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TBA Online: News & Features: February 2013

The Business of Show Biz: Skater vs. Haters

Monday, January 28, 2013   (0 Comments)
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By Velina Brown

Q: I don't know anything about acting, but this cool thing happened to me, and I got to do this film. I was skateboarding with my friends and a casting director ran up to me and said, "I need you." I said, "For what?" And she said she needed a skateboarder dude for this film and my long hair down to my waist was perfect. She said I have a great look. I said it better not be no porno. And she said no, it's a regular feature film, come to the audition. I did, and the director picked me. It was cool. They said I'm in sag, paid me nice money, and they say I will get something called residuals, which is very cool. Now I want to do more acting, but I don't know what I'm supposed to do next. I couldn't get any answers from the haters. Some of the people who were called extras because they didn't have any lines seemed like they were mad because I got a part with a couple lines without even trying, and some of them had been trying a long time. I can't help it if the director picked me and not them. So, how do I get to do more acting?

Actor and career consultant, Velina Brown. 

A: Hey, congratulations on your exciting experience! You were in the right place at the right time. 

First, let's talk about your being in "sag." SAG is the Screen Actors Guild. Recently, SAG and AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) merged. Therefore, you were what is called Taft-Hartleyed into SAG-AFTRA. Taft-Hartley is a 1947 law that allows employers to hire a nonunion worker in a union shop for a short period of time before that worker is required to join. In your case, the producer had to fill out a form to explain your special abilities to justify casting you rather than a union actor for the role. Now you can work on other union jobs for the next 30 days without joining the union. After the 30 days, you are what is called a "must join." When and whether to join the union is an important decision because, once you join, you can no longer work on nonunion jobs. It is also a financial investment. The national SAG-AFTRA initiation fee is $3,000. 

Now let's put your film adventure into perspective. Clearly the casting director was struggling to find a skateboarder guy who looked and sounded authentic. You mention that your hair hangs down to your waist. That is a very specific look that few professional actors would have, because it would confine them to an extremely narrow type. You had an advantage over your competition for this role because the other actors auditioning probably had a more clean-cut look and didn't have much time to change it. Most of the time a clean-cut look works, but this time it worked against them. And that made an opportunity for you. Therefore, I'm not being a "hater" when I say you were probably cast because your look was so perfect for that particular film, not because you were a better actor than all the others who tried out. It was a lucky break. Cool.

But now if you want to pursue acting professionally you have some work to do.

People invest sometimes for years in pictures, resumes, training and marketing before they get anything back. This could explain why some of the actors who were doing extra (nonspeaking) work on the film were less than thrilled to hear how you got to have a principal (speaking) role in the movie and make eight times more money than they were making "without even trying." 

The casting director for the film found you in the street. Next time you'll need to have your picture and resume in her and all the other casting director's files. I'm guessing the director was coaching you and feeding you your lines because they knew that they had cast a nonactor. If you book a job again, you will probably need to know your lines and know what you are doing. This will require training. 

You will need to be able to analyze a scene and break it down into beats. You will need to understand the emotional journey of your character and how to reliably access those emotions over and over again. Still sound like something you want to do? My intention is not to talk you into or out of the acting business, but to give you an idea of what's involved. Luck can get you on screen once. Work, talent and training are what build a career. All the best with whatever you decide.


Velina Brown is an actor and career consultant. Send her your questions at