Santa Monica 3rd Street Promenade
Street Performer's License



Santa Monica 3rd Street Promenade Street Performer's License
by Sue Basko

One of the best places to street perform in all of the world is the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica, California. The 3rd Street Promenade is a street that has been closed off from vehicle traffic for several blocks. The street is lined with mostly chain retail stores and restaurants; it is, in effect, an upscale shopping mall. The sidewalk and street have been nicely decorated and are kept very clean and in order. This is a place for visitors and tourists. This means what it usually does -- that money flows, famous people are there, and it's a good idea to be vigilant while having fun. While there is an ever-present security crew, I have seen brazen snatchings of purses and cameras from people at tables at outdoor cafes.

How to Get a License to Perform:
You have to apply in person and my understanding is that after you apply and qualify, you will  now get the license ONE day later.  

HOW TO APPLY, cut and pasted from this site:

Street Performer Permit


Applications for performance permits are accepted in person only at 1717 4th Street, Suite 150 from Monday to Thursday 8 AM to 5 PM and on alternate Fridays. Please see the City Hall calendar for alternate Fridays.

When applying, please bring with you the following:
  • The application form (which is also available in our office)
  • Two recent passport-type photographs (approximately 2 inches square) clearly showing your face, no hat or sunglasses on
  • Current photo ID such as a driver’s license or state ID card, passport, or student ID (expired identification will not be accepted)
  • The cost per permit is $37.00. The forms of payment we accept are Cash, Check, Visa, Mastercard and Discover.

Each individual performer must have his or her own performance permit.  The permits are not transferable and you cannot apply for or pick up another performer’s permit.
Permits are usually processed within one business day.
When picking up your permit, please bring your valid photo ID.  The permits will not be released without identification.

Permits for minors younger than 16: 

A parent or guardian may obtain a permit for a minor younger than 16 provided that he or she also brings, in addition to the above documents and payment, a copy of a California Entertainment Work Permit.  These can be obtained at:

6150 Van Nuys Blvd., Room 100
Van Nuys, California, 91401
818-901-5484

Walk-in service (for the entertainment permits only) is available at 6150 Van Nuys Blvd. from 8 AM to 4:45 PM Monday to Friday.

PLEASE NOTE: ALL PERFORMERS MUST COMPLY WITH THE 
CITY OF SANTA MONICA'S MUNICIPAL CODE. 

Once a performance permit has been obtained, any questions may be directed to the Downtown Santa Monica, 310-393-8355.

The Santa Monica Municipal Code has these following sections that are pertinent. You should READ these carefully once before going out to perform:
6.112.020 Definitions.

For purposes of this Chapter, the following words or phrases shall have the following meanings:
(a) Charge. To require someone to pay a fee or to set, negotiate or establish a fee for a performance. Seeking voluntary contributions through passing around a hat, leaving open an instrument case or other receptacle, or soliciting donations after a performance is not a charge.
(b) Handcrafts. Objects made either by hand or with the help of devices used to shape or produce the objects through such methods as weaving, carving, stitching, sewing, lacing, and beading including, but not limited to, objects such as jewelry, pottery, silver work, leather goods, and trinkets. Handcrafts are not likely to communicate a message, idea, or concept to others, are often mass produced or produced with limited variation, and often have functional utility apart from any communicative value they might have. Handcrafts do not include visual art.
(c) Perform. To engage in any of the following activities on public property: playing musical instruments, singing, dancing, acting, pantomiming, puppeteering, juggling, reciting, engaging in magic, creating visual art in its entirety, or similar artistic endeavors. “Perform” shall not include: (1) the provision of personal services such as hair weaving or massage; (2) the application of substances to others’ skin, including, but not limited to, paints, dyes, and inks; (3) the completion or other partial creation of visual art; (4) the creation of visual art which is mass produced or produced with limited variation; or (5) the creation of handcrafts. This list of exclusions is not intended to be exhaustive.
(d) Performer. An individual who “performs” on public property to provide public entertainment. Indicia of being a performer include, but are not limited to, setting up performance equipment; staging or orienting the performance towards the public; performing in the same location for an extended period of time; performing in the public fora over multiple days; seeking voluntary contributions through passing around a hat or leaving open an instrument case or other receptacle; and soliciting donations after a performance.
(e) The Pier. The Santa Monica Pier, consisting of both the Newcomb Pier and the Municipal Pier, protruding from the Santa Monica State Beach at the southwesterly terminus of Colorado Avenue, and extending for approximately two thousand one hundred thirty-five feet into the Santa Monica Bay. The Pier is divided into three performance areas: the Center Performance area, the Breezeway Performance area, and the General Performance area. The boundaries of each of these performance areas are delineated in Exhibit A to Resolution Number 9704 (CCS), or any successor resolution thereto.
(f) Sculpture. A three dimensional work of art which is created through shaping solid material such as wood, stone, clay or metal by carving, modeling, or similar methods.
(g) Third Street Promenade. Third Street between the southeasterly line of Wilshire Boulevard and the northwesterly line of Arizona Avenue, and between the southeasterly line of Arizona Avenue and the northwesterly line of Santa Monica Boulevard and between the southeasterly line of Santa Monica Boulevard and the northwesterly line of Broadway.
(h) Transit Mall. The sidewalks on Santa Monica Boulevard and Broadway from the east side of Ocean Avenue to the west side of Fifth Street.
(i) Visual Art. Sculptures or drawings and paintings, applied to paper, cardboard, canvas, or other similar or technologically equivalent medium through the use of brush, pastel, crayon, pencil, stylus, or other similar object. (Added by Ord. No. 1888CCS § 1 (part), adopted 10/28/97; amended by Ord. No. 1949CCS § 4, adopted 7/20/99; Ord. No. 1959 CCS § 1, adopted 10/12/99; Ord. No. 1982CCS § 1, adopted 8/8/00; Ord. No. 2009CCS § 1, adopted 5/22/01; Ord. No. 2028CCS § 1, adopted 11/13/01; Ord. No. 2047CCS § 1, adopted 7/9/02; Ord. No. 2337CCS § 1, adopted 12/14/10)
6.112.040 Performance permit.

