Advice and Tips for Actors Helpful thoughts on acting from someone who wasn't the least successful actor of all time.

November 29, 2007

Never and Always be a Hyphenate

Filed under: eitan's writings — Eitan @ 3:01 pm

hyphenWhat the heck is a hyphenate? Here’s an example:

You’re at a party, and you meet this lovely gentleman. You ask politely, “What do you do?” He answers, “I’m an actor-writer-producer-director-manager-model.” You pretend to see a friend at the other end of the room and excuse yourself briskly.

A hyphenate is someone who has a million job titles. And in Los Angeles there are more job titles floating around than citizens.

For today I’d like to discuss why I think you should never be a hyphenate and then I’ll discuss why you should always be a hyphenate. Confused? Good, that’s the way I like it.

Pretend for a second that I’m John Q. Producer and we meet on the street. We strike up a friendly conversation and I politely ask what you do. And like that creepy guy at the party you rattle off a thousand job titles. Maybe I’m interested in working with you, but now I don’t know in which capacity. If you said you were an actor I’d consider you for my next project. If you were a writer I might read your script. If you were a director I might watch your demo and see if it’s up my alley.

The vast majority of people who introduce themselves as “writers-directors-actors” have never written or directed anything professionally. I’m not arguing that you need to be published or have sold a screenplay to call yourself a writer, but is it in your best interest to lead off with that in your introduction?

You say: Eitan, what the heck are you talking about? You write short scenes, a blog and other stuff you haven’t told us about yet, shoot actor headshots, you produce a showcase AND you’re an actor. Why are you telling us not to be any of those things ourselves? Do you not like competition?

Please, you’re not competition for me. I’m way better than you.

When I meet people I say, “Hi, I’m an actor.” Why? Because it’s my primary focus as well as being the one job I can talk about the most. If I started saying, “I’m a writer.” I’d have to explain about this blog and the scenes I wrote which have been done in the showcase I produce. Hardly as impressive as my flash of brilliance on Ghost Whisperer or the Las Vegas commercial.

Once we are talking for a while I happily mention the showcase and my photography. But if I only have a few minutes to make an impression, I’d rather lead off with the actor stuff.

There’s no one way to be successful in this industry. Dozens of successful actors got where they are because they either wrote, produced or directed their own films. Love him or hate him Vin Diesel (or as I like to call him, “Vinny-D”) wrote, directed and starred in the film Strays which got him in front of Spielberg. If it wasn’t for the fact that he didn’t pigeon hole himself he’d still be a tele-marketer with a really awesome voice.

Actors really owe it to themselves to try break into the “biz” from other angles besides acting alone. Try writing something for yourself. Grab a camcorder and shoot your own short film. Team up with some friends, chip in $100 each and make a decent short film. It’s another great way to be proactive instead of sitting home all day waiting for the phone to ring.

November 7, 2007

Support Your Writers

Filed under: eitan's writings,film,TV — Eitan @ 1:46 pm

Currently in Hollywood and New York the WGA (Writers Guild of America) is striking against the producers after the failed negotiation of a new contract. I’m asking every actor who reads this blog to go out and support the writers by joining a picket line.

As an actor why should you support the writers? Simple, what they get is what we’ll get. The SAG TV/Film contract expires this summer and there will be new negotiations between SAG and the producers over a new deal and we need to get paid for internet and other new usage. As far as I’m concerned DVDs are a throwaway issue and I don’t really care if we get a penny more, what we need is a good cut of new media.

DVDs will soon go the way of the VHS tape. They’ll gently be phased out and replaced by downloads. Internet service is getting faster. Soon there will be things like WiMax and other next generation technologies that will allow your average every day Joe Blow to download a high definition movie directly to his PC or TV in less time than it takes him to drive to his local Target. It’s not far away at all. The amount made off this type of technology now is negligible but it’s set to shoot up in the coming years (the years that will be covered by these new contracts). But it’s pretty much a given that DVDs and other hard copy media will disappear in the next few years. It’s already happening. People are buying their TV shows on iTunes instead of waiting for the DVDs to come out.

Everyone got royally screwed on DVD negotiations a few years ago. The only people who expected the DVD market to be huge were the producers and they really got an amazing deal. Writers get a few pennies per DVD (way less than it costs to print the packaging) and actors split a tiny slice as well. Someone thought when DVDs (actually the contract was written when it was all VHS tapes) would be really expensive to manufacture and we wanted to give the producers help on getting the technology going. Well, it went and they refused to give us another penny even when they were turning huge profits on each DVD sale.

There’s no reason to doubt that downloads are the next DVD. They can be delivered to your door, they’ll be easily back-up-able and they cost the producers even less than a DVD. The writers aren’t even asking for a dollar amount per-download. They want a fixed percentage of sales. If the producers don’t ever sell a download, neither will anyone else. Fair, right?

I’ve heard a lot of crap on the WWW about how the writers are talentless and it’s a good thing they’re on strike.  I spent time working at a production company and have read dozens of scripts.  99% of the scripts I read were awful and couldn’t possibly have been made into a movie or a TV show.  Only someone who hasn’t had that experience and seen how bad most writing really is would make such a dumb statement.  The people writing for TV shows and films are incredibly talented.  And however bad you think a show is, it’s on the air because there are thousands, if not millions, of people who watch it every week.

So join your writers out on strike. Grab a sign, chant and make sure the producers know that the entire entertainment community is united on this strike.

I’ll be trying to make it out to either Fox or Sony a few times a week as long as the strike is going on. If you see me, say hi.

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