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A Baker’s Dozen of ways to be dropped by your Agent

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As we are well into the peak busy season, it is time to do a check-up and check-in with our industry fellows! Your Agent(s) work endlessly to get you the best opportunities available, they need you to work alongside them in order to get you to where you aspire to be. 

The following are the TOP 13 ways for sure-fire failure


1. Not being available – this is the busy season, just as in retail where there are ‘black out’ days for vacation, the summer is the entertainment industry’s busiest season. Book your vacation for the winter when productions are slower. Be available when your competition is away; its a simple way to increase your success!

2. Not booking out – we understand that the summer months are the easiest time to be with your family – especially the kids. You MUST remember to inform your agent that you are unavailable. Forgetting not only hurts your reputation with casting, but your Agents as well.

3. Scheduling Conflicts – many actors have multiple bookings, wardrobe calls, auditions, and jobs that they are balancing. You must be diligent and painstakingly attentive to your schedule. Casting and Production do not look kindly on ‘oops, I forgot…’ Write everything down, AND have a back up if necessary!

4. Not adding to resume – Your acting resume is crucial. Not only does it show casting and their clients that you are capable of many different roles, it also serves as as reference for your Agent when submitting you to projects. It allows everyone to cross-reference for conflicts and helps avoid legal messes. ALWAYS update your resume as soon as you walk off set!

5. Showing up late – Traffic, construction, and delays are unavoidable. Tourists, sporting events, concerts, weather etc will all add to the mess on the roads. Leave AMPLE time to attend your auditions. NEVER show up to a booking or recall late! Casting emails and calls your Agent when you are late….it is very very unprofessional.

6. Disregarding advise – Your Agents career and livelihood is based upon their roster’s success. They would NEVER give you advise that was counter-intuitive. It is quite literally their job to know the ins and outs of the industry. They have been honing their skills for years, your Agent will only ever tell you how best to get ahead. Do NOT take other actors advise over your Agents. If actors knew best they would all be self represented!

NOT EVERY COACH WORKS FOR EVERY ACTOR DEPENDING ON YOUR LEVEL.NOT EVERY PHOTOGRAPHER IS A FIT FOR EVERY ACTOR DEPENDING ON YOUR ETHNICITY, AGE GROUP AND LEVEL.

7. Relying too much on others – You are self-employed. It is up to you to handle your business and associates with as much professionalism as any executive. You are the CEO of your career; learn as you go, ask for advice when needed but remember at the end of the day, it is up to you to take care of it. Google, learn, watch…whatever you have to do to increase your understanding of your industry.

8. Not investing in yourself – Acting classes, Coaches, self tapes, and industry qualified headshots are required of ALL actors. Not specifically all at once, but as you go. Being a part of a Principal Agency signifies that you are at the point in your career where this is no longer a hobby. You are expected to take yourself as seriously as you expect the rest of the industry to take you.
Your Agent can only rally for you as far as your materials will let them. How can you expect to be chosen for bigger and better projects if you have a weak profile, unprofessional self tapes, and/or a disorganized resume format? 

9. Treating the Casting room as a social gathering – An audition is a job interview, not a party. Please remember that the Casting Directors/Associates/Assistants are working. It is their job to be friendly and build relationships, just as it is your job to represent yourself and your agency to the best of your ability. DO NOT forget that you are being assessed for a potential job! No complaining about the wait (casting has been there 10x longer than you have), no discussing weekend plans in explicit detail….and no showing up unprepared!
Casting does not want to chit chat, they are busy!!! Do not use an audition as a time to try to get on a personal level with casting. They are not there to make friends, they are well aware of actors who try to kiss up, they want you to do what you are asked to do and leave.

10. Poor Communication – Communication is key. It is the only way that the relationship between Agent and Talent can work. It is the Agents duty to give all information as quickly and concisely as possible. It is the talents duty to read, re-read, apply said information and THEN ask questions. Always respond to emails sent to you in a timely manner. Within one hour (or less) is the optimal time frame, no later than end of business day. 

