shot, and decided not to get it?  And now I am going to do voice over?  Not at all what I was expecting.  I had lunch and went straight to acting class.

2 months later, I’ve checked online and they aren’t using any of the still shots they took of me, but they are airing the footage they shot with the other actor saying the lines I thought I would be shooting.  They never called me in for voice over, and to date, I have received:

$547.18

And I think that’s all I’ll get.  The session fee+wardrobe fitting- agent commission.  So what was expected to be $9,000 is now a paltry percentage.  Though I auditioned, got called back, booked the job and was on set for the shoot, it’s almost as if I didn’t book that job.  Nothing I can do about that.  Just one of the many intricacies of a very unstable business.

The nitty gritty details

Once again I am here to peel back the velvet curtain on the inside workings of the actor business.  Many of my readers (AKA my family) are in professions so far removed from the acting world that there is no reason they would have any inkling of the private details of a very public job.  I shall do my best to be candid and clear so you might have a better idea than you did before of how things work.  To see more like this, I direct you to this post, and this one.

I get paid a lot for what I do.  Let’s just get that out in the open.  I am by no means saying that I deserve the rates I command, but this is what people pay me, so this is what I deposit in my account.  Acting jobs are few and far in between, so a higher paycheck is needed to make it at all appealing to actors.  Also, with commercials, I am more than aware of how much money these companies are bringing in with these ad campaigns, and I am a part of that cash cow.  I’ve long stopped feeling guilty for how much I make.

There.  Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk numbers.  I work everyday.  365 days out of the year.  That work looks different depending on the day, but it’s work nonetheless.  Most of my work is trying to get a paying job.  So most of my work is volunteer.  Therefore, when I book the 10 gigs out of the 66 I auditioned for (last years numbers) those each need to pay a nice chunk to make up for the 56 gigs I did not get paid for and the work that I likewise saw no income from.

Here’s how an actors paycheck gets broken down.  Note: these are my averages, not everyone’s.  Some are lower or higher.

Wardrobe fee: $84 You are paid this to come in and try on a bunch of clothes, get pics taken and have people decide what you’ll wear for the shoot.  Usually an hour or so.  My least favorite part of a gig.

Session fee: This is what you’re paid for the day.  Usually $500.

Buyout: This is the big money.  With a union job they have to pay you forever if they use it forever.  You are paid for every use.  In non-union work, they just pay a buyout which entitles them to use it as much as they want, for either a specified time, or in perpetuity (I try not to do in perpetuity anymore, because then I have commercials running for 6 years+ that I was paid $350 for, once ever.  See this.)  Usually it’s for 1-2 years.  Buyouts for me are anywhere from $1500-$20,000, depending on the job, but generally averaging $3000.

Commission: My agent gets 10-20% of every check I get, no matter if I found the job and got it myself, or they sent me out for it.

This leaves me with an average pay of $3,000 per job.  For each job, I work 4 days.  1-audition 2-callback 3-fitting 4-shoot.

Tune in next week when I break down an unfortunate circumstance in buyouts that happened recently to me.

 

Know where you came from

This is a hard one for me.  Because of my pride, I like to think that everything I’ve done, and all that I’ve experienced is due to my own effort, and mine alone.  The hard core individualist within me cries out for sole ownership of any venture I take on, assuming that my hard work entitles me to a 200% share in everything.

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Last week I watched a very well made film, Suffragette, which told the story of the women who championed the female vote in England in the early 20th century.  It painted a very bleak picture not only of working class London, but also of the struggle for equal rights that women from the most poverty stricken to the upper class were shouldered with.  One doesn’t have to imagine too far back to a time in America when as a female you didn’t have a right to vote or hold property or to certain jobs.  Yet as a mid-30’s female, who grew up in the mid 80’s and 90’s, I can say I have never shouldered that burden.  I have never even considered the alternative to what I have.

