This document below was written by an agent at CAA to all of his clients regarding the current state of the entertainment industry. My former acting teacher forwarded it to me and I thought it was well written and truly expresses what is currently going on regarding opportunities in the Film, TV and Commercial areas of the business. So, naturally I felt the need to share it with all of you guys…
I wanted to take a moment and give you a number of
Before I begin, however, I wish to tell you all that I am
so very proud of you all for your dogged determination
during these most difficult times. Hollywood is being
challenged on multiple fronts – labor uncertainty,
paradigm shifting and the ‘great recession’.
I know a lot of your are getting antsy to get out more, and
frankly many of you are in a tight financial pinch; as such,
I wanted to describe to you all the current climate in LA
and the factors influencing the current environment.
1 SAG STALEMATE: Since the SAG contract expired on June 30,
2008, there have been few to no STUDIO feature films (this
does not include companies such as Lionsgate and the
Weinstein Company who are not in AMPTP and as such have
completion agreements). Some analysts say there are up to
200 feature films on hold. Around September, we started to
see a mass movement of film actors to TV projects. Many of
my “name” actors have done one-day guest stars
(this is very typical right now), and we are seeing a number
of Guest Star level actors doing CO-STAR roles. Remember
from November of 2007 to March of 2008, due to the
Writer’s Strike, again there were no feature films shot.
So for the film actor, there has only been 4 months of work
in the last 17 months. THE BOTTOM LINE: Due to the lack of
studio feature film production, BOTH film and TV actors are
now competing for a limited number of jobs in the episodic
and pilot environments.
2. PILOT SEASON: During the Writer’s Strike of 2007-2008,
Studios adapted and used the void to eliminate pilot season
as we know it. Gone are the days of hundreds of pilots. In
fact, this year, there are only 67 pilots to have registered
for production – of which only about 35 have been green
lit for production.
Variety article on pilots
And this year, due again to a sagging economy, studios and
networks believe that by committing named stars to their
projects, they will receive more money from this year’s
up-fronts from ad agencies. They are banking on star power
to leverage better buys at the all important UPFRONTS. So,
stars and pop-stars like Richard Dreyfuss, Chevy Chase,
Brittany Snow, Elle McPherson, Rebecca Romijn, Ashley
Simpson, Scott Caan, Skeet Ulrich, and proven TV talents
like Kelsey Grammar, Eric McCormick, John McGinley, Joel
McHale, Jenna Elfman, Donald Faison, Maura Tierney, Peter
Krauss, Craig T. Nelson, Dax Shepherd, etc…. You do the
math, 37 pilots… top stars being sought… BOTTOM LINE:
the conflagration of the economy and a lack of roles being
cast, means that this pilot season may be even more
competitive than the concurrent regular TV market right now.
So those of you who have gotten auditions for series
regulars… feel great about that!
3. TV: While TV has been steady, again due to the
conflagration of film and named actors doing Guest Starring
roles, we have seen a horrible trickle down. Many Guest
Stars are now doing Co-stars and Co-stars/Developmental
Actors (those with less than 5 primetime credits) frankly
are not getting seen much. One CD recently told me that she
had over 25 women who would be considered ‘working
actors’ going for a co-star role. BOTTOM LINE: Again, due
to the abundance of name and working actors, many
less-developed actors are not even being seen right now.
4. ECONOMIC IMPACT I – THE EROSION OF QUOTES/RATES: There
are really three major impacts to actors during this
economic crunch. First, we are seeing the erosion of quotes.
Due to the availability of so many talented actors, CD’s
and Producers are in the driver’s seat in negotiations.
When they say, “well we got someone else who will do it
for less”, they ain’t kidding. I have spoken to a number
of my peers who have confirmed this erosion of pay for their
actors. In short, right now, quotes are eroding and for
many, the minimum has become the maximum pay.
5. ECONOMIC IMPACT II – THE CONCLUSION OF SAG STALEMATE:
Many are hoping that with the end of this stalemate,
Hollywood will get back to normal. I have to say, that I am
not one who necessarily believes this. First off, due to the
economic conditions, most studios have lost their millions
of dollars from hedge funds; and European, Asian and Middle
Eastern money has dried up. Even Stephen Spielberg has had
to beg, borrow and steal to get his company financed ….
And it wasn’t anywhere near what he originally asked for.
I believe that, even after the SAG stalemate is over, there
is probably not enough money for 50 Studio Feature Films to
be done right out of the gate. BOTTOM LINE: While this will
help us move towards normalcy, it will not be the cash cow
some people think it will be. One side note, is that I
expect that more formulaic projects will be down out the
gate as Studios will be less likely to take significant risks since most of these
projects will be financed by both the studio and their investors.
