Posts tagged #talent

So, You Wanna Be A Member Of SAG?

A SAG award.

A SAG award.

Becoming a member of SAG is a major goal for many professional film actors - outside of winning a fancy award and crying onstage about how much everyone really likes you, of course. Potential bragging rights aside, the benefits of being a member are pretty crucial: health and pension, workshops, endless resources, and, of course, SAG Awards voting privileges, among many other valuable perks.

Whether you're actively seeking membership or you’re just curious as to what it all looks like (and costs), here’s what you should know about the process:

To be a member of SAG, you must qualify to be a member of SAG.

So, no, you can’t just be an actor with a checkbook and a dream. Don’t get me wrong — those are lovely things to have. But in order to make the cut, you’ll have to provide proof you’ve completed at least three days of work as a background actor under a SAG-AFTRA agreement or have been an active member of another union, such as ACTRA, for minimum one year.

What does said proof look like? Glad you asked, my friend. Proof can come in the form of pay stubs or proof of employment printed out from the payroll company responsible for whatever project(s) you worked on that states your name, social security number, the name of the production company, the title of the production, the salary paid in dollar amount, and the specific date(s) worked. Mail it all to the address listed on their site, and wait for them to say you’re good to go.

And don’t you dare stretch the truth, Lie-sa Minnelli

It’s going to be tempting to do whatever you can to into SAG so you can go after all those parts you want right away. But you might want to read this little bit of info on SAG’s site before making any bold moves: “While it is your responsibility to ascertain the validity of your qualifying employment, the Union will be the sole arbiter in determining whether the employer was legitimate or bogus, and whether the qualifying employment which you performed was actual production work ,or work created solely to enable you to gain Union membership. Please be aware that false representation or deception on your part will jeopardize your chances to join SAG-AFTRA.”

So, as with any audition, you must do your due diligence first. And if that doesn’t scare you off, great! This next part hopefully won’t, either…

Pay up or hush up

You can’t become a member of SAG without dropping some serious cash: a whopping $3K of your hard-earned dollars, to be exact. You’ll need to be able to cover the initiation fee plus the first semi-annual basic dues. These fees may be lower depending on what area you live in, and the annual base dues are $201.96, along with the work dues which are a percentage (1.575%) of what you earn.

Still confused? There’s an orientation for that.


There’s a lot of info to digest, from the benefits to the tools and the fees and beyond. SAG is aware of how confusing the process can be, and that’s why they hold optional orientations so new members can have all their questions answered and their concerns addressed. It’s never a bad idea to research what you’re getting into before dropping a ton of cash on a commitment, and that same bit of advice will serve you prior to your wedding day or your first time buying a car, too! Good luck!

A Few Famous Actors’ Strange Early Roles

Ever been watching a random show and thought to yourself, “Wait, was that…?” Maybe you hit rewind, paused, and hopped onto IMDb for a quick scroll through a famous actor’s career highlights, and then saw it. Yep! That amazing actor you love was totally that weird unnamed cameo in the background of a show you used to watch with your mom when you stayed home sick from school, or that goofy sci-fi movie you’re not sure anybody ever paid to see in the first place. Well, everyone has to start somewhere! Some of those somewheres just happen to be pretty strange. Here are a few “Huh?”’s from some of today’s box office favorites!

Jennifer Lawrence - Monk - “Mr. Monk and the Big Game" (Season 5 Episode 3, 2006)

Jennifer Lawrence in  Monk .

Jennifer Lawrence in Monk.

Before embodying her fierce characters Mystique and Katniss, JLaw’s filmography was decidedly…fluffier. I’d be lion (wink wink) if I didn’t say I was surprised to see a young Jennifer pumping up the auditorium as a school mascot in this episode of Monk with Tony Shalhoub.

Quentin Tarantino - Golden Girls - “Sophia’s Wedding Part 1” (Season 4 Episode 6, 1988)

Quentin Tarantino in  Golden Girls.

Quentin Tarantino in Golden Girls.

None of Tarantino’s signature artistic gore or carefully curated soundtrack here - just everyone’s favorite senior ladies from the lanai enjoying matriarch Sophia Petrillo’s wedding and a very familiar-faced Elvis impersonator. Thank goodness this wedding turned out better than Tarantino’s other Bride’s!