It’s easy to forget those who have gone before you because of our myopic view of time.  It’s because of those women who risked and even lost their lives for a cause they believed in, that I could easily stroll over to the park last week and vote in our municipal elections.  It’s because of people like my mom (don’t tell her I wrote this) that I have absolutely no glass ceiling on my dreams of being whatever the hell I want to.  It hasn’t always been this way.  And it won’t always be this way.  Know where you came from and who made that possible, but also pave the way for those after you to know an even better tomorrow.

Happy and Excited

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I got to go to NYC for my birthday.  I’m going to say that again, because, for me, that was a really big deal.  I got to go to NYC  for my birthday!  You see, even though I’m a huge musical theatre fan and most actors have been to New York, I’ve not.  So this was a big deal for me.  To make it an even bigger deal, we saw Waitress, my Broadway obsession.  That’s right, for my very first Broadway show, I got to see my favorite.  How lucky am I?

Seeing the theatres and the lights and the posters was exciting enough.  Walking through Central Park was breezy and lovely.  But when that curtain rose and the familiar music began playing, I was enraptured beyond belief.  At the edge of my seat, I took in every syllable, each movement and character and drank it in.  Tears streamed down my face as the lead sang her heart out in my favorite song of the show.  I was surprised, delighted, humored, and moved by it all.

After the show was over and I was beaming with joy, I couldn’t help but think how I would have missed out if I hadn’t allowed myself to be transported.  If I had come in as a critic rather than an eager audience member longing to be taken on a ride, I couldn’t have experienced it the way I did.  This will forever be the first Broadway show I ever saw.  In the future, maybe I will be more jaded and critical.  But for now, I will be in love with this show and all that I experienced, and that memory can’t be changed.  Thank you NYC!  You treated this birthday girl right.

Don’t be that guy

Is there anything worse than that person who says stuff like “I’m way more talented and I should’ve gotten the role, but <insert the name of the person who did get it> knows the director personally/has done a show there before/has TV credits so they have more star power”.  Hi.  I’m Brittany, and I’m that guy.

I auditioned for a new musical last month.  I felt pretty good about it.  They had me sing 2 songs, so they must’ve liked the first, then had me stay to do a scene, which must’ve meant they wanted to see more, and then asked me to the dance callback later that night, which must’ve meant they liked me.  I performed well in all of them, and felt pretty confident at the end and throughout.  And then, nothing.  Not an email, not a call.  Nothing.

I had mostly moved on and let it go until today.  While doing my work, I decided I’d look up the theatre and see who was cast.  And….And…research them to see why they might have gotten the part.  Well, this girl is clearly not a great singer.  I’m way better.  I remember this girl at the dance callback.  Her voice is ALRIGHT, but her dancing was atrocious.  That girl?  Huh.  Can’t really find much about her, but she’s done a bunch of theater out here, so they must’ve thought her experience counted for more than her talent, of which I obviously have more of.  Ugh.  Right?  I’m grossed out just thinking about my thinking.  I’m all for not falling into a pit of despair everytime I don’t get cast, but the trouble with this way of thinking is it’s all things I can’t control.  That’s why it’s harmful.  If I said ‘she’s a much better singer than me’, then that means that if I really want to succeed, I better get my butt into some voice lessons and get better.  It’s like the person who wants to lose weight, but cancels their run everytime because it’s rainy or they’re feeling under the weather, or something came up.

A far healthier response would be for me to take responsibility.  If I really did do my best, and it was to no result, then either I’m not as talented as I think (God forbid!) or I am in a shitty career that isn’t based on who is best for the job (duh).

When I’m in the woodshop, building furniture, problems inevitably creep in.  One of the recurring issues is splitting wood.  Happens all the time.  This is usually due to 1 of 2 things: 1. I always buy the cheapest wood possible at Home Depot.  If I spent $4 more per board, Id get better results. 2. I was rushing and drove the screw in too fast.  Sometimes, it’s both.  But if I really want to eliminate the problem, I’d take my time, check for square, and buy better wood.  Even then, sometimes the wood still splits.  Because it’s wood and you can’t fully control how it will react.  In the end, however, it’s simply not worth it to me to spend more to get better wood.