In short, you will see more Iron Mans, Animation,
and SAWs… they are money in the bank when you factor in
6. ECONOMIC IMPACT III – OVERALL STATEMENT OF
ENVIRONMENT: It is important that everyone follow the
economic conditions closely. I know it is easy to be
skeptical over the studios, networks, cablers, production
houses, show runners, etc, losing money, but it is a
cold-hard fact right now. These entities are truly in a
difficult spot. If you have read much lately, there have
been dramatic cut backs at every studio and network, from
firings to asking show runners to cut between 2-7% of their
budgets (not to mention the 25+% cutback shows like the
Sarah Silverman were asked to swallow recently).
Furthermore, these networks and studios are largely owned by
conglomerates who have lost in the billions over the last 6
months. When I attended NATPE in January, all the talk was
how to get ‘thinner.’ Everything is getting tight.
Budgets, Marketing, Staffing, etc., and this will
undoubtedly impact the actor. Also, the foreign sales market
(where much of the TV and Film money is made, is being hit hard by the
erosion of the US Dollar. So these entities are not able to
recoup the costs they were in better days by the one-time
explosion of the foreign markets. BOTTOM LINE: The economic
conditions are forcing the industry to be as ‘thin’ as
7. COMMERCIALS – INDUSTRY AND ECONOMIC IMPACTS: One
analyst said last year, that 2008 was the worst commercial
market since maybe 1974. I would not argue with this. Think
about it: three of the top products/services for ad agencies
are banks, cars and other financial services – all of
which were struck down in 2008/early 2009 by this recession.
This was confirmed when news struck that even the Super Bowl
did not sell out advertising this year. The good news is
that the advertising industry tends to be one of the first
ones to be negatively impacted by a recession, but one of
the first to grow as the recession moves to an end as
advertisers of products want to start accumulating market
share before the turn of the economy. Another impact relates
to the overall conditions of the TV/FILM/PILOT situation.
Many strong actors have made enough money on TV/FILM, etc so
that they have not had to do commercials in years. Due to the
last few years and the lack of work, many top actors are now
back in the commercial market; thus again, causing a logjam
The economic slowdown has caused a dramatic decrease in ad
sales and the lack of work has caused more actors to
re-enter the commercial market.
THE GOOD NEWS!
Okay, so that is where we are today. You know me, I try to
always call it straight as I see it. So, I am not going to
sugar-coat this either. I anticipate that 2009 will be a
tough year overall for actors (and agencies). First off, the
economy will not likely get straightened out until at least
the 3rd to 4th quarter of this year and so all the factors
above will remain in place through most, if not all, of
2009. Secondly, until the labor situation gets straightened
out, we will not be seeing dramatic amount of film
production, and this seems to be dragging along as well (as
we enter the 8th month of the stalemate – it was announced
today that SAG is thinking now about taking AMPTP to court
for anti-trust violations). But again, even if it was
finalized, there is not enough investor money to see the
film production level normalize and increase for most, if
not all, of 2009. Also, since movies cost around $40 for two
(tickets, popcorn, etc) – this is not a recession proof field anymore.
During our last significant recession, there were few choices for guilty
pleasures to get away from the stress of our times – so
many people flocked to the theatres. NOT SO THESE DAYS, one
can go to the web, TV, cable (not around in 1974, 1982, 1988
much), Video Games, Netflix, RedBox (movie for a $1). So
studios are probably not in any big rush to make films –
as people cannot afford this once cheap diversion – better
to divert for a few bucks to all the many other sources of
guilty pleasures. OKAY, so that didn’t sound like good
The good news is that there are some paradigm shifts
occurring that make 2010 -2012 look like it might be one of
the most prolific times in Hollywood history. Due to
technological developments, there are more platforms being
developed than ever. The internet is driving millions of new
viewers each year. Zillion is going to transform the way we
view advertising. For those who don’t know, it has
recently been unveiled by the maker of Real Player and the
‘mouse.’ It is a system that makes you watch ads before
downloading movies (they already have 14,000 Titles ready
for download), TV, other forms of entertainment to your TV
Screen. However, the consumer can choose the products they
want to see (let’s say you go retail clothing and watch a
Macy’s ad and love the jacket; you can immediately click
on the ad/jacket and go directly to their website where you
can buy it). Also, you earn points by watching the
commercials that you can use towards
purchases. Furthermore, SONY and others are now selling
TVs that wirelessly connect to your computer, so you can
download TV/FILMS at anytime from your computer (websites
like Hula, Netflix, etc) directly to your TV. In short,
technology is making more platforms which will require more
content than ever. Also, Cablers are all embracing doing
scripted shows, some have up to 5 shows this year… again,
more content is needed and thus MORE ACTORS!
BOTTOM LINE: More platforms = more content = more actors!
So as long as SAG/AFTRA can protect your rates and
jurisdictional issues, there will be more good compensated
work than ever in Hollywood by 2010-2012.