This is a plea to actors. Please let’s figure out the future of the business before we give up. Let’s hope that when SAG asks casting directors what we truly think, they listen.
I have not written a blog post in a long time and to be honest, I was not sure I was going to write it anymore. I felt I was writing the same thing over and over and I was helping a certain group of people learn the business but unable to reach the group that casting directors and agents need the most help from. That is the group of actors that have been doing this a long time. They are SAG members that seem to be so frustrated with SAG and the state of the business that they have given up.
The business right now is the most unpredictable that I have ever seen. Every month is a rollercoaster for casting and even worse for agents and actors. There is no consistency in any way for any of us. SAG commercial agent departments are getting smaller and smaller. As senior agents leave, they are not being replaced…supply and demand.
I have used the same calendar book for thirty years. I use it to write my daily schedule in it, what I prep and cast. My first diary book is dated 1984. It’s really amazing to look back at the “golden days,” the pages were filled. I can actually prove the flow and changes in the business better than anyone by going through those books. There is so much history there. The peak of my work and the network commercial work in NY was about fifteen years ago. Back then I used to say, “I am exhausted but I have to hope and pray that I am lucky enough to stay successful.” I couldn’t keep up with it. Every job paid my rate. Every job was SAG. If I had known then what I know now, I would have saved more money.
To tell you the truth, I have no idea where the advertising business is going now but I would like to have a conversation with somebody who does. The first big change I noticed was the addition of cable. That did not affect my work flow or getting my rates to cast. Actors were upset and went on strike. Casting directors do what we are hired to do. We have no union. That strike made my job twice as hard and I was glad when it was over.
I believe the union underestimated the amount of commercials that would be shot for cable and believed it was a passing phase. And here we go again. We have now entered the world of digital and social media. This is not going away and seems to be about 70% of the commercials being shot. These ads have very tiny budgets and most cannot afford to use SAG talent. Some of these play on things like Snap Chat. The 17% pension and welfare is what makes it impossible to use SAG talent. Casting Directors have had to agree to cut their rates by 2/3 and hope to cast twice the amount of work to pay our bills and stay in business.
This is the point I was trying to get to: It’s not the huge corporations shooting broadcast commercials and just wanting to do them non-union; I think everyone values great SAG actors but with the shooting budgets for digital, it is not affordable and the truth is that network TV is mostly watched for live sporting events, award shows, and specials.
We are all scared right now and network seems to be at an all time low, though SAG says that they are making more money than ever. The average actor can no longer afford medical and the chances are that they will never collect a pension.
I believe advertising will always be necessary. It actually works in introducing products and selling them. I have no idea how SAG said they had the best year ever. I know that the average actor struggles to pay their bills and have very little hope that things will change. This next contract needs to be thought out in a whole new way. Someone has to be on top of this digital situation and figure out a way that we can all stay working. I am on the ground as the case with most casting directors and we truly look for guidance and hope. There are no convincing low budgeted jobs to go SAG so or even try and buy up every actor in NYC. That is an old fashioned way of thinking and maybe it is time for new blood.