Where Focus Goes...

An old saying that always rings true to me is “where focus goes, energy flows”.  This can be applied to many aspects of your acting career.  Are you keeping aware of the projects currently casting?  Are you attending film festivals and other networking events? Do you know which casting directors are working on each film and series you are targeting?

Increasing the degree to which you have your finger on the pulse of the industry has long been known to help manifest jobs, coincidental meetings, and unexpected opportunities.  The consistent success of vision boards is a perfect example of this. 

Though, I’m sure you’ve already heard all that jazz…  it’s pretty common knowledge.

Now, I’d like to introduce the possibility that the PEOPLE you are interacting with in the industry are a direct result of your focus.  What I mean is, if you feel the film industry is filled with a certain type of person – sleazy, closed off, rude, snobby, ego driven, scammy – it is because that is what YOU are choosing to focus on when out and about in the industry.

I would guess that for every one egotistical actor you meet, you’re also likely meeting ten really cool ones who just love their craft and love what they do.  For every one sleazy director you meet, I’m sure you also meet twenty who just want to make great movies.

Yet some actors choose to focus on the tiny minority of negative people they meet, as opposed to the vast majority who are actually pretty awesome.   It’s like they’re deciding in advance that ‘everyone’ is a certain way, then finding proof of their ‘story’ at every opportunity, ignoring any evidence that contradicts it.

Take a moment to think of how you perceive the industry and your fellow industry members.   Is it negative, or positive?  Do you feel filmmakers are open to new talent, or not?  Do you feel successful actors are supportive of each other, or not?  Does it feel open, or closed off?  I guarantee, whatever you are finding, is exactly what you are choosing to see. 

With this in mind, I’d like to ask you to try a little exercise and write down the following:

  • Seven filmmakers or CDs who have been nice to you or been open to watching your demo
  • Ten times an actor helped you with something you needed a hand on
  • Twelve times someone in the industry supported you, helped you or complimented you

Really take the time to think about this and write the list.  As I’m sure you know, law of attraction will bring to you more of what you focus on.  By finding and focusing on the great things, more great things will come to you.

Now that you have this list, wouldn’t it be nice to shoot a little note to each of them?  Not asking if they have any projects casting or whether they’re working on anything and not bragging about your recent work.  Just asking how they are, as a fellow human and perhaps thanking them for that time they did something above and beyond that made your journey a little easier.  Maybe you could even ask if there’s anything you could help them with too? 

A thank you is a wonderful way to reach out to a person you may have lost touch with, and reciprocation is so important in an industry like ours. 

I’m going to leave it at that… I think you get the idea.  Lets work to see the industry community as being filled with more love than we imagined.  Then lets do a little something like this… just to make sure it is.

Sending love from the madness of pilot season in Hollywood ;)

- Kym Jackson (IMDB)

Learn how to succeed in your acting career today at: HollywoodsGuide.com

Remember To Live Your Life

Today I was writing my list of New Year goals.  What I want to do in the next twelve months.  I started writing the typical actor list: “book a series regular role on TV”, “take another six weeks of groundlings classes”, “finish the new book website” “save x amount of money”.

I had around eight things on my list when I realized my upcoming year sounded about as interesting as sorting beige buttons into matching shade piles.

Acting is such an amazing and wonderful thing to be passionate about (read: obsessed with), and we are so often laughing off the idea of a nine to five job as boring, uncreative, and soul destroying.  The funny thing is though, without a 5pm to ‘knock off’ at, or a Friday to look forward to, my creative friends often neglect to find time to switch off from their career.  Ironically, those same people who are so afraid of working an eight hour day, frequently end up working a sortof half assed twelve hour day each day instead… and for six or seven days a week.

How interesting is an actor to watch who has done nothing but acting classes and networking events for the past year or so?  What life can we bring to a character if we’ve forgotten how to live our lives?

This also applies to networking… When you meet someone and ask what they’ve been up to lately, would you rather hear how many auditions they’ve just had and of the five scenes they did in some film… or about the amazing whale shark they saw scuba diving last weekend, or a story about their crazy tandem partner on their holiday skydiving in Hawaii?

