Lets Move Forward

The SAG/AFTRA commercial contract was approved overwhelmingly. There is no reason to dwell. We need to move forward. As union members, it is important for you to understand the new rules.

There is a clause about NDA’S that I think everyone should understand. It seems it is automatic on every commercial job that you are under an NDA. You don’t have to sign an NDA for it to be enforced. Casting directors have been putting them out for years on jobs that are new concepts or have celebrity talent in them. We have, many times, not let actors know the name of the product, just the conflict area. Since social media has made it so easy to talk about things and publicize it, I think actors get excited to share things and clients do not want their new ideas shared in that way. They have competitors as well…remember?

I think when actors audition they need to assume every audition and the material are under that rule. Never ever take scripts with you. This has now become a SAG/AFTRA rule and it is not worth taking any chances on. It is so easy to find out where the leak came from and nobody needs trouble. Casting directors even sign them saying that we will not post scripts and, if we do, they will not have certain info on them, like product names or logos.

New York rarely posts scripts. Beth Melsky Casting rarely posts union breakdowns, unless we are looking for something very unusual. We are very old fashion and believe that verbal communication with agents helps them understand the creative and gives us the chance to talk about seasoned actors as well as new actors that they feel have great potential. The less that is posted, the less chance there is for problems. However, that is not why we choose to prep by communicating. We do it the old fashion way because, even though it might take more time, it is more effective in doing a great job.

If we are casting non-union, I think you should follow this rule as well. Our clients expect that from us and we will continue to put out NDA’S when requested on non-union jobs. Social media has changed this industry and you must be careful. If you were a stock broker, would you tell everyone what you did all day? This is a job.

Our casting process allows me to present my client with the pros, as well as working hard to add new and interesting choices. This is a very important balance. Again, Beth Melsky Casting does this across the board. We also respect and set up our casting sessions the same way. Everyone gets a time and we work hard to get actors in and out as fast as possible. For actors that are used to going to non-union auditions and thinking that “anytime works,” that is not the way we work. Please take your appointments seriously, take everything you are told seriously, and the audition process in my office will go very smoothly. Union or non-union, all sessions are important and all casting needs to be presented with quality. Actors are treated with respect and the actors need to respect the casting process. Non-union is not going away…so let’s present it the same and build a greater level of respect. I think, even with union casting, or the lack of, actors are being forced to put it lower on their list of priorities; therefore, union sessions can end up equally as hard to put together. I get both sides and I just ask that everybody (not just actors ) try harder.

I think actors need to assess their careers, decide their priorities, and choose what is best for them. Joining the union if you are able, staying non-union or even going financial core, none of us have a crystal ball so all you can do is decide what is the best path for you right now and how you might earn the most money in your near future. Going fi-core after you have become a union member is a big decision. Just as joining the union, if you have the opportunity, is a big decision. Going fi-core is easy but deciding to be union again is not so easy. While you are fi-core you cannot audition for union work. It’s not as if you can book something union and then pick up the phone and say, “I want to be SAG again.” It is a process that will take way longer then you would ever have in being able to do the job and will cause huge problems for the casting director and the signatory.

If you make a decision to be a member again then you must start the process before you audition for union work. You cannot do both. Actors that have worked non-stop non-union might very well see a big change in the amount of auditions you end up getting. Do your due diligence. You cannot let it figure itself out. Actors that have been union for many years decide to go financial core because being a union member is no longer helping their careers. You cannot use the option of fi-core as a way to toggle back and forth. If you make the choice to join and it does not work out for you, you can file to go fi-core. Just make sure that is what you will be happier with. Everyone’s career is different. I think there are times that actors should join and times they shouldn’t, but it is not up to me to advise you.

With the Internet and social media, advertising is a changed world. I know actors were hoping that this contract would help change the amount of non-union work, but unfortunately advertisers are not seeing enough of a return to increase budgets to cast union. This belief also greatly affects casting directors. We used to have day rates. Now we are being offered flat rates and it is hard for us as well. We work twice as hard for half the money, but I cannot let that affect my quality, staff, or services.

