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

April 27, 2010

REVIEW: ActorsAccess.com

The second suggestion when you type “Actorsaccess” into Google after ActorsAccess.com is the phrase “Actorsaccess Scam.”  Well, is ActorsAccess.com a scam?

The answer is no.

What is ActorsAccess?  AA (as I like to call it) is the publicly published section of Breakdown Services.  Breakdown Services is the system on which anyone casting a project can accept submissions from managers and agents.  When publishing they are also given the option to post to Actors Access where any actor can go and look at the parts they are casting and submit online.  The yearly cost for unlimited submissions (as of 2010) is $68.  It’s been the same rate for years.  If you want to pay per-submission the cost is $2.

Now, the better question is “why do people think Actors Access is a scam?”  I think there are several reasons:

Pay Per Submission: Many people use this for their first option when signing up for AA and see how quickly the charges add up.  Why would it cost this much for an online submission?  Truth is, it doesn’t really.  Personally I think they’d rather you sign up and have a subscription account (which also grants you access to audition sides).  In the past four months I’ve done a total of 74 submissions and I only submit on non-student film union projects.  If you were just starting out you’d probably double or triple that number of submissions.  Totally worth every penny.

Few “Big Name” Projects: There are many scam casting sites out there that either make up or steal casting information for major shows.  They let actors submit on these projects but no one ever sees the submissions so actors get no response.   Since the vast majority of big name projects are actually cast through Breakdown Services there’s little need to put out a call to the actors at large unless a production company needs something very specific.  I’ve yet to see a major production put out a call for “Beautiful Blond 25-30 Guest Star” roles on Actors Access because they simply don’t need the extra submissions to successfully cast the part.  Is that unfair?  I’ll talk about that in another review.

They Submit Two or Three Times and Get No Calls: Believe it or not, this is the one I hear the most.  Someone in Nebraska wants to be an actor so they sign up figuring they’ll fly in if they ever get a major audition.  They spend six bucks to submit a photo they took with a camera phone and a resume that says, “Tree #3 Elementary School Production of Snow White” for roles they’re not right for and they get pissed because no one calls them in.  What they don’t know is that they were one of 3,000 submissions for that role from Actors Access and there were another 2,000 from agents/mangers who are more likely to have a relationship with the casting director.  I submit on Actors Access all the time (and I have a couple credits and good headsh0ts) but still only get a few calls.  Agents and managers have the same problem, they submit actors all day (it’s their job) but there is so much competition for even a one line role on a Nickelodeon show that they don’t get as many calls as actors think they do.

Both of these boil down to one point:  many people (particularly beginners) have no idea how the industry works.  They expect there to be shortcuts and there aren’t.  You’re unlikely to book a major role from Actors Access that will define your career but you are likely (if your photos are good enough) to get called in for plenty of shorts, web series and low budget films to make the $68 worth it.

Even if you have an agent it’s worth it to check on AA for projects you might want to do for little to no pay and your agent won’t be pursuing.  There’s some quality work on there.

AA also offers add-on services like the ability to upload a demo reel and to record video for you to use in lieu of a demo reel.  I have a demo up (haven’t had them record anything) and the cost wasn’t super cheap but I get to include it on all my submissions (included in the yearly subscription).  It sets me apart from the other submissions and lets me show my work.

And as an added bonus an Actors Access page can stand in for a free acting website if you haven’t put one together yet.

I could probably write a few dozen more glowing things about Actors Access but I won’t.  I’ll simply say it’s one of the few bargains for actors out there and an essential part of building a career.

March 1, 2010

SAG Should be an Open Union

I usually stay away from hot topic political issues but today I feel like being difficult.

