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The Agent Diaries – November 2015

Monday, November 2nd

It isn’t often that a producer takes the time out of their busy schedule to call and let me know when a show will be airing so I can pass on the message to the actors.  Out of the blue, Rob Schneider called to give me an update on his show, “Real Rob” that he produced and shot in Orlando.  The show started out as a webisode and will be airing December 1st on Netflix.  This goes to show that anything is possible!

Tuesday, November 3rd

One thing I know for sure, every actor would love to book a SAG commercial.  Non-union commercials are good – union is better, since the actor is paid holding fees and residuals.  In case you do not know the basic information about union commercials, I thought I would enlighten you.  From auditioning, to callbacks, to first refusal, to being booked or released can stress actors out, agents, too!   At the initial audition, give the best performance you can, make it real and let due process happen. Booking a commercial is subjective.  If you do not get a callback or book, it doesn’t mean you did not do a good job.  It means you were not the right fit for the commercial and should not take it personal.  There are a lot of chiefs and indians involved in the selection process, including the creative team at the ad agency, producers, director, writer(s) and the client who most likely has the final say on who gets hired.  The best advice I can give an actor is, after you walk out of the audition – FORGET ABOUT IT and move on to your daily business in life.  However, if your agent gives you the news that you booked the job, jump up and down with joy because it does not happen often.  The contract you will be required to sign is for 21 months, which is broken up into 13 week cycles.  Every 13 weeks a holding fee will be paid which gives the client the right to run the commercial.  You cannot do another competitive product or service as long as holding fees are paid.  The client has the right to release you at any time during the 21 months.  Depending on how the commercial will air, usage can include network, cable, wild spot, industrial and internet.  These are the main ways commercials are run, but there are many other possibilities.  It is important that you keep track of your holding fees.  Between 60 – 120 days prior to the end of the 21 month term, your agent is required to get permission from you to renegotiate on your behalf for a new 21 month contract.  If the ad agency does not receive notice, then the client has the right to continue to run the commercial at scale and the agent does not receive commission.  If you are no longer represented by the agent that books you, then you can have another agent renegotiate on your behalf.  The goal is to renegotiate for more than scale.  I hear time and time again that agents let renegotiations slip, which is not good for both the actor and agent.  The only guarantee you will have when you book the commercial is your session fee.  I have seen actors downgraded, outgraded and extras upgraded.  Don’t count your chickens before they are hatched and make a big purchase until the money is in the bank!

Wednesday, November 4th

Listing special skills on your resume can open up more opportunities for actors, as well as being a conversation starter with producers and directors.  Special skills are what you are proficient in and you should be able to do that skill if it is required for a role.  If you are certified in any skill make sure you list your certification, such as Scuba Diving (PADI Certified).  The list is endless on what you learn but, following are some of the skills that I thought of:  Firearms, Sword Fighting, Dialects, Precision and Stunt Driving, Foreign Languages, Dialects, Dancing (list what types), Martial Arts, Juggling, Improv, Sign Language, Photography, Chess, Bartending, Snorkeling, Kayaking, CPR, Musical Instruments, Motorcycle (list if you have a current motorcycle stamp), Horseback Riding, Driving a Boat, Pilot License, Skating, Teleprompter, Any Sports.  Get busy – what are you waiting for?

Thursday, November 5th

Actors that post negative comments about agents and casting directors on social media are flat out stupid!  Do they really think their opinion matters and they have to post on social media to feel relevant?  You can count on the fact that anyone who spends their time doing so is not talented, has too much time on their hands and is an angry, bitter person.  This is the equivalent to career suicide.  Keep your opinion to yourself and don’t bite the hand that feeds you.  I found out recently that an actor, not represented by Brevard Talent Group, was posting negative comments about a casting director, whom I also consider a friend.  I bet that actor burned a bridge that can never be rebuilt.  Don’t be that actor!

Friday, November 6th

Six words – I am glad it is Friday!

Monday, November 9th

I am starting out the week catching up on emails, sending out and uploading auditions.  The TV show “Bloodline” is on hiatus for the month.  Buzz is if the second season looks good, production for the third season will start not too long after season two wraps.  Keep your fingers crossed!  Adam Vernier booked a role today on “Ballers”.  Liam Tomasiello is in Atlanta working on the feature film “Bastards”.  I was at a funeral on Saturday and received a text in the middle of the eulogy from casting letting me know that Bill Kelly was approved to work on the new comedy “Detour”.  I have to give Bill Kelly credit…booked on Saturday…went to his son’s wedding and got up early and drove to Atlanta to work yesterday.  This is the life of an actor in the southeast.  “The Walking Dead” is shooting the last episode for season 6.  I am forever grateful to the producers for filming in Georgia and hiring Florida actors to work on the show.  You know it has slowed down when casting directors are asking me what is going on.  While I am busy working and catching up on odds and ends, I wonder what actors are doing for their career today.  A day should not go by without doing something productive for your career.  When it is slow take advantage of those days.