Jason Segel - Can't Hardly Wait, 1998

Jason Segel in  Can’t Hardly Wait.

Jason Segel in Can’t Hardly Wait.

Ah, the 90s, where teen flicks ruled the theaters. Can’t Hardly Wait features several young attractive teenagers vying for their chance to have the ultimate high school graduation party. It also features Jason Segel as Watermelon Guy, where we’re treated to a short scene of the now-famous actor, well, eating watermelon.


Kristen Stewart - The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas, 2000

Kristen Stewart in  The Flintstones in Viva Las Vegas.

Kristen Stewart in The Flintstones in Viva Las Vegas.

Your eyes will be brontosore (get it?) squinting to catch Kristin Stewart’s tiny cameo as “Ring Toss Girl” at a carnival game in The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas, but you’ll be glad once you yabba dabba did!


Patrick Dempsey - The Stuff, 1985

Patricky Dempsey in  The Stuff

Patricky Dempsey in The Stuff

If you’ve ever thought a movie about ice cream would make for a great horror plot, you might need to talk to your doctor about lactose intolerance. Nevertheless, this satirical dairy disaster gave the world a gift when it cast a young Patrick Dempsey as the delightfully-named “Underground Stuff Buyer #2.” Paging Doctor McCreamy!

So there you have it! Remember next time you’re gearing up for that audition as “Man in Post Office Line #4” or “Unnamed Janitor with Mop” you may just be on the brink of superstardom, too!

Posted on March 25, 2019 and filed under Celebrities.

The Best Talent Agents in Atlanta for Kids

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If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times - while Atlanta is a growing market, it’s not necessarily the booming mecca for roles that actors seem to think it is. Films and TV shows still do the majority of their casting for lead roles out of Los Angeles. Atlanta actors have an uphill battle when it comes to achieving their goals, and even those in LA generally have to work a long, long time before getting their big break - if that ever even happens.

But do not despair! Life has a funny way of working itself out, if you work hard and are persistent and focused in what you want to achieve. If your kid wants to be an actor, don’t discourage his or her dreams - foster them! And they CAN get an agent that will help them land commercial and film roles. In fact, I recommend submitting their headshots as soon as possible, even if they don’t have a resume - yet.

Here are the top kids talent agencies in Atlanta:

Atlanta Models & Talent

This Atlanta-based agency starts accepting talent submissions for kids as young as 4 years old, who have had some experience with performance. Kids under 17 do not need an extensive resume to submit. I always advise the parents of the students I teach to have their kids film themselves performing a comedic and dramatic film monologue(s) as well as a comedic and dramatic film scene(s) in-house at Studio27 Talent; obviously, they’ll need a reader, but this is a good way to work around not having a reel or a lot of work on your resume. That way, you can throw those scenes and monologues together into a “reel,” and use it to submit for projects, agencies, and management companies. Studio27 rates for tapings are industry standard. And trust me - you need to have some good-looking tapings in your actors’ toolbox! They will come in handy.

AM&T has placed their talent in film and TV shows like: Atlanta (S2), Ant-Man & the Wasp, Cloak & Dagger, Black Lightning, Dynasty, I, Tonya, Insatiable, and many more!

East Coast Talent Agency

East Coast Talent is the agency of Chandler Riggs, who played Carl on The Walking Dead. Their talent can be seen on, among other films, shows, and commercials: Powers, ESPN, One Tree Hills, Eastbound and Down, Devious Maids, Golden Corral, etc. ECTA also accepts kid submissions starting at 4 years old. You do not have to have professional headshots before submitting (though I would recommend it!), but you do have to get them within three months of signing a contract with ECTA.

J Pervis Talent Agency

With branches in NYC, LA, and Atlanta, J Pervis is the recognizable name in talent in the South. It is, however, a huge agency, so if you think your child will thrive in a more boutique agency, I would look to something smaller, at least to start out, so your kid can have individualized attention.

That said, J Pervis is now only accepting submissions via industry referrals only - meaning, your kid needs to have some clout before attempting a spot with this agency.