We all have to hope that with time and knowledge things will get better for all of us. Maybe it would have been great if the negotiations (since it seemed they were going well) were extended and took more time. That is easy for me to say. I do not know the process. I do know that things will hopefully continue along because products still have to be advertised and in three years when the commercial contract is up again, we will not only be more knowledgeable, but the future of the way things can and will work will be shown over that time.

In the meantime, everyone should do what he/she is doing. Pay attention to the flow and future of advertising and do not make rash decisions. Three years in our world is a short amount of time but a lot can been learned.

Like I have said before, knowledge is everything. We are all in the same position…and hope time helps for the next contract.

There are no easy answers. If I could turn the clock back twenty years, I would. Social media and technology are moving faster then we are and I do not see it slowing down. Maybe casting will become an app (haha). I do not think there were any clear winners here but a war is not the answer.

My personal opinion does not matter. I do not have a vote but it all affects my business. Something I very much have to keep going. Let’s work towards a future that can works best for everyone so actors can just think about acting. Beth Melsky Casting is here for everyone.

Lets Move Forward

My Thoughts on the New SAG Contract

I’d like to talk about the new proposed SAG commercial contract. The commercial business is the worst it has ever been. It is affecting agents, actors, casting directors, directors, producers, and god knows how many other people. Non-union has become almost the norm and I was so hoping that with all the questions casting directors and agents were asked before the negotiations, that some of the concerns would be addressed.

The future, whether we like it or not, is digital – the internet, social media, etc. These mediums, for whatever reason, do not seem to warrant big budgets. Just paying pension and welfare makes it unaffordable to shoot on a SAG contract. The 8-hour shoot day makes it unaffordable and SAG is the last union to be doing it. Outside the zone makes it unaffordable, and still first class airfare for over 1,000 miles. You are talking about a plane ticket for $6,000. That rule is stopping clients from casting on both coasts and, once again, losing work for your members across the country. It is not the rates for the actors, it’s all the extras. Non-union work, for the most part, pays the actors very well.

Broadcast TV commercials paying residuals are becoming dinosaurs. Meanwhile that is where all the negotiating energy was put. The hope was to recognize where the future is and concentrate on that. Instead, there were huge increases in things that are becoming obsolete. Sometimes, you need to go backwards to move forward.

Now was the time to try and understand where we are in 2016 and deal with those issues so that SAG actors can continue to work. My fear is that this new deal is going to benefit the top level of commercial actors; but where is the benefit for young actors to want to join the union? I do not have the answers but I feel this negotiation will do nothing to help in getting more clients to shoot on a sag contract.

I urge all SAG members to do their due diligence. Ask your agents questions and make sure you understand how it will impact you. Cable is now up 13%, P&W 18%, and medical is almost impossible for actors to get. I have been doing this for 33 years.

When I started I never imagined that we would be doing so much non-union work.

I was hoping for HOPE and I don’t see it here. If you look back at the last strike, there was no reason for it. The biggest new problem back then was cable and I do not think the union thought it would be that be a deal. Why you didn’t want agents and even casting directors as part of the negotiation, I will never understand. We are on the front lines and understand what is going on better than anyone. The future in social media is moving so fast and it is only going to get worse. I truly think that it was pretty much ignored. So few people, especially the younger ones, do not watch network or even broadcast TV. Even cable shows can be watched on Netflix without any commercials. You got tremendous increases in things that barely exist and now even cable commercials will be done non-union.

Old ways of negotiating and ignoring the future mediums (that I don’t think are really understood) are not going to help the future of the existing membership. Does anyone realize that when a casting director gets a job, the first question is, “Is it union or non union?” Approximately 60% of all commercials cast are now non-union. Not sure anyone tried to figure out that number in order to help the negotiations.