Auditions for FSU student films were held over the weekend.  Best of luck to “BTG” actors who auditioned.  The film, “Isa and The Frog Prince” starring Julia Jordan and Matthew Kosto won the “21st Annual Director’s Guild of America Student Film Award”.  Who said working on student films is a waste of time?  Not me!

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Tuesday, November 10th

“Tax Information for the Performing Artist”

Tax season is around the corner.
Special thanks to Joseph Danielle, owner of “Income Tax & More” in Melbourne,
For his help in updating the information below.

Actors and other performers in the entertainment industry face many challenges when trying to prepare their tax returns and what qualifies as a legitimate deduction.  There are many common mistakes actors make when it comes to appropriate tax write-offs.  The following are general guidelines but, always check with a certified tax preparer because tax codes change frequently. Don’t make the mistake of listening to your fellow actors on what you can write off.  Unfortunately, the Internal Revenue Service might have a differing opinion–and that opinion prevails at audit time. It is important to keep good records and receipts in case you are audited.  You will be prepared with everything you need to prove your deductions. Also, keeping good records does a whole lot more for you in an IRS audit: It validates the time, effort, energy and money you put in to your career.

It is vitally important to keep excellent tax records and do it on a regular basis.  This means keeping every receipt you plan on deducting.  The reason is, if you are ever audited, the absence of records and receipts could potentially cost you thousands of dollars. But, a bigger reason is that if you do not keep good records, you are very likely to cheat yourself out of income from deductions you can rightfully claim.

The most important thing for you to do is keep track of your income and expenses.  You can always hire someone to professionally prepare your tax forms, however, good tax preparation and recordkeeping is crucial. Even the best tax professionals cannot save you money or keep you out of potential trouble with the IRS if you don’t have good records. Make it a habit of keeping your records well organized and your receipts and ledgers easily accessible. Create a ledger on your computer as well as keeping a hard copy as a backup. It must show the date of the purchase, the purchase amount, and the business purpose. A business log can be a record of your choosing such as daybook, calendar, or notebook – whatever works best for you.  Invest in a scanner so you can also keep a digital record and don’t forget to back it up.

You can go to an office supply store and buy a large accordion-style file box with as many individual slots you will need. Then label the slots by categories listed below under deductible expenses. On a weekly or monthly basis, list your expenses in your ledger and put the written receipts into the appropriate slots. If you are using credit cards, it is a good idea to use one credit card for business use only, so that everything charged to it is business-related. Don’t forget to write purchase details on the back of the credit card slips.

You are the CEO of your business and that includes being in charge of the “Accounting Department”. Stay on top of your tax records and remember show business is “two words”.  Being a great business person will help you get the most out of your deductions and be prepared in case you are audited by Uncle Sam.

Independent Contractor vs. Employee

Independent contractors get paid by cash or check with no withholding of any kind. This means that you are responsible for all of the Social Security and Medicare normally paid or withheld by your employer. Independent contractors will file a “Schedule C” as part of their regular 1040 income tax form (this is where you report all the 1099’s you received last year). The performer may also file form 8829 for the home office deduction and will be required to pay self-employment tax (Schedule SE) on their net income (profit) as well as federal income tax. All these forms are part of the year-end 1040 income tax filing. The self-employed performer will also usually be required to pay estimated quarterly taxes on Form 1040-ES (if the annual tax liability is expected exceed $1,000). The performer will have W-2 income from union jobs where taxes are taken out of their paycheck. On W-2’s you might often have extensive expenses that will be deducted on Federal Form 2106, which is reported on Schedule A (Itemized Deductions). This means that a performer with BOTH W-2 and self-employment income will have to separate or allocate expenses between the two types of income:

Common Questions

Is my clothing tax-deductible?

