This is addressed to my professional actor friends, full members of the Screen Actors Guild, AFTRA, and Equity.
It is to say that I am tired of being invited by student directors to act in their videos, or films, for their benefit and for nothing. This is a huge step backward to the very beginnings of these esteemed organizations, back to the twenties and thirties. Student actors, go ahead. Professional actors, STOP!
Yes, we are entering a new era in the film making process. Yes, the old rules are a-changing. But no, what remains unchanged is the cold hard fact that we need to earn a fair amount of money to survive. SAG and AFTRA and AEA were conceived to ensure that this happens. But what has taken its place?
I am told that I may perform in an AEA condoned “Equity Waiver” theatrical production. That means that I have the opportunity to “practice my craft” for not much more than car fare.
I am told that I may perform in a SAG or AFTRA condoned “student production” to “practice my craft” for a copy of the result “for my reel”. My reel has become an essential adjunct in the job-hunting process. Job hunting has become the premier industry in today’s Hollywood (and New York). Hundreds of websites have come into being, offering job hunting services for a price. And so, the poor actor’s pockets, bare due to the near impossibility of getting paid these days, is made even more bare by the new necessity to subscribe to these websites.
The dignity of the professional actor is severely threatened. The new image is that of a young actor, with pleading in his eyes, one hand out, and the other behind his back, to protect it, I guess. While the producer/director wields his traditional authoritarial stick over the actor, ensuring the continuance of a feudal system tolerated since the dark ages. And the middle men, the managers, the agents, the lawyers, and some teachers and casting directors, earn their living in dependence upon the actors lack of confidence, “teaching” said actors “new tricks”.