Saturday, September 7, 2013

Nevada: the turth about the market

Nevada: General Market Information
   Keep in mind that agents, casting directors, managers, acting instructors, actors and support businesses all need to do what they can to survive. The market is not good for any business that relies primarily on actors. 

   Hollywood, and Broadway keep things close to the chest, prefer to sleep in their own beds at home, and will always fight to keep production within an easy drive of their front doors. That will not change any time soon. Location production is up, but Nevada is not in a position to have strong incentives which other states have used to attract production (and are in the process of giving up thanks to the current state economies and political shifts).

    There are stages in Nevada, but not large Hollywood or New York sized stages.

    Most casting is done here and in both major markets, with talent often being imported by producers and directors who prefer to work with experienced talent they now and can rely on.

   Nevada has workshops, instructors and both university and professional theatre programs, but they are dwarfed by the workshops in major markets including LA, New York, Chicago, Minneapolis and places where theatre abounds and production is more abundant.

   While there are many creative outlets in Nevada, and there is the potential for work, this is not a state for those who wish to build a career as an actor. 

    Still it can be a good place to start.

   Las Vegas is a convention and modeling market first, with film secondary, followed by predominantly non-union commercial and industrials.  The film market is primarily location work, which translates into background extras and day players (actors with small speaking parts who work only a day or a few days) opportunities. That is not to say that actors have not been selected from this market to go on to careers in the industry. The list grows each year of actors who are from or who lived in Nevada prior to making it big.

   But so does competition from experienced talent who relocate here from both coasts and other markets, bringing their talents, experience and training with them.

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   There is a growing local filmmaker community, but most often the only pay is the promise of “tape”, meaning a copy of your performance. Union actors need to ask for an ultra low budget SAG contract to protect their image and name. It is also possible, with the increase in availability of digital production, to shoot your own “movie”. Be aware that your final product is only as good as the professional image and performance in the product. Amateur looking productions do not attract agents or future work.

   Proper training, marketing tools, business sense and representation are needed to take the next step toward a successful career. And while this is a youth centered industry, talent comes in all sizes, colors, backgrounds and ages. Anyone with the dream, willing to learn and work at it, can make a living in show business. It takes time and dedication.

  But Las Vegas, and by extension, Nevada, are towns where most actors have to do other things to support their acting bug. To stay within the industry convention, modeling or even advertising or marketing work may be necessary Try to work as close to the industry as you can, and to make the connections you may need in the future while doing so.

    In all too many cases actors who come up through, or who move to Nevada, end up in other fields, raising families while working as real estate salespersons, bankers, casino dealers or any number of other professions. It then becomes difficult to remain trained, flexible and able to work when the call comes in to do the work. One conflict, which cannot be avoided, may be enough to burn an agent or stall a career.

    If you cannot work, you will not earn any money “under contract” (meaning union work) or in the field. If you do not make money your agent or manager will not earn money. They should only be paid from work you do as an actor, on a percentage of work basis.

    For these reasons, it is good business for the agents and managers in Nevada to represent and see to it that paychecks flow to the talent that earns them the most money, traditionally convention and modeling talent. While character and other roles are cast, many of those actors are imported from Hollywood or New York, even for smaller roles. Actors do have representation, however it is best if you develop into talent that can be marketed for commercial print, convention and other modeling work as well. It is also becoming common for agents to request actual video of film and television projects you have done prior to agreeing to represent you as acting talent.

   Las Vegas is number one in the nation in convention attendance and volume. Convention and modeling work is primarily through modeling agents, managers and convention production companies. The pay level here is usually low when compared to other convention markets such as Chicago or Atlanta. The work is highly varied, and includes both high paying ear prompt and spokes work and lower pay handing out news publications or simply greeting visitors. Actors across the country find themselves from time to time returning to the convention and trade show industry, including some high profile stars. Simply put, the money is there.

Being judged as a professional qualified performer.
   Are we professionals? Are you a professional worth professional pay and the respect of being a professional?

   Talent in Las Vegas has a low reputation amid the national industry. When auditions are held here, producers often do not see the professionally trained and experienced talent, and instead are shown “wanna-be” actors or “real people”. Historically this is a reflection of the agents need to market non-acting talent in acting roles. Also, the nature of the work here means that most of the work is work that can be done by relative beginners and newcomers, who may not have the skills or experience of the talent pool in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, San Francisco or Florida.

     The more you study, the higher your level of skill (talent should take care of itself), the better you will reflect upon Las Vegas and Nevada, and the more likely producers will take the risk of hiring you on as “new” talent.

     Do not mislead yourself. If they hire a beginner or even intermediate actor, producers are gambling with their money that you will not take too long to do the work, that you know how to produce quality work on the first take, that the chemistry will be there with the crew and other actors and that you will get the job done both creatively and professionally.

