Friday, June 21, 2013

Non-Union Rates

I got a casting call email today for a prime-time network TV show filming in my city. They need female extras to play prostitutes. The project offers non-union pay rates that will be "at least minimum wage" with "overtime pay after eight hours." Extras must be available for twelve hour shifts with most scenes filming outside on these hot summer days.

I hope that real prostitutes don't have to work twelve hour shifts in summer heat, and that they make a whole lot more than minimum wage. (Naturally I wish that no one had to prostitute themselves or others.)

Though my visual merchandising job is no gem, I'll stick with it for the time being if this is the quality of acting work that my city has to offer now.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Overweight? Out of shape? Me?

I am a healthy weight. I go to the gym twice a week. I walk with my sweet dog for a mile and a half most nights. I am a vegetarian who rarely eats fast food or highly processed food. I wear a size 4 in most clothing brands.

Yet I was requested to audition for an overweight, out of shape, fast food customer for a Public Service Announcement about making healthier choices. Then I got a callback audition for the role.

I am offended to the core of my self-esteem. I work hard to stay in shape. I should be a walking PSA for making healthy choices; not the "before" picture.

Of course, if I don't book this role, I'll be further offended that I wasn't good enough, and won't at least earn a paycheck for my time, effort and humiliation of auditioning twice.

Being an actress is a mean, petty, soul-sucking business. And I'm a glutton for punishment.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Yes, I Get Paid

Sorry for the long radio silence. I've been busy.

Lately friends have asked to be informed about theatre shows I do which are open to the public. (Most theatre shows I do are private performances for corporate functions or wealthy peoples' parties.) I'm sheepish about inviting friends to shows for a number of reasons.

1. I don't pay to watch any of my friends work. My friends will be the first to admit it would be boring to watch them work. Most of them type on computers and sit in meetings to earn money. I did have a few friends who worked as "dancers" (a.k.a. strippers) over the years. One lovely lady invited me to a burlesque show in which she was performing. Yes, we were friends who had changed clothes in front of each other many times. No, I didn't want to see her doing sexy striptease.

2. I don't have the luxury of offering free tickets and/or free meals to my friends. These little theaters and big restaurants where I perform need to make money. You know, so they can pay rent, utilities and the actors.

3. Dinner Mystery and/or new stage works by emerging playwrights may not be everyone's cup of tea.

4. Live theater is a collaborative effort. I'm not sure exactly how it will turn out. Despite my best efforts, it may suck. That's part of what makes live performances exciting and fun.

5. Friends (okay, frenemies) have come to shows in the past and been bitchy.

Like that one frenemy who announced to the whole audience that she didn't feel like she was talking to my dim-witted character when the fourth wall came down for a bit of audience interaction, but like she was talking to someone smarter. I was in character, dangit! I was dropping a clue that Bambi (my character) had some still waters running deep. Though Bambi presented herself as a sweet airhead, she was actually a conniving murderer who masterminded a poisonous plot. Did this frenemy apologize later? Nope.

Then there was that other time, after a show when another frenemy saw a guy walk up and hand me a piece of paper. "Oh my gosh. Did that guy just slip you his phone number? I'm going to tell your husband!" No. That guy was the show's director handing me a paycheck. "Oh... wait... you get paid?" Yes, Dummy-Dearest. I get paid to do my job. It's not exactly like your job, but it is a job.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

When it Rains, It Pours on my Parade

A few months passed with no communication from my agent: a virtual career drought. I thought perhaps they lost my number, and felt okay about that. This week, already very busy with the part-time job I took that's actually beyond full-time, I booked three auditions. It's raining auditions!

I did well at the first audition, but felt the client wanted someone older-looking and more matronly than I am. Fine by me that I don't look like the mom of a teenager. I made a good connection with a casting group I'd not met previously.

The second audition of the week was booked for early in the morning. I'm not fond of mornings. I'm a total night-owl. My talent agent told me that the casting guy, who I like and think is reasonably nice, wouldn't say what the product for the commercial was, but that it was something to do with green energy, perhaps solar or wind power. Sure, I'll get up early on my day off from my other job to promote green energy! Imagine my surprise, no, my dismay, to arrive at the audition and discover that the product/service/energy option being pimped is coal. I spent two years living in West Virginia, and have actually toured a coal mine. I'm no fan of coal, and do not find it to be "green" in any way. My audition provided some cutting-room-floor fodder... accidentally on purpose. The fact that I sacrificed sleep to go to that waste-of-time upset me.

The third audition of the week was another commercial. I took an extra long lunch-break from my other job for the appointment. The commercial shoot sounds like it will be fun, if a bit sweaty in the summer outdoors. I'd love to book this, but am pretty sure they're looking for an actual family, rather than a random sampling of strangers who look like they could be related.

Anybody got an umbrella?

Friday, April 15, 2011

More of a Hobby

Most of the live/theater acting I do is either very well paid dinner mystery shows, very well paid team-building facilitation for corporations or not very well paid theater festivals. Occasionally the group I work with for the dinner mystery shows does performances that are open to the public at such... um, what's the opposite of prestigious, venues as Dave & Buster's or Spaghetti Warehouse. However, most shows are for private groups and are hosted in hotel ballrooms, historic bars, landmark restaurants, country clubs or even on a steam train.

In the past month, the group with which I work has had to cancel public shows due to lack of reservations and lack of interest. I'm not paid for the time I spent studying those two different scripts. Naturally, I'm not paid for shows not performed.

My income continues to fall. This acting thing continues to be less of a profession and more of an expensive hobby.

Where's some mailbox money (also known as "use of image" checks that arrive by mail) when I need it?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Act Naturally

The good news: I'm getting much more comfortable with commercial auditions, as long as I'm not told to give a big grin and hold it for no reason. I'm proud of my auditions lately.

The even better news: I've had a few call-backs.

Now the bad news: But I haven't booked a commercial since August.

The count-my-blessings: I've had lots of paying theater and game facilitator work over the past two months. Hooray for paychecks!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Pay to Play

I'm registered with four casting websites, because different casting agents like to use different sites. Each week I get emails from at least three of the four websites prompting me to activate the billing information and pay to have my information be more visible to clients of casting agents. My information is already visible to casting people at no charge to me. So, I really don't feel like paying to have my information more visible to their clients.

My talent agency wants $100 a year* to post my name, photo and a link to my acting résumé on the agency website. (This fee in addition to the 15% - 30% cut of each paycheck I earn from their bookings. They work for their cut of those checks, and I don't begrudge them that money.) *Please note that this fee is no guaranty of work.

This week I received an email directly from a casting director urging me (and countless other undisclosed recipients) to go to one of the casting websites to submit myself for a job. (I'm actually booked for one of the days the shoot would require, but thought I'd submit in the case that I could just work the other days.) Upon following the website link to submit myself for the job, I learned that I must either pay a monthly fee of $30* for unlimited submissions or a one-time fee of $5.00* per job submission. *Please note that this fee is no guaranty of work.

One of the casting websites sends out a monthly newsletter. A few months ago a column in the newsletter opined that it is unprofessional to complain about the expense of acting photos, job submissions and website fees. Of course one of the casting websites that wants $30 of my money each month would opine that I should pay them and not complain. I, on the other hand, opine that it is predatory to charge people to even apply to possibly audition for a job.

I'll just keep using the free features of these websites, thanks. And if the casting agent is professional, they won't make me pay to even submit myself for a job, because *please note that this fee is no guaranty of work.