(a) To receive a performance permit, a person must complete and file with the City a performance permit application on a form approved by the City. The applicant must provide the following information:
(1) The applicant’s name;
(2) The applicant’s address;
(3) Proof of the identity of the applicant. This identification must contain a photograph of the applicant. Acceptable forms of identifications shall include, but not be limited to, a driver’s license, student identification card, or passport;
(4) A detailed description of the nature of the act to be performed;
(5) A detailed description of any instrument(s) or prop(s) which will be used by the performer(s);
(6) A minor under the age of sixteen shall provide a copy of an entertainment work permit issued to the minor by the Department of Industrial Relations of the State of California and shall identify the responsible adult(s) who will be with the minor at all times that the minor is performing;
(b) The performance permit will be issued annually commencing on January 1st of each calendar year;
(c) Upon receipt of a written application for a performance permit, a performance permit shall be approved within three business days of the filing of a fully completed application, unless one of the following findings is made:
(1) The applicant has knowingly made a false, misleading, or fraudulent statement of fact to the City in the application process;
(2) The application does not contain the information required by this Chapter;
(3) The applicant has not satisfied the requirements of this Chapter.
(d) In addition to requiring compliance with all provisions of this Chapter, the City may condition the approval of a performance permit on the applicant’s compliance with other provisions of the City’s Municipal Code which are applicable to the performance.
(e) The City may revoke or suspend a performance permit upon the commission of the second violation either of this Chapter or of permit conditions within a six-month period. In any such case, the permit holder shall have the right to appeal from a decision of the City to revoke or suspend any permit in accordance with Chapter 6.16 of this Code. A performer’s permit may be suspended for up to four months. If the performance permit of any performer is suspended, no new permit shall be issued during the period of suspension. Any revocation of a performer’s permit shall be for six months unless the performer previously had a performance permit revoked and the new violations of this Chapter or permit conditions relate to public safety, in which case, the permit shall be revoked for twelve months. No new permit shall be issued during a revocation period. The City shall establish administrative guidelines to assist in the implementation of this Section.
(f) No application for a performance permit or the renewal thereof shall be accepted unless the application is accompanied by a payment of a nonrefundable annual fee in an amount to be set by resolution adopted by the City Council.
(g) The performance permit shall include a photograph of the performer, shall not be assignable or transferable, and shall contain the permit number of the applicant and the year in which the permit expires. Each performer in a group shall obtain his/her own separate performance permit.
(h) A replacement performance permit may be obtained upon payment of a nonrefundable fee in an amount to be set by resolution adopted by the City Council.
(i) A performer shall clearly display his or her permit while performing, and shall allow inspection of the permit by any City police or fire official on request.
(j) The City Council may by resolution adjust the noise limitations established in this Chapter during public holidays.
(k) When an applicant requests a performance permit application, the City shall also give the applicant a document which summarizes the rules and regulations concerning street performances in the City. This document may be, but is not required to be, a copy of this Chapter. (Added by Ord. No. 1888CCS § 1 (part), adopted 10/28/97; amended by Ord. No. 1949CCS § 6, adopted 7/20/99; Ord. No. 2047CCS § 3, adopted 7/9/02; Ord. No. 2145CCS § 1, adopted 11/23/04)
6.112.030 Rules and regulations.

