Who's Who in the Acting Biz

by Joshua Siegel

Dictionary page

As an actor, and therefore a member of the movie industry, you need to take the time to learn about the many key people who are essential to your career.

There are many different people in the entertainment industry who are essential to an actor. It is important that you know who these people are and what they do since you may be working closely with them really soon as your career begins to take off. Here are a few you should know.

Talent Agent
A talent agent is someone who finds work for an actor in exchange for 10-15% (10% for union actors, typically more for nonunion) of the actors' earnings. They have an extensive network of contacts and clients, and use this network to get interviews and auditions for the actor. They also will work on the terms of your contract when you good a job. As an actor, you are a product and the agent is your salesperson.

A manager is a person hired by the actor to find work, give advice, and generally guide the actor's career. With the exception of child actors (who often need extra development and guidance into the business), most actors will not require a real manager until they are well on the road to success.

Casting Director
The CD is hired by the producers of a show to find talent (or "cast") for the show. These are the people who the agent will send photos and resumes to, and the actor will audition for. While it is possible to submit your photo and resume directly to a Casting Director, they usually only seriously consider actors submitted by an agent.

A producer is the person in charge of all the "behind the scenes" work of a show or film. They bring together a script, director, and actors, then oversee the film until it is released. The easiest way into Hollywood is knowing a producer, be they family or friend. Unfortunately for most of us, this isn't possible. But if you do happen to have a connection, don't hesitate to use it. Who knows, you could be the next Tori Spelling.

The person who interprets the written book or script. This individual oversees all creative aspects of the production. Also the person who yells "Action!"

Director of Photography
A person with expertise in the art of capturing images. This is the person responsible for creating the overall look of the film. This includes setting up the shots by establishing the placement of both camera and lights. The chief cinematographer for a movie is called the director of photography.

Now that you know who's who, take a little time and brush up one some film vocabulary. Like any other business, the film industry has its own terminology and language. The more terms you know, the easier it will be to understand everything going on around you.

The first time you go in for a job. You are called in for an audition, where you will read a script or do whatever the casting director asks for the role.

The second audition. You've already auditioned for this role, and now the director, producer, ad agency or others are present to see the best of the best.

The section of the script you will read. Casting directors choose specific pages in a script for actors to audition with. They may be consecutive scenes, one line, or sections from various parts of the full screenplay.

On Avail
It's a good sign! The casting director calls your agent or manager to ask if you are available for the specified shoot dates. The director then makes note of your availability, and informs the person deciding who to cast.

On Hold
A very good sign! They've already asked if you're available for the shoot dates and now they are booking out your time. This doesn't mean you have the job yet, but they are paying you a holding fee to claim that day until they decide whether or not they want to cast you.

When you get the job. Every job you get is a booking.

Book Out
When you are unavailable to audition or work on projects for any reason (vacation, illness, other bookings). You need to inform your agent so they can book you out on their calendar and not submit you for work during that time.

Go See
A modeling audition. You go in, show a portfolio, they see you, and take a photo. Hence the name "go see."

Work that involves voice recordings only. There is no on-camera work, therefore it does not matter what you look like or how old you are, only what you sound like or what affects you can do with your voice.

Demo Reel
A compilation of clips of your work from commercials, television, film and more. This shows off your talent.

A photo of you, usually consisting of your head and shoulders, or from the waist up (¾ shot).

Zed Card
A modeling card (similar to a headshot), but is double-sided with four to five pictures showcasing different looks.

The Board
The board posted at casting sessions that instructs you what to do and provides all the audition information needed.

An "X" marked by tape that indicates where you are to stand when you line up for the camera.

When you say your name, age, and show profiles of your face prior to beginning the actual audition.

Cold Read
When you are given a script and expected to perform without having time to study and prepare.

Scene Study
A class in breaking down scripts to discover what they really mean, character intentions, motivations and more.

The listing of characters and attributes. This includes ethnicity, age, personality traits and any restrictions or specifications a casting director will put together for send to agents in order to cast a project. Essentially a description of each character.

A main actor, or one whose face is seen on camera.

A background actor who has no spoken lines.

Refers to commercials. Commercials that are broadcast in a specified area of the country.

Refers to commercials. Commercials that are broadcast nationwide.

Screen Actors Guild - American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. The main acting union which protects actor's wages and working conditions.

Taft Hartley
The fine a company must pay for using a non-union actor on a union job.

A project or actor that is not affiliated with or does not belong to an actors union, such as SAG-AFTRA.

When an actor is paid a flat fee instead of residuals.

Money paid to an actor each time a union job (commercial, television show, film) is broadcast.

Refers when something will run only on cable channels.

Wild Spot
Refers to when a project (mostly commercials) will run on both network and cable programming.

The minimum amount an actor can be paid for a job as set forth by the union.

Session Fee
Term sometimes used instead of scale. However, it can also refer to non-union work, where pay is a set amount per day or per week.

Something that is being produced as a test and will not air on television.

A public service announcement.

When you are called in to read for a television show or other filmed project. It is not really an audition, more like a pre-audition. Pre-reads are usually very brief.

A half-hour comedy show.

A movie of the week, produced for television broadcast.

Screen Test
The final audition for a film or television series, as a regular cast member. This usually requires you go through hair and make-up, and perform a scene on camera, as you would on a regular work day in order for the producers to finalize casting.

What you would be typecast as; such as girl next door, nerd, tough guy, rebel, funny one, best friend, etc.

Age Range
The range of ages which you can realistically play. For example 14-17, 20-30, and so forth.
Joshua Siegel is an actor and short subject director.
Copyright © Joshua Siegel. All rights reserved. Used with permission of the author. Not to be reproduced or distributed.
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Reader Comments

I wish I was a movie star I love to sing and dance

Posted by Dahlia (2017-07-18) 12832

This has cleared up a few things, thank you.

Posted by Nikoel (2011-01-23) 2842

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