Glossary


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Action:
The term that is used when you are to begin the scene or copy. It usually indicates the camera is rolling.
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Actors' Equity Association:
Also known as AEA or Equity. It was found in 1913 and is the labor union that represents more than 45,000 Actors and Stage Managers in the United States. Equity seeks to advance, promote and foster the art of live theatre as an essential component of our society. Equity negotiates wages and working conditions and provides a wide range of benefits, including health and pension plans, for its members. Actors' Equity is a member of the AFL-CIO, and is affiliated with FIA, an international organization of performing arts unions.
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A.D.:
The Assistant Director in a film or theater production.
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AFTRA:
Also known as The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. It is a national labor union representing over 70,000 performers, journalists and other artists working in the entertainment and news media. AFTRA's scope of representation covers broadcast, public and cable television (news, sports and weather; drama and comedy, soaps, talk and variety shows, documentaries, children's programming, reality and game shows); radio (news, commercials, hosted programs); sound recordings (CDs, singles, Broadway cast albums, audio books); "non-broadcast" and industrial material as well as Internet and digital programming.
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Agent:
An individual whose job is to represent an actor's work to various casting directors, producers, and directors; and set up audition appointments. A big part of their job is negotiating contracts for their clients. Again, agents do not get you jobs, but auditions. The usual commission is 10%. Agents receive their payment as a percentage of the jobs you actually book.
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Audition:
An audition is where you will go to try out to get a part in a film, television or theater project. Actors read from the script or side, sing, dance, or do a monologue. The director or casting director considers if they match up with a character in the project.
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Background:
Another term for Extras. Background actors have no speaking lines and are found filling in the background of a scene. There are different pay rates for Background actors in both SAG and AFTRA.
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Bio:
This is your biography. It is a one paragraph format that is usually used for a press release or printed in a program/playbill.
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Blocking:
The movement that the director gives the actors. The director blocks the play or tells the actors where to move when he is directing.
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Booking:
You got the job! When an actor accepts a booking, it is a legally binding verbal commitment that the actor will show up and perform. Most contracts for commercials, print, voice-overs are not signed until the job is complete, so when you say yes to a booking it is a firm commitment.
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Breakdowns:
When there is a project that needs to be cast, a producer or director hires a casting director. That casting director puts out a breakdown which is a character description of all the roles being cast in that particular project. Agents receive these breakdowns and then submit their actors on projects. There are some breakdowns that are open to all, and actors can submit themselves if they match the type of the character being sought.
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Buy-out:
This is a one- time payment or flat fee for a project that will not provide residuals. Buy outs are a standard agreement in all non union commercial work.
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Call Time:
This is the time you are required to be on set. DO NOT BE LATE or it may be your last call time for that production.
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Callback:
This generally means you are in the running for the project. A callback is when they ask back specific people from the first audition to audition again, to make a decision to cast them for a part in their project. Do not change what you did the first time unless asked. They obviously liked what they saw!
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Casting Director:
The Casting Director is hired by the producer or director. They audition and help choose all the speaking role actors in movies, television shows, and musicals/plays. They must have a wide knowledge of actors, and be able to match the talent with the role. They also serve as the liaison between directors, actors, and their agents, and they are responsible for negotiating deals with agents and for obtaining contracts for each hired actor. However, they rarely hire actors directly, but make suggestions to the producer/director.
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Close Up:
A tight shot of the face. Be aware of how the camera is framing you.
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Cold Reading:
A skill to be practiced and honed. This is reading out loud from a script/side without any rehearsal or study in advance and is generally used in auditions. Still treat it as a performance and familiarize yourself with it as much as time will allow.
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Commission:
When an agent gets you in for a project and you book the role, that agent is entitled to a percentage of your pay. This is their commission on the project and it is a standard 10% commission. Managers tend to take 15%, and print jobs tend to be a 20% commission. All commissions are tax-deductible to the actor.
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Comp Card:
Also known as Composite Card is used for commercial print and modeling. It is a model or actors postcard with 3-5 photos of the actor or model printed with their stats. These cards are used to market and submit to prospective clients, for auditions and casting calls, but they do not take the place of an actor's headshot. All cards display a headshot and smaller shots that show your versatility and talent. Also referred to as zed cards.
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Conflict:
If you have a national commercial running for Pepcid AC and you go on an audition for Pepto Bismol, that is a conflict. Advertising Agencies don't want the same face to be the campaign for other products in that market. Usually your agent will let you know what becomes a conflict and what you can and can't audition for.
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Copy:
This is the script for commercials and voice-overs.
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Credits:
This is an actor's performing experience that is on your resume.
