Hollywood Translator

Hollywood Translator
by Sue Basko, esq.

To help you understand what is going on, it helps to use this handy Hollywood Translator:

When they say this...  ===>  It means this.

Let me get back to you on that. --->   Please stop calling me.

I'm searching for a role for you. --->  Who are you again?

You would be best in a serious role. ---> You seem old.

It's interesting.  ---> It's too weird to be marketable.

It's a challenging role. --->  The part calls for you to be ugly and/or mean.

Sure, you can send me your demo.---> I need a new drink coaster.

We want you to be part of our team.  ---> We can't afford to pay you.

We'll give you a piece of the picture.  ---> Or a piece of gum, which is worth more.

We'd love to work with you. --->  And we charge for all our services.

 Your script needs a few changes. ---> I am stealing your story idea.

 I'm a little hesitant.  ---> I love it and am afraid you will raise your price.

We're concerned about health. ---> You seem like an alcoholic, drug addict, or nut.

Our project is going great! ---> We're broke and about to be evicted.

We offer challenging internships. ---> Slavery-- anyone?

It's like "The Office."---> Well, we wish it was like "The Office."

Our act is like "Cirque du Soleil."--->   We use purple lights and fog machines.

Are you ready for the role of a lifetime?--->  Will you play the part of a pedophile priest?

We'll send these songs to Chris to mix. --->  He might be able to salvage this mess.

WHY Myspace Used to Be the Ideal Place for Rock Bands

WHY Myspace Used to Be the Ideal Place for Rock Bands/
The Death of Myspace

By Sue Basko, esq.

Myspace USED to work perfectly and was a showcase for rock bands and musicians at EVERY level of their careers. Everyone was on it, from the beginner to the superstar.

I used to have a beautiful music myspace, with slide shows and videos embedded on the front face -- and a huge photo up on top. I used it as a showcase for my legal/ music work, featuring videos and photos of people with whom I was working.

I work with rock bands, and I told all of them to use their myspace to create a showcase for themselves -- using HTML to give themselves a great background and layout that was unique to their style and message. Also, to put slide shows and embed videos on the front page.

WHAT MADE THIS POSSIBLE on the "old" myspace:

1) The flexibility of the page with HTML coding possible;

2) companies that sprang up providing layout codes, banners, etc, for free;

3) myspace has GREAT SEO (search engine optimization);

4) myspace allowed users to choose their own URL name, so these could easily be the band name if it was not already taken;

5) photo slideshow capability in many nice designs;

6) embed capability for videos from youtube right onto the page;

7) interior workings that really worked - the current page does not work, period, with long delays and entire functions that are not functioning;

8) front page of a myspace is totally open to the public even if they were not "members" of myspace -- this is what made myspace THE BEST for rock bands! There was no registering, no belonging required -- and anyone, anywhere in the world could hear a few songs of the band, see a nice slide show, listen to some videos of the group in performance.

The front pages are still open, but they now look terrible, are barely legible, have no style because there is no HTML capability, no embeds, no slideshows, the music player has ads, the photo quality and layout is abysmal (and the user can no longer control this) and the whole myspace experience is now quite dismal and unusable.

But the MAIN PROBLEM is that myspace now loads terribly slowly, even on a fast computer and fast internet connection. This makes it all but completely unusable by the viewer or the myspace owner. The programming of the myspace now just does - not - work. Period.

Myspace (before this change) was the ideal source for music journalists, bloggers, bookers, agents, record labels, radio DJs, agents, manager, venues, festivals, and fans -- to check out a rock band -- with no strings attached. The old myspace was widely used by the most major agents, record labels, and television shows as a source to locate new music and talent! It cannot be used for this now!

Myspace was always the showcase for bands. It was where you could send potential bookers, etc. Even record labels used it to screen potential signees. It was a one-stop place to see and hear the band upfront, real easy. Now it cannot be that. It is such a shame.

Myspace also used to have a wonderful blog set-up. I used my myspace blog regularly for serious blog essays as well as for embedding videos of musicians in performance. Myspace blogs had such great SEO that I could get hundreds of hits within hours of posting each blog. Now, the blog is buried, non-functioning, and a huge mess.

The computer programming that went into creating the "new myspace" was not done right, and none of the elements on it work properly. All over the internet, you can read complaints from the most avid users of myspace. Myspace has ruined itself.