(a) Subject also to Sections 6.112.050 and 6.112.060, no performer may perform:
(1) Within ten feet of any bus stop;
(2) Within ten feet of any street corner or a marked pedestrian crosswalk;
(3) Within ten feet of the outer edge of any entrance of any business, including, but not limited to: doors, vestibules, driveways, outdoor dining area entries, and emergency exits, during the hours that any business on the premises is open to the public or to persons having or conducting lawful business within those premises;
(4) Within ten feet of the outer edge of any entrance to any residence;
(5) Within twenty feet of the outer edge of any stairs or ramp on the south side of the Pier;
(6) Within ten feet of the outer edge of the roadway leading to the Pier;
(7) On the wooden landing or wooden walkways immediately north of the Pier.
(b) No person may perform on the Third Street Promenade, the Pier, or the Transit Mall without first obtaining a performance permit issued by the City pursuant to Section 6.112.040 unless the performance is conducted on Monday through Friday prior to twelve noon and that day is not a holiday as defined in subsection (q) of this Section.
(c) A performer and the performer’s equipment may not block or obstruct the free and safe movement of pedestrians. If a sufficient crowd gathers to observe a performer such that the passage of the public through a public area is blocked or obstructed, a Police Officer or Fire Official may disperse that portion of the crowd that is blocking or obstructing the passage of the public. If a performer cannot conduct a performance in a location without blocking or obstructing the passage of the public, a Police Officer or Fire Official may cause the performer to leave the location or require that the performer relocate his or her equipment, but shall not prevent the performer from occupying another location in compliance with this Chapter.
(d) There shall be no charge for a performance. Money given for a performance shall be on a donation only basis. A performer shall perform whether or not the performer receives compensation for the performance. A performer may not charge a set fee for the performance or use aggressive measures to solicit donations. For purposes of this subsection, aggressive measures shall include: blocking or impeding the passage of the solicitee intentionally; touching the solicitee with the intent to intimidate or coerce; following the solicitee, going behind, ahead or along side of him or her, with the intent to intimidate or coerce; threatening the solicitee, by word or gesture, with physical harm; or abusing the solicitee with words which are offensive and inherently likely to provoke an immediate violent reaction.
A performer shall not be required to obtain a vendor permit pursuant to Chapter 6.36 or a business license pursuant to Chapter 6.04. Other Federal, State, and local laws may apply to this activity and to sales, including, without limitation, local, State, and Federal tax laws. It is each performer’s sole responsibility to ensure that he or she is familiar with and complies with such laws.
(e) No performer shall construct, erect, or maintain any stage, platform, or similar structure for use during any performance unless the stage or platform:
(1) Is integral to the performance and the performance only takes place on the stage;
(2) Does not exceed four feet by four feet and one-quarter inch in height;
(3) Is removed from the public way when the performer is not performing;
(4) Has beveled edges.
(f) No performer shall use any knife, sword, torch, flame, axe, saw, or other object that can cause serious bodily injury to any person, or engage in any activity, including, but not limited to, acrobatics, tumbling, or cycling, that can cause serious bodily injury to any person.
(g) No performer shall use any generator, wet cell battery with removable fill caps, or any other power source that poses a fire or public safety hazard. No performer shall connect or maintain an electrical cord to an adjacent building or to a City power source.
(h) No performer may litter his or her performance site.
(i) No performer shall utilize or prevent the public from utilizing any public benches, waste receptacles, or other street furniture during the performance.
(j) No minor under the age of sixteen can perform unless the minor is at all times accompanied by a responsible adult eighteen years of age or older, has obtained an entertainment work permit issued by the Department of Industrial Relations of the State of California and maintains the permit in his or her possession at the time of the performance.
(k) No performer shall place any object on a public sidewalk which causes less than a four-foot contiguous sidewalk width being kept clear for pedestrian passage.
(l) No performer shall perform with more instruments, props, equipment, merchandise, or other items than the performer can reasonably transport and remove all at once within three minutes.
(m) No performer shall place his or her instruments, props, equipment, merchandise, or other items on a public sidewalk, public street, or public right-of-way for more than two hours without performing in accordance with the provisions of this Chapter.
(n) A performer shall stay with his or her instruments, props, equipment, merchandise, or other items at all times that these items are on a public sidewalk, public street, or public right-of-way.
(o) No performer shall perform in contravention of the allowable noise standards established by Chapter 4.12 and Chapter 6.116 of this Code.
(p) No performer shall block or obstruct a curb cut.
(q) The following formula establishes the special performance hours that apply during specified holidays on the Third Street Promenade, the Transit Mall, and the Pier:
(1) If the holiday follows a weekend and the next day is a workday, then the holiday shall be treated as if it were Sunday and the day preceding the holiday shall be treated as if it were Saturday.
(2) If the holiday precedes a weekend, then the holiday shall be treated as if it were Saturday and the preceding day shall be treated as if it were Friday.
(3) If the holiday occurs during midweek, and is surrounded by workdays, then the holiday shall be treated as if it were Sunday and the day preceding the holiday shall be treated as if it were Friday.
The following is a list of holidays which trigger the application of this subsection: New Year’s Day, President’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Columbus Day, Labor Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day. The City Council may by resolution add to this list of holidays.
(r) No performer shall perform outside designated performance zones on the Third Street Promenade and the Pier, as established by resolution of the City Council. (Added by Ord. No. 1888CCS § 1 (part), adopted 10/28/97; amended by Ord. No. 1949CCS § 5, adopted 7/20/99; Ord. No. 1959CCS § 2, adopted 10/12/99; Ord. No. 2047CCS § 2, adopted 7/9/02; Ord. No. 2075CCS § 1, adopted 5-13-03; Ord. No. 2304CCS § 1, adopted 1/19/10; Ord. No. 2337CCS § 2, adopted 12/14/10)