11. Self Absorbed – Its a harsh label, but … if the shoe fits? Actors must be aware of what is going on around them. Agents are not only handling your booking or your audition. They have many actors taking part in many projects with many questions. Do not bombard your agent with questions that you can easily figure out. Common sense goes a long way and is expected and abundantly appreciated!!

12. Training – At the risk of sounding redundant…train, train, and train some more!! Your Agent is not an acting coach. It is not an Agents job to teach you anything other than the basics of the industry. If you don’t know how to self tape, learn how!! Read, google, watch examples. If you don’t know how to do your resume, learn how!! Read, google, show initiative!!
How can an Agent get their actors in the room if they are busy teaching actors how to do resumes, how to use their iphone for self tapes, how to upload photos onto casting systems. Please do not take up your Agents time with things that you can do on your own….it only takes time away from getting you casting opportunities.

The actor/agent relationship must by symbiotic. Trust needs to be both ways. This way if you have to contact you Agent at 10pm, if there is an emergency, your Agent will actually answer. They know you are serious, they know you would not be contacting them for nothing, they trust you!!!

13. Protocol – All agencies have a set protocol. Rules and guidelines are put in place to help you and them be as efficient and as effective as possible. When actors are confused or have questions, here are the steps (in the exact order) of what an actor should do:

  • Read your audition/booking details again: 90% of the time all info is listed. Don’t just skim the email and jump to calling your Agent in the evening because you didn’t read your details thoroughly.
  • Email your Agent. It is not an emergency, nothing is on fire, send an email and give the Agent time to answer your question.
  • If you do not receive a reply and time is running out, call the office! It may be a simple question that Reception can answer.
  • Last resort, call the emergency after hours cell of your Agent. This is a last resort number, this is an “interrupt your Agent’s time with their family” number. Don’t get us wrong, we are on call to you and we are willing and able to deal with all emergencies at any hour!!! Please make sure it is an emergency is all we ask:)

Do’s and Don’ts of Casting

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You have an audition. Details are below, please confirm ASAP! Sound familiar? You have been selected out of hundreds of actors to audition for a specific role in a project. Congratulations!! Your agent has rallied on your behalf and gotten your foot in the door. The rest is up to you. 

Take note of the following Do’s and Don’ts to help you book your next project! This is directed to all newer actors but even our veterans should take a look.

DO’s

Do arrive 10-15 minutes early. 
Do have your lines memorized (‘off book’ is the industry term
Do be polite, & cheerful; the second you walk into the building you should be ‘on’. You never know who could be watching the receptionist could be the CDs aunt, or the director might look like a student!
Do respect their time
Do be aware of noise levels (be quiet)
Do understand your character
Do wear audition appropriate clothing (no loud patterns, no overtly large jewellery)
Do take direction (even if you don’t agree with it, sometimes the director is just looking to see if you can follow instructions)
Do contact your agent regarding anything casting related
Do know your stuff! Project name, character name, scene/story line

DON’T’s

Don’t give excuses, blame or complain. Traffic is always terrible, scripts are released when they are available to casting regardless of how much time you prefer to have.
Don’t treat the Director/Assistants as your besties. They’re working and so are you
Don’t arrive late; its unprofessional!
Don’t shake anyone’s hand that hasn’t offered it to you first, they see upwards of hundreds of people a day…that’s a lot of germs!
Don’t bring in props (unless specifically told to do so)
Don’t bring in multiple bags and bulky coats, leave them in the waiting room (or your car)
Don’t overact (keep your performance natural)
Don’t ever contact casting directly!! EVER! FOR ANY REASON!!!!!
Don’t schmooze, this is a job interview, not cocktail hour. Stay in character as there will be lots of time to get to know other actors on set.
Don’t attend if you know you are not available for filming or callbacks. This wastes castings time and increases your chances of never being auditioned again. With that being said, make sure to regret via your agent.
Don’t ask a million questions. It is an audition (job interview), not a workshop. Casting does not want to take their time explaining things to you other than the scene that they want you to act out. Asking a million questions only makes you appear un-knowledgeable and unseasoned. It paints a picture that production will have to field to many questions from you the day of the shoot which only drives them crazy! Your Agent will have specified everything important in the audition email. All other questions are irrelevant to the audition. i.e How do pay rates work? When will I know if I’m booked? All questions can be forwarded to your Agent after the audition.
Don’t ever recite your lines in a bizaar voice or accent that has not been requested. 
Don’t attempt to change their scene into something other than what is laid out in your script. If they wanted a British accent then it would be listed in your audition details.