This is the death of myspace, by suicide. Never have I seen a business ruin all the good things it has going in one swoop. All I can figure is someone is intentionally trying to kill myspace so they can take it over, whoever "they" is. The thing is, with the way people are jumping ship and being disgusted, there won't be much to take over.

Thanks for reading. You can email me at SueBaskoMusic@gmail.com

What is a Talent Agent
and How Do I Get One?

What is a Talent Agent and How Do I Get One?
By Sue Basko

For more info, please see:

A TALENT AGENT IS a person that represents an actor in finding work. A casting agent is a person that works for a production to help find the right actors for the roles. A talent agent works closely with casting agents to try to match their clients with the roles available. A good agent will know what shows are being cast, what the casting agent wants to see, and will be able to get an audition for an appropriate candidate. Talent agents make their money by taking a percentage of the money paid to the actors they represent for the work they arranged for them.

TALENT AGENTS ARE LICENSED BY THE STATE in California, Illinois, New York, and many other states! The states keep lists, some of which are online. If a person is not on the list, they are not an agent.

A TALENT AGENT WILL NOT: charge you money upfront, sell you photos, charge you for classes. A manager (different from an agent) often will suggest to you what you need in order to be represented, and will very likely have a good list of photographers or demo reel makers to choose from. However, if the manager is legit, they will never try to sell you any such items, and will never sell you a prepaid package of classes and photos, for example.

(When you are done with this post, for more info, please see:

WHO IS NOT AN AGENT: Companies that hold open auditions are almost never real agents. Companies that hold showcases. Companies that try to sell you classes. Companies that try to sell you anything. Companies that charge you registration fees or fees upfront are rarely real agents. IN CALIFORNIA, ILLINOIS, NEW YORK, AND MANY other states, anyone that is not licensed as an agent is NOT an agent!

HOW CAN I QUALIFY TO GET A REAL AGENT? You will be considered a serious candidate if you have these things :

1) serious and high-quality education and training in acting;

2) acting experience;

3) a proper acting resume;

4) photos of yourself;

5) an actor demo reel;

6) time to commit to acting and the ability to show up;

7) a track record of being reliable, responsible and easy to work with;

8) good health;

9) a wardrobe of clothes suited to a variety of typical role types (Many actors shop thrift stores to build a wardrobe of different looks. Having different eyeglass frames, hats, and bags suited to different character types is also good);

10) a look that is in demand;

11) live/ work in Los Angeles, New York, or Chicago;

12) SAG membership is a good plus, if you have been able to get it.

Some typical male role types include: father, businessman, blue collar worker, teacher, policeman, doctor, street gangster, henchman type, "funny" type, grandfather, hip young type, nerd, street person, various ethnic types.

Some typical female role types include: mother, businesswoman, teacher or librarian, hip young woman, sexy lawyer or doctor type, "chubby" types, "funny" types, grandmother, street person, elegant older lady, various ethnic types.

CHICAGO: In Chicago, talent agents are considered by the State to be employment agencies. Therefore, they are required to accept resumes and head shots from everyone and anyone. Most of those entries are never going to result in any work. It takes much more effort than this to actually have the attention of an agent.

Many people in Chicago will talk about their agents or about being with several agencies. In many cases, this simply means they have dropped off their materials at an agency. If you are a serious actor, you will be working with one agent exclusively. You can probably get this by having all the qualifications listed above and bringing this to the attention of the different agents.

Chicago agencies deal mainly with work on commercials. There is not much of this work right now due to the economy. Hollywood movies that are shot in Chicago are cast through Los Angeles agencies, although they may have very minor roles and extras cast through Chicago agencies. If you want an actual acting role, you must have a Los Angeles agent.

LOS ANGELES: In Los Angeles, agents are licensed by the State, but it is recognized that they must be selective. NEVER deal with an agent that is not licensed. You can check this database to see if they are licensed: California Talent Agency License Database. You should have all the items listed above. You must also move to Los Angeles so that you can audition. It is not a bad plan to contact agents before you move to Los Angeles, to try to interest someone in your career.


Update August 2019 CALIFORNIA:  You can look up any person who tells you they are a California talent agent on this database.  If they are not on the database, they are NOT a talent agent!

There used to be a wonderful little book called "The Agencies," put out by Larry Parke, but Mr. Parke died and the book ceased publication. There is a somewhat comparable book, called "Agency Guide," now put out by Breakdown Services. You can purchase it for under $10 at this link by scrolling to the bottom book and ordering online.