How are agents going to survive? I certainly was hoping for so much more to help bridge this gap. We can’t change the reality but we can care enough about the up coming generation and the massive changes in the tech world to have tried harder on their behalf.

Casting directors have been left in a position to continue doing what we are doing because the door was not even opened enough to think things can change. I wish I understood why the majority of your membership would agree to this when there is not one drop of hope in there for them.

Pensions are like social security. Will these actors ever be able to work enough to collect? Maybe I am naive but you could have done so much better. I have never asked a union actor to work non-union and I never will. I respect the idea of the “union.” I just think you gave had years and hundreds of hours of meetings to then completely ignore the “real” issues.

I urge all actors to read and really understand this new deal.

It would have benefitted everyone if you had come closer. Where’s the incentive for non-union actors to become union? What could possibly turn things around under this deal? Everyone wants a union but a union that works for everyone – the big guy and the small guy.

I was really hoping for so much more. Extending the talks and trying to figure this out would have been better. You did it with cable and now it’s too late. You did it with internet and now it’s too late and now you are doing it with all social media platforms. Three years from now, I’m not sure where union shot commercials will be.

SOOOOOO FRUSTRATED, ALONG WITH ALL OTHER CASTING DIRECTORS, AGENTS, AND MANY ACTORS THAT NEED THE PROPER HELP.

Good luck.

My Thoughts on the New SAG Contract

A Bit About Beth

 

Saturday was my birthday. Year is not allowed to be discussed…haha. It was nice to have a stress free day knowing that I will have casting sessions set up for next week. I went horseback riding, which is my one non-work related passion. I am always so busy talking about the stress of setting up casting sessions and the struggle to get actors to be accountable to agents and managers that I have never explained the casting director side.

I do not have a staff job. Beth Melsky Casting is a freelance company. Just like actors wait for the phone to ring, I wait for the phone to ring. Every job with a client could be my last. That is why I treat EVERY job like my first. It does not matter how big or small. It does not matter if they are paying my rate or asking for a discount. A job is a job and we do them all 100%.

The excuse, “they are not paying me enough” is not an excuse to dial it in.

You also never know what the future could bring so I always do my best. Do actors half ass auditions because they are not getting paid enough?

I feel this work ethic has served my company and I well. Favors are usually not forgotten and ending on a positive note could lead to future business.

When I started, you only needed a handful of directors/clients that understood the positives of a great casting director (once you proved to be talented), especially in New York, where most ad agencies and production companies were based. There was a lot of top-level work being done. Relationships were about my taste in actors as well as my relationship with talent agents to help provide me the option for the best actors. Every director is different and has different ideas and ways of explaining what they are looking for. Two directors could want the same type of talent but say if very differently. It is my job to understand that and if I don’t, I ask questions. Assumptions are out of the question. Understanding a director should be the number one reason a director considers you his/her casting director. These relationships mean a lot to me. I am always searching and digging to present new actors but I still understand what the director wants. My job is to understand the director or ad agency and give them what they want based on taste and understanding.

My opinion is not the point in commercials. Films are a whole other animal. You MUST have a great relationship with a director and totally get in their heads. Directors are always open to suggestions as long as you can back them up.

The thing about film that I think people miss is that we see, meet, and use these actors way before they get on the radar of independent films and then studios. They could really learn a lot from top commercial casting directors about people that are going to break. The “money” cast may already be set but the hope, especially in an independent film, is to introduce them to those actors that will break by the time their movie gets released.

I was never interested in casting sitcoms and have always been interested in casting independent films with great scripts or great people behind them. I just do not think they have the same faith in us that we have in casting their projects.

We did a pretty great job with Tony Kaye and his last film Detachment. It was a great film with a great cast. It was an independent film that many celebrities worked on at scale because of the material and the director. I have worked on many films and I am very proud of that one.