A little history lesson for all of you (modern history):  SAG is the Screen Actors Guild it is far and away the stronger of the two “TV/Film/Commercial” unions in the United States.  SAG is currently a “closed union” that means if you want to join SAG you can’t simply walk in and plunk down the $2100 or whatever the entry fee is these days and join, you have to “earn” your way in.
Yes, I mean to use quotes around “earn.”  You see, there are several ways to join SAG and only two of which involve any sort of acting talent and that’s in an ideal world.  Here’s a short list of ways to get into SAG: get a speaking part in a SAG project, earn 3 vouchers for working background as SAG talent and work a principal contract and be a member of another one of the “entertainment unions” for one year.  The reality is more complicated but I’d seek out answers from the unions directly on this issue as they’re subject to a little interpretation and there are lots of specifics.

I got to join SAG because I was cast in a SAG commercial for Barclay’s Bank.  They did the paperwork to get me in and I was in.  I also could have joined AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) which IS an open union and joined after a year since I worked one of their contracts soon after “going pro.”

Recently news has started getting around that there is an easy way to get into SAG: produce your own internet project under SAG’s New Media agreement and “Taft Hartley” yourself (that is, do the paperwork to make yourself a member).  This means all you need to do to join SAG these days is fill out some paperwork and convince SAG you’re shooting a web series.

There are some very militant people in the unions who think SAG should remain closed because it guarantees that only “serious actors” with “talent” become members.  They are those people who believe having SAG on your resume guarantees them auditions.  The best kept secret about joining SAG is this:  when you join, you get less auditions not more.  That’s because there are a tens of thousands of SAG members who look like you and have more credits than you (when you first join).  When auditioning for non-union roles no one has particularly “good credits” and the playing field is much more level and there’s less competition for each part.  Now SAG jobs pay better on average and in their ranks is the “real work” like TV shows and big movies, but there’s something to be said for working all the time even if it is for less money.

Since the invention of the three background voucher system the system has become overtly corrupt.  It used to be that you could only get into SAG with a speaking part in a SAG project.  That meant even if your friend wanted to get you in they had to shoot you saying something and pay you a day rate.  Now all they have to do is have you sign in three days in a row as a SAG background performer and pay you half as much.  Hollywood is full of pretty ladies with big dreams and they’ve been known to do whatever they need to get ahead, and that includes getting their SAG card.

Another reason?  I honestly believe that most non-union projects are non-union because the producers don’t want to have to pay people a lot of money.  People love to talk about non-union commercials that pay $10,000 but in reality, if they were SAG commercials, they’d probably pay a lot more.  I’ve seen some non-union commercials airing on TV for the last 10 years and I am sure the actor who shot them got paid no more than $500.

So what would be the benefit of SAG being an open union?  First it would cut down on the snootyness that some SAG actors like to carry around, second it would eliminate a lot of the corruption in this business and third it would limit the amount of non-union work in this town that only looks to take advantage of actors.  Since it’s so easy to join SAG these days anyway this would be a mere formality and would open the doors of SAG to lots of people who’ve been trying for years to join but don’t want to sleep with or pay someone for the privilege.

March 28, 2008

Smile and Plough Through

Filed under: acting philosophy,commercial — Eitan @ 4:16 pm

So funny audition story from today:

I head over to my second audition of the day which was for a spec commercial for a director’s reel.  These are shot by directors who need footage to get their foot in the paying door.  So they shoot commercials that aren’t official commercials and try to sell their services around.  There’s really no pay for doing them and they almost never air but it’s a good way to meet up and coming directors.  I did one years ago, never even saw a copy of it.  But it was fun to shoot and I had nothing else to do that night.

So, I show up at my audition and one of the session runners says “ok, you’re reading man #3.”  Cool.  That’s my middle name.  So I pick up the script and read through it once.  It seems to be written all in British slang.  That’s fine, I think, maybe the joke is that these dumb Americans are talking like this or just that they do really bad British accents.  So I ask, “Do you want us to do this in a British accent?”  They sure do.  Turns out one of the other two guys I’m reading with is British and the second guy can do pitch perfect accent.  They want it good and real.