On your New Years list this year… why not add some fun stuff?  Add some big life goals alongside those career goals.  Things you’ve always wanted to do – surfing lessons, seeing China, or India, or Iceland, visiting the Grand Canyon, volunteering for a charity, or horseback riding naked on the beach. 

It’s a fine line to walk between work and fun but it is so important that you live your life while you chase your dreams, not afterwards. 

If money is a problem, take a weekend holiday.  Switch off and book a cheap Air BNB in a city close enough to drive to.  Then find something awesome to do there!  LA is just a few hours drive from Joshua Tree (camping), Palm Springs (day spas), Vegas (hangovers), San Diego (scuba diving), Santa Barbara (skydiving), Big Bear (snowboarding) … even Mexico (margaaaaaritas!) and San Francisco (Alcatraz)!  Take 48 hours away from your ‘craft’, reset yourself, and just be YOU.

I get it… sometimes there really is no time to switch off… sometimes there’s just too much work.  But, that doesn’t mean you have to hide at home and avoid the world for two months at a time. 

Much of our work is a laptop lifestyle.  There’s no reason you can’t get out of your comfy Hollywood apartment and drive to a nice hotel lobby or cafe by the beach, order a coffee, and spend the day by the water, working.  Next time you have a script or two to read, pack a picnic, hike to a beautiful view, and read it somewhere fun.  Maybe you can learn those forty pages of lines for your next film on a beach  instead of pacing in your bedroom.

Adding big goals to your list means even if you fall short, you will be more likely to find little adventures along the way. They big ones may seem out of reach now, but what if you just ignore the potential limitations and add them anyway?  Why not plan as though you will have the money this year?  That you will make the time?  You never know what this next year has in store for you, so whatever it is you’ve always wanted to do, big or small, add it to your list, today. 

If you don’t, another year might slip by waiting for enough money, or the right time, or your big break… and then another year… and then all of a sudden you’re one of those old actors who forgot to live a real life on the side. 

If you do make your list awesome, you might not do everything you plan.  You might not make it to Everest this year but maybe you’ll camp in Joshua tree instead... You might not skydive in Hawaii but Santa Barbara has a nice drop… you might not make Iceland before Easter… but then again…

Then again…

Oh, just think how much fun will it be if you do! ;)  

By Kym Jackson

What Defines a Studio Film?

As the name implies, a studio film is partially or wholly financed and/or produced by a film studio. This means that in addition to producers being involved in the decision making processes, studio executives also have a say on things like casting, script changes, and allocation of funds.

By definition, a ‘film studio’ is simply a large production company that has its own hard equity (actual money), and is capable of distributing and advertising its own projects worldwide.

The major studios are Disney, Warner Bros, Universal, Paramount, Dreamworks, Fox, and Sony. A ‘mini-major’ is a film studio that produces fewer projects, often works with smaller budgets, and functions on a smaller scale in most areas than the major studios. Mini-major studios include Summit, Revolution, Lakeshore, Lionsgate and the Weinstein Company.

A major studio won’t usually produce or finance films with budgets under $20 million. Most studios have smaller independent arms that make projects with budgets from $6 million to $20 million. The mini majors will also work in the $6 million to $20 million range. You won’t often find a film with a budget lower than $6 million being produced by a studio. A studio may come on board to distribute the film, but it would be rare for them to be involved in the financing or production of a project that small.

Not every film with a budget over $20 million is a studio film; there are some anomalies. For instance, Oliver Stone produced ‘Alexander’ for around $160 million dollars without the backing of a studio. This would therefore be considered an independent film regardless of the size of its budget.

Commercial Residuals

Commercial pay cycles run for 13 weeks. Payments are sent directly to the actor or representation, NOT to SAGAFTRA. If the commercial is not a ‘buy out’, residuals for commercials are paid for each airing.
Payments for each airing are on a sliding scale, ie: the ‘cost per airing’ is much higher for airings #1 - #10 than for airings #50 - 60. This continues until the cycle maximum (3000 airings). IF the production company wishes to continue using the commercial after the 13 weeks, the payment scale resets and they must pay for each airing from the top of the payment structure. This is known as a ‘roll over’ as the commercial ‘rolls over’ into the next payment cycle, and a nice shiny new check arrives in the mail.

