"The label you give yourself cannot impact external forces that are not motivated by your own psychology or influenced by a third party's pre-existing consciousness of you. We are all presented with reasons to struggle which come from completely external forces; to pretend that one is not struggling is either arrogance or an admission of defeat. To admit that one is struggling is a sign and a source of strength." - Evan A. Baker

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Blunt and Honest Advice

The other day, a friend of mine asked me to go over her reel and give her my opinion of it. I advised her to trash the entire thing, which I can tell you, was not the critique she was hoping for. I told her the quality was no good, the audio was off on her best scene, and the odd editing of some scenes themselves did her no favors. The entire thing made her look like someone who can memorize lines and parrot them back - it did not show off her being able to go from one emotion into the next in the same scene.

She is keeping the reel, as a mark of what she's booked and accomplished here in LA, which, although noble, doesn't prove how good an actress she can be.

Here's the thing: I WANT you to succeed. I'm a Struggling Actress myself, so maybe my advice is all crap anyways; beware the source you seek counsel from, right?  But I really want you to succeed. And my advice to you is always coming from that place of hope that YOU can beat the odds, beat the adversity, beat the years of struggling paycheck to paycheck to actually make it in this town. And maybe then, you too can advise others answering their calling.

My advice is blunt and honest, but I swear it's coming from a good place.

And with that, we have our next actor asking me advice:

Hi Lira! 
First of all I want to thank you for your wonderful blog. I am considering moving to LA 
here shortly & kept coming across your blog in my research. I really appreciate you sharing your 
experiences as I feel I have a much better grasp on what it's like to pursue acting out there. 

I read your blog on good head shots & I wanted to see if you wouldn't mind taking a peek at mine. 
It's the main image here:

You also write about knowing your type...I have no idea what mine is, would you mind giving me 
your opinion?

I know I need to get some new headshots because I don't have a smiling commercial one. I was 
thinking of using this guy here since he's a lot cheaper than using a LA photographer one I get there. 
But I understand there could be a noticeable difference in 'LA style'. He interned under 
Michael Helms (an LA photographer).

What do you think of his work? Do you think that's a good idea to save some money? 

From what I gather it sounds like one would want to live close to where auditions are 
happening as commuting can be hellish. What part of town would you say most auditions 
happen around?

Also, I'm [age redacted]. Do you think I'm crazy to head out there at this age?

I know you're busy, I really appreciate your time & all of your insights. 
You've inspired this Florida girl so much these past few days. THANK YOU!!!!


 Hi Shayne! Thanks for reading! I'm glad you're finding my blog helpful.

Your headshot is not good, but you know that already or you wouldn't have asked. It's weirdly cropped, and you were directed to lean against a wall that is the exact same neutral tone as your hair and skin. Your hair hasn't been styled, you makeup is neutral, with a neutral lip, so you don't pop and the entire picture makes you look like you're uncomfortable.

I looked at your imdb page and most of your shots are of you in a bikini or skimpy clothing. The type you are presenting on imdb based on your photos, is the "Will Do Nudity" type.

There is nothing wrong with that type. A lot of women make good money doing that. But if that's not the type you want to project, you need to take off all the skimpy photos. Bikini photo shoots do not belong on imdb.


Why would you go to a photographer who isn't in LA to take your new LA headshots? He doesn't know the market, doesn't know the industry out here, doesn't know how to sell you. You need a photographer who is in LA and who is competing against other LA photographers. Only the good ones survive out here: the ones who take such good headshots that they are on agency lists, are wholeheartedly referred by other clients, and take photos of you that get you in the door.

The guy you linked to doesn't even understand basic lighting or retouching. You shoot with him and you are going to have to reshoot anyways. Just because he interned under a photographer doesn't mean he learned anything. The photog could have just made him go out on coffee runs!

Expect to spend around $1,000 for good headshots - the photographer will charge anywhere from $275-600, makeup and hair styling will be $125-175, retouching will be $25-35/photo, and then there's the cost of reproducing them to submit them to agents, and then spending $10-35/photo to upload them onto casting sites. Yes, it's expensive, (also tax deductible!) but your headshot is THE MOST IMPORTANT TOOL YOU HAVE TO GET IN THE DOOR. You might not be able to act your way out of a paper bag, but if you have a good headshot, agents and casting will at least want to meet you. 

You want to audition close to where the action is. Okay. You might audition in North Hollywood, Studio City, Sherman Oaks, Santa Monica, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood and Culver City. You probably won't audition in Silverlake or Downtown, but you basically have all of LA to choose from. Research the neighborhoods and look on Craig's List for apartments in your price range so you can see what you can get in what neighborhood.

You asking me if I think you're crazy for moving out to LA at your age makes me think you might think you're crazy for coming out here at your age. Is it going to be a struggle? Yes. But it is for everybody out here.

No matter what your age, you need to come out here with the understanding that the first two years are going to be very, very hard, and that you need to be willing to put at least 10 years out here. You need to have a ton of money saved up because you will find securing a job that allows you to get to auditions at a moment's notice very difficult to secure.

You need to be able to afford the tools that will allow you to play the Hollywood game for a long, long time.

If you have any doubts, STAY where you are. Stay near your family, your friends, your support system.

If that is not enough for you, then by all means, come out here.

You already know you've got one friend in me.


Friday, March 1, 2013

Actor Deductions and Tax Info

If you don't receive the Casting Networks Newsletter, you should. 

I've picked a few things from the article Tracy Weisert wrote, but you should read the full article here.

On January 28, Casting Networks’ attentive members asked many questions of guest speaker and Certified Public Accountant, Sark Antaramian.

Sark stated that actors have the highest ratio of expenses versus income and that we can deduct more items and services compared to other professional careers.  And that our deduction categories are also the most abused.
Use of car- “Pretty much everything with an actor's car is deductible” and advised us to get an automobile log and to document everything, including our mileage. He also pointed out that in audits, the auditor will ask for your auto mechanic records to check your odometer reading against your claimed mileage deduction.
Meals and Entertainment- Example-With any meal over $75, we will need a receipt.  When we claim that on our taxes, we have to have the receipt and also have documentation of-

    1. Date
    2. Place
    3. Who
    4. Relationship to us (Example-agent, manager, etc.)
    5. What was the business that was discussed?
"Other common expenses of actors are your headshots, your make-up, your hair styling and your gym workout.  Besides your skill, you’re basically selling your appearance.  Not just actors.  I’ve had TV news reporters and anchor people.  They can deduct the cost to maintain their appearance."

Other points Sark mentioned is-
The statute to keep receipts is three years for the United States and four years for California.  “I tell my clients to keep them for six years in case there is fraud.”
“Unemployment benefits are reported and you have to claim it.”
“You have to have your gas receipts in order to deduct them.”
“If you don’t have enough W-2s [from acting] for three years, it is considered a ‘hobby’ by the IRS.”

Sark Antaramian has been a licensed CPA for the past 27 years.  His clients are primarily in the entertainment industry and represents small business and individual clients assisting them with various tax matters.  He has worked with actors, writers , talent agents, casting directors, producers, directors, and various other types of skilled individuals such as gaffers, grips, best boys , electrician and lighting technicians.  His practice is located in the San Fernando Valley.