Chris O'Brien - Web, Film, TV, and Stage Actor - AMA!

(Sunny Larkson) #42

Thank you Chris!!! Going to watch Not A Plan now :slight_smile: :slight_smile:

(Kate Hackett) #43

I await your unabashed applause.

(Chris O'Brien 🤖) #44

Unfortunately, I haven’t seen a ton of other options. If you don’t have the money, going into credit card debt is really the only other choice. That worked out for Kevin Smith when he made Clerks but that’s understandably not a route that everyone can take…

My suggestion is this: self-fund the “pilot” episode. Scrape together as much as possible and make the best possible representation of your work to use to sell the idea to people. That way, if you need $20,000+ to crowdfund a whole season, instead of pitching perks to people and trying to get them to invest in an unknown entity, you essentially give them the first episode for free and then sell them access to the rest of the series via crowdfunding.

(Chris O'Brien 🤖) #45

oh oops - I thought this was going on for like two more hours - I would have answered a lot faster. Anyway, I’ll hang around for a bit longer.

(Bri Castellini) #46

I think these are the only two unanswered still in the thread, in terms of signal-boosting!

(Chris O'Brien 🤖) #47

Thanks Jaime Lancaster… my historical knowledge is fighting with my Game of Thrones geekery and anyway cool name

(Bri Castellini) #48

Oh no! I’m sorry!! You can stay for two more hours if you want!! It might just be me asking you every question I’ve ever wanted to ask and @HackettKate lurking and sassing, but who DOESN’T want that, tbh?

(Jaime Lancaster) #49

lmao thank you! :heart:

(sam lockie-waring) #50

if you’re chill sticking around, i’m hella late to this party and i had a question for ya. what are some things people tend to forget when it comes to casting? especially people who are new to casting/don’t have a casting director. what should we be looking for?

(Bri Castellini) #51

Another signal boost that I missed! My bad, Jaime!

(Kate Hackett) #52

I needed a break from writing pitch docs. :frowning:

(Chris O'Brien 🤖) #53

I’ve never been given a contract that required me to post on social media. If this happens with regularity at any professional level, the actors are highly compensated for it, as they’re essentially advertising on behalf of the project.

Some contracts will require that you do not speak negatively in any public way about a production / a company or certain people involved - and while I’m sure this social media thing does happen - I haven’t heard of it. It’s probably something a publicist would handle anyway.

Here’s my feeling: always feel free to ask, but don’t expect or require free labor from actors (or anyone). Part of an actor’s job is to promote their work and the projects they’re involved in. It’s rare that isn’t to their own benefit anyway, but on low budget projects working with actors who probably don’t have a lot of time or resources to begin with, I think it’s unfair to place this additional burden on them, especially when it tends to be a ton of time and effort for very minimal if noticeable payoff.

Also, actors are in a difficult position to begin with and I think it’s unfair to further place them in position of having to be the spokesperson for a project. Our faces are on everything we do - but sometimes we take jobs we aren’t thrilled about because we’re trying to survive and build our careers to the point that we don’t have to say “yes” to every last offer we get.

I can’t think of another business where the employees are so visible and expected to represent and promote the business publicly at all times, even when they’re not working. There are certainly some parallels (I think service workers might relate), but it would be like if Intel printed Joe the Engineer’s face on every computer that had one of their microchips in it and then expected him to tweet about Intel four times a day and post selfies with their products while he was out shopping - and then to also defend Intel everytime someone on the street complained to him about a failed part.

I get that it’s part of what we sign up for as actors, but just speaking from my limited perspective as an actor, I wish more people understood how little decision-making power we have, how little influence we have unless we’re an A-list Celeb Star, and how every thing we do and say can affect our ability to get hired in the future.

Just as a relevant recent example, I think Ed Skrein did the right thing stepping down from his role in Hellboy to address the whitewashing of the character - and on the other hand, I understand some of the frustration that is being voiced in regard to how he’s being so wildly applauded for being just basically decent. But thinking about it as an actor, I know how hard that must have been to, because he risked losing his agent by doing that, maybe his manager as well, and he literally may never work again in Hollywood if he’s rubbed certain people the wrong way - and he’s definitely upset some people with the ability to block him from getting cast in the future. Hopefully, many more actors will follow his lead in doing the right thing and those people will have their hands tied.

