Friday, January 22, 2010

Union Status: Strategy & Timing

I'm happy to say that my first auditions in Philadelphia have gone well.  After two auditions in a row, I was told by the auditor that I would have "no problem" (they both used that phrase) working in Philadelphia, especially as a non-union actor over forty.  One agency has already responded positively to my query and I'm attending other open calls in February.  I anticipate further positive responses.  One way that Philadelphia seems to differ from Portland:  actors may be represented by multiple agencies.  I know one agency will want me to sign exclusively with them (I've been given a head's up from a Philly actor-in-the-know) and that may well be the smartest thing for me to do.  One potential trap I foresee, though, is working with an agency that is motivated to keep me on as non-union past the point that serves me.  I don't know if this is a real concern, frankly, so I need to get good advice.  My hunch is that everyone will anticipate that I'll work non-union for a year or two and then move on.  I want to make the step up to film and episodic t.v. as soon as my experience and camera skills allow.

That's all on the on-camera let's-make-some-money-finally! side of things.  On the 'art' side, I'm eager to make myself available for local stage work.  Again, my initial foray into town showed me the depth and breadth of Philadelphia theater:  man, there's a ton.  I can't wait to jump into it.  I'm clearer about my strategy for union status in theater than I am in film:  for theater work, I will remain non-union long enough for my work to be well-enough known, then I go Equity.  I anticipate this will be 12-24 months.  To make ends meet during that time I'll need to do a lot of on-camera.


Jon said...

Are you in Philadelphia already? I can't make the timetable work out in my head: You were loading up the U-Haul in Texas on Wednesday or even Thursday, and now it's Friday and you have time to attend auditions in Philadelphia?

David Millstone said...

I was in Philly two weeks ago, when I found an apartment and auditioned with a couple of directors and a casting director. I'm in Houston now. I'm contacting others now by email and phone. I'll be loading UHaul mid-next week.

David Millstone said...

I've been back and forth and up and down across the freak'n country in these past two weeks.

Kay Browning said...

I meant to ask you these questions last week when you posted this. You sound like you have significant acting experience already. Why are you waiting so long to join a union? What do you see as the pros and cons of that? I'm curious because I'm getting a lot of mixed revues on union membership. Plus I heard from an acting friend that - due to fallout from the writers' strike - casting directors are trending more toward AFTRA rather than SAG. Have you heard that?

Also, if your goal is film and episodic television, why do so much theatre? The two genres are so disparate in what is required and I'm seen so many theatre actors seem to struggle with the transition. I have a very talented fellow student in my On-Camera Acting class, for example, who makes very bold and interesting choices when he's performing, but he can never repeat the performance exactly the same way and he has trouble keeping track of where the camera is. Those two items are not necessary for theatre, but very necessary for film. Perhaps I'm biased coming from the production side of television and knowing how much you can add to a film in the process of editing it. Anyway, curious why you were taking that particular path.

Kay Browning said...

One more thing - why no problem getting work, "especially as a non-union actor over 40"?

David Millstone said...

Kate, I'm a theater actor with some camera experience. Most of the better theater actors I know regularly do on-camera commercial AND episodic when they can because because that's where the money is, though many of them like on-camera acting. I like it a lot, from what little I've done. It' different than stage but not THAT different. I think the biggest challenge for a stage actor going to camera is learning camera craft, which is analogous to stage craft. The ACTING craft is the same however. Actions are actions. Personalization is personalization. If an actor is well-trained, 'the prayer is' that s/he can use acting craft to put a performance into a lens or a 1,000 seat house by adjusting his or her actions and scaling the imaginative world he or she is working in.

I think the ability to repeat a performance is best obtained through training.

Camera acting is EASIER than stage acting in some ways. Bad physical and vocal habits can be cheated. External and internal work can mismatch.

I think you're right that actors do show a greater affinity for either camera or stage, but I see no reason not to do both. Liv Shreiber is more of a natural stage than on camera actor but he's still enormously compelling on camera.

About my experience: I have just enough experience now to even consider going union. I'm more marketable as an over-40 non-union male because actors at my age have either QUIT acting or they've long-become union. I'm more affordable for both theaters and non-union film/t.v. production. I now nothing about AFTRA SAG issues because I've never done union work to date. All this will change in the next couple of years as I begin to seek more economic stability and opportunity as well as artistic growth.

David Millstone said...

sorry, I meant "Kay."