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Curtain call:
A term used in theatre where the performers come out on the stage at the conclusion of the performance for the audience to show their appreciation by clapping while the actors take a bow or two.
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Day Player:
This is a performer hired on a daily basis for television, industrial and films. This term is used in SAG and AFTRA contracts and both unions have different pay scales. Traditionally speaking a day player will have more than 5 lines.
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Demo Reel:
This is a sample of your previous work. Your demo reel should display your versatility. When creating your demo, try and keep it short, and show clips of many types of characters you can portray. There are also audio demo reels for voice-overs.
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Director:
Someone who supervises the actors and directs the action in the production of a show or project. They coordinate all aspects of the production and bring their own creative vision.
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Executive Producer:
This person is the producer who handles the funding and financials of a project. They can get final say in casting decisions, but typically leave that in the hands of the director.
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Extras:
See Background.
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First Refusal:
See On Hold.
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Freelancing:
Basically this is working with more than one agent at the same time. An actor has not signed any contracts. In NY, it is done all the time, especially when one might be testing the waters with a couple agencies. This approach does not work in LA.
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Headshot:
This is an 8x10 photo which is needed to submit with your resume to get into an audition or casting call. You need to maintain a current photo. Production personnel depend on photos to choose you for consideration. There is nothing more frustrating than picking a photo of a person for a specific character and the actor looks nothing like their photo. When you change your look, you need to update your photos.
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Holding Fee:
A fee paid by the advertiser to the talent, in order to hold the commercial for broadcast at a later date.
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Independent Contractor:
For most non-union commercials and jobs where a stipend is offered, not a contractual rate, you will be known as an independent contractor. An independent contractor is responsible for paying their own taxes on that particular job; it is not taken out of the negotiated fee.
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Industrial:
This is a private, not public, performance by an actor that is often sponsored by companies and corporations. It takes the form of video, film, or live performance and tends to be of an educational nature. Examples:
A BMW training video for their sales staff or a live song and dance event for Coca Cola's new products.
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Manager:
Similar to agents but they typically assist with career development and advise their clients on business and artistic decisions, as well as assisting in finding an agent. They usually take 15% commission on the jobs you book. If they get you an agent, that agent will then take 10% as well.
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Marketing:
This is the method of promoting a product or event. As an actor, you are your own product. Marketing is not a single activity, but an ongoing process of making yourself known to the industry. Your marketing never stops. Our Savvy definition of marketing is:
The creative promotion of your essence, your relationships, and your successes.
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Monologue:
This is where a character speaks alone. It is spoken by one person who exposes inner thoughts and provides insights into his or her character. A speech by one actor or performer directly addressing the audience or another character. Used a lot in general auditions for casting directors and agents.
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National Commercial:
This is a commercial that is shown nationwide. There are also local commercials to air only in local cities and towns, and regional commercials airing only in specific regions. National commercials are the most lucrative!
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On Hold:
Also known as First Refusal. When a producer likes you for a certain project you get put On Hold. It is a courtesy to let you know of a possible booking for that project and to let you know what dates to "hold" in case it leads to a booking.
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Open Call:
This is an audition where anyone who fits the requirements for the project can attend regardless if they have agent representation. Please be smart and only attend open calls you are right for.
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PA:
The Production Assistant on a particular project who is in charge of many different areas. Usually they will be the point person for the talent on set.
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Per Diem:
Literally means "per day". It is used in agreements as a daily allowance, usually for living expenses while traveling in connection with one's work or being employed at a distance from one's home. For example, if touring there usually is a daily per diem for food.
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Pilot:
A test run of a first episode of a television series idea. A pilot is an idea for a show. Actors are assembled, a pilot is shot and then the process of testing and selling the project begin.
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Principal:
This is a major character in a particular project. They are at a higher pay scale than a day player and the part tends to be larger.
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Producer:
This is someone who finds financing for and supervises the day to day decision making in regards to budget, equipment, location, etc of a play, film, or TV project.
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PSM:
A Production Stage Manager. See also Stage Manager. This is a pprofessional stage manager that is represented by Actors Equity and/or the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA). In addition to maintaining the prompt book and calling the performances, Equity stage managers must also uphold the union's rules and rights for the Equity artists.
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Residuals:
These are fees paid to the actor each time a union project is re-aired. Usually pertains, to commercials, voice-overs, TV programs, and Film.
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Resume:
A list of your acting credits, training, and any other talents you think might be worth mentioning. This is a one page document, typed out and attached to the back of your headshot. DO NOT lie on your resume.