A small aside here:  I don’t really do accurate accents.  I can do funny accents.  Ask me to talk like an Indian and I can even amuse my mother.  But no one would ever accuse me of sounding like a real Indian.  It’s just funny.

So we rehearse it a dozen times and each time I swear I hear my accent getting worse and worse.  And I know this British dude is thinking “I hate all Americans.”  I started planning on driving right from the audition to my commercial agent’s office to berate her for sending me on this audition without any prior warning.  At least I could have practiced the night before to try to embarrass myself less.

We go in the room and they ask us to slate in our accents, so they can pretend that we’re all really British when they show the director this footage.  I hear the name “Eitan Loewenstein” escape my lips in nothing close to a British accent and I knew this was going to be bad.  So we do the scene a couple times.  I really just do my best.  I try to focus on doing the scene well and not worrying about the accent.  Of course the accent is all I can think of.

I should also mention that midway through the audition I notice the casting director looking at me and then back at her notes then back at me again.  She then shows something on her clipboard to her assistant who looks up at me.  This can’t be good.

We do the scene twice (luckily I only had two short lines, I didn’t have to do the part of the guy who tells a long story) and I eagerly await them excusing me so I can go to the car and drink Guinness until I can pretend this whole thing never happened.  But they give us another line to say, this time “angry.”  Now I was doing a terrible accent but I had to do it as a hooligan.  People would accuse me of being British long before they think I’m a hooligan.  I’m quite soft and cuddly.  Luckily this was over quickly and we were excused.

I get up to do a full on sprint out of the room and the casting director stops me by the door.  Then crazy thoughts start going through my head: Are they going to yell at me for doing such a bad accent and wasting their time?  Did they want to apologize for making me do those extra lines?  Wait, did they actually LIKE it?!

Of course not.  They say to me, “I’m so sorry but you weren’t supposed to audition for this commercial.  You are supposed to be reading for the part of the American goofy husband a few minutes later.  We didn’t realize that when we pulled you in to do this one.  Thank you for being such a good sport and going for it.  Do you mind sticking around and doing the right one?”

Um, I don’t mind at all.  Goofy American husband I can do in my sleep.  British hooligan I only have to do in my nightmares.

The point of this post is that sometimes you have to do something so ridiculous and out of your element that the best you can do is smile and plow through (see my clever British spelling in the title?).  I definately won’t get the British one but at least this office knows I’m game and professional enough to keep going no matter how bad an audition is.  People do respect that.  I stayed in the audition and did my best, even though it was really bad.

December 19, 2007

How to Take a Good Polaroid

Filed under: commercial,eitan's writings — Eitan @ 12:52 pm

Commercial actors get their Polaroids taken at almost every single audition. Why? So the casting office can have some pictorial identification on your paperwork and because the ad agency might ask for the guy in the “red Hawaiian shirt” instead of asking for “Eitan Loewenstein.” No, I don’t actually own a red Hawaiian shirt.  But I should.

So if you’re making your living (or trying to) as a commercial actor you’ll get hundreds of Polaroids taken over the course of your career. Commercial casting directors often swear that no one has ever lost a job because of a bad Polaroid. But I don’t believe them. I’ve seen some of those photos and they look like the devil himself has taken them to torture actors who take great pride in their appearances. Very few actors have learned how to minimize the chances of looking like they have been woken up in the middle of a nap for their snapshot.