6.112.050 Special regulations for Third Street Promenade and Transit Mall.

In addition to the requirements of Sections 6.112.030 and 6.112.040, no performer shall perform in the Third Street Promenade or the Transit Mall outside of an enclosed building in violation of the following requirements:
(a) Except as provided in subsection (q) of Section 6.112.030, no performer shall perform except during the following time periods:
(1) Nine a.m. to eleven p.m. daily.
(2) Eleven p.m. on Friday and Saturday to one-thirty a.m. of the following day.
(b) No performer shall perform within sixty feet of any special event authorized by the City unless the special event encompasses one or more City blocks in which case the performance shall be conducted according to any administrative guidelines which shall be adopted by the City.
(c) No performer shall:
(1) Perform on the Third Street Promenade in any specific location or within one hundred twenty feet of that location as measured in a north/south direction, for more than two hours in any six hour period. The time required to set up and to remove any instruments, props, equipment, or other items shall be considered part of the performance for purposes of this subdivision and subdivision (2) of this subsection (c).
(2) Perform on the Third Street Promenade on an even hour at the same location that he/she was performing on the preceding hour, or within one hundred twenty feet of that location as measured in a north/south direction.
(3) Perform on the Transit Mall in any specific location or within one hundred twenty feet of that location as measured in an east/west direction, for more than two hours in any six hour period. The time required to set up and to remove any instruments, props, equipment, or other items shall be considered part of the performance for purposes of this subdivision and subdivision (4) of this subsection (c).
(4) Perform on the Transit Mall on an even hour at the same location that he/she was performing on the preceding hour, or within one hundred twenty feet of that location as measured in an east/west direction.
(5) Perform within ten feet of a vendor operating pursuant to or under the authority of an approved license agreement or within forty feet of any other vendor or performance.
(6) Perform on the Transit Mall at a distance greater than five feet from the outer wall of any building or any permanent extension of the building such as a planter box.
(7) Perform on the Santa Monica Boulevard segment of the Transit Mall within twenty feet of the Third Street Promenade. (Added by Ord. No. 1888CCS § 1 (part), adopted 10/28/97; amended by Ord. No. 1949CCS § 7, adopted 7/20/99; Ord. No. 1959CCS § 3, adopted 10/12/99; Ord. No. 2009CCS § 2, adopted 5/22/01; amended by Ord. No. 2028CCS § 2, adopted 11/13/01; Ord. No. 2047CCS § 4, adopted 7/9/02; Ord. No. 2075CCS § 2, adopted 5-13-03)
6.116.060 Special regulations for vendors on the Third Street Promenade and Transit Mall.

No person authorized to vend pursuant to Section 6.36.030(f) and (g), or any successor legislation, may on the Third Street Promenade or the Transit Mall:
(a) Vend on the Third Street Promenade in any specific location, or within one hundred twenty feet of that location as measured in a north/south direction, for more than a two-hour period in any six-hour period. The time required to set up and to remove equipment and material for vending shall be considered part of the time limit established by this subsection and subsection (b) of this Section;
(b) Vend on the Third Street Promenade on an even hour at the same location that he or she was vending on the preceding hour, or within one hundred twenty feet of that location as measured in a north/south direction;
(c) Vend on the Transit Mall in any specific location, or within one hundred twenty feet of that location as measured in an east/west direction, for more than a two-hour period in any six-hour period. The time required to set up and to remove equipment and material for vending shall be considered part of the time limit established by this subsection and subsection (d) of this Section;
(d) Vend on the Transit Mall on an even hour at the same location that he/she was vending on the preceding hour, or within one hundred twenty feet of that location as measured in an east/west direction;
(e) Vend within ten feet of a vendor operating pursuant to or under the authority of an approved license agreement or within forty feet of any other vendor or performer;
(f) Vend those items authorized by Section 6.36.030(g), or any successor legislation, unless that person is also performing pursuant to Chapter 6.112, the item vended is representative of the work being created during the performance, and no more than five such items are displayed at any one time. A performer/vendor may display these items from a table or cart, the performer/vendor’s instrument case, or attached to an easel which is used as part of the performance. If a performer/vendor displays items from a table or cart, all other requirements specified in Section 6.116.010 shall apply except that the performer/vendor shall be limited to utilizing one table or cart of a size not larger than four feet in width by four feet in length by three feet in height. Other Federal, State, and local laws may apply to this activity and to sales, including, without limitation, local, State and Federal tax laws. It is each performer’s sole responsibility to ensure that he or she is familiar with and complies with such laws;
(g) Vend on the Transit Mall at a distance greater than five feet from the outer wall of any building or any permanent extension of the building such as a planter box. (Added by Ord. No. 1949CCS § 12, adopted 7/20/99; amended by Ord. No. 1959CCS § 6, adopted 10/12/99; Ord. No. 2028CCS § 7, adopted 11/13/02; Ord. No. 2047CCS § 9, adopted 7/9/02; Ord. No. 2075CCS § 7, adopted 5-13-03; Ord. No. 2145CCS § 6, adopted 11/23/04; Ord. No. 2337CCS § 6, adopted 12/14/10)




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Trademark Registration: Have a Real Lawyer Do It



Trademark Registration: Have a Real Lawyer Do It
by Sue Basko

If you want to register trademark on the name of your company or product or service, have a real lawyer do it.  DO NOT use one of those online fake "legal service" websites.  Here's why:

Trademark registration is a year-long process.  Filling out the application merely begins the process. If you use one of those non-lawyer "services," who is going to do the rest of the work for you?