I love working on one film a year because my commercial work is very important and, most times, fulfilling. I would not mind working on a great episodic, like Billions – a New York cast, great scripts, great regular characters that can be filled in with perfection, though I think the casting is great.

I have always stayed in commercials because I have been lucky enough to cover all areas of commercial casting by staffing up properly and understanding all union rules to protect signatories as well as understanding the demands of the non-union world. I try to get actors fare rates and fare deals.

Casting directors are not going to stop the non-union world. In order to stay working we need to be great and knowledgeable at both. We need for our clients to trust that we know what we are doing – getting the best for their budgets and protecting them. We also look out to protect actors. We never want anything coming back to us.

I hope that our diligence has kept us working and that we continue for the long haul. Change is happening very fast and we need to be ready. I have many people to support as well as animals, bills, rent and mortgages. This is what I do best and want to continue to have the phone ring. This is what I will always do and want to be the best at.

Any my last thought – I am not a mean person. I am a passionate person that wants to see everyone contribute to a get great end result. I actually always root for the underdog.

 

 

 

 

 

A Bit About Beth

Respect Everyone’s Time

 

Since my last post, I have found that time is an issue for casting directors and actors. There has to be respect on both sides. Whether Beth Melsky Casting sessions are union or non-union, they are scheduled the same way. We do not do cattle calls. We follow the spec and script and then schedule accordingly.

We hate having actors wait too long. We cannot always control callbacks because we are dealing with a director and client but I do the best to anticipate what might happen.

As far as my first calls, I really want quality sessions that run smoothly. This is why my office is so strict about time changes or even losses.

There is a real reason why we cannot accommodate all time changes. I hate getting agent submissions with actors that I am excited to see, but to find out that they are not available because they have not booked out or updated their schedules with their agent. We are trying to make every session perfect. We need the right type at a specific time for many reasons.

I can be doing five characters in a day with small windows for each one. Letting actors walk in whenever they want makes for a sloppy casting session and makes it harder for the people watching to get a sense of what they have. That can lead to more casting or too many callbacks. Some auditions require multiple actors of different types to make a scene work. We need to re-create the storyboard or script as closely as possible when setting up a session. I try and anticipate how long an audition will take and leave enough time for the casting director to do a great job and give all actors a fair chance. If actors are running late or just cancel, it throws off the whole session. I have had actors waiting way beyond their time because of this. They get as frustrated as we do.

Again, there are two sides to everything. First calls out of Beth Melsky Casting are very important. Our directors and clients look very closely at casting sessions. They trust us to do a great job and to get them to callbacks. This is like putting together a puzzle. When one piece does not fit, or needs a time change, or didn’t book out, I have to keep re-doing the puzzle.

I think the point I am trying to make here is that it is not the casting director against the agent or actor. The business has changed so much for all of us. In this fast paced business, a lot of effort and attention to detail are required and, in order to keep working, we have to make these changes. Casting directors, agents, and actors have to work together to make this process go smoothly and keep the quality.

My office might have a reputation for being difficult and I just want everyone to know that it is because we want to put out great casting sessions that will keep the process going.

A quality casting session in New York on a job shooting in New York will make those clients cast the next job in New York.

I’m not sure the casting process has ever been explained clearly to actors so it is hard to understand our actions. I would like if agents and their assistants understood the way casting sessions worked. I have made the offer for them to spend a day in my office to learn, but nobody seemed to care enough. I think certain things could be explained to all actors in a way that they would be happy to make more of an effort. We are working together to not only keep a very unclear business going, but to show respect for everyone who is trying to get a job done right.

Respect Everyone’s Time

New Year, Same Sh*t

 

It has been about a week since we have been back after the long vacation. I would have thought everyone would be back, excited, and ready to work. Nope. So many actors have decided to “extend their trips” (wish I could do that), or have not given their schedules to their agents (something I have begged for in my last 33 blogs), or everything just gets blamed on the managers.