Most of these guidelines are common sense, and that you already ‘know’ what to do/not to do….but sometimes a reminder can go a long way! 


COMMON INDUSTRY TERMS TO MAKE NOTE OF FOR NEWER ACTORS:


CONFLICTS: For busy actors that are consistently booking you must READ the conflicts listed in the breakdown when confirming your audition. You cannot shoot for Honda if you have just shot for Toyota etc. Conflicts are listed in the breakdown to ensure that actors are not booking competitive projects at the same time. McDonalds/Tim Hortons, RBC/CIBC, BMW/Audi etc. Your Agent also keeps track of these but sometimes a project was submitted too prior to a new booking for a competitor. At times there are also requests made by casting for actors who were NOT submitted to a project by the Agent.
HOLDS: Casting will often (but not always) ask for a hold on certain actors who have auditioned. This is not a firm booking, they are simply holding the actor until the client makes their final decision. Whichever casting agency has first hold has first dibs on booking you. If a second hold or booking comes in, whoever had first hold is asked by your Agent to firm up with a booking asap or lose you to another client.
RECALLS: Bigger projects will recall the actors that their client is interested in after the first audition is complete. A recall means you are in the final running. You should always wear the same or similar attire and do not change your audition strategy as casting obviously liked what you did at the initial audition. Try to attend with similar clothing, hair styles, beards, etc.
OFF BOOK: Means MEMORIZED. If script is supplied to you ahead of the audition, casting expects that you have memorized it. You are not to be reading it off the page, you are to know your lines!! If casting hands you a script 2 minutes before your audition or while in the room then this is referred to as a cold read. You can read from the paper, adding your own expression etc.
SOC: Silent on Camera, no lines.
PRINCIPAL or PP: You have script, or your character is one of the featured characters in the spot.
ACTRA/UDA/SAG/AFTRA: Union divisions: ACTRA: Toronto union, UDA: French Union, SAG/AFTRA: U.S Union
BUYOUTS/USAGE: When a breakdown specifies that there is a buyout offered in addition to the session pay rate, this is only paid to the actors that are still visible in the campaign when final edits are complete. They are the actors that are shown in the commercial that is airing. Buyouts usually arrive AFTER session rate cheques and are NOT guaranteed to every actor that shoots. Your Agent will inform you if you made the final edit as production will always request an invoice for the buyout separate from the initial filming invoice for all talent who have made the cut.EG. Session rate $500, Buyout $4000. You are only guaranteed the session rate. Buyout is the rate they pay to use your face!! If they are not using your face in the end then they are not paying you the buyout!!


Payment scenarios:


Union cheques: All cheques MUST for forwarded to your Agent so that we can keep track of airing cycles, correct amounts etc. Union cheques arrive with-in 30 days. They are quick and easy and do not require an invoice from us. An Agent authorization form is always sent to ACTRA from the talent instructing them to forward ALL mail to your agency i.e T4’s, cheques, letters etc.
Non Union Cheques: Non-union is referred to as the wild west for a reason. 30-60 days is the norm, however production can take up to 90 days if they want to be difficult. After the 90 day mark we start to harass them if we still haven’t received the cheque. Please keep in mind that we want our payment as much as you want yours…we are both in the same boat. If you haven’t received payment, then we haven’t received OUR payment. We are at the mercy of production. If they want to with-hold until the last minute, there is nobody there to stop them as the union has not sanctioned their project.Rest assured your Agent will work with the Casting Director (who often has not been paid either) to get the payments issued asap…we all have our ways to put fire under production if needed. 
Actors are notified by accounting when a cheque is being released, usually 5 business days after receipt to give it time to clear. Union cheques are released upon arrival as we allow our talent to cash their own Union cheques to save them HST