Here are a few techniques that I’ve learned/stolen over the years to have your Polaroid not suck (mostly from models, they all know how to have a good picture taken):

  • Get down to or below the level of the photographer. I’m tall. Tall people know that they look really silly in photos because the photographer is typically below their eye level when they shoot. In the photography business this is referred to as shooting “up someone’s nose.” The bottom of the chin is featured as well as anything that happens to be living in the actors nasal passages. The way to combat this is to get down so your eyes are at the level of the camera or even an inch or two below. The best way to achieve this is to spread your legs apart so you don’t have to hunch over.
  • Don’t let your chin fly away. For some reason when you aim the camera at people they tend to throw their heads back trying to look like a “badass gangsta.” Well, it’s just as bad as being shot from below, so don’t do it. Tilt your head down slightly. Very slightly. Think of aiming your nose at the bottom of the camera.
  • Don’t point your nose directly at the camera. Polaroids are wide angel cameras. They’re meant for shooting big group photos. So they distort things at close range (where most commercial audition pictures are taken). So by aiming your nose slightly to the right or left of the camera (and still looking straight at the camera) you prevent your nose from looking bigger than it actually is. This is a very slight tilt, don’t overdo it. Aim at the left or right side of the camera with your nose. That’s it, perfect, you look beautiful.
  • Get away from that wall. Every session runner shoots photos against a wall because it makes for a neutral background. But they also use a flash which casts a shadow on the wall. You want to avoid a dark, sharp shadow floating behind you. So make sure you’re not leaning against the wall. A trick I learned was to put your hand behind you to feel the wall. Try to space yourself six inches to a foot away from the wall to minimize the shadow but not annoy the photographer.
  • Relax. These tips are helpful but every commercial actor has booked a job with a horrid Polaroid. It’s not a make or break moment for you but it’s nice to lead with your best foot forward. No one’s expecting these to look as polished as your headshot.

March 22, 2007

Cricket Feet Showcase, Three Commercials and Alive and Wonderful

Filed under: commercial,film,projects — Biographer @ 10:22 pm

Eitan’s just showing off. Three commercials at the same time? Seriously? Uch! How unbecoming.

Not only can you see Eitan in his commercials for Las Vegas and Cingular but now he’s going to be seen all over the country in his commercial for Saturn that started airing last night during Lost.

Eitan appears at the end of the commercial giving a “I’m not nearly as good as you” wave to the Saturn dealer. At least they cast Eitan well in this one. Listen for the “manamana” song playing.

Also, Eitan has expanded his ineptitude. If it wasn’t enough that he was an actor (and a writer/director, if you count his short film which the biographer doesn’t) Eitan is now a producer. Together with casting director Bonnie Gillespie, Eitan is producing the Cricket Feet Casting Actors Showcase. It will be performed at the Promenade Playhouse in Santa Monica on April 23rd,24th and April 26th at 8PM. More info can be found on that website. Eitan will, of course, performing in it. So expectations should be tempered.

The short film Eitan performed in “Alive and Well” has been accepted into over a dozen film festivals. Chris Peckover, the director, won “Best Director” at an Australian festival. Eitan’s IMDb Star Ranking skyrocketed from 334,733 to 237,193. There are over 100,000 dead people more famous than Eitan.

February 22, 2007

Saturn Aura Commercial, Cool Director

Filed under: bookings,commercial — Biographer @ 10:21 pm

Fine, Eitan finally did it. He finally impressed his biographer just a little bit. A very little bit. Eitan has just shot another commercial. This time for Saturn cars. Eitan’s done commercials before, why should his biographer be impressed this time? Because this commercial was directed by Jake Scott. Who’s that you ask? Maybe you’ve heard of his father Ridley or his uncle Tony. Word on the street is that Jake’s supposed to start blowing up soon, just like Eitan. Ha! Just kidding. Eitan sucks.

Look for Eitan in front of the giant 25 foot tall inflatable gorilla overcompensating for not being a Saturn dealer. He waves good morning to the Saturn dealer as he drives by on the way to work. Think about how amazing actor Eitan must be to pretend to overcompensate. He’d never overcompensate for a shortcoming. Eitan, for example, would never have a 30 page long biography that he writes in third person to make himself seem more important than he really is. Never.