I would like to talk about managers a bit. It seems that when I have actor avail issues, more than half the time I am told, “the manager said…”

Do managers not care about their actors doing commercials? Maybe managers do not understand how it works in commercials. It is so important that talent agents know actors’ schedules. Why can’t commercial agents have direct contact with actors?

It is hard enough when we are dealing actor to agent but then you add a manager into the mix and the communication is completely broken down. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard, “the manager didn’t tell me.” Maybe managers are being blamed unfairly…I just don’t know.

Either way, actors need to be responsible to manager or agent and if it is a manager, then managers should be considerate enough to inform the agent.

I am open to opinions on how to make this process work better since I don’t think I’ll make it through another year with giving myself a heart attack.

Next and BIG issue of the week: I ran a casting session before the holiday and warned all actors when the callback would be. If actors were not going to be available for a callback, they should not have come in for an audition. Of course a few people decided to extend their vacations, but the worst situation was an actress that decided to get on a plane an hour before the callbacks were scheduled. She was my clients’ first choice. She stayed in New York waiting for a possible callback and then, without checking in with anyone, got on a plane. I’m not even going to tell you why, but it was not a necessary trip. Her agent and I were very upset. I was able to contact her during her lay over and she made the decision to turn around and come back New York. Nobody insisted. She knew how frustrated we all were but she not only learned a lesson, she chose to come back.

Great news…it was worth her time. She booked the job. Commitment is huge. Another acting job is legit but just not being able to sit still and be patient is crazy. That’s the life of an actor. First blog of the year and my first cry for help.

New Year, Same Sh*t

To A Productive 2016

It is the end of the year and it has been a tiring one. Casting directors have had some very busy times and some slow times. Believe it or not, the busy times are harder than the slow periods. That brings me to my three biggest wishes for the New Year:

  1. Enough work for casting directors, talent agents, and actors. That being said, my next wish…
  2. For actors to help make the agents’ (then, in turn, the casting directors’) lives much easier by being responsible. Send in your schedules. Do not wait for an appointment to let your agent know about something by saying, “Oh, I was just about to tell you. It just happened.” This is a job and one you need to take seriously. If acting is no longer your “career,” then let your agent or agents know that. If you are responsible with your schedules, they will have the information and work with it.
  3. The commercial contract is up in April. It would be amazing if the union could wipe the slate clean and start again. Times are very different now and it would be great if all actors had the same opportunities. This is not a realistic wish. Union or non-union is tough on everyone but we need to work and union is not always affordable in this new digital age. Everyone should have a chance to work and make money at what they love doing.

I wish everyone a happy and successful New Year and I can’t wait for the newest and funniest excuses.

 

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To A Productive 2016

A Week of Excuses

This week was a huge test of my patience. Casting directors, like actors, rely on jobs to pay rent. November, so far, has been a fairly slow month. There doesn’t seem to be a formula to when it is going to be busy or slow. It’s an evolving business with more Internet than broadcast. The change and the factor of the unknown affect us as much as the actors and advertising agencies. We are happy to work and make the changes as they come. I would think and hope that actors feel the same way. We can’t do anything about changing tech or ways to watch commercials but what I do know is that commercials will always be necessary. How else will people know what to buy? We just have to be patient. I have lived through network TV with minimum channels to cable TV and now the Internet. If anything there are more ways to sell products than ever before. Budgets change, media outlets change, and we just have to hang in there. This is all I know how to do (except ride a horse but I can’t earn a living doing that) so we ALL have to stick together and wait. Actors will always be needed so don’t stop taking it seriously.

Beth Melsky Casting got a huge, great creative, job with multiple spots to cast with an amazing director. We are always ready to take on casting jobs and this one is like a gift. I think the talent agents feel the same way. These are the breakdowns that they want to get as many of their actors seen as possible. We just cannot figure out how the actors feel. Instead of being able to put my time prepping quality and assuming that this is what actors want, I struggle trying to put together strong sessions. We have hit an all-time high of problems. Here we go again.

