Theater. The land of non-payment. "Well don't you do it for the love?" "I'm sure you have a day job" "Aren't you selling out when you get paid". My response: Do I ask you to do my taxes for free, asshole??
Yes. I do it for the love. Uh, no ...theater and writing at forty-two is my day job. You have seemed to have confused the term "Selling Out" with "A Living" as selling out is doing any hack anything for a dime and making a living is doing the thing you love with no compromise and getting paid for the skill it entails.
Oh...and Do I ask you to do my taxes for free, asshole??
Cab Driver: Tell me a joke!
Me: Sure. I will the moment you give me this cab ride for free.
Dry Cleaner: You do improv...make something up now!
Me: Sure. Why don't I mime imaginary money to give to you for my clothes right now.
The world of a comedian and actor is really a put in/not get paid world. You spend thousands of dollars for the classes or the degree in Theater. Hundreds of dollars on the headshots and professional roll. The extra payments of classes, just to be seen at some high end theater in the hopes and dreams of one day becoming a part of that ensemble.
And the turnaround is bleak. "You get a B-Roll" or "Food is provided" or "A fun experience" You find yourself getting paid 75 bucks for an hour show at a high end tech establishment that was just mentioned in Fortune Magazine.
Only to realize that the people who asked you to do this gig got paid a lot more than seventy-five dollars. A whole lot more.
Actors and writers in small venues. Writers are on the bottom of the totem pole. Actors are underneath the totem pole. We are actually the *last thought* to any production.
When not writing and performing, I produce theater and find actors paying work through The San Francisco Improv Alliance. Our header is Improv and Actors First. We not only produce shows around San Francisco and pay actors a decent wage? We also produce the San Francisco Improv Festival. One of the few improv festivals around the country that actually pays its actors.
We also have this program called "The Talent Pool" Where companies come to The Alliance to find talented actors for anything from corporate events, to commercials, Educational Programming and everything theater, film and television.
My actors? They get paid for their work. They get paid *well* When I tell an actor they are going to get a huge chunk of change and are "Gob smacked" by it? I just simply say: If I'm giving you that much? Imagine what I'm getting for producing it.
This is called having the mindset of Do I ask you to do my taxes for free, asshole?? when companies call and proclaim "We do not have a budget"
Larger companies will always try to find the better deal when other theater production companies seem just a little too high. In theory this is what they are supposed to do. Save money. But, when they look for people who they think are hungry for any sort of work. Or worse yet? Feel that anything creative should come to them for free? It rattles my chains.
Today is a classic example. I get a blind email from a person who works for a major Investment Banking Firm passed to me by someone else in the Bay Area Improv Community. And here is why:
we would like to incorporate improv in some way for 30-60 minutes. Unfortunately, there is no budget but we could allow someone to promote him/herself in some way as a form of compensation.
When I scrolled down to see the name of the company this person worked for, I immediately went to their glossy, glossy high end website. According to its own website on the frontage, they had record earnings for its 2007 Fourth Quarter.
Maybe this company thinks that artistic people cannot research or read. Maybe they have forgotten that when you call a comedian who deals in social and political satire and offer them non payment from one of the biggest banking firms in the world? That the super fun times really begins!
Know how difficult it is when you sit in front of your computer to try to draft a friendly "Hellz NO" email without sounding snarky?
Dear Person who works for big mammoth money making Banking Establishment:
Thank you so much for the email. It made me laugh. You really have no idea how much of a big chuckle I got from it. I will be forwarding this email to the rest of the improv and standup community so they too can get big grins and sniggles from it.
As you can probably assume by the tongue in cheek first paragraph, that my company has no interest whatsoever in your offer of doing a sixty minute show for over a hundred people for no pay whatsoever, and only the vague promise of promotion. You see, we don't need your promotion as the companies I produce are already established in the city, and individual actors are trying to land work to pay rent.
You seem to have mistaken The SFIA and the entire theater community of San Francisco as people who are desperate to be seen by people who could not offer us anymore than you at your function. Sorry. We are not. Even the 20 year olds who are part of the SFIA have bills they have to pay. You also seem to have missed that whole "Improv and Actors First" header on the site.
But, if you would still like to use the SFIA for your event we would like to give you a counter offer: We will do a 30-60 minute show if you give every actor and myself putting it together free access to the profits you made for your 2007 4th Quarterly earnings for exactly 5 minutes. Just give each one of us a big bag and open the vault. You can even put a fan in there and let the money blow around.
Only Five Minutes to catch as much money as we can and put it in our gunny sacks. I think that is just as fair and reasonable as asking actors who work for a living to do a free show for a company that is not even doing the event for charity, or I'm personally aint eyeball in debt to.
In conclusion, we here at the SFIA would like to simply ask this: Do I ask you to do my banking and finances for free (swear redacted)?
The actual email was a lot nicer. Spell Checked and Husband Approved to not come off looking like a Jackass.
If it was not for human filters in a non blog situation? The email above would have went out. With a lot of smiley faces and ending with "Hugs and Kisses, Shaun Landry."
Last week my company Storytellers Unplugged was asked to do a show at a High School in the Mission. It was for the English Department and the teacher has been teaching the high school students how to write using improvisation.. We came in and did a thirty minute show.
They had no money at all. The teacher came up to me and out of his own pocket gave us $250.00 dollars. The school just sent me a check for 50.00. The teacher afterwards gave me a huge hug and said "It was worth every penny. You are doing this for the love of your art"
An inner city school paying for artists out of the pockets of teachers.
A big name Banking Firm who thinks the promise of promotion for a non charity event is just fine for an artist.
Yes Ms. Parker: What Fresh Hell is This?
Causes Shaun Landry Supports
The Alzheimer's Foundation, NAACP, Breast Cancer Foundation, Gilda's Club.