This can be one of the first things an IRS auditor will look at and might draw attention to other possible deduction mistakes. The Internal Revenue Code states, “Clothing is considered to be a personal expenditure if it is suitable for street wear.” Even though you have purchased clothing for audition purposes only, if you can wear it any other time then it is not deductible.  Wardrobe deductions are largely limited to true costumes: a police officer’s uniform, surgical scrubs, a clown outfit, historical period pieces, etc. Formal wear, for both sexes, is also generally deductible. If you purchase such an outfit, take a photo of it to document its character and keep the receipt. However, you can deduct the cost of dry cleaning or repairs to business related clothing.

Are business gifts deductible?

You can deduct business gifts in the amount of $25.00 per person, per year. The law does not limit, of course, the amount of the gift but, only the first $25.00 for each person is deductible.  On your receipt make a note including the date of purchase, item description, name of the person receiving the gift and the business relationship/reason.

What meals can I deduct?

Personal business meals which do not involve other people are only deductible when overnight travel is involved, or if you must travel to a different metropolitan area, even if you do not stay overnight. However, business meals, where you pay for someone else’s meal are deductible. Here are some of the reasons for deducting business meals. You must have a receipt showing date and time, who was present, amount of the bill and the business purpose. Business MUST be discussed at the meal–not before or after. In addition, the meal must take place in an atmosphere to conduct business–any restaurant or even a night club will suffice.

Meals when a group of actors get together and discuss career paths, agents, etc., are far less clear-cut. All business expenditures have to meet the test of being necessary, and the tax courts have ruled that business meals shared by colleagues are not necessary. This becomes particularly true if the meeting is regular, and people take turns paying. Limit such “colleague” meals, and always explicitly note the business purpose on the receipt. Only 50% of all meals are deductible.

Can I deduct my gym membership?

Body image is an important and integral part of a performer’s image, and staying in good shape is important to a career in the performing arts. Most gym and workout costs are considered to be personal expenditures and therefore are NOT deductible. In case of a special circumstance where it is required for you to “buff up” for a project and the producers do not pay for this cost, then you can deduct the fees paid to a gym and/or personal trainer.

What personal grooming costs are deductible?

Every day costs for makeup and routine haircuts and/or or color are personal expenses and are not deductible. If you have to change your hair cut and/or color for a specific audition or role, then the costs relating to a specific incident are deductible. Theatrical makeup is deductible because it is not normally used as street wear. If you pay a makeup artist for a headshot session or an audition, that specific set of costs is deductible. Manicures and pedicures are not deductible unless you are a hand model or a foot model with a specific audition or booking that would qualify as a deduction.

Can I deduct admission to movies and plays?  

This can be a gray area to the IRS so it is extremely important to keep good records. Always keep a written receipt and/or ticket stubs. Staple them to a sheet of paper, and next to the ticket, put a solid business reason why you saw that particular movie, such as observing the director’s dialogue technique or researching current trends. The IRS is not keen on allowing movie or theatre admissions as a deduction, but with good records and good reasons, they may.  You need proof that you are going to see movies and theater as part of your job and not entertainment. They also are not fond of cable and satellite costs either but, you can argue for taking the deduction. Don’t claim your full bill as a business expense. Take a reasonable percentage as business and the balance as personal. Much more than 50% tends to make auditors suspicious of your reason on why you deserve the deduction.

What are allowable mileage and transportation deductions? 

Your car is a major expense as well as a major source of tax deductions and is probably one of the most common deductions for performers. You do not have to have receipts for mileage but, you must have good records. This means keeping a mileage log. Thanks to technology you can download an app to keep track of your mileage.  By keeping a log it will dramatically increase your possible deductions, because you won’t overlook miles driven for business and you will have the necessary records if you are required to produce them. You cannot deduct personal miles such as driving back and forth to your day job. However, going from your day job to an audition is a deductible expense. Any trip you take to pursue work would be deductible. This includes auditions, call-backs, casting visits, trips to acting classes, appointments to see agents and managers, etc. Keep a record of your total mileage for the year. Make an odometer note on January 1 and again on December 31st.  Check each year on www.irs.gov for the current mileage deduction rate.

What are deductible expenses? 

The goal is first and foremost to lower your taxes! The performing artist has a number of tax deductions that are unique. For the IRS, all deductible business expenses are those that are:

  1. Incurred in connection with your trade, business or profession
  2. Must be “ordinary” and “necessary”
  3. Must “NOT be lavish or extravagant under the circumstances”

Business related expenses include: 

Advertising and Publicity: Headshot sessions and reproductions, business cards, stationery, postcards, professional registries, such as Actors Access or Casting Networks, demo reels, website development and hosting fees.