Actors not keeping their agents up to date on their schedules, actors not reading all the information that they are sent in e-mails or not listening to messages left. Again, we prep diligently, follow casting specs that are given to use, and pick actors that we think will do more than justice to the role. That is the job of a good casting director – interpreting specs and scripts and scheduling people that we think will be great. Actors, you are hand picked. You are not a dime a dozen. Of course we always need to meet new people on every job, but we need the majority of these sessions to be A-level.

We always give the usage, conflict, callback date, and shoot date(s) at the time we give out the audition time. I could not possibly give more information. Even with that, sometimes less than half is not listened to, not paid attention to, or thought of as unimportant. I cannot change an audition date, callback date, or shoot date. Therefore, if you are not avail for callback or shoot, we need to know before you waste your time, my time, and the directors’ time.

Shoots cannot be changed. “Let’s see what happens…maybe they won’t like me anyway” is not the right mindset for an actor. And it is not fair. What if they like you? Look at the position you have put the casting director and the agent in.

Let’s move on to the auditions. Scheduling a session with all roles required to make the script work is very difficult. Everyone asking for a time change makes it impossible for the casting directors in the studio do their job well. They end up short on necessary parts and then they have a waiting room full of angry actors because someone is running late or cancelled at the last minute or 50 other reasons. There are very few reasons that require a time change and the requests are out of control. For us to do a quality casting session, you need to trust the way we are setting it up. It is about quality and efficiency. We are not a hair salon. You cannot pick your time. Sometimes we cast more than one spot or vignette in a day and there is often a small window for your role. As actors, I would appreciate it if you could make it to the casting at your scheduled time.

 

Here are some classic excuses from this past week:

  1. “I have to teach so I need a time change.”

Usually agents do not even know they are teaching; however, I give a time change, and the actor is still no good.

  1. “I have to take my grandmother to the doctor.”

Is that an everyday thing? I also believe a grandmother would rather have their grandchild do the audition.

  1. “I am a real estate broker and cannot change a property showing.”

Actor or real estate broker?

  1. “I work for an airline and can only get one day off at a time.”

Well, if the job shoots in LA, it will clearly take more than one day. Did you tell your agent any of this? I am kind of tired of being the one to help with this disclosure information.

  1. “My kid is sick, so I have to watch him.”

If you are responsible for watching your children, and it will affect auditions, agents need to know this.

  1. “I live too far out of the city so I need at least 24 hours notice for auditions.”

We are lucky if we get three hours. So, once again, tell your agent so they know how to submit you.

  1. “I have to cancel my appointment. I forgot I had a trip booked during the shoot dates.”

This happened while an actor was on his way to his confirmed appointment. This also happened in another instance while the actor was auditioning.

  1. “Oh, I have finals during the shoot days.”

These are people of all ages.

  1. “Oh, it is not a good time for me. Can I change it?”
  2. “I have therapy at that time.”
  3. “I have a reading that day.”

Readings are usually unpaid.

  1. “I have a dentist appointment.”
  2. “I have to work.”

I would say only about one out of every 30 times, it’s actually an acting job.

 

I do not have the answers to the state of this business. I just know the casting procedure will always be the same and if you want to seriously pursue this career, you must manage it better. I could go on forever with the things we listen to. We cannot and will not do cattle calls. More is expected of Beth Melsky Casting.

There is never a time that this is “just another job.” I work hard for my clients and I also work hard for the actors. I am very fair but if you have people that do not care, it is not going to work.

I am begging you to do whatever you can to avoid time changes before you come to us. There are cases that are unavoidable but many times, it can be worked out on your end. Also, it would help if the actors knew the people they were talking to. Rarely does that happen. That creates a lack of respect and many problems. I spend way too much on these issues and not enough time on being a good casting director with a great company. We need help.

A Week of Excuses