People Store

My husband used to work in a commercial agency, and when I mentioned getting our three-year-old a potential Atlanta agent, the first words out of his mouth were, “It needs to be a legit one, like People Store.” People Store is known as one of the top agencies in Atlanta, and it’s not as big as J Pervis, so you have more of a boutique feel while still maintaining legitimacy. People Store talent have worked in: Baby Driver, Get Out, Hidden Figures, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Lore, Mindhunter, and more.

Houghton Talent

Houghton is another agency with great reviews - clients call it “an all-around stellar agency!” It also accepts baby and toddler submissions, so +1 to Houghton over the others for that alone. Additionally, Houghton represents dancers, makeup artists, musicians, families, and other entertainers. Houghton has a good reputation in Atlanta, and it’s a nice, smaller agency that can really get your kids’ feet wet in this business!

The Bell Agency

Shanon Bell and her husband are the founders and owners of this agency, which specializes in being agents for kids - however, they do have a teen and adult division as well! They’re good agents, and get their talent auditions that they wouldn’t otherwise obtain through the usual self-submission process. They also specialize in “baby wrangling” for photographers!

Who is your talent agent in Atlanta? What do you love or wish they would improve? Let us know in the comments!

Three Quick Ways to Uniquely Brand Yourself As an Actor

Actor and Super-Good-At-Social-Media-Guy, Ryan Reynolds

Actor and Super-Good-At-Social-Media-Guy, Ryan Reynolds

We have talked about branding yourself as an actor quite a bit on this blog, and there’s a reason for it: times have changed. Gone (mostly) are the days when actors simply audition for a role and get cast. While that may still be the case in the theatrical world, in the entertainment industry, casting directors are looking more and more closely at an actor’s social presence - meaning, they’re literally Facebook-stalking you.

So, how do you combat this admittedly aggravating tendency of CDs to view your life online? Well, you can’t, unless you go completely off the grid, which is ill-advised. Instead, you can manage your social media presence professionally without losing your personality - here’s how:

Remember Who You Are

Okay, yes, you are a brand, and you are “selling yourself” as an actor - but that doesn’t make you a sell out. Figure out what your niche is and your brand, and clearly define yourself as such. Do you play a lot of “mom” roles? Are you a hipster? A jock? Whatever it is, make sure your website, headshots, and reel reflect your ability to carry those roles. Now, if you typically play a jock, but you’re a real-life bookworm - all the better! Casting directors are looking for unique takes on characters - and who doesn’t love a classic, all-American-good-looking-jock-who-turns-out-to-be-a-smarty-pants love story? I know I do - I watched Sierra Burgess is a Loser and To All the Boys I Loved Before (both on Netflix) in a weekend!

Get Over Your Hatred Of Social Media

Look, I get it - we all secretly or not-so-secretly hate social media, but as an actor, it’s pretty much a necessity nowadays. Again, it doesn’t mean you have to lose sight of who you are! Limit yourself to only 30 minutes of social media daily, if you have to - it’ll likely improve your mental health, too, to place restrictions on your usage. Go through your friends posts, like them, comment on them, do “organic outreach” - you know, the usual. And here’s a little secret: everyone buys Instagram followers these days, even those famous Jenner girls (don’t believe me? I’ve got a timeshare to sell you!). There are affordable options to buying followers, and there’s nothing illegal about it. You can also hire freelance social media managers to manage your actors’ accounts, so you don’t even have to bother with it, other than providing photos and approving posts. Figure out what you have the budget to do, and go for it!

Be Nice

It seems like a ridiculous suggestion but being likable feeds into being memorable, and it goes a long way in this industry. You won’t be rewarded for having an ego when you’re starting at the bottom; plus, it’s just good life practice to not step on people on your way to the top. You never know who’s going to get to the rich and famous part of the gig before you do!

What are some ways you’ve learned to brand yourself? Let us know in the comments!

LA vs. Atlanta: Which Film Hub is Right For You?

The Los Angeles skyline.

The Los Angeles skyline.