Cable TV
Payment for all intended airings within a cycle is due 15 days after the date the commercial first airs. This first air date is considered the beginning of the first 13 week cycle. The next payment is due 15 days after the beginning of the 2nd cycle, and so on for every cycle.

Network TV
Network TV residuals are based on a 7 day payment period, running from Monday to Sunday. Whatever airs within those 7 days is due 15 days after the first Sunday following the initial airing of the commercial. The next payment is due 7 days after the following Sunday for all usage within that week, and so on. Although payments are being made every week, the payment rate sheet still resets (rolls over) after each 13 week cycle.

Understanding Residuals

SAGAFTRA.org defines residuals as “compensation paid to performers for use of a theatrical motion picture or television program beyond the use covered by initial compensation”.

Principal performers recieve residuals; background actors do not. You will not recieve residuals for an initial release; you are paid residuals when the project is sold in markets other than the initial intended market.

So, if a SAGAFTRA film is made to be released in theaters, actors do not get residuals when the film comes out in theaters. This is because their initial paycheck already included a release in that ‘media market’. The residuals are paid when that film sells in another media market, including DVD, VOD, cable, TV or new media. TV episodes, your initial paycheck covers the first airing and residuals are paid on subsequent airings.

When Are Residuals Paid?
SAGAFTRA.org/content/residuals-faq states “For TV work, residuals begin once a show starts re-airing or is released to video/DVD, pay television, broadcast TV, basic cable, or new media. For film work, residuals begin once the movie appears on video/DVD, basic cable and free or pay television, or new media.”

When Will the Check Arrive?
Residuals are sent to SAG and processed (for up to sixty days) before being sent to the actor. SAGAFTRA.org/content/residuals-faq states the following regarding when residuals are due to SAG from each production:

“For projects made for TV then released to:
•    Network TV, non-network TV - 30 days after air date.
•    Syndication - 4 months after air date
•    Foreign free to air - up to 30 days after producer obtains knowledge of first foreign telecast and never later than 6 months after that first telecast
•    Basic Cable - Quarterly when the producer receives revenue
•    Supplemental Markets - 4 months after initial exhibition, then quarterly

When are Residuals Sent to SAG by the Production
For projects made for theatrical then released to:
•    Network Prime Time - 30 days after initial broadcast, then quarterly when the producer receives revenue
•    Free TV, Non-Network - 4 months after initial broadcast, then quarterly when the producer receives revenue
•    Supplemental Markets - 4 months after initial exhibition, then quarterly when the producer receives revenue”

How To Create a TV Series Pitch Package

When a writer comes up with an amazing idea for a TV show and wants to pitch it to a network, a ‘Show Bible’ is created, which includes the following materials:

•     Overview of the show
•     Target demographic
•     Style of show
•     Intended network
•     Intended timeslot
•     Intended number of episodes per season
•     Intended budget per episode
•     Series lead character breakdown
•     Series regular character breakdown
•     Intended cast or character prototypes using existing celebrities
•     Full ‘treatment’ for each of the episodes in the first season
•     Pilot script for the show
•     Marketing plan
•     Financial figures from comparative shows in the genre or style
•     Full scripts for additional episodes are occasionally added

These items are combined with a few additions that may be specific to the project. The writer’s agent, manager, or producer (or anyone who knows the right people) sets up a ‘pitch session’ with executives from each of the TV networks for which the show may be appropriate. The writer and/or producer attend each meeting, show bible in hand, and pitch their concept.

Each major network only has enough time slots for a certain number of new shows each season, but will finance several times that number of pilots. For example, a network might finance fifteen TV pilots for a given season. Those fifteen pilots are cast, filmed, edited and viewed by network executives and test audiences. Of the fifteen, the network may only select three or four shows to ‘pick up’.

A TV show being picked up means the network agrees to finance additional episodes of the show (usually in blocks of 12 for network TV and 13 for cable), and allocates a time slot for it to be aired. The creator(s) of the concept and the writer(s) who wrote the pilot episode almost always become executive producers or consulting producers of the series. Modifications are made to the show according to the results of test audience screenings and network input. Storylines are changed (if necessary), and some characters may be removed, added, or re-cast.

