Can’t Find the Curve

It’s Friday afternoon. The second to last Friday in March. March came in like a storm and is leaving with a whimper. Come January 1st I start to assess and compare my work flow and billing to the year before. I actually do it every month because if I don’t make a month, I get stressed. The business has become so inconsistent and so unpredictable that I can’t say, “we’ll wait until June because June is always great”. As a very established business the future is feeling a bit scary. There doesn’t seem to be any way to pinpoint why some weeks or months are better than others and since we need to make overhead every month I need to pay attention. Casting, especially when you have your own staff and space, used to provide a good living, but it is no longer a business that can make a profit. Staff has to be consistent and great and having a great space is important. Regardless of budget people come to me for a certain quality and that is not something that I will compromise. January is usually good because of Super bowl advertising. It barely existed for us this year. Disappointing month. Because February is such a short month, I hold my breath, but we got through it this year. Not enough to cover the loss from January, but enough to cover the month.

Here we are in March, and like I said, off to a great start, so much so that I thought I may have been able to catch up a bit. Not happening. Another month that I think I’ll come up short.

Some months I can have 20-22 jobs, but the budgets are so small (and I’m willing to try as hard as I can to take the good with the bad) that I barely make it. March was lucky because I had some big SAG jobs. I was hoping that those jobs, along with the really low budget work, would help end the month well. In this case, it looks like I may only do 16 jobs with really good casting budgets but I’ll still come up short. I’ve always said that we have to get used to working twice as hard for ½ the money.

I can live with that but it feels like another change is coming…less and less work across the board.

Where is advertising going? How are people advertising? Don’t we need advertising to sell products?

The change from every job being SAG – to so much non-union was something we had to adjust to. I’m not involved in how we got here. I just know it happened and casting directors have to pay their rent. There is no one for us to strike with, or stand tall with. We don’t have a union, or anyone to help us with medical or pensions. We just have to keep working.

The question is… Where is the work?

I live on a rollercoaster now. I have never had guarantees or stability, but I felt if my office did a great job, regardless of the budget, we would be okay.

For the first time in 30 years, I’m not sure.

Clearly with all these streaming services and so much digital work and even apps, there seems to be less demand and nobody wants to spend money when they claim nobody is watching.

I feel like Network TV is upping their game, but it may be too late.

I joked with my stockbroker and told him to buy me Netflix. I said that if I lost my investment on it then it would mean my business was ok. If my business were failing then maybe the stock would help. At the time I was joking. Not sure it’s so funny now.

I’m not a scared person, just a stressed out one. I always believed that advertising would be necessary… now I’m not so sure. I’ve become scared.

I think that most advertising now is for the internet and social media. The quality of that work can be done with non-union actors and companies that are all in house. From creating the advertising to pre production; including casting to production and post. It’s one stop shopping and good enough for 6 seconds on social media. What scares me is what would stop the business from continuing to go that way. Client direct. There is already so much of it.Spotify, Pepsi, etc.

What has happened to the advertising agency? How are they going to make the transition to creating content for low budget content? What happens to all the senior creatives and producers that can’t have their salaries covered anymore?

Bigger and bigger corporate clients are starting to ask the agencies to spend less. They want to know how other big companies are doing non-union to avoid what they consider to be crazy talent costs. Simply, they don’t think the pay out is worth the result. These agents can’t afford to work that way. I’m not sure they even know how.

I think we are all sitting back and waiting to see how the commercial business resolves itself, but one thing I do know- THE COMMERCIAL BUSINESS IS NO LONGER THE WAY IT WAS WHEN A LOT OF US STARTED AND IT NEVER WILL BE AGAIN.

I certainly hope that we can adjust with the changes and hope that the commercial business doesn’t become a dinosaur.

There are so many very well know actors that got their start doing commercials. It will be sad for so many of us if it’s no longer an option.

I’ve always tried to stay ahead of the curve, to keep working and be successful. I just can’t seem to find the curve this time.

-Beth Melsky

Can’t Find the Curve

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