Wednesday, June 29, 2016

I frequently think of getting acting to pay me reasonable money is like takeoff velocity. I train, I go faster. I get in better shape, I go faster. My films play festivals, I go faster.

I've hit a stall.

Earlier this year I quit my restaurant job for a few reasons; now all my sources of income are flexible--I can pick and choose every day I work.

I am at the point where the amount of unpaid good film and theater work I am offered exceeds the amount of free time I have. I need to pay my bills.

I'm non-union. At this point in my life I am not very interested in booking a National Tour, I like my life and my boyfriend at my cat. It also means that no film is required to give me any money.

I'm a little disheartened at the gatekeeper situation when it comes to finding representation. A famous casting director compared the pay-to-play classes to speed dating.  It's flawed and expensive. And here I am, producing good work, much of it under the Creative Commons license. I have fanbases that know my name! I also have some cobwebs in my bank account.

What's the next step? What do I do? I need to make more money so I can take more class so I can act more and earn no money and get good exposure...

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Asking, Giving, and Taking

I am of extremely mixed opinions when it comes to the trend of crowd-sourcing. If the effort can reach a crowd outside one's immediate social circle, I don't mind it. I've contributed to many kickstarters where I know I will receive the product at the end; the online fundraising happened to ensure the size of the customer base.

I got irrationally angry the other day when I saw an acquaintance asking Facebook for a job. She wasn't unemployed, but had rather taken a job for a few months in Central America. She had already launched a Kickstarter campaign to send her to a training program back in the states for a few days, and didn't have the travel funds immediately available. Her kickstarter highlighted that she wanted to see all of her industry friends at the training! That effort was funded successfully.

Her time in Central America was coming to a close, and she wanted a job lined up when she returned to NYC. Within hours of her posting, references and offers appeared in her comments section.

An actor friend of mine has a GoFundMe started to potentially pay for studio classes. Acting classes are cost-prohibitive, and flexible employment pays significantly less. Her posts are more professional in tone, she's been invited to a program with an excellent reputation.

Now, I am of the opinion that the world does not owe you. If you make a choice to go on tour, or take a seasonal service job thousands of miles away, that's your choice and you own the consequences. Asking your friends to fund your trip to a convention or networking event, to me, reads as irresponsible.

My boyfriend listens to me fume every time I see one of these posts on social media. I hear Dustin Hoffman as Captain Hook: I want, I want, I want, me, me, me, my, my, my. How can anyone be so-centered as to think their friends on the internet will greet their asking with enthusiasm? I huff, I puff, I complain, and then try to drop it.

Recently, aforementioned supportive boyfriend and I went to an Record Store Day event sponsored by Dogfishhead brewery. It culminated in a raffle. Each prize was shown to the room before the winner was announced. One of the prizes was a tin sign, and without thinking I exclaimed "I want that!".

 I did not win the sign.

 The winner's wife, however, hated the sign, and told the winner he could not bring it home. He had heard me from across the room, and gave it to me on his way out. I told a room what I wanted, and the object of my desire was literally given to me.

Maybe I need to chill out about asking. Maybe I should ask for bigger things.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Indignity of It All

This weekend I had a rather infuriating exchange with a student filmmaker. I had applied for a principal role in a student film, and received this message:
Hi Maya!

Unfortunately, the principle roles have already been casted but the director would absolutely love if you'd be able to act as one of a few background actors in perhaps the film's pivotal scene: a surreal and very darkly comedic orgy framing the moral decadence and apathy of Brittany. 

The scene would involve very basic coverage but, as for nudity, it's quite literally however much you would feel comfortable with (do let us know, however, so we'll know how to cheat it out). Wardrobe would be black grungy clothing. 

Let us know if you would be interested in the role, it will be shooting tomorrow in Brooklyn as an overnight -- from 1am to 6am. If you are interested and available, I can send you the address of the shoot (and please feel free to ask any further questions). 

This message has a few problems. We'll talk about how the past tense of 'to cast' is 'cast', and how the word is principAL not princiPLE at some later date.
I wrote the student back that I was looking for reel material, and an unpaid scene orgy scene (shooting overnight, no less) didn't suit my needs. I also called him out on the faux flattery, and the bait and switch of sending me this message when it in no way reflects what I submitted for.
His response was lengthy, and full of misinformation; I'm not sure if he was poorly informed or just lying. Here are the highlights:
1) This has been difficult for him
2)Posting asking for nudity would be both "rude" and intrusive"
3)Not disclosing nudity and then asking for it on set would open him up to a potential lawsuit. (But seriously, he was considering that as an option)
4)Offering to pay extras for a nude scene would be tantamount to hiring sex workers. (He said cash would make is transactional.)
5) He's sure he'll have to hire more nude actors in the future, and he doesn't want to drive them away going forward. "Imagine if I got to work with Foreign Director? What a great opportunity and subsequent folly that would be!"

Here's the deal, bucko: telling me the director would simply love for me to be in this "pivotal" and "darkly comedic orgy" scene does not stroke my ego. I did not submit to be in your orgy.
SAG pays extra for being scantily clad; they pay more for nudity. I've seen posts for non-speaking nude roles that pay the principal rate. Sure, I'm non-union, but looking at the union rules will tell you there is value in what you are asking for.
By not offering compensation, you are not sparing me the indignity of being labeled a sex worker. You are failing to compensate me for something that has an established value. 
Be up-front. Post for what you are looking for. Do not bait-and-switch. Do not paint an unpaid BG role in a student film an opportunity.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Fleshed-Out Characters

It's student film season. Backstage and Casting Networks are brimming with roles in films for NYFA, SVA, and NYU students.

I have my usual gripes. Broken single mothers, girlfriend to protagonist. Women are so frequently lead-adjacent. Women can be people and have characteristics of their own! However many first projects are just loving imitations of existing culture, and female characters are still having a difficult time at the box-office (action figures of Rey, anyone?). Students have yet to hear of the Bechdel test. Fine.

Ah yes, here we are. Stripper.  I would like to sit down each of these students and ask them how many strippers they know, and what they based the characters on. Are all of them really parroting what they learned from watching The Wire, and Law and Order: SVU?

I am not a sex worker. I have had friends who are. I do not think I can speak authentically to their varied experiences. Am I supposed to believe that every 19-year-old student can?

Devil's advocate: maybe the student has never run a company, organized a heist, or had a serious relationship, and we make movies about those things all the time. I say to you this may not be entirely different, but it is the least grounded, the least three-dimensional, the most repetitive trope.

I, as an adult female actor, have so few roles available to me. An alarming number of the roles in my inbox  sadly read Broken Sex Object. A stripper with a heart of gold who is conflicted about leaving her lifestyle for the One Man who can take her away from All Of This.

Dear students: please write something else. Maybe you haven't had your heart properly broken yet, you are afraid to write romance. Maybe you don't have the budget for car chases and explosions.

You are capable of so much more. Write me a role that's not a stripper. Try.