Pilot Season: An Exciting Project

I went in this week for a wardrobe check for a very exciting TV pilot — I can’t really say much, thanks to the air-tight non-disclosure agreement I had to sign. But even though I am just a bit player on this one, it’s going to be so much fun!

One thing I can pass along is that I got to listen to the casting director giving instructions to the helpers who were signing actors in for the wardrobe fittings and checks. (I was first up, and we arrived about 15 minutes before my call time, so they were still setting up when we got there.)

My grandma and my acting coaches have always stressed that good manners matter on set, but this casting director was really making that crystal clear.  He said, “When you sign people in, pay attention to who’s who. Then, if anyone is late, shows up without the required documents, or is rude to you, a crew member, a costumer, or another actor, make sure you note on the back of the payroll voucher what happened. Everybody is on their best behavior when they’re in the room with me, but some of them are real witches to people they think are unimportant. Well, YOU are important, and so is every other member of the cast and crew. We don’t want to hire people who don’t treat everyone with respect, so take names and write them up.”

He didn’t use the word “witches”, and he went on to tell some stories of people who had missed out on some major parts because they were in his file as “hard to work with” or “rude to catering staff”.  It was a good reminder — not that I need it, honestly.

Anyway, I’m working on the pilot on Saturday and Sunday. Can’t wait to tell you about it!

Kameron Badgers signing in for a costume fitting on an untitled TV pilot

Whenever you show up to work on a set for the first time, there is always paperwork to fill out if you want to get paid. Even if you’re working on a student or no-pay film, you’ll probably have to fill out some paperwork.  Here’s what you need to bring to EVERY first day on a set.

  1. A photo ID. (Driver’s license, passport, state ID, student ID, and if you are under 16, your state workforce commission work permit — you have to get one before you work if you are under 14 in Texas, 16 in most other states)
  2. Your social security card or a photocopy of it for their file.
  3. A birth certificate, passport, or voter registration card proving that you are a U.S. citizen, or if you are not a citizen, a green card or other ID that shows you have permission to work in the U.S.
  4. Your resume and headshot. (A lot of people don’t want hard copies anymore, but the ones who want them are absolutely insistent that you bring them, so it’s good to be prepared.)
  5. Any paperwork they sent you ahead of time such as non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), consent forms, or release of liability forms

The first three items on the list are required by the U.S. government anytime you start a new job. Even if you have worked for the casting company or production company before, you have to show the required forms and fill out paperwork every time you work on a new project. I’ve worked for one production company here in Dallas a number of times, but I have to fill out the forms every time. That’s because of the way they handle taxes and state rebates for filming here — the government wants its paperwork every time.

One of the items you have to fill out if you work in most states (but not Texas) is a Coogan Trust form, with information on the bank account the production company will deposit part of your paycheck in. This is to protect child actors from having their parents spend all their money before they turn 18. Another is a form W-9, a tax withholding form that shows how many dependents you will be claiming on your federal taxes. For a child or teen actor who is claimed by their parents as a dependent, that number is always 0. (Click here for more information on the tax rules for child actors.)

The fourth item is for the casting director. Some of them make notes on the payroll voucher (that’s the form they use to actually pay you, and you’ll get one every day you work including days where you are on a table read, rehearsal, costume fitting, or cast meeting), but some of them put it on your resume when they want to make notes.  You want them to make notes like, “On time, polite, fast learner, good at (whatever)”.  You never want them to make a note of something bad — almost every casting office has a “DO NOT CAST” files, with the headshots of actors they never want to work with again.

What gets you on the do not cast list? Anything that disrupts a film shoot, like bad behavior on set, showing up late, not being prepared, violating an NDA or just being a brat on set.

The last item you’ll have to deal with when you show up to work are the legal forms the producer requires before you start to work. The non-disclosure agreements prohibit you to post stuff on social media, show the scripts or any on-set photos to anyone, talk to the media or generally say anything they don’t want you to say. Sometimes that includes things like the name of the film or TV show you’re working on, where it’s being filmed, or who you work with. A lot of sets require that you leave your phone in a holding area so you can’t take pictures on set. If you’re under 18 and have to have a chaperone on set, your chaperone will probably have to sign the same agreement, too.

And, of course, you have to sign forms giving them permission to take your picture, to use your name and likeness, and to film you on set. If you’re under 18, your legal guardian has to be on set with you to sign these forms, and they have to be with you all day, every day. Your big brother or your nanny or your best friend’s mom can’t drive you to the set and drop you off: an adult with the legal right to sign those forms has to be there until you are 18. If your legal guardian isn’t your mom or dad, they should show up prepared to show court papers naming them your legal guardian or you might get sent home.

It usually takes 15-30 minutes to fill out the paperwork if you aren’t familiar with all the forms, so never show up even a minute late for your call time, especially not on the first day of shooting. They can (and will) replace you for being late — if something happens (a flat tire, a car accident, something completely out of your control) call your agent or call the casting company’s emergency contact to let them know. They’re not unreasonable, but they can’t afford to wait for you either.

Just one more day until shooting starts on this project — it’s going to be so cool!


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