Unfortunately, pilots that don’t get picked up are rarely ‘saved’ for another season. This is partly because the cast and crew move on to their next projects. With a different cast and crew, the existing pilot episode would no longer be an accurate ‘sample’ of what the show could be like. Sometimes, however, a show will sell a TV series to another network after not picking the show up themselves.

When a TV show airs, the ‘ratings’ (number of viewers) it gets on American TV determine whether it stays on the air. The ratings are called ‘Nielsen Ratings’ (named after Arthur Nielsen). Shows can be taken off the air after as few as one episode, or after many seasons, depending on how the show is rating at the time.

The pilots that are ‘picked up’ are announced in May each year. A week later, the ‘upfronts’ (meetings where many TV commercial timeslots are pre-sold) take place. ABC and NBC each shoot an average of 20–25 pilots and pick up around ten. CBS, FOX, and CW each shoot between ten and twenty, and usually pick up around five. 

Preparing For LA

If you can’t get to LA yet, there are many things you can be doing right now to prepare:

•    SAVE AS MUCH MONEY AS POSSIBLE. Think of every fifty dollars you don’t spend as one more day you can survive in LA.
•    STUDY YOUR CRAFT. Take the best acting classes you can find as often as you’re able.
•    Learn a PERFECT standard American accent.
•    GET ON STAGE. I can tell whether an actor has a substantial theatre background within moments of watching them perform. It will add tangible depth and layers to your work. Do community theatre, school plays, whatever you can get your hands on.
•    Learn how to do as many accents as you can. This skill will aid you for the rest of your career.
•    Girls should learn how to do hair and makeup to suit different roles.
•    Fix your teeth. Make sure they’re straight and white, unless your type is ‘creepy homeless guy’. This is more important than you’d think for lead roles in LA.
•    Fix your skin. Eat less sugar, drink more water, eat well, exercise, cleanse, tone, and moisturize your face twice a day … and if that doesn’t work, see a specialist. Clear skin is a must for American TV and film.
•    EXERCISE! You need high energy and great stamina to stay alert on a film or TV set for twelve hours a day. If you want to play lead roles, get your body looking healthy and toned for your body type. Do not simply try to ‘get skinny’.
•    Find two great two-person scenes from films. One comedic and one dramatic. Memorize and prepare. These will be your showcase scenes.
•    Find two great monologues: one comedic and one dramatic. Memorize and prepare. You will use these in the rare instances a director asks you to audition with a “monologue of your choice”.
•    Film yourself performing scenes as often as possible.
•    Go to AS MANY AUDITIONS AS YOU CAN. Think of every audition as a free class on audition techniques.
•    Do LOTS of short films and indie features to gain on-set experience.
•    Read scripts of great films online at Scriptapolooza.com or InkTip.com to become familiar with what a good script looks like.
•    Watch every single one of the ‘top 250 movies’ listed on IMDBpro and observe who cast and directed them.
•    Select a top director and watch a selection of their films. Become familiar with the top directors in the industry.
•    Watch every movie that has ever won best picture, actor or actress at the academy awards.
•    Watch American hit TV shows and learn the CD and actor’s names.
•    Join every casting website in your area.
•    Improve your cold reading skills by reading dialogue into a mirror for fifteen minutes a day.
•    Get some friends together and shoot a web series for FunnyOrDie.com or YouTube.com.
•    Get your resume, headshot and demo up to a professional standard.
•    Practice memorization. Memorize one page of a character’s dialogue from a two-person scene every day. Aim to be off-book in ten minutes.
•    Go to every film festival close enough for you to get to.
•    Try writing a film or scene. Writing helps you understand more about what goes into creating characters and stories.
•    ‘Follow the top filmmakers and actors on Twitter and Facebook. Watch how they market themselves and interact with their fan base.
•    Write a business plan for your acting career. Write one for the next 1 year, 2 years and 5 years.

How an Independent Film is Sold

This is a quick and basic run down of how an independent film is sold. There are three terms you’ll need to understand this process:

There are almost two hundred separate ‘territories’ (essentially countries) in the world to which a film can be sold. Of these, only thirty-five are considered ‘meaningful’ for film sales.