Apparel: Uniforms, costumes, special shoes (not suitable for street wear) theatrical makeup and wigs.  Cleaning, alterations and repair of work-related apparel.

Auto/transportation expenses: Keep track of your round-trip mileage to auditions and receipts for airfare, bus, car rental, lodging, parking, taxi and subway fare.

Equipment:  Equipment can include computers, printers, ear prompters, etc. Equipment purchased is generally “depreciated” and written off over five to seven years. These “depreciable lives” are defined in the IRS code. The IRS also allows taxpayers up to a certain amount to write off and depreciate the full cost of the purchase in one tax year instead of a longer time span. Discuss with your tax preparer how much your equipment is used for personal and business use and what is the best way for you to take your deductions.

Gifts: Business related.  Only $25.00 per year per person is deductible.

Home Office:  If you use a room (or rooms) in your home exclusively for your business you will probably qualify for a home office deduction. The room can be a rehearsal space, teaching space, home recording and/or video studio, record keeping for the business, marketing, etc. The home office deduction utilizes a formula based on the square footage of the business portion (the home office) of your home vs. the total square footage of the house or apartment and applies that percentage to all associated costs. The costs could include apartment rent, mortgage interest, real estate taxes, condo fees, utilities, insurance, repairs, etc.

Legal and professional fees: Commissions to agents and/or managers, attorney fees, tax preparation, required licenses, union and professional dues for organizations.

Meals:  Necessary business related meals are 50% deductible; they must include direct business discussions. They can include breakfast, lunch or dinner meetings with agents, fellow actors or performers, directors, film producers, etc. If a direct business purpose is documented then the deduction would be allowed.

Training: Acting, voice, dance lessons or other education related to improving or maintaining your performance skills.  This also includes rental fees for rehearsal space.

Supplies: Ink cartridges, headshot reproductions, mailing supplies, make-up, fax and photocopy fees, postage and subscriptions to industry publications.

I hope this information helped you.  Don’t forget, if you move let your agent know your new address and contact any paymaster company that you have received a check from to change your address.  Don’t be that actor who calls on April 15th asking how much money you made and where your tax forms are.  This is your job to take care of your business, not your agent.

Wednesday, November 11th

Tyler Grasham, talent agent at Agency of the Performing Arts in Los Angeles, is a native of California.  He moved to Los Angeles to attend USC and has worked at APA for thirteen years.

Special Thanks to Tyler for his contribution to “The Agent Diaries”

How did you decide to get into the industry and become an agent? My buddy Bryan Singer introduced me to an agent named Ed Limato.  He represented Mel Gibson, Denzel Washington, Richard Gere and a few other movie starsAt that point, I was obsessed with the thought of being an agent and working with actors.  My other buddy Jeff Davis had just created a TV show called Criminal Minds and he used to tell me I should be an agent. I guess everything aligned right as my buddy Bryan introduced me to an agent at APA and the rest is history. I have been here nearly 13 years.

What do you like best about your job?  The least?  I love every aspect of the job.  From reading a script and knowing I have a client that is right and getting them in the room and getting the artist in the mix.  Winning is a lot of fun in this business. It gives you a lot of pride in what you do.  And in who you represent.  The least.  I hate giving bad news.  And sadly we give much more of that.  But for every “no” I always think you are getting closer to a yes.

What qualities does an actor have that would interest you in representing them?  Passion and talent.  I want to represent the type of person who is confident and genuine.  Someone you want to have lunch with.

I am excited that you represent Florida actors Austin Abrams and Owen Teague. I have represented both Austin & Owen and by far they are two very talented actors from Florida. Do you represent any other actors from the Southeast?  I represent Matt Lintz, Makenzie Lintz, Kennedy Brice and Katelyn Nacon.  They are all such talented artists.

How do you find new talent? I am very lucky in that I work with great agents on other territories and countries that trust me with their talent.  This is a business where trust and respect go hand in hand

What should actors do to prepare before making the move to LA? I think actors need to be talented and know what kind of actor they want to be.  Moving to LA is very expensive. Thus, I don’t just suggest that someone with a headshot move here.  Be patient.  When my client Hayley Orrantia booked “The Goldberg’s”, she was living in Texas.  I told the family that it is best to self tape until you get a producer interested in you.  In this case, she got a series that is going strong.