There's a lot of talk now about how Atlanta is the "Hollywood of the South"; in fact, we now have our own nickname: ATLwood. So many big budget movies and film studios are out here now, namely: Pinewood Atlanta Studios (located right down the road from Studio 27), where films like Ant-Man and the Wasp, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 were filmed; Eagle Rock Studios Atlanta (where Devious Maids was filmed for Lifetime), and EUE Screen Gems Studios, where Black PantherFlight, Insurgent, and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay were all filmed. It makes sense that films are flocking to the A to not only get those tax credits, but so are talent and crew. But whether you're from Georgia or not, does it make sense to dive into the largest film market in America, i.e. Los Angeles, or should you start out small[er] in Atlanta?

Let's Go Ahead and Answer, Shall We?

The answer is simple, really, and it all comes down to personality type. LA is cutthroat - there is no way around it. At the same time, it's full of some of the nicest people I've ever met. Atlanta is still growing and finding its voice. LA is full of opportunity, whether it's big budget features, independent films, short films, television, or reality shows; Atlanta may have Marvel, but the fact is, casting directors still (generally) cast out of LA for speaking parts, i.e., guest star roles, co-star credits, even just under-5's. It is difficult, at times, to even get work as an extra in Atlanta - not so in LA. There are PLENTY of roles to go around out West, even if you're just looking to start out small, like working with a student film (which, many of those DO pay!). Atlanta has some student films that pay, too, namely at SCAD; Georgia State MAY have some paying films, though I haven't seen many. Atlanta can be a great place to build credits, especially if you're looking to break into the commercial market. There are PLENTY of commercials that film in ATL (LA, too, of course!). And, though prices are steadily rising with the film industry growth in Atlanta, it is still cheaper to live here than in LA - more or less.

Atlanta, Georgia

Atlanta, Georgia

This is, to be honest, a difficult blog post to write - namely because, sure, you can live in LA, spend less money than living in Atlanta, and get more roles or jobs as a crew member. The same can also be true for Atlanta, which is why I started out by saying that it truly does come down to a personality type. If you're a dyed-in-the-wool Southerner, then sticking with what you know may work out best for you. If you're adventurous and a risk-taker, than by all means, move to LA! You never know what'll happen.

[More] Advice!

My biggest piece of advice, however, if you DO move to California, is to know that it's going to be really hard, at least for the first year - you can't give up, especially if you're a big fish moving from Atlanta to LA. Guess what? LA doesn't care how big you are. LA cares about LA. Be prepared to have your ego checked - immediately. One of the best lessons you can learn is how to act while on a set - which is why it's sometimes good to take on background work as an actor. That way, you have the experience of being on a REAL set and knowing that having a "diva-like" attitude can get you fired. You are, unfortunately, replaceable - but that doesn't mean that you don't have something special! Tackle your roles and auditions with humility and passion, and you'll be sure to nail them - everytime.

Bills, Bills, Bills

Lastly, wherever you move, save up money! Both cities are ridiculously expensive now, and you'll need to have a plan in place. Are you living with your parents? With roommates, if you're over 18? Do you have a "side hustle" to pay the bills while getting your acting career off of the ground? You're going to have to make sacrifices, no matter how you decide to live in two of the more expensive U.S. cities.

 

Have you made the leap and moved to Atlanta or LA? What about New York City or Chicago? Let us know - we love hearing from you!

How to Kill It at Your Next Audition

audition.jpg

You landed an audition - congrats! You have already won half the battle - trust me. This is coming from someone who has been on both sides of the casting table, and who has worked with many, many people in casting; if you get an audition, you've booked that audition against hundreds, if not thousands of people. 

But what are the next steps to actually booking the job? This is probably the #1 question on any actor's mind, no matter how long they have been in the industry - you could have started as a kid, and you would STILL wonder why some actors book, and others don't! The good news is, there are ways to kill an audition - in a good way! Meaning, you can walk out of the room or turn off the camera knowing that you did a great job, no matter what the casting director decides. Read on to discover our best tips and tricks for nailing that audition.