Sales Agent
A producer takes a completed film to a ‘sales agent’, who acts as a salesperson for the film. The sales agent meets with ‘distributors’ often at ‘film markets’ to sell the film in as many territories as possible.

A sales agent will usually represent several films at any given time. Sales agents often specialize in a particular budget range and genre, which helps create and nurture strong relationships with buyers in that realm. Prolific indie producers sometimes act as their own sales agents.

Distributor / Distribution Company
‘Distribution companies’ (‘distributors’) purchase the rights to distribute
films throughout a specific territory. Films are distributed through many
channels including: VOD (Video On Demand), selling DVD copies of the film to chains like Walmart or Red Box (or online rental companies like iTunes and Netflix.com), selling the rights to screen the film on TV, or selling the rights to screen the film theatrically to theatre chains like Birch Carol & Coyle.

When a distribution company buys the rights to sell a film in a specific
territory, they can only sell the film within that territory. For example, if a
distributor in France buys the rights to distribute Toy Story 3 throughout
France, that distributor cannot then sell the film to Blockbuster in England.

Likewise, the distributor may only distribute the project in the format for
which they have purchased the rights: as a ‘theatrical release’ (in cinemas), a DVD release, VOD release, or otherwise.

Here’s where it gets a little tricky: many distributors also act as sales
agents to sell films to other distributors worldwide.

How An Independent Film Is Sold
Here is an example: Film A cost $50,000 to make. If the film appears to
be highly marketable, several sales agents may want to represent it and the production company may find a bidding war develops between sales agents willing to pay for the rights to sell the film. This is rare with micro and low budget projects, which are often taken by a sales agent with no upfront payment and the negotiation of a substantial sales commission.

The production company gives Film A to a sales agent to sell. The sales agent meets with distributors from many countries regarding Film A. Distributors from England, Germany, and France love Film A and want to buy rights to a full theatrical and DVD release. The English distributor pays $45,000, the French distributor pays $35,000, and the German distributor pays $40,000.

The distributor from the USA offers $30,000 for DVD only. In total, the sales agent has just made $150,000 for the film. He takes his percentage (usually 15%–35% of all sales, plus ‘costs’), which (at 20%) is $30k. Let’s assume modest costs of $10k to cover flights to film markets and $5k for meager marketing costs, leaving around $105,000 for the production company.

The production company made the film for $50,000 in hard equity, but has ‘deferments’ (money owed for labor provided by cast and crew, aka ‘sweat equity’) of $45,000. The deferments are paid back and the investors are reimbursed their $50,000, plus $10,000 to cover a pre-negotiated 20% interest on the money they contributed.

Once the deferments and investors are reimbursed, the producers, investors, and anyone else who owns a share in the film can start making a profit. Fees, interests, and costs vary as they are all negotiated on a per film basis.

It is important to note that even though $150,000 has been paid for
a film that only cost $50,000 in hard equity to make, the project has still
only just broken even financially. No profit has been made other than the
cast and crews up-front fees and the interest for the investors.

This is a pretty common scenario for independent film. If the sales agent made a solid deal with the distributors, the production company will get a percentage of movie ticket and DVD sales in each country. However, with a small budget and lack of star names, the distribution rights on our sample film were probably sold for a one-time fee.

Casting Office Staff Positions

As with any other un-moderated industry, the staffing structure varies a great deal between casting offices. Following is a breakdown of the various job titles in the field of casting.

CDs (Casting Directors) as Film producers / Executive Producers
It is much easier for a producer to find investors to finance a film if name talent is attached to the project. Sometimes a CD will work on an un-financed project ‘on spec’ (for free) or for a small fee, to attach celebrities. Due to the fact that the majority of projects in development will never be green-lit, the CD may be given a ‘producer’ or an ‘executive producer’ credit. This credit is to compensate for the risk the CD is taking by spending time on a project that may never go into production.

Powerful CDs in Hollywood are often able to negotiate producer credits even when they are being paid their full rate. This is simply because the filmmakers are lucky to be working with CDs of this caliber and to have access to the celebrity connections they bring to the film. A producer credit is also often given because the CD actually did produce the film.