What is the best time to move to LA?  Pilot season is all year now.  February and March will be busier. However, there is no time that is better than the other. If you are talented you will get in rooms.  And you will get callbacks and there will be someone who wants to hire you.  Every casting director wants to be “The One” that made the big discovery.  All these people are going to champion that actor if they are talented.   

What is the best way to look for representation in LA?  I would say referrals.  Also, workshops can help.  But I suggest knowing someone that can get feedback.  I don’t think self-submissions are the best way of going about it.  We don’t accept them at our agency

What are the west coast preferences when it comes to actor’s reel footage? We like actual footage from film and TV.  Unless you have none.  In that case, maybe your best self tape audition.

What are your pet peeves with actors in general?  Actors that are not prepared, who are late and need to move appointments.  Also, people that get in the way of other actors.  When you are in a room, sit quiet, be patient and just have your head in the right place to go book the job.  Just because you are the new guy in the room and you see someone you know or might recognize you can still get the job

Any parting words of wisdom to share? I just think that if you are a talented actor then others will see it in you.  You can be successful in this business.  If you are new and people say you are green but, have potential,  just keep working on your craft.  If this is your career path, then like any other, it takes a lot of time.  Enjoy every moment of it.

Thursday, November 12th

Adam Vernier worked on “Ballers” this week and I wanted him to concentrate on his work and enjoy shooting before I let him know that his footage was cut from the USA network show “Satisfaction”.  This has not been the first, nor will it be the last time an actor hears the painful news that they were left on the cutting room floor.  Adam took the news well letting me know this has happened in the past.  Keep in mind you were the actor that booked the job.  Seldom does it have anything to do with the performance.  It is more about how well the footage does or does not fit in the final product.   And, since you can’t worry about what you can’t control, move on and realize your bank account was happy the day you deposited your check!  It is important that you let your agent know if your footage was cut.  That way they can inform casting and continue to submit on the project if it is still in production.

Adam on the set of “Ballers”

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Friday, November 13th

I have had the honor of representing Peggy Sheffield for years and asked her to share her experience last weekend casting for FSU student films.  Peggy graduated from FSU with a BFA in acting and studied for a year as an intern with the Burt Reynolds Institute for Theater Training.  Peggy continued to work with Burt in various aspects and thanks him for casting her in her first SAG film “Sharkey’s Machine”.  Peggy has spent time in Los Angeles and New York acting and teaching before moving back to Florida. 

Student films are a great way to get footage for your reel and revel in the creative process of creating a character.  Actors have been spoiled taping auditions and seldom have the opportunity to be in the room for a live audition.  Whether it is for a studio or student film, you have to give 110%.   The directors you work with on student films today are the future filmmakers of tomorrow and could very well become the next Steven Spielberg.

Thanks to Peggy for her contribution to “The Agent Diaries”. 

A wise woman once said if all producers wrangled extras for one day and all actors sat behind a casting table for one day, it would change the industry.  Traci couldn’t have been more right.

I’ve happily been an actor and acting coach for a long time and am grateful for it every day.  I love it.  I’ve also had the pleasure of dabbling in other areas of production, including casting.  One fall several years ago, the FSU Film School contacted me for help in filling several difficult roles.  I offered to coordinate a more professional casting session than the open calls they’re used to and the results were stunning.  The following spring they asked if I’d be willing to do it again, and we have maintained the relationship for about seven years now.  I organize agent-referred-role-specific-by-appointment-casting sessions in Orlando and Tampa Bay, and have been told for years that they book more actors from our two sessions than the castings they hold in several other cities combined.

I love the opportunity it provides for so many of our talented Florida actors. Throughout the year I’m contacted by actors, union and nonunion alike, asking when the auditions are being held.  Great things have resulted for many of the directors and actors involved.  It’s a lot of volunteer time on my part but incredibly rewarding.

The painful part is watching actors make the same audition mistakes over and over, sitting though far too many auditions from actors not in the least bit ready to be there, marveling at the poor attitude some bring into the room, and knowing most have no idea what – and sometimes how much – they’re doing wrong.

I’d like to touch on a few of those mistakes in the hope that it might give actors that casting table point of view.  I’m using the FSU Film School auditions as my example but most everything I’m sharing applies to any live audition an actor will attend…

-Most sides are two pages, some one page and a very few may be three pages.  I schedule actors well in advance so there’s no excuse not to have the dialogue memorized.

-Please do not whip out your phone to read your sides.  Wait until you can memorize the dialogue before attending a live audition.