Make an Entrance

If you're auditioning for a theatrical show or film/TV production in-person, enter the room with a BANG! What that doesn't mean is slamming the door open and announcing yourself; no, we're talking about walking into the room in a semi-circle. It's much easier shown than stated, but try this at home: create your own marker on the floor, whether with painter's tape or an object. Enter the room, and make a C-shape curve with your walk over to your mark. In an actual audition room, the camera would be in front of you, usually with a table of people behind it - these are usually the casting directors, producers, and perhaps the writers or director themselves. Basically, you're drawing attention to yourself and making an entrance without being overly dramatic. Walking in this way creates an interesting eyeline for your CD's, and it may perk them up after a long day of auditioning hundreds of other folks who look just like you! Remember - keep it interesting, keep it fun!

If you're self-taping, making an entrance isn't really possible, since the first thing the CD's will see is you, on-camera. However, you can still "make an entrance" without actually entering! Whether your slate is at the beginning or the end, keep it positive and upbeat - remember, you're not only selling the character, but selling yourself. The auditors want to see that you are going to be a fun, cheerful person to be around on-set - they do not want to deal with a drama queen (or king). Also, start off your scene in an unexpected way - the point of you reading for this character is to put yourself into the character, not do what you think the CD's want to see or hear. Bring your own essence to the audition, and it's bound to be uniquely you - THAT'S what CD's always want to see.

No Touching

This generally goes without saying, but - no touching! Don't shake hands when you walk into the room, as it's viewed as an audition no-no. This is because we don't know where each other's hands have been, and hands are a germs festering ground. You may view it as polite, but 9 times out of 10, CD's will view it as an amateur error. So - no touching, unless the CD's reach out to shake your hand! In that case, shake away!

Remember, you can still be polite without touching anyone. Make your entrance, and be confident, polite, and calm. Greet the auditors, and act excited to be there - think of it as you're there to meet new friends who have your best interests at heart. After your audition, always make sure to thank your auditors - again, with the politeness! You can't go wrong.

An Actor Prepares

Even if it's not required, if you have the time, come in with your sides memorized (unless, of course, it's a cold read). BUT don't let the fact that you're off-book (or, fully memorized) take away from the fact that you are AWESOME at taking direction! And don't let it throw you if the auditor asks you to read in a different way, or asks you to improv. That's actually a good thing! It means that they think you're interesting, and want to see more.

Additionally, don't feel discouraged and walk away grumpily if they dismiss you after one read - remember, take everything that happens during an audition with a grain of salt. This is a job interview - there is no risk involved. It's only practice. And no one wants to see you walk away defeated! While this could be your next big gig, neediness or desperation is not attractive on anyone. Again, be confident - if this one doesn't work out, it's just onto the next one! Plus, sometimes one read is all the auditors need to see to know that they want you - it's rare, but it's happened to me, i.e., I've gotten cast after one reading. Take heart, and keep going!

 

Tell us in the comments some of your best (and worst) audition tales!

Improv Probably Saved My Life

improv.jpg

 

Back in 2011, I was horribly depressed. My on-again-off-again boyfriend of nearly 10 years broke my heart by dumping me over the phone, and then moving to the Middle East over Halloween weekend. Halloween is my favorite holiday. I was going to go out to a few parties that weekend as "Baby One More Time" Britney Spears. Instead, I stayed at home in bed with my cat, ate ice cream, and cried.

I started going to a wonderful therapist, who helped tremendously - and I also started taking improv classes to distract myself. Improv was something I had always wanted to do, and having the free time (i.e., not being in an emotionally draining, co-dependent relationship) allowed me the freedom to pour myself into it. I fell in love again, but this time, with improv.

I had gotten my degree in theatre back in 2009, and had been living in Seattle since 2010, working day jobs and acting at night and on the weekends, trying to build my film and theatre resume up. So, I was pretty well-versed in how things went in a professional theatre scene, but hadn't done much improv. I knew it was a separate branch on the acting tree, and didn't know if it would be my thing. But it was my thing, and it was probably what pulled me back from the edge, so to speak. While some of my best acting teachers told me not to use acting as therapy, it's pretty hard not to. Some of the best life lessons I ever learned came from acting, and in particular, from improv:

Yes, And

"Yes And"-ing something is a core tenant of improvisation. It means that when someone makes you an offer onstage, you should accept it - always (as long as you're not in danger, of course!); even if that offer is absurd, or you don't know anything about the subject matter. Saying "yes," to opportunities, no matter how out-of-the-ordinary they seem, can do wonders for your psyche - and your scene.