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SAG:
Also known as the Screen Actors Guild is the nation's largest labor union representing working actors. The Guild exists to enhance actors' working conditions, compensation and benefits and to be a powerful, unified voice on behalf of artists' rights. With 20 branches nationwide, SAG represents nearly 120,000 actors who work in motion pictures, television, commercials, industrials, video games, Internet and all new media formats.
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Scale:
This term, known as union scale, refers to the minimum amount which must be paid for a defined job. It is established in the union contracts for particular types of jobs, and can be found on all the union websites.
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Screen test:
This is a filmed scene to show an actor's ability for a specific project. It is done far along in the casting process on the actual set and with other actual cast members, usually at the producer's request.
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Session Fee:
This is payment for the amount of time put in on set or in the recording studio for voice-overs, usually calculated in days. Residuals will come later.
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Sides:
Pages or scenes from a script, used in auditions or (if on a film set) those scenes being shot that day. Sides can be anywhere in length from a few lines to a number of pages depending on the part that is being cast. You will usually receive a side from the casting director or agent prior to the audition.
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Slate:
For on camera auditions and voice-over auditions you will be asked to slate. This is simply an introduction of who you are where you state your name and sometimes your agency. Make sure to relate directly to camera. Keep it simple and charming.
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Spot:
A commercial is often referred to as a spot.
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Stage Manager:
The responsibilities and duties of a stage manager vary depending on the setting of a production, i.e., rehearsals or performance, and the type of production being presented (theatre, dance, and music). Most broadly, it is the stage manager's responsibility to ensure that the director's artistic choices are realized in actual performance. Typically in theatre, the stage manager acts as an adjunct to the director in rehearsal, recording the blocking and seeing that cast members stay on script, have necessary props and follow the blocking. As the lighting, sound, and set change cues are developed, the stage manager meticulously records the timing of each as it relates to the script and other aspects of the performance. In a large production, a team of stage managers will work each performance; one will be responsible for calling the show, and others will be backstage ensuring that actors and crew are ready to perform their duties.
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Standbys:
Performers who are only committed to covering a part and do not regularly appear in the show are often referred to as standbys. Standbys are normally required to sign-in and remain at the theater the same as other cast members, until they are released by the Production Stage Manager. At times, standbys are required to stay within a certain area around the theatre (10 blocks in New York City is a common standard). The standby must also have a cell phone so that at any time they can be called to the theatre.
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Storyboard:
This is usually done in commercials and animation and is actually a sequence of pictures that reflect the action taking place in a scene. For a lot of commercial auditions, they will show you the storyboard and ask you to improv dialogue based on the action in the scene.
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Submission:
Submissions are done by agents and by the actor themselves. If a role comes out in the breakdowns that an agent feels you are right for they will submit your headshots and resume for that project to be considered for an audition. You can send your own submission as well when audition notices come out in the trade papers or online. Most submissions are done digitally now.
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Swing:
This term, most often used in musical theatre, is used to refer to a member of the company who understudies several chorus and/or dancing roles.
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Taft Hartley:
This term refers to when an actor not in the union who becomes a "principal performer" is immediately eligible to join SAG and is covered under the SAG contract with the production company for 30 days, at which point he or she must either join SAG or cease working on any union productions. Once joining the union, the actor may not work on any non-union production, per the terms of the bylaws.
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Teleprompter:
Also known as an autocue is a display device that prompts the person speaking with an electronic visual text of a script. Using a teleprompter is similar to the practice of using cue cards. The screen is in front of the camera lens and the words on the screen are reflected to the eyes of the speaker using a one way mirror, so it appears as if you are looking directly into the camera.
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U/5:
Also known as Under Five. This is a performer hired on a per project basis for television, industrial and films. This term is used in SAG and AFTRA contracts and both unions have different pay scales. An U/5 characterizes someone who has 5 or less speaking lines. If you have more than five lines of dialogue, your pay scale changes and you become known as a day player.
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Understudy:
This is a term for someone who learns the lines and blocking/choreography of a leading actor or actress in a theatrical play or musical. Should the lead actor or actress be unable to appear on stage because of illness or accident, the understudy takes over the part. The term has generally only been applied to performers who will cover a part, but still regularly perform in another role within the show.
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Upgrade:
This is when an actor's role gets increased on set. There is always a chance of being upgraded. Be aware of union scale so when an upgrade occurs, if you are not represented, you will know what you should be compensated.
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Voice-Over:
This is the recording of a narrative to accompany a filmed commercial or TV spot. There are also voice-overs used on the radio known as radio commercials. Voice-overs are also used in the dubbing of foreign films.
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Waiver:
This is when a union gives special consideration to certain cases and allows a production to deviate from standard union contract, so that the production can continue successfully.
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Wrap:
The conclusion of the production. The end.


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