-Breakdowns and sides are provided ahead of time, so please don’t arrive asking for sides and then standing there, face down to read them. Again, wait until you can better prepare yourself for an audition.

-Being off book is the very least an actor should do, but it’s not enough.  It takes so much more than that.  As soon as you’ve committed to an audition, take the time to truly develop your character and scene, then tell us a story.  Even if we’ve heard the scene dozens of times, we’ll sit up and take notice when an actor breathes real life into it.  Those who don’t are quickly forgotten.

-Please be on time (meaning a few minutes early) or if you aren’t able to make it cancel with enough notice to allow your time slot to be filled by someone else.  Emailing an hour before your appointment saying you have a conflict with another gig might as well be a no-show.  We had a couple of cancelations this past weekend from actors who provided plenty of notice (thank you!) and although we were sorry to have missed them we surely hope to see them next year, or I’ll do what I can for them to still be included for consideration in the current round of films.  And if you think we don’t remember flat no-shows, you would be mistaken.

-The standard arrangement for headshots and resumes hasn’t changed for eons, so I’m baffled by the number of actors signed with agents and/or managers who arrive with a nameless photo and no resume, oversized or undersized photos, unattached resumes, resumes with no contact information, resumes stapled or paper clipped in a single corner facing the same direction as the photo rather than securely attached and facing the opposite direction…and the list goes on.  8”x10”, meaning both your photo and resume, fully secured with staples or glue, back-to-back, or printed right on the back of the 8”x10” photo.  It’s simply more professional but anything else also risks your information – and you – being lost along the way.  If you’re new and don’t have professional headshots yet that’s absolutely fine, but the general format can still apply.

-Parents, please do not coach your children.  Make sure they understand the scene, the character and that character’s relationship with anyone else in the scene.  Be sure your child can pronounce and understand all of their character’s lines. If your child is serious about wanting to act, then they need to be taking great on-camera acting classes somewhere, not just an occasional workshop.  If you’re going to have them read for dramatic roles they need to be aware of what’s happening in the scene.  If they have no idea and come in with a clueless audition we are not going to take it upon ourselves to explain the darker side of the story or characters involved.  That’s your job.  Make sure they haven’t arrived hungry and tired.  And, please be sure your child actually wants to be there.  It breaks my heart to see kids who would rather be anywhere than in a casting room, going through the motions because they have to.

-An on-camera audition, whether it’s for film, tv or commercials, is not the same as a theatre audition.  We can tell immediately if an actor is in a class where they go on tape regularly as opposed to classes without the benefit of regular tapings.  The lack of camera technique or even camera awareness is one of the biggest deal-breakers we see.  If you need to set up the entire scene with chairs and props then we’ve already begun to look at who’s coming in next.  If you are compelling as an actor none of that other stuff will matter.  If you see it, so will we.

-If you’re going to ask how you’re being framed, please, for the love of Pete, do something with that information.  It’s so much worse when you ask and still stand stock still, facing flat to the camera and act from the neck up.  It tells us – no, screams – that you not only haven’t had any camera training but that you’re not connecting the dots when your question is answered, or that you have been taught the question but not what to do with the information.

-Nerves are a nasty little thing to struggle with during an audition but there are several successful techniques you can apply to deal with them allowing you to be strong, confident and focused when you come into the room.  Ask your acting teacher for help or do some research so they can be a thing of your past.  After all, this is supposed to be fun, right?

-In a live audition you’re going to have 1-2 shots to show what you can do, how you see the character and what you can bring to the role, that’s it.  Be prepared, bring your best, and have fun in the room.  We all want the same thing, for you to be perfect for the role and to be someone great to work with.

I love actors, love watching them work.  It pains me to see well-meaning actors make easily avoidable or easily remedied mistakes.  As actors, deep down we know when everything feels right and when it doesn’t, so try and sort out exactly what isn’t working for yourself and make it a priority to improve in that area.

You can be entirely forgotten moments after leaving the room or you can be one of the actors we talk endlessly about at lunch, then again at the end of the day.  You can be the actor we’re on the phone telling others about, like Demi Castro and Kristen Wollett this past weekend.  Demi and Kristen weren’t the only two standouts but they were each prime examples of doing everything right.  They owned the room, we could have watched them all day.  They were so entirely prepared that it was easy to play with their roles and redirection.  They made everything they did seem effortless.  They were relaxed and easy to be with, they were fun.  They listened.  They brought so much more to their auditions than was on the page, more than the writer/directors could have asked for.  They may not book the roles they came in to read because casting has so many moving parts, but they made a huge impression that will last well past the 16 films we were casting this past weekend.