Supporting Your Partner

In improv, you have to have your partner's back - no matter what. On the team that I'm currently a part of, we say, "I got your back," to one another just before we step on stage. It's a nice reminder of this being another main rule of improv - whether it's physically, emotionally, or mentally, you must support your partner. This plays a lot into "yes and-ing" your partner, too. Having near-constant support - no matter what - does wonders for your attitude, both on-and-off stage. 

Don't Ask Questions

One of the best things about improv, in my opinion, is that there are no hard and fast rules. I mean, everyone has to follow some rules when they're learning a new discipline, but rules can be broken once you have mastered them. A good improv rule to follow when you're first learning the art form is to stay away from questions. Audiences don't care about niceties - we don't need to ask each other how the weather is. We know how the weather is - it's AMAZING, or the WORST WEATHER EVER. In improv, you get to have all the answers, unlike in life! See? It's great therapy. 

 

We have an improv intensive workshop coming up at the end July - click the link to sign up!

Posted on June 30, 2018 and filed under Improv.

Hobnobbing With Atlanta's Film Sharks at The Ivy Buckhead - a Studio 27 Experience

Ritz Group Entertainment logo

Ritz Group Entertainment logo

 

On Thursday, June 21, 2018, I had the privilege of attending Ritz Group Entertainment's 2018 Shark Attack event with Cheryl Harris, owner of Studio 27 Talent Development. Shark Attack is a film industry networking and pitching event, designed for filmmakers, theatrical groups, and other industry pros to pitch their film, television, and other ideas for funding.

The "sharks" included: Erin Bethea of Fireproof fame; John Adcox, President of Gramarye Media; Stan Shklinyl; and Chris Helton.

This was an invaluable learning opportunity that taught me a lot about how to pitch my future film and TV show ideas to investors - namely, the below:

It's all about story and money.

Pitch your story first, then talk about how that story is going to make your investors money, and what kind of ROI (Return On Investment) they can expect if they provide funding for your project. Even if the folks in attendance at your pitch meeting are solely money guys (and gals), they're going to want to hear your story, why it matters, and why people will want to see it and spend money on it. The short version of all this information is, "How can this film/TV show/theatrical production monetize?" 

Shark quote: "Lead with your story, not numbers. The film market is shot right now - don't focus on variables. What sells now? Why are you asking for it, and how are you gonna make the money back?"

Pitch decks.

Make your pitch deck as visual as possible. If you're pitching to a roomful of investors, have a laptop, playing your visuals in the background while you're speaking. Naming your talent and crew always helps - what are the people on your team doing? What have they done? Investors need to feel confident in their investment, and names help with that. On that note, if you're looking to hire named talent, you can bet that you'll likely need over $5 million for your film.

Be sure to also flesh out fully dimensional characters. What is/are your character(s)' arc(s)? How does the character change? Again, it all links back to story. We're all human - even investors! - and we all want to hear a good story. 

Shark quote: "Too many moving parts are not appealing." 

Think international.

One of the sharks kept talking about international sales, i.e., what kind of ROI will you get on this film or show domestically and overseas? He also noted that he would like to know who would represent the film that is being pitched, and that it's important to know that films based on certain cultures are hard to sell overseas. So, make your film or show accessible! 

Shark quote: "For international sales, a [film] needs to be 80 - 90 minutes long."

The money stuff.

There were a lot of phrases being thrown around during the pitch process, like "ROI," "tax credits," "soft and hard money," "GAP financing," "equity," - and more. Do, do, DO your research before heading into a meeting like this - if you can't talk money, you simply should not be pitching. You have to speak the same language as your potential investors, even if you're not a numbers person. Google is free! And we've already done quite a bit of the legwork for you by simply writing this blog post, wink

Have you financed your own film or sought money from investors or sponsorships? Let us know what worked and what didn't! 

Click through the slideshow below to see photos from the event, taken by yours truly!