President or VP of Talent or Casting
Each studio and network has an in-house casting department. That is, a team of casting executives who hire, oversee, and work with outsourced casting offices to cast the various projects being produced by the network. Although the hired office is the one officially casting the show, the casting executives will still suggest actors for roles, watch the audition tapes, and approve the cast that has been selected. If there is a particularly large guest cast or for some reason the outsourced office can’t run a casting session, the in-house executive CD may run auditions.

Owner / CD
Most CDs own the casting company for which they work. This is made clear by the fact that most casting offices are named after the head CDs. In larger offices, there are some CDs who are not the owners of the company. An example of this is one of the largest casting offices in LA. The three owners (after whom the company is named) are working CDs and owners of the company, plus they have several other casting directors and associates working for them as employees.

Casting Director (CD)
A CD is in charge of sourcing and auditioning actors for a project. Most CDs are members of the CSA. CDs decide or collaborate with the pro- ducers and director on which actors are called back, and are often part of the decision making process regarding who gets the part (though ultimately the director and producer decide).

CDs remember and re-use talented actors they meet and like. They have both the authority and motivation to find new actors because most CDs truly enjoy finding undiscovered talent.

Casting Associate
CDs working in TV or working regularly in film will usually have a casting associate working directly under them. The associate aids the CD with organizing and running the sessions, delegating work to the assistants, and dealing with paperwork when actors are booked. Casting associates are generally more accessible than CDs, so getting to know them can be the easiest way to get an audition for some of the impenetrable big offices. Associates are usually only a few years away from becoming CDs, so develop a relationship with them early before they get that big promotion.

Associates are often assigned the task of finding much of the talent for supporting roles in projects, which is one reason many of them attend showcases or workshops. Just because they are paid to be at a workshop (they usually are) doesn’t mean they aren’t actively looking for talent. On many TV shows, the associate is responsible for selecting almost all of the actors for the co-star audition sessions. Associates frequently do the initial selection from the submissions received online. Out of a thousand submissions an associate might choose a hundred actors from which a CD then selects the final thirty who are invited to audition.

Casting Assistant
Casting offices in LA often don’t have a specific ‘receptionist’. The person you meet at the front desk is often a casting assistant, though it can sometimes be the associate or even the CD. A casting assistant is usually a paid employee. Assistants help the CD with sessions, answer phones, and work with the interns sorting through the piles of mail received on a daily basis. They don’t usually make selections, but if an assistant finds an amazing actor, you can bet she’ll pass that actor’s info to her bosses.

Interns are usually university students, people wanting to get into casting, or actors who are looking to learn more about the casting process and hoping to network with the CDs.

An internship is an unpaid position with little power beyond possibly having the ear of the people in the office and VERY occasionally suggesting an actor for an audition. Interns sort through mail, make copies and coffee, and anything else the paid office employees are too busy to take care of.

Interns may not have much influence, but they are people who care about their goals enough to give their time freely for their career, which means they deserve your respect just as much as any other staff member in a casting office.

Extract From: The Hollywood Survival Guide - For Actors



Who Makes The Final Casting Decision In Independent Film?

The producer hires the director on most film projects. A director makes
many decisions throughout the production process, but as an employee of the producer, these decisions can almost always be overruled.

How much authority a director wields on a project is subject to many variables: past experience, celebrity status, involvement in writing the script, contribution of investors to the project, the social status and relationship dynamic between the producer and the director, and lastly how much the producer chooses to micromanage each aspect of the film.

When it comes to casting, a collaborative discussion usually occurs
between the CD, the director, and the producer regarding which actor fits
best for each role and how various actors would fit with others in the project.

For independent films, the director usually makes the final decision
on which actors are cast. Most producers will give the director freedom
in this area but can at any point dispute or simply overrule the director’s
casting decision.

Often, casting decisions can be a case of bargaining between a producer
and director, for example if the director and producer have strong opinions on two different actors for each of two roles, they may say “I’ll let you have actor x for role a if we hire actor y for role b”.

Occasionally, investors will interject on casting decisions and if their financial contribution is substantial enough, the producer and director might do what they say. If celebrity attachments are required, sales agents, distributors, and investors may need to approve bankable name cast attachments.

Extract From: The Hollywood Survival Guide - For Actors