Monday, November 16th

Congratulations to Luc Campeau for his film “Turtle Tale” receiving the “Top Applause Award” voted by the audience at the International Family Film Festival in Hollywood. This is a great family film that I hope you will have the chance to see one day.

Director/Producer Luc Campeau, Lily Cardone, Mary Rachel Dudley and Noah Schnacky 

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Tuesday, November 17th

Casting director Tracy Kilpatrick and her associate Blair Foster drive thousands of miles each year in search for actors.  A few of Tracy’s credits include feature films “LBJ”, directed by Rob Reiner;  “Bastards”, currently shooting in Georgia starring Ed Helms, J.K. Simmons and Owen Wilson; the HOB film “Confirmation”; mini-series “Bonnie & Clyde”; “Dallas Buyers Club”; the tv show “The Red Road” and the highly anticipated upcoming mini-series “Mercy Street” airing on PBS in January. 

Special thanks to Tracy for her insight and contribution to “The Agent Diaries”.

Hello Actors,

As a casting director who works primarily in the SE region – I know how lucky I am to know so many amazing people who are working very hard and want to work.  It is certainly not a given – it takes so much heart and soul.

Over the last 20 + years, I’ve learned so much daily and hope that the people that I work with (actors, agents, producers, writers, directors) do the same.  We all learn so much from each other.

The one thing that I see as a major part of the business/my world and some of the biggest obstructions for actors is that change is the only constant that we can rely on – ON EVERY LEVEL.

When I started out 20 years ago, foolishly I thought there was a formula and way that things happened and when it didn’t happen that way it threw me off my game.  Now that I SOOOOO believe in rolling with the punches and actually relish it – I see actors resist change and try to control and there is NO CONTROL in life and certainly not in this business.

Actors should never look at an audition or role as any finite situation – IT IS NOT – it is, in fact, an opportunity. If you don’t audition you are RARELY going to get a role.  It’s like regular life – you don’t sit at home and have someone come knock on your door and offer you an opportunity.  Every role and audition puts you in front of casting, producers, directors and it can turn into anything – but only if you show up and are compelling.

We must always believe that you belong in the world that we are placing you in.  A lot of that is my job and my belief in you as an actor – but you have to follow through.  Quite often I think that actors JUDGE, and give away the story as they walk into the room – I think actors are so ego-centric that they forget that  their entire job is to tell the story truthfully and anything else is NOT what we are looking for.  If you look at actors who do well – they will realize that we are not thinking about the person, but the story – actors who are confident enough to tell a story truthfully and allow themselves to be vulnerable to whatever the situation – that is what I look for.  I NEVER want to see “characters” or more importantly “charicatures” – because there is a sense of judgement and making fun of people.  This makes me angry.  We should always have empathy and understanding and if we do that and are honest and not judgmental, we do a great job.

Breakdowns are an outline and not finite – if a casting director asks for you to read for something that is different from what you perceive the role to be – that is part of the creative process and trust me – they know more than you, the agent or breakdown knows.  AND ONCE AGAIN IT’S AN OPPORTUNITY.

Actors are their own worst enemy.  Remember the best thing you have is YOU.  No one else can bring that to the table – so don’t forget to bring yourself to the table.

We are all different – casting, directors and producers – show up, have a GOOD attitude, LISTEN, LISTEN and pay attention and have fun.  In some ways it’s a percentage thing, but in other ways, it’s really about truth and what you are willing to give of yourself.  In all parts of life I believe the truth will set you free.

Improv is a necessary skill.  Not the game kind of improv, but actually becoming a part of the story – who knows where that can take you.

Don’t be needy.  Don’t complain.  Don’t boast. If you can be yourself and comfortable and honest you will be a happy person and therefore a better actor.

We want you to succeed!  We have to trust that you are not a pain in the buttosky for any department, that you will show up, be on time, hit your mark, listen to the director and hopefully fall into an organic place that makes amazing moments.  I have a policy of disclosing to directors that someone is an “asshole”, “needy” or any other sort of negative.  Negatives generally cost time, which is money.

This is a great life and while you don’t work every day and there is SO MUCH rejection – you must remember you are not now or ever digging ditches for 12 hours.  Be grateful that someone wants to see you as an actor and make it rock!  It’s pretty deluxe.  Go for it and love it!

