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2018 Tax Law Changes May Affect Actors

new taxes 2018 and actors

Taxes in 2018 are not looking good for actors.

And it boils down to this: apparently you won't be able to deduct business expenses from W-2 income.

We had a very informative session with Miata Edoga, consultant for the Financial Wellness Program of the Actors' Fund, and Emily Churchill, who is an actor and also can do your taxes (she's an Enrolled Agent), at SAG-AFTRA in Los Angeles tonight. Emily is so funny that her presence alone would be worth attending! It was taped so hopefully many of you will be able to see it on the Actors Fund youtube stream soon.

So taxes are going to be slightly lower for most mortals in the US, but maybe not for actors. Because actors basically get paid by W-2 all the time, and those won't allow for deducting business expenses, which includes the agent's cut and the manager's cut and those acting classes and everything else... We did the math, and an actor that made 60k in 2017, with an agent (10%) and a manager (15%) and 10k in other expenses, would end up the year paying over 4k in taxes. Same actor with same expenses in 2018, without being able to deduct those, and on top of that getting bumped to a higher bracket because of that, will end up paying over 10k.

I know, right?

But as Emily said (as she brought the audience to a roar), you need to get informed and stand against it, and contact your representatives and go to the street and shout!

And by the way, with your W-2s, watch your pay stubs. Some production companies are not collecting all the taxes they should. You could get a bitter surprise by April next year. At least get to know where you're at, in advance.

Get your SlateShots already

Behind the scenes with Drew Gordon

Dear actor friends, if you still don't have a slateshot attached to each of your headshots in Actors Access... you're missing out for no good reason.

Breakdown Services have been talking about the benefits of SlateShots℠ for a while. What most actors seem to overlook is that "submissions with SlateShots℠ are displayed ahead of submissions without SlateShots℠." To make it clear: if you have a slateshot attached to the headshot submitted for that role, your headshot will show on the top of the page. Capisce?

Yes, you could just shoot something with your iPhone (heck, some people create loads of web content simply with an iPhone, and sometimes they know how to do it pretty well). But really, if you're applying for a job, and you have one shot, don't you want it to be the best you can deliver? Here are the main points you need to keep in mind: it's basically a moving version of your headshot. Everything that applies to headshots also applies to slateshots. We want to see your eyes, see your face. Have good lighting and avoid busy backgrounds. On top of that, you have sound. The talkies! Make sure you have good sound quality and keep your text clean and simple.

And let me know if you want to add a slateshot to your headshot session!

Actors’ Headshots Notes From SAG Foundation

Headshot at Petersen

A few days ago, I attended a SAG-AFTRA Foundation Small Group Session with their business program director, Dennis Baker. He gave us a general view of what to look for in a headshot, and then he actually went through the headshots of the actors that were in the session.  He then got feedback from the group for each one, using lists of keywords.

That was a surprisingly good session. Previously, the Foundation had offered another Small Group Session on actors types and branding, so this was a continuation, where each actor would see what they would want their headshots to be in order to fit in with that actor's personal statement.

First and foremost, the actor's headshot needs to have enough contrast to pop in a breakdown - when the casting director sees pages and pages of submitted headshots, side by side, in thumbprints. So according to Dennis, no dark backdrops with dark hair (though I do think that as long as you can see a separation from the background, it should be fine). And then, the background should never be too busy or in any way distracting. It should never be so limiting as to place the actor in one specific place, the same way that the actor should not be wearing a "uniform", a doctor's coat, fireman's hat or jacket, etc. We had an example of a headshot taken in a harbor; even though it was blurry, we could still identify where the actor was, and that is a distracting element.

So this brings us to that eternal discussion of whether a headshot is better in studio or on location. Bottom line is: whatever the actor wants to communicate. Everything in a headshot communicates something. Plan your headshot according to your type and personal statement, but remember to suggest rather than be explicit.

Yes, I kind of agree with this one!

Be My Muse

Georgia

It sounds like some 80s lyrics, but it is what it is: I want you to be my muse. I am always excited for the opportunity for every person in front of my lens to inspire me and become my muse for the moment.  It’s so exciting when I can make it happen! I’m in love with my images, if I can say so, and I love working on those images. I look at Georgia (featured in the image above) and I absolutely love it. “Right”, you may think, “Georgia is gorgeous, pffffftt.” But it doesn’t need be. It’s a magical thing that can come from many places, from you exposing your personality, from you showing what you love about yourself, being your true self. That’s easier with children – again, not all children, because some are already too trained, too posy, too smiley. But still they are more playful than adults and, if not “coached” on set by a parent, they more easily get to display that true self.

I am a very introverted person, so this is likely to go slowly… but if you let me, I’ll be right there, ready for it.

So allow it to happen. Be my muse.

The Tale of the Three Headshots

It goes like this: from every headshot session, there are three distinct shots breaking away from the pack.

  • the one you like the most;
  • the one your mother likes the most;
  • the one you should actually be using.

Whether it’s a headshot for an audition or for the corporate needs, this still applies.

If you are a represented actor, you might benefit from your rep’s help. They’ll probably tell you what that third headshot is (and you would be wise to listen). But maybe you don’t have this luxury and you just need to figure it out by yourself. Yes, I can give you my opinion on your shots, but in the end, it's your call.

For corporate shots, you want something that shows that you are confident and approachable; without distractions such as big jewelry, patterned wardrobe, or a detailed background. In this case, less is more; it should be simple and you should look natural while still showing you are communicative and interesting. You can do it.  Together, with a little patience, we can work on all of that!

Actors may want to consider how their headshot will look when viewed by casting directors on Breakdown Services. An off-white background is probably your best bet; just imagine your headshot as a one-inch cell, on a page with 40 other actors. You should still look natural, confident, approachable, and your image should still pop. A blurry colorful background is really not the best in that situation.

You might still want some more creative portraits to use in other places, with more intriguing lighting, maybe even some props. Portraits are always fun to do, just know that not everything is a headshot! And, besides, you may want a copy of that one shot to give to your mom… Mother’s Day is just around the corner.

The tale of the three headshots