January 12, 2007

Commercials Commercials Everywhere

Filed under: commercial — Biographer @ 10:20 pm

There is no escape from Eitan.  Turn on your TV and BOOM there he is.  Right now he’s appearing in both his national Cingular commercial and finally you can see Eitan and the fortune teller in his “What Happens Here Stays Here” Las Vegas commercial.  In Eitan’s Cingular commercial you can see him playing with the new Samsung Blackjack phone and being all nerdy at his computer.

Ignore the ealier statements about the Vegas commercial not appearing on TV.  In fact, ignore any mistakes in this biography.  They are only there to lead the non-believers astray.

December 15, 2006

Cingular Commercial, Vegas is Here

Filed under: bookings,commercial — Biographer @ 10:19 pm

Oh boy, actual news.  Eitan has beat the odds once again and for about 8 hours on a Thursday was employed!  This time Eitan shot a national Cingular commercial.  In it Eitan plays a young man using his computer in a coffee shop.  Close your eyes very tight and try to imagine Eitan using a computer, it’s hard.  Look for him when the camera flies over the shoulder of a newscaster and into the cafe.   The name of the commercial is “Seamless.”  It’s quite high tech.

During shooting a robotic camera moved in from the street into the cafe at a good clip.  Take after take it flew at Eitan’s head.  The biographer regrets to inform the readers of this website that it missed his head every single time.  It did almost shatter a glass door and lacerate Eitan’s face a couple times, but almost doesn’t count.

If you haven’t noticed by now Eitan’s Las Vegas commercial hasn’t aired.  It is available to view on this website but apparently that’s it.  Eitan cried like a girl when he realized his spot wouldn’t be running.  Like a little girl.  Unless you hear otherwise assume it’s been shelved and won’t be coming to your TV.  It happens to the best actors (and apparently to Eitan too).

March 28, 2006

Through the Front Door, Vegas Update

Filed under: commercial,film — Biographer @ 10:16 pm

No, the Vegas commercial isn’t airing yet.  Stop asking.  Seriously, you’re starting to sound needy.  But good news to curb your Eitan fixation.  For over year Eitan has been trying to shoot a short film he wrote.  Who else but Eitan could write a short film where he’s on screen alone for 90% of the time?  Honestly, who’s got that big of an ego that they’d assume people want to see that?  Even Tom Hanks had a volleyball to share screen time in Castaway. 

But it’s done.  People are calling it “Funny,” “Great,” “Cute” and “The most important short film in the history of cinema.”  That last quote was from Eitan’s mom and it sounded pretty sarcastic.  The film is now available on YouTube.  Go see Eitan in 3 dimensions!  That’s the X axis, Y axis and Time.  Three dimensions.  Stop acting like you know better.

The film might be entered into a few film festivals if Eitan’s ego needs a summer boost (or if it’s ego sweeps week).  Keep an eye out for any news.

January 11, 2006

What Happens in Vegas Commercial, Eitan is Famous

Filed under: bookings,commercial — Biographer @ 10:15 pm

“What happens in Eitan stays in Eitan.”  Catchy?  No it’s not.  It works much better for Las Vegas.  Eitan is not known for his debauchery, crazy parties and all night drink-fests (yet).  That being said, Eitan has just shot one of those nifty commercials.  Yes, Eitan actually was flown out to Vegas (on the glory of Southwest Airlines) for two nights at the exotic Hilton (no, not the one with the casino and the Star Trek experience although Eitan certainly is nerdy enough to get excited about something like that).

Eitan will be seen at a psychic getting a reading against his will.  He will use whatever mental powers he can muster to block her out of his head so that she may not see the fun he will have in Vegas and tell his girlfriend.  The tag line, “What happens here, stays here.”  But anyone who’s ever watched TV in the past few years already knew that. 

When will this commercial air?  When will Eitan be known as “That guy from the thing, with that girl in it!  Look Martha, take his photo.  Quick, before he gets away!”?  No one knows.  Probably soon, possibly later.  How’s that for helpful information?

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