Many Los Angeles agencies will say they are not accepting new applicants. However, your lawyer or manager may be able to get you in to be seen. The famous agencies tend to represent established, well-known actors. Smaller agencies in Los Angeles tend to have one or more specialties. For example, an agency may specialize in children, different ethnic groups, chubby people, alternative looks (piercings and tattoos) and other niche types.

Update July 2019 ILLINOIS:  https://suebasko.blogspot.com/2019/01/illinois-talent-agencies.html

IF YOU ARE OFFERED A CONTRACT: If you are offered a contract, have it checked out by a lawyer. If the agent is in California, check on the link above to be sure the agent is licensed. If an agent is licensed, they are regulated by the state and must follow certain laws. This is a very good thing that provides the actor with a lot of solid protection.

WHAT ARE TYPICAL BEGINNER ROLES: In Chicago, you will be hoping for commercials or print ads. As a beginner, your starting point will probably be in "extra" roles, sometimes also called "background." Speaking or directed roles usually go to SAG members. You can also get good experience by being in movies made by film students or in smaller independent films.

In Los Angeles, actors hope for roles on television shows and in movies. Beginners usually have three types of things offered to them: 1) extras or background in television, movies, or music videos; 2) game show audience members; 3) attending parties.

Are people really paid to attend parties? You betcha! The parties are usually openings for a product, service, recording, or production of some type. Fragrances and clothing lines are typical. In most cases, these are cast with young, good-looking people who are at least 21, if alcohol is to be served. The casting agent instructs them in what to wear, and they are forbidden from discussing their paid status, or anything controversial or of substance. So, if you are ever at a Hollywood party, and there are lots of good-looking young people who are dressed very similarly, don't seem to know anyone there, and seem very friendly and yet won't discuss anything -- you can bet they are paid party-goers.

You might also want to read:

Ten Reasons to Invest in Independent Films

Ten Reasons to Invest in Independent Films
by Sue Basko, esq.

If you want to invest in something where you are sure to be repaid and to make a profit, most independent films are a very poor choice. It is extremely difficult and rare for an independent film to recoup its costs, let alone become a moneymaker. The few that do are usually made by experienced people, backed by ample funding, and distributed by a top-rated mainstream distributor.

But.. there are other reasons to invest in independent film. One can invest in things other than the moneymaking aspects of a film. By giving your money to make a film, you can:

1) Help support the filmmakers, so they can eat, have a place to live, and make their movie;

2) Help promote the story or cause of the film, if it is something you believe in;

3) Help promote the art of filmmaking;

4) Get involved in an interesting project;

5) Let the filmmakers get needed experience so they can move on in their careers and use this film as samples on their reels;

6) Get experience yourself as a film funder or executive producer;

7) Get into the filmmaking community;

8) Get invited to screenings, parties, festivals, and awards ceremonies;

9) Perhaps take a role in the film -- either technical, acting, promotion, design or sales of licensed merchandise related to the film, etc;

10) Your leadership role in the film can lead to other opportunities outside of film.

What is a Contract?

What is a Contract?
by Sue Basko, esq.

A contract is an agreement between two or more parties.

A contract can be written or oral.

If you agree to do something or pay someone for something, you probably have a contract.

Sometimes a contract can be implied, such as when someone provides you with a service that people normally pay for. Examples of this are when you go out to eat or go to a doctor.

The parties to the contract are the people or companies, or other entities that are agreeing to be bound by the contract.

A written contract is supposed to say what the parties have agreed to. There is supposed to be a "meeting of the minds" so that the parties are agreeing to what is in the contract.

If a contract says things that you do not understand or that were not discussed, or that the other party told you would never happen or that you could ignore, you may still be bound to those things in the contract. You need to have the contract revised before you sign it. Before. If there is something in the contract that is not agreed upon, it should not be in the contract.

There is no such thing as a "standard contract" that cannot be changed. There may be people unwilling to change a contract. Then, you should decide if you can accept it as is, or if you need to walk away.

A form contract or one taken from a book will almost never reflect accurately upon your agreement.

A contract can look like a fancy form. Or it can be simply written and typed. Or written by hand. A contract can be in the form of a letter. A contract can come in an email. Or by fax.

Or you might agree to a deal on the phone or in person; that may be a contract.

A contract might say "Contract" up on top, and it might not. It might say "Agreement" or "Deal Memo" or "Memorandum." Or it might not have any title.

You don't neccessarily have to sign anything for there to be a contract.

