Actors & black market breakdowns (Part 1 of 2)
There’s a not so secretive practice among unrepresented and represented actors: black market breakdowns.
If you’re not familiar with the term “breakdown” it’s the casting notice that casting offices release to agents through a service called Breakdown Services. Franchised agents and vetted managers pay a subscription rate to receive these casting notices.
Black market breakdowns are unauthorized copies of these breakdowns that are sold (or shared in some form) within the actor/entertainment community. It’s illegal: i.e. copy-write infringement, plus theft of services. Engaging in black market breakdowns is also harmful to professional representation relationships of repped actors who receive black market breakdowns and often contact their agent bemoaning, “I saw on Breakdowns today the following roles that I want to be submitted for…” The harm is two-fold: the behavior displays that the actor does not trust the agent to work diligently on behalf of the actor. Secondly: the agent is aware the actor is receiving black market breakdowns. There are agents who report their clients to Breakdown Services that the actor(s) has access to black market breakdowns. Why? The agent does not wish to risk being implicated of being in compliance with the actor if the actor is found by another means to be engaging in the illegal activity. If the agent if found to be complacent the agent, and/or the entire agency, may loose their legal access to the life blood of casting: breakdowns.
Where you can get black market breakdowns? I don’t know. I do know that the now defunct operation of Redwood Talent, a ‘management’ company, formerly run by actors sold to actors breakdowns. Redwood Talent also charged monthly rates to their clients. The more the client paid the more the actor was submitted in response to breakdowns. Allegedly one of Redwood’s owners (again an actor) would visit backstage the Broadway houses and sell breakdown access to actors in the Broadway shows.
Breakdown Services attempted to stem the tide of the black market breakdown flow between actors by offering, via its web site, a service called Actor’s Access. Actors would receive the same breakdowns that talent agents receive. That was the original intent. A fair and transparent one offered by Breakdown Services. Up until several casting directors complained that they were receiving what they considered unsolicited submissions directly from actors. A compromise was reached between Breakdown Services and the complaining casting directors:
Casting offices now have options on who in the industry receives their breakdowns via Breakdown Services: subscribers of Breakdown Services, Actor’s Access, or both. With each breakdown–if the casting director wants to cast wide their net for talent beyond agencies–the casting office must inform Breakdown Services to release the breakdown to Actors Access. A number of casting offices are either not aware of this option, forget, or choose not to have submission from Actors Access. But Actors Access remains one of the must-have actor assets for casting information.
An actor, whether represented or not, with a subscription to Actors Access who discovers the casting of a project that does not appear on Actors Access can submit themselves for consideration.
Via sleuthing online, The Call Sheet, or Breakdown Services’ better directory of agents and casting: an actor acquires the land-mail address of the casting office. Place the name of the project and role(s) on the outside of your submission (and in the cover letter as I write about in ACTING: Make It Your Business) and send it! Envelopes are opened. Emails are often deleted without being clicked ‘open.’ Be aggressive. Be above board.
Paul Russell’s career as a casting director, director, acting teacher and former actor has spanned thirty years. He has worked on projects for major film studios, television networks, and Broadway. Paul has taught the business of acting and audition technique at NYU and has spoken at over two-dozen universities including Yale, Elon, Wright State University and Rutgers. He is the author of ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistakes and Achieve Success as a Working Actor. For more information, please visit www.PaulRussell.net.