The trademark application is crucial and must be filled out correctly for it to work.  The applications I have seen through the online services have been done incorrectly. That means the trademark registrations will fail or will cost a great deal in time and money to fix up.

The main service I have seen is called LegalZoom.  This is a website that auto-generates a trademark application.   This is not a lawyer.  It is highly unlikely your application will be done correctly this way, and you will still have a year of work left to do. This service has slipped through because a California law allows "document preparers."  Since this is on the internet, it is operating in any state -- and I have strong doubts that this is legal in all those states.  Even in California, I think such sites perform a grave disservice for the users.

In a trademark application, you do not need an auto-generated application, you need a lawyer who listens and understands what you are trying to do, understand trademark law, and is there for you for the entire process.  The process involves numerous contacts with the trademark examiner, and often writing replies to the examiner's objections, filing additional papers and information and specimens, making informed decisions and changes, and possibly defending the trademark application against challenges.  

If your trademark application is done incorrectly,  you lose the application fee as well as whatever fee you paid. With an online service, that means losing  over $400.  Yes,  the cost is "only $400," but that is $400 you are most likely throwing away for nothing.  Save your money up and have it done right.

Having a real knowledgeable lawyer do your trademark application is more expensive, but of course it should be. The lawyer will be doing the full job, the full year or more of work  that is actually involved.  

 I charge starting at about $1500 and up for a trademark registration.  What does this include?  First, a good evaluation to see if it is likely the trademark can be successfully registered.  This is the key to the whole process.  If the trademark registration is not likely to succeed, I can help choose other names that are more likely to work.  Second, I work with you to gather the needed information and materials for the application.  Third, I file the application.  Then we wait a few months for the file to be assigned to a trademark examiner.  The examiner will have questions, objections, and all these must be addressed in writing.   Once all is clear, the trademark goes to publication.  Then, the trademark may be challenged by others, and each challenge must be addressed.   

Registering a trademark is very complex legal work and many applications made by lawyers fail.  Once you get a registered trademark, it is like gold.  Many businesses have  been  built upon trademark.  Many businesses also use their registered trademarks as loan collateral.  

If you are starting an online business or website business, a rock band, a design business, a clothing line, a record label, or other such creative business,  I strongly recommend that you work on getting one or more registered trademarks that signify your business.

Starting a Website Biz? 3 Huge Mistakes



Starting a Website Biz? 3 Huge Mistakes
by Sue Basko


1)  Offering a service or product that is illegal.  I’ve seen a number of website plans where the whole thing revolves around violating other peoples’ music copyright.  And isn’t that how Kim Dotcom allegedly made his fortune – running a website that violated copyrights on movies and music?  It does not have to be this elaborate.  I’ve seen website plans that violate local laws about show booking and job placement.  These things are usually covered by State law, so you need to check it out before you plan it.  I saw an online business offering custom wine labels.  Wine labels are carefully regulated and approved by the federal government, and you can’t just go creating cute ones and slapping them on bottles of wine. 

If your idea has never been done before – there may be some really good reasons why.  And if the funding scheme for your business has never been done before, it is probably illegal.  Not possibly, but probably.  Research and consult. 

I’ve seen people plan web businesses, get funding, build websites, and even start running their businesses, only to be cut short because their enterprise was essentially illegal.  It’s rarely as dramatic and over-the-top as tactical teams in helicopters landing on Kim Dotcom’s driveway, but it may be just as devastating.

IDEA: When you come up with a plan for a web business, research it first.  Then consult with a lawyer or two in the field in which your business would be.  If it’s music, check with a music lawyer, if it’s medical, check with a medical lawyer.  And on.  Whatever it is, before you get investors or put in work, check out the idea.  

2)  Picking a Name that Someone Else Already Owns.   Twitter made this mistake – they picked a name that belonged to another online service.  Eventually Twitter became so rich and powerful they were able to get the trademark on the name, probably with a pay-off to the name owners.  Don’t make the same mistake.  For more on this, see Naming Your Creative Business.

3) Giving Away Big Chunks of Your Business Without Meaning To.  If you saw “The Social Network,” you know that Mark Zuckerberg allegedly gave away a portion of the not-yet-created The Facebook when he accepted money from a couple brothers and agreed to build them a social website. 

Giving away a share of your business can be as easy and casual as a chat in a hallway or an email.  And it is much easier to find yourself giving things away if you are desperate for money.  Think.  Read up. Know some business and legal basics before you begin. Bring on a good lawyer to form any working deals.

If you need a refresher course, watch “The Social Network” again.  

