I received a call from a talent manager a few days ago. She had some concerns about a job a new talent she took on, booked direct. It was in the commercial realm and she hoped I could offer insight. To make a long story short, all signs point to the whole thing being a giant scam. Please don’t confuse the label “scam” with a job that has low pay or excessive usage. Those aren’t scams, those are less than desirable terms on otherwise legitimate jobs. The scam term tends to be overused. In this case, it seems the “job” was an actual scam to siphon money from eager and unsuspecting actors in a fairly believable way. Certainly believable for anyone booking their first few jobs. It took 2 professionals some time and talk to figure it all out! How is an actor supposed to navigate this stuff without becoming a victim of fraud or making annoying to disastrous mistakes?
Commercial actors should never do it alone.
We all know knowledge is power. But what is an actor to do when they are new to commercials or fresh on the scene of a major market? What does one do when an offer sounds slightly too good to be true? What’s protocol when the given set of directions from production don’t quite add up. There may be red flags in your sights or you may have no real idea what the standard commercial audition/booking/shoot looks like. To make things more complicated, the commercial scene is changing as the days go by. Production companies are casting their own jobs. Ad Agencies (for the love of GOD) are casting their own jobs. They are certainly going to do things differently than a casting director would, and still be totally on the up-and-up! And we haven’t even mentioned the trickiest thing: How do you know that the things you do know about the commercial process are actually accurate and/or current? How the heck do you know what you don’t know?
You can’t do it alone. You’ve got to gather your tribe.
The ideal tribe is comprised of…
Tribe member #1: An agent. Ideally, you want a commercial agent to address your commercial issues. But, a manager or theatrical agent would certainly help when you find yourself in a commercial bind or when something seems off. Getting their two cents is invaluable in keeping you from being duped.
Tribe member #2: Other industry pros. A commercial casting director you’ve developed a relationship would be an ideal tribe member, but there are plenty of others. There are casting associates, assistants, camera operator/session directors that know a whole lot about a whole lot. Agent assistants or interns are great, too. Maybe you know a commercial producer or a director. They may not be able to answer a specific question you have… but they may know someone who would.
Tribe member #3: Instructor/coach/mentor. Hopefully you are continually studying with/being educated by someone who is knowledgeable and current in the industry. These people can make perfect tribe members as they can be excellent sources of accurate information to build your own knowledge.
Tribe member #4: Experienced actor pals. Experience is the key to the scenario here. In large markets, especially Los Angeles, there are no lack of actors on the scene. But not just any actor(s) with an opinion should be a member of your tribe. Although, at times it can be hard on the ego, you should surround yourself with some actors who continually have success in commercials and know their stuff.
Tribe member #5-50: Support group. You may or may not be surprised to know that there are plenty of actor groups out there. Some meet in person, some have open or closed social media groups and others have scheduled conference calls. Some groups are riddled with bad information and bitter actors, others are positive, motivating and informative. You can guess which type I recommend. I’d stick with groups comprised of actors largely in your market and with organizers that are well known to be reputable.
Are you an experienced and knowledgeable commercial actor who already has a tribe? Use your power for good and consider taking an actor or two (or heck, why not a small group!) under your wing. Giving back to your community is always a good thing. On the occasional time when you don’t know an answer or how to help, just be honest about it. You can’t know everything and that’s ok. For the record, I don’t know everything!
Day after day I read about and hear actors describing shady scenarios they’ve encountered. I’m not raising the topic of scams out there to scare you, but simply to reaffirm that they are indeed a thing that you have to look out for. It’s a tricky path to travel alone. Gathering a tribe won’t happen over night, but it will be worth the effort and will be beneficial well past your newbie years. What are you waiting for? Get started comprising your tribe now.
**Want to take a 4-week Commercial Class with Laurie Records? Check it out and sign up now at: www.laurierecordscasting.com.**