So, I’m left with this.  Though I love musicals and I would dearly like to be in one right now, it is simply not worth it to me to fully invest my time and money in pursuit of them.  So, it’s still possible that I could get cast in one, and I will continue to pursue them, but it’s of no use to compare myself to the other people who are busting their tail off to get these roles.  Don’t be that guy.  Don’t be me.

Not fitting in

I can recall very few instances in my life where I felt as though I “fit in”.  This could be partially due to my contrary nature- for unknown reasons, my strong inclination is to do the opposite of whatever is being done- or perhaps I haven’t found my true ‘tribe’ yet.  At a beer commercial audition yesterday (note, I do NOT go for these commercials- they are a younger demographic) I was surrounded by young 20’s actors, and we were asked to talk about our favorite bonfire or music festival experiences.  I smiled and nodded as one by one they named off Lollapalooza, Coachella, and rattled on about a drum circle they were a part of on Venice Beach.  When it came to me, I was, for once, out of words.  The last bonfire I was a part of was youth camp in Texas in 1997.  One of these things is not like the other.  I’ll let you guess who.

After, I was asked to go to my agents office to pick up tax info.  As I opened the sleek doors, the big screen TV was playing some movie I never cared to watch, and the stereo system was blaring euro-pop music.  With my ears bleeding, I walked up to reception and shouted “I’m here for my tax forms”.  Mostly I wanted to berate them for making me drive an hour to pick up something they very well could have placed a stamp on, but instead I smiled and asked his name before shout thanking him and walking out in my mom attire.  I’m in good with this agency, but boy, do I not fit in.

Perhaps I would fit in with a more spiritual crowd, you might say.  Nay, I say, that’s been tried as well.  A few years back I attended a creatives spiritual retreat.  I like to describe it as artists hopped up on Jesus.  That’s totally me, right??!  I was very excited to go to the sessions and learn about songwriting, and come away from the weekend with a renewed connection between my creativity and my spirituality.  While the weekend was successful in that sense, the camaraderie was non-existent.  Why?  Well, I’ll tell you.  I don’t speak hipster.  Between the big glasses and hanging pod sofas I was wandering around, hoping to find genuine, connected conversation.  Instead I found a drum circle and dreadlocks.(what is it with drum circles?)  Again, square peg, round hole.

Sometimes I think it might be nice to find innate comfort and belonging within a group.  But then I remind myself that comfort leads to stifled creativity.  If I fit in with everyone around me and no nettles pricking my body, I wouldn’t have the same opportunity to observe.  To study.  To find stories and tell them.  So, this me that is not like the other will go on not fitting in.  And live to tell a good story about it.

No one owes you a damn thing

I heard something I needed to this morning.  Walking my new dog, Scout, I was listening to a Rob Bell podcast titled ‘I may vacuum out my car tomorrow‘.  In it, Bell talks about starting new ventures and creations and failing.  I know I’ve heard these ideas iterated a million times by others, and recently in Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic, but it’s a lesson I can’t seem to learn.  I have to be told again and again and again.

Bell says that in his experience, only 1 out of 10 ventures will go on to success.  He’s got multiple books sitting on his computer that aren’t meant to be published.  He did the work anyways, because one more failure just brings you closer to that 1 in 10.  The part that most resonated with me that he spoke about was not waiting for any kind of money or opportunity to create.  Just pull out your phone, go in your backyard and make it.  Doing a DIY cheap version of your idea first is the best way to create.  Why on earth would someone back an untried idea that you have- who do you think you are?

No one owes you a damn thing.

I may be (in my mind) quite talented, driven, and ready for success.  But so are countless others.  To expect anyone to invest in me, most especially without having gone out on my own to prove what I can do, is, at best, naive.  At worst, hyper-narcissistic.  I have made my own work in the past.  I usually don’t wait on someone else to invest in me or hand me anything to create.  But I do feel a wall of resistance in not having a theatrical agent.  I’ve tried countless times, but that wall just doesn’t want to fall.  I tend to look at it as a stumbling block to my success.  If I believe the above to be true, though, I have no excuse for not creating every moment that’s available to me.  So, 2017.  Let’s create.  I’m excited to see what happens.