And remember this handy rule: If you don’t make money, no one will bother you.  But the minute you start making money, people will come out of the woodwork claiming you owe them a share.  So you need to think strategically and plan ahead.


Rob Adler on Acting, Teaching Acting to Children and Adults, Games, and Other Thoughts


Rob Adler on Acting, Teaching Acting to Children and Adults,
Games, and Other Thoughts
Interview by Sue Basko

You seem to be an actor, a teacher, maybe an improviser. Please tell me about you and your work.
Yes, I am an actor, director, teacher and though I prefer a script, it seems that life is improvised, so yes, I am an improviser. My work as an actor is about helping to tell stories that inspire people into action. I want to help demonstrate that there is real power in coming together, identifying and relating. There is a great history of people coming together to act. I believe that stories help us to imagine the possibilities and theater, films and television allow us do that together. I also coach and teach actors working in film television and theater. The focus of my teaching is to help people find spontaneity, presence and play. The play’s the thing.

Please tell me about your background, what led up to where you are today.
While watching the VHS of Superman II, at age five, for the umpteenth time, it finally occurred to me to ask my big brother how they made him fly. When he told me, I first understood that there was much more to the picture than what I saw. There was a crane! And the notion that someone might sew me a cape and dangle me from a piece of construction equipment piqued my curiosity to say the least. My aunt Margaret made me a cape but I’m still learning to fly.


I fell in love with the rehearsal process with my first play, which was a school production of Peter Pan in which I played Curly the Lost Boy. By the opening night, I was hooked. That summer I attended the Summer Arts Institute at Rutgers University in New Jersey where I lived. I apprenticed summers thereafter at a local theater, where I met some amazing artists who would become my mentors. I studied, read and practiced everything I could. I swept floors and built sets, hung lights, made props and costumes, and stage managed. I danced and sang and acted.

When I was sixteen, I was invited to study Shakespeare in England with members of the Royal Shakespeare Company. I had always loved language (a gift from my grandmother), but in the UK I learned some skill with verse. From Fiona Shaw, I learned to fuel text with passion.

I decided to study in Chicago after High School, because I wanted a non-psychological approach to acting. I had read about the method, affective memory. I had read Meisner and Strasberg but sensed they weren’t for me. In Chicago, I found a physical, collaborative approach to acting and the skills to play to spaces large and small. I learned an intimacy and intensity that lent well to film & television.

After completing Theater School, I did a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Woodstock, NY, directed by my old mentor, Richard Edelman. I then moved to Los Angeles. In LA, I began working with David Avcollie, studied with the Groundlings, Second City and Joyce Piven, all of whom derived their work from the games of Viola Spolin, which I had studied in Chicago. I pilgrimaged to Wisconsin where Spolin’s son, creator of the Second City, Paul Sills, was still teaching. Upon returning, I met an actor named Todd Stashwick who was also interested in Spolin Games as they applied to theater. We created what we called The Hothouse Spontaneous Theater. I taught adults there and at the Chicago & Seattle Improv Festivals.

It was then that I also began teaching kids. But, to kids I taught Shakespeare, while performing (I did a five year run as Bottom in A Midsummer Nights Dream!) as a member of LA’s oldest classical theater company. This was a wonderful juxtaposition: Games to adults & Shakespeare to kids.
I left the Hothouse when I was hired by ABC to be the on-camera acting coach for Disney’s High School Musical: Get in the Picture. Now I coach actors on set and teach classes at two Hollywood acting studios and periodically at schools and theaters nationwide and worldwide. I continue to act in theater, television and film and I’m working hard for more of the latter.

You work with children. Where, doing what?
Currently, I’m teaching young actors at an acting studio called Talentorium. I’ve taught master classes and workshops at theaters and schools from Boston to Baton Rouge, Orange County to Orlando, Seattle to Syracuse! I also coach young actors on set.

What are your main goals in working with children?
To increase their capacity for focus, build confidence, presence, compassion and joy. To meet them where they are and help them take the next steps. On set, I aim to help them fulfill their part of the whole.

I think acting classes or skills are a big help in all other aspects of life. How do you think this applies to children and teens?
Teenage is tough. Preteens might be tougher. Acting skills can help a person to be comfortable in their own skin and in the present moment. They can help us escape our critical mind and learn to relate. Acting can teach assertiveness, build confidence and enable creative problem solving. Acting skills and living skills are closely related.

Are you from a certain school of theater philosophy? Please explain.
I have studied many schools and philosophies. I apprenticed with William Hickey of Uta Hagen’s HB Studios and also studied acting in the UK, The First Folio approach to Shakespeare, the Japanese training of Tadashi Suzuki, American Anne Bogart’s Viewpoints, clowning with students of the French mime Jacques Lecoq, Hungarian Rudolf Laban's movement analysis, The Feldenkrais Method and others.