I love every day and my opportunities as a casting director but I MUST believe you, trust you and want to work with you.  You not only represent yourself, but your agent and ME and it’s important to trust that.

Rock and roll, rock and roll – enjoy, embrace, love your life…Tracy Kilpatrick

Wednesday, November 18th

Burt Reynold’s book “But Enough About Me: A Memoir” is hot off the press!  Mr. Reynolds has been a big influence in Florida film production.  After graduating from Palm Beach High School, Burt attended Florida State University on a football scholarship.  His football career ended after an injury and automobile accident.  When life threw him a curve, he decided to start a career in acting, including starring in the TV show “B. L. Styker” that filmed in Florida.  Burt was the #1 Box Office Star Award for five consecutive years (a record unmatched in Hollywood) and has numerous nominations and awards for film and television including an Emmy and Golden Globe award for “Evening Shade”.  Burt continues to pursue work in show business but, his real love is teaching actors at the Burt Reynolds Institute for Film and Theater in Jupiter, Florida.  I had the honor of meeting Burt and attend one of his master classes.  I told him his students are fortunate to have him as a teacher.  He responded, “I am fortunate to have them in my life”.  A class act!  A BIG THANK YOU to Burt for inspiring actors to follow their dreams!

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Thursday, November 19th

It has been slow this week gearing up for Thanksgiving so I took the time to start prepping for taxes.  I contacted Brendan Dalton to get his new address so I could send a 1099 form in January.  Brendan moved to New York to work as a member of the Blue Man Group and pursue other opportunities.  I wanted to share this with you:  And on a quick personal note, I just wanted to say thank you for everything you did for me this past year. Though it may not seem like a whole lot, I’m beginning to understand how difficult it really is to get someone to look twice at you up here in NY. The fact that you even agreed to meet with me, let alone decided to take a chance on me really means a whole lot. So, thank you for looking twice.  It isn’t easy getting a good agent in a major market like Los Angeles or New York.  If you are planning on moving to a larger market take full advantage of working in the Southeast, where it is easier to have representation.

Not too long after I received Brendan’s email, I received a submission via email (first strike – since I do not accept online submissions).  The actor stated that he had submitted numerous times and sent a link to headshots, resume and his reel.  After reviewing his materials, I wrote back thank you but, I will pass.  His response was “Tracy (second strike –make sure you have the correct spelling of the person’s name.  It is not that hard to do with the help of google), WOW, big mistake passing on me (third strike – the reason is obvious)”.  First impressions count and last a long time. He went on to explain that he is updating his reel.  Actors, when you are submitting to an agent make sure all of your materials are up to date.  If you can’t do this, then apply at a job that does not require common sense!

Friday, November 20th

Another week has passed!  Where does the time go?  Breakdowns have slowed down, thus the reason auditions have slowed down.  I hope this is the calm before the storm, the storm meaning pilot season.  I am helping actors select new headshots and the usual day to day business.  I am proud of “BTG” actors and their commitment to the business.  TGIF!!!

Monday, November 23rd

Time to vent:  Let’s talk about body language.  I recently received an audition for a role of a cardiologist.  The doctor was letting the patient know the results of a test.  In one of the auditions I received, the actor was slumped down in a chair, shirt wrinkled and hair a mess.  I would have bought this, if the scene took place in a bar with a group of buddies discussing the test results but, not in the doctor’s office where the scene takes place. Body language is a kind of nonverbal communication where thoughts, intentions or feelings are expressed by physical behaviors, such as facial expressions, body posture, gestures, eye movement, touch and the use of space.  An actor’s body language in the scene is important. I think this should be second nature for an actor.  So, next time you audition think of the time, place and the body language of the character you are playing.

Tuesday, November 24th

If a casting director requests that you send two contrasting takes or if you decide on your own to send two different takes, make sure they are CONTRASTING.  I see time and time again when actors send two takes that are very similar.  Trust your gut instinct but, think outside the box. Bring up your inner chameleon and create two different ways you think the character would be played. Also, make sure your favorite read is marked as first choice.

Wednesday, November 25th

The agency is closed the rest of the week in honor of Thanksgiving

What are you thankful for?

I am thankful for the hard working actors who keep Brevard Talent Group in business

I am thankful to the casting directors who believe in BTG actors

I am thankful to the husbands, wives and parents of young performers of actors who support them

I am thankful for my family and friends

I am thankful to the farmers who grow our food and the truckers who bring it to us

I am thankful for anyone who makes me laugh

I am thankful to live in America!

Monday, November 30th

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