Actor Breakdowns over Blackmarket Breakdowns (Part 2 of 2)

THIS WEEK’S TIP: Actors & Black Market Breakdowns (Part 2 of 2)

This has got to stop. Actors paying thieves for black market breakdowns. Especially actors with representation.

Last week’s Part 1 of this blog caused a stir. It also prompted a reader to send me an e-mail he received from a thief selling the black market breakdowns. Attached to the e-mail was an example of the breakdowns. I couldn’t fucking believe it. Disgusting is the best I can say of the e-mail’s contents.

Here was someone preying on actor vulnerability and profiting off of actors by committing a serious crime of fraud and theft. Actors who engage in buying these breakdowns are just as culpable and can be prosecuted as well. I immediately contacted Breakdown Services.

More than likely the person who was selling the illegal Breakdowns is/was an intern or an assistant at a talent agency. Agencies pay a subscription fee to receive the Breakdowns. And Breakdown Services scrutinizes their subscribers. Joe-blow-off-the-street can’t get a talent agency subscription from Breakdown Services.

Now, actors with talent representation who receive black market breakdowns: Stop it. Beyond the illegality of the act you’re jeopardizing your relationship with your agent. For those with or without an agent who may be wondering how…. here we go;

The represented actor getting the illegal breakdowns often calls their agent and says, “I just saw on Breakdowns a role that I want to be submitted for…” The agent does one of two things (or both) rolls their eyes and reminds the actor, in terse tone, that as an agent THEY get the breakdowns and submit appropriate clients. After the call is ended, the agent usually mumbles to another agent in the office, “We need to drop that one.”

When an actor phones an agent with the, “I just saw on Breakdowns…” call; immediately the agent is thinking, “This client doesn’t trust me. Why should I be representing them?” Agents hate, repeat; HATE clients who use this supposed proactive choice for career advancement. Often the client doesn’t advance, they lose representation.

Agents talk to me often about this, including my partner who owns a talent agency. It’s one of the surest ways for a client to stop being a client. If you’re still not convinced think of it this way. Calling up your agent and telling them you saw a role on Breakdowns you think you’re right for, is equal to one actor giving another actor performance notes. It’s wrong. It’s rude. It’s not professional. And it needs to stop!

Trust that your agent is doing the best that they can for your interests. Stop engaging in activity that could bring serious charges against you and cost you money, time, reputation AND representation.

And finally; a reader asked me,  “Is it effective for actors living beyond the metro areas of New York or LA to subscribe to Actor’s Access?” (Breakdown Services subscription service to actors). No. Most of the auditions are in NY or LA. Auditions come quickly after they are announced. You need to be living in or near the area that the majority of auditions that are happening. Casting personnel don’t want to bother with actors who submit themselves for an audition in NY or LA when the actor permanently resides in bum-fuck Kansas. (No offense to Kansas, my finger just went for the “K” key and there were only two state options after that. I’ll offend the blue-grass moonshiners another time).

So, wrap up here. Represented actors, stop using and paying for illegal breakdowns. Stop calling your agent with the, “I just saw on Breakdowns…” call. Unrepresented actors, I do not condone or suggest the use of illegal breakdowns. But if you do engage in that illicit behavior read in Part 1 of this post. But be warned, you are committing a crime.

Paul Russell’s career as a casting director, director, acting teacher and former actor has spanned forty-plus 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 universities including Yale, Temple and the University of the Arts. He writes a column for Back Stage and 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.

Actor Breakdowns over Blackmarket Breakdowns (Part 1 of 2)

Actors & black market breakdowns (Part 1 of 2)

Keep Calm and Audition On

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.

Paul Russell’s career as a casting director, director, acting teacher and former actor has spanned forty-plus 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.

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