   The more glamorous “good looking” small roles that are cast in Nevada often go to the “beautiful people” that are working models for the agencies. That does not mean that character actors of all ages and types should not compete and aggressively pursue the market. There is work when productions come to town, since most productions would rather hire local to avoid the per-diem (money paid to compensate for working outside of an actors home town) charges and to populate the smaller role with fresh or unknown faces.

   Sometimes directors or producers pride themselves on hiring “off the street”, so you will see non-actors working. When you do just keep in mind that you are in it for a career and not a lark. It is those who see acting as a fun occasional adventure or a glamorous way to inflate their own egos that have ruined Las Vegas and Nevada’s reputation within the industry.

   A growing trend of established actors, even celebrities, doing small roles or “cameo” roles for scale has impacted all working actors across the country. Since we are close to Los Angeles, and ‘Vegas is a fun destination to spend a few days in, the trend has impacted the amount of work available here more than in most other “location” markets.

   Producers and directors also prefer to hire talent they know can do the job, meaning actors they have worked with already. They will pay the per-diam on top of union wages for actors they know will nail the role, look the way they want, be there when they are needed and trusted to do a professional job on the set.

   Most entertainment professionals strongly recommend joining the union once an individual looks upon himself or herself qualified professional talent. The protections and income potential far exceed the alternative, particularly if work s sought in the major production centers of Los Angeles or New York City. Since there is no “must join” provision in Nevada, the choice to join a union is a very individual one based individual background, interest and potential.

    The negative to joining the union in Nevada is simply this. There is no “must join” provision in Right-to-Work states. Nevada is a Right-to-Work state where access to union jobs cannot be restricted to union members. An actor can work union and non-union work in Nevada, gaining the pay and benefits of the union work when working union and the frequency of employment when working non-union. By joining a union you are limiting your ability to accept work offered to you. Once you enter into a legal agreement with a union by joining, you are closing the door on any and all non-union work.

    Many acting coaches advise actors to do work under the right-to-work protection to gain a “tape” or “reel” of their work, needed to market yourself properly as a professional. This should be considered on a case by case basis, because there is value to developing a reel of your profesisonal work (do not include background work or poorly done recordings of stage or showcase work) to use in generating future work, if it truly showcases your talent. The danger lies in being known as a “SAG eligible” or “SAG-e” actor. Quite honestly, most industry professionals will look upon you, as less than a qualified professional performer, since if you are eligible, the industry standard and expectation are that you will joint he union as soon as possible, and step up the next level of your career.

    The disadvantage to doing non-union work lies in exposure and in how much you value your time and talents. Nonunion commercials may run as often, for as long, and in as many markets as the producer wants without paying talent an additional penny. Those same commercials can be turned into print adds, billboards, reedited into other commercials, the audio put on the radio not just in Nevada but anywhere else in the country of world the client wishes without paying you, the actor, an additional cent. When “Excalibur” opened on the Las Vegas Strip, the initial Hollywood quality film commercials that were shot non-union ran for almost a decade. The actors in the commercials found that other employers, particularly union producers, would not employ them. In fact there is a legal liability if you do accept work in a competing commercial, simply put the producers can sue you for breach of contract. And it gets worse, because a commercial for a Hotel-Casino will put an actor into potential conflict on all hotel, hospitality, theme entertainment, gambling, food and beverage (restaurant) and along list of other product categories. In other words you have put yourself at risk for future work in a wide range of areas by doing one nonunion commercial. And then there is the issue of not being guaranteed swept payment or damages that you would under a union contract.

    The advantage to joining the unions lies in wages, working condition protections, future residual or use fee income, the potential of qualifying for excellent health plans and retirement and that to many producers and directors being union means you have chosen to look upon yourself as a professional and respect your own talent and its value. As with many things you would put on a professional resume in your primary profession, prior profession or day-job, a membership in SAG is one vital way of getting past those who screen resumes and photos by the thousands. Often non-union talent is summarily discarded long before the audition process begins.

    If your intent is to be a full time professional in the industry, when you feel you are ready join the union and join in Nevada, where initiation is lower and the potential of your getting past the large union talent pools and landing that qualifying role or background work is much higher (entering as a background performer is about to get much more difficult, as the unions are considering ways to slow the rapid influx of new membership that has occurred over the past two decades). The talent pool in Nevada is much smaller, so your potential for that key dayplayer role becomes much higher.

  Remember that acting, as well as other skills in this industry, can do you well in other aspects of your life, from communication to faith, politics to education, social groups to artistic satisfaction. Whether you pursue your skills professionally, or use them in other ways...the time, efforts and dedication you put in will pay dividents.

  Nevada needs you and your talent.

  Become a part of the community.

By Art Lynch,

First posted 10-9-08

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