I chose to attend Chicago’s Theater School at DePaul University because of their physical approach to actor training and their de-emphasis of an individual method in favor of exploration of many and pursuit of a method for each individual. It was there that I began my study of Viola Spolin’s Games, which I continue to play now. I have since made it my business to study Spolin’s approach with as many experts as possible as I did from her son, Paul Sills, and her protégés, Gary Schwartz and Bob Moyer, among many others. It is Spolin’s philosophy that guides much of my work. But, unlike in music, an actor’s instrument is our self, so no one can teach you where to place your fingers to play a chord. Actors must learn from experience, play with communication and be students of life.

What are your personal goals in acting? What would your next big step be?
My next big step would be a regular role on a network series. I have a great desire to pay forward what I received as a child. As a kid, my siblings and I could rely on a few television shows to be there, consistently and make us laugh. I relied and counted on them. After a play, the audience gets to thank the players in the form of applause, but how can I thank Sam & Diane? Cliff & Claire? I can be there on the screen for some latch key kid to count on week after week. It is this gratitude that lead me to Hollywood and to wonder what else could be done. I have come admire great storytellers like Warren Beatty and Tim Robbins who shine a light on a path for me.

You have a presence, even in small photos. You capture the space. Why are you not famous? Or are you and I just don't know?
I guess that I’m not famous because I haven’t learned how yet. I love how you ask this question. I consider it a great compliment that you feel I have presence and capture the space. Space is what’s between us and it is one thing that I am certain binds us. Connecting with the space is a large part of my daily practice. Being an actor, playing in many media, I must explore the space if I am somehow to connect and communicate to another through it.

I have a sister who teaches figure skating and a niece who teaches gymnastics to young girls who might be Olympic contenders one day. They say it takes the full package -- the child must have talent and desire and discipline, and the parents need the money and time to support the classes and activities. Is it the same in acting?
Not exactly. Acting is as old as fire, we all do it. I like to say that Act is a three letter word with a two letter definition: do. To make an art form of that is a wonderful challenge and it may be the very basis for a conscious life. I’ve had so many good teachers it is hard to imagine I’d be anywhere without them. Three of the best came to me for FREE: The drama teacher at my public school and two wonderful teacher/directors at a local theater who accepted my offer to volunteer during my summer breaks.
I had desire but discipline is involvement. Talent in acting must be re-considered, its measure may just be our capacity for focus. No actor gets scored with a perfect ten like in gymnastics. It’s far more important that we simple learn to, stay on target, keep our eyes on the prize.

What are two things a parent can do to support the child's acting career and two things a parent can do to harm it?
A career as an actor is a lot like a career in the basketball, the odds are slim. Most actors work other jobs and have little security in their careers. It’s harder in times like ours, when so many people are underemployed.

Two things a parent can do are: 1) play games and 2) read aloud and tell stories together. I’ve seen parents push their kids into the industry while failing to develop their child as a person. To me that is failure.

I often ask my students why they want to be an actor. If the answer is about self, then I am certain they will have a rough go of it. If the answer is about service than they will find many opportunities in life to act in service, no career required. Service, compassion, and presence also amount to likeability, which is helpful in any career, especially acting.

What about Oakwoods? Do you know anything about that?
Not much. I know people stay there, often if they are visiting Los Angeles for Pilot Season. I taught a workshop there once and attended a party there once. Seems like a nice place.

Getting cast or not depends so much on looks. What types are popular now?
The same types have been popular for ages: The Buffoon. The Lover. The Servant. The Dreamer. There are more. The business part of show business knows what sells and sells it. There is only one you in all of time: Be that and they’ll call it what they call it. In my opinion, labels are limiting. The best actors are capable of transformation.

When I think of a lot of the top stars who "made it" in childhood, many came from single mother homes. I am thinking of Tobey Maguire, Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Cruise, Brooke Shields, Jodie Foster. (In other fields, I could name Kanye West, Barack Obama) I am sure there are others. Do you see single moms somehow having a touch for this?
What a wonderful question. My mother was single for part of my childhood, she is amazing and an example of what one can accomplish when their focus is clear. My mom once called acting my “baby.” She encouraged me to treat it like she treated me and my siblings. She worked as hard as she could, with as much love as she could muster, to care for us. I pale in comparison. Love is paramount. If and when I have kids, I believe that nothing would be better for them than a stable, loving home.

If a child who does not live in Los Angeles wants to be in TV shows or movies, what course of action should they take?
Well, there are TV and Movies made in many cities and now, from people’s home computers so I’d say go and do it! I got my first manager as a referral from my mother’s hairdresser in a small town in New Jersey.

What might be a good reality check for aspiring young actors? For their parents?
Van Gogh died broke with one ear, hardly ideal.

If a child or teen wants to study acting in their home town, with an eye toward a professional career, what resources do you suggest?

Get a good, diverse education. Study hard. Play hard. Build forts, imagine yourself magic, invite dangerous people to tea. Be silly. Stay loose. Avoid drugs and alcohol. Volunteer. Watch people. Get involved in local theater. Journal often about your experiences, this will provide an amazing point of reference. Be brave. Practice breathing, dancing, singing. Go to college. Make movies, do plays, write! Honor your body. Talk to people, find good mentors and role models. Read everything. Acting books are great, but acting is learned in the body, not the head. Read the newspaper, play charades. Fall in love.