Many contracts are formed orally. Sometimes an oral contract is set in writing in a letter or email. This is sometimes called a deal memo. If you disagree with what it says, you must write that back right away. If you do not, that means you agree that the deal has been accurately described in the letter or email.

A contract may use "Terms of Art." These are words that have a special meaning in that field of law. 

Sometimes the definition of the term is created within the contract, and sometimes they are special words known by lawyers who have studied that field of law. Words that seem normal can have very different meanings in a contract. This especially applies in entertainment contracts. It is very difficult to know what these contracts mean unless you have studied this exact field of law. That is why it can be very dangerous to have a family lawyer or a friend or other musician or manager try to tell you what music or film contracts mean. Often people who have taken a music law course or read a book will tell me what they think a contract means, and they are often very mistaken.

You can never contract to do anything illegal. For example, if you are 17, you cannot agree to be in a porn film. If you sign such a contract, it is not valid. Your parents cannot sign such a contract for you. It is illegal.

A contract must have consideration. That means that both parties agree to do something. One can provide a good or service, and the other can pay. Or both can provide a good or service.

There are many examples of consideration. To give an idea of how varying this can be -- Suppose someone says, "My band has a contract to play at a club." That sounds pretty good, right? But that contract can mean all kinds of different things, such as:

  • The band plays at the club and the club pays the band $500.
  • The band plays at the club and the club pays the band $500 only if 300 people come and buy drinks.
  • The club agrees to let the band play, if the band sells 300 tickets in advance -- and the band gets only the money from CD sales that night.
  • The club agrees to let the band play, but the band must pay the club $500 in advance and is allowed to charge a cover.
  • The club agrees to let the band play, but only if the band is well-known and does promo before the show.
  • The club agrees to pay the band $500, but only if the bar grosses $5000 that night.
  • The club agrees to let the band play that night, but won't pay them anything, but might give them a few free drinks.

These examples show why it is so important to read and understand a contract before signing. You need to know what you are agreeing to, so you are not surprised.

The more stake there is in the contract, the more important it is to know what it says and means. If the contract means your career, you better know what you are signing.

Should You Use Form Contracts from
the Internet or a Book?

Should I Use Form Contracts I Found in a Book or on the Internet?
by Sue Basko, esq.

No, you should not use form contracts. Most of those are not written correctly. A lot of them do not even make sense. They do not apply to your situation.

Most form contracts are not meant to be used by anyone -- -- they are samples of a fictitious contract.

A contract is an agreement between two or more parties. It MUST say what the parties have agreed to. A form contract cannot do that.

A properly written contract can save you money, make you money, save your deal, explain how you will be paid, retain your creative control, get your name in the credits, decide in advance what happens when disputes arise, select a court to go to if a lawsuit arises, provide back-up plans if the original plans do not work out, and so much more.

Top Ten Warnings in the Entertainment Fields

Top ten warnings in the entertainment fields!
by Sue Basko, esq.

People sometimes come to me after they have gotten themselves into a mess. Usually, this happened because they did not get legal advice before signing or agreeing to something.

From their experiences, I have compiled this list:

1) Do not sign a letter of intent with a record label unless you show it to a lawyer first and have seen the underlying contract and agree to it. A letter of intent is a little note that says you will sign a contract with the label.

2) Do not sign a management contract for your band until you have a lawyer tell you what it means.

3) Do not let anyone act as your agent unless they are licensed to do so. In California, agents are licensed by the state and highly regulated. This is to protect you, your career, and your pay. In Illinois, agents must be licensed by the State as theatrical talent agencies.

4) Do not pose for nude or compromising photos if you plan to have any other career. If you do so, never sign a general release.

5) If you are working with someone else writing songs or a script, and you believe you are getting authorship or ownership in the song or script, get this in writing in advance.

6) If you form a band and play paid gigs, have a contract between the band members for how you will make decisions, who manages the band, who gets the money, who owns copyright on which songs, and what happens when a member quits.

7) Independent films almost always lose money, not make money. But they are wonderful anyway.

8) If you work with models or actors on sexual or suggestive photos or videos, make absolutely certain they are at least age 18. Using anyone under 18 is "kiddie porn" and can land you in prison.

9) When someone in Hollywood makes you an offer that is too good to be true, it means they want your money or to have sex with you -- or both.

10) If you have a "get rich" scheme, make sure before you begin that it does not violate anyone's copyright or right to privacy or publicity. Are you using someone else's music? Using photos of a famous person? Borrowing pictures or words off the internet? Get legal advice before you sink time and money into your plans.