Same question, but for an adult?
Same answer, add: Be relentless. Have capital. Stay open.

I would cast you in a movie, if I was making a movie. What role would you like to play?
The inspiring one. Since Superman II, I’ve loved the hero myth. But my heroes are people who bring others together, not those who rescue. Would you cast me as Dr King? I’d like that. Truthfully, I just want to act, to be a part of the dream.

Rob Adler (email: Spontaneitytrain@aol.com)
Because Great Acting Looks Improvised

Photos by Molly Koch



"Magic...it's the creative edge that sets you apart from your peers. Adler is a coach who can marry improvisation with not only scripted material, but the modern demands of the industry as well. Through his humor, passion, intelligence and generosity, Rob has a way of getting actors to let go and play." -Adam Mayfield, All My Children, current student
You might also want to read:

Naming Your Creative Business



Naming Your Creative Business
by Sue Basko

Today, many creative businesses are located on the internet. This means they have a national or worldwide reach.  Your business ideally should have a name that no other business is yet using, so that others cannot stop you from using your name and so you can protect your name. If you start a company using a name that someone already has taken, you might get cease and desist letters, be forced into trademark battles over the name or into WIPO battles over a domain name.

A business name should be easy to spell, catchy, sound like what it is, not have any bad connotations, and most of all, be yours only.

Easy to Spell: The name must have an easy and obvious spelling, so people can find it online and in other listings.  Alternate spellings of common words can mean you miss business.  Examples: Spellings such as Xterior Paint or Kopy Shop will make it hard to look up. 

 Catchy:  If it has more than 5 syllables, it is not catchy.

Sound like what it is:  It should sound like what it is unless knowing what the name means is part of what makes the customers part of an in group.  

Not have any bad Connotations:  Have someone else ask random people what the name reminds them of.  Have someone else do this because often, we want so badly for our idea to be good, that we may prevent others from giving honest feedback.  If the name reminds people of death, disease, crime, or notorious bad incidents, it is best to find a different name. 

BE YOURS ONLY:  Many times, people come up with a catchy name, but it is a name already in use.  Do this checking first:

1) Google it. 
2) Look at company names on LinkedIn.
3) Check if someone is already using that URL with any domain extension.
4) Check domain registries.
5) Do a trademark search. (I do these for clients.  A search should be done on the national registry and perhaps on a state registry.)
6) Search on Twitter.
7) Search on facebook.

IF THE NAME LOOKS CLEAR for you to use, immediately:

1) Make a Twitter account using the name.
2) Add the name to your LinkedIn profile.
3) Make a Facebook page for it.
4) Make a gmail account using it.
5) Make a few free websites and blogs using it.  These do  not need to be completed, you just need to secure use of the name.
6) Buy the domain name with several extensions.
7) Talk to a lawyer about registering trademark on the name.  It is not possible to register trademark on all names.  However, if you are starting a website-based business, you are best off finding out in advance whether the name can be registered as a trademark, because this is of great importance.  

I strongly recommend that you do not use a do-it-yourself trademark service or kit.  Trademark law is very complicated and most people bollix it up.  Many people fill out the application and think the process is done, when in fact, it has only just begun.   Messing up the registration can end out costing a lot of money and time and you can end out losing the name, too.   

Trademark registration is a process that takes about a year to 18 months to complete,  unless the registration is challenged by a person who holds registration on the same or a similar trademark.  If there is a challenge, it can take much longer and often ends out with one party paying the other to stop using the name.  The trademark registration filing fee is about $300 and the lawyer charges for their work.  Every lawyer is different and every registration will present different challenges.   You can expect to pay about $1200 to $10,000 in lawyer fees, depending on the situation.      
   

Releasing a Remix of a Cover Song




 Releasing a Remix of a Cover Song



by Susan Basko, Esq.

 QUESTION: 

Do you know what the process of releasing a remix of another artist's song would be? I would imagine it's more complicated than a cover song.

ANSWER:

Yes, that is a derivative work and you have to get permission from the owner of the sound copyright (such as a record label), as well as from the songwriters/ publishers, as well as often from the actual artist on the recording. Also, you need permission and access to the actual tracks. Issues that come into play are copyright, moral rights, etc. //

MANY people just make remixes illegally because of all this. If it turns out good, then they bring it to the people and say listen, if you like it, give me permission to sell it.

There is no statutory right to make a derivative work, -- they can tell you yes or no, set any limits, set any price, make any crazy demands.

"The Cave" covered by Courrier





"The Cave," covered by Courrier


Courrier, a band from Texas, covers the Mumford and Sons' hit song, "The Cave." Please note the free download that is available.

A few months ago, Courrier wrote a guest blog here telling how to do thoughtful music marketing.

Cover songs can bring notice to a band. Would you like to record a cover song? If so, please see Cover Songs: Performing and Recording Them Legally.

Would you like to make a video for youtube with a cover song in it? If so, please see: Cover Songs on Youtube.

Do you need to get a mechanical license so you can record and distribute copies of a cover song? If so, please see: Limelight: Cover Song Licenses.