I’ve gotten off track and this answer has gotten long, but to return to the point - if it’s valuable labor, then you should pay for it and pay well. If you can’t, then you have no business requiring it.

(Chris O'Brien 🤖) #54

I’ve also addressed some of this in other threads - I think one of those links that Bri posted will give you some insight there, but to answer briefly, it always feel good to be approached about anything. I won’t always be able to accept and sign on, but I don’t think it ever hurts to ask. That means going through different avenues with different actors (generally, contacting their manager is a safe bet, especially if they’re bigger), but approaching someone in a professional way is never a bad thing!

As far as my expectations, I don’t necessarily assume everything will be lower quality, but I do adjust my expectations in regard to the resources. I stay realistic about what will be available and how production will operate.

If I feel that the writing is really bad, I will politely decline. If I’m worried that the production won’t meet a certain standard of quality, to the point that I don’t think I am willing to be associated with it at this point, I’ll politely decline. And that’s not a judgement, everyone starts of somewhere and develops at different paces. Not everyone has access to the same resources. But sometimes those things will mean that they aren’t a good fit for me at a given time and I have to focus on other things.

Regardless, I wouldn’t sign on to something unless I believed it would meet certain basic standards.

I feel like I may have misunderstood the question though - so feel free to ask again haha

(Kallum Weyman) #55

No you answered it, I relised the way I wrote it might have been a bit nah I was recording a podcast at the time but didn’t want to miss the chance to ask a question. Since your now writing a web series of your own, did you ever consider this before you acted in them or did you discover this medium and then come to want to work more in it? And why do you want to? What makes is special do you feel more creatively free and the such? If you have the time to answer.

(Chris O'Brien 🤖) #56

I think there are certain industry standards that should always be followed and if they’re not, that’s a red flag. It’s a lot to detail, so I’m not sure I could break all of that down for you here, but here are a few basics.

  1. You should never invest your own money in it. If they ask you to put your own money into it, run away. Go make your own thing if you are going to spend money to be a part of it.

  2. They should be willing to show you the whole script before you accept the role. If not, they might be hiding something. Sign a standard NDA if they’re that nervous, but get the script before agreeing to the part.

  3. They should have a clear timeline for how long it will take to get made. Before you even audition, they should know shoot dates, locations, and have a plan as to how they’ll get it edited and where they want to pitch it or release it (things happen in post - it’s inevitable, but they should at least have a plan). If they don’t know these things, chances are it will never get finished, if it even gets shot in the first place.

I think if you’re starting out, no matter where you live, try to work with people you know first. Here’s some things to ask…

  1. What are you shooting on? If it’s a camcorder or a cell phone*, don’t bother (unless it’s found footage).
  2. How long will the days be? If they can’t answer or expect it to be 12 hours plus, daily, don’t bother unless you’re good friends or they’re paying you a decent amount.
  3. Ask what their plans will be for holding areas (waiting spaces with chairs) at locations, bathrooms, snacks, water, and meals. You shouldn’t be expected to feed yourself ever unless it’s just you and a couple of friends making something.
  4. Ask about rehearsals, wardrobe fittings, meetings with directors and producers, etc. A lot of times, production will just let you know shoot dates… but then they want to do mini-shoot for promo photos and videos, and they want to do table-reads, rehearsals, wardrobe days, meeting with the director - which is all fine and not uncommon… but it’s better to know up front and decide if you can commit that time, again, especially if they’re not paying you. If they are paying, ask if/what you’ll be paid for those commitments.

*notable exception being something like the indie film Tangerine which was shot on an iPhone apparently?

That’s all I got off the top of my head - hope that helps some! And check out these links -

Thread on what makes a set seem professional

Thread on similar themes that Chris weighed in on

(Chris O'Brien 🤖) #57

I think I just misread your e-mails when you wrote 11AM // 2PMEST - I kept reading it as 11 - 2

(Bri Castellini) #58

Oooooooooh that makes sense. Still, my bad for not being clearer!

(Chris O'Brien 🤖) #59

Know what you’re looking for and in the first round of casting, move quickly. One of the most frustrating things for me when I started in LA is how often I’d spend one or two hours waiting to be seen at auditions for non-paying roles. At the callbacks if you want to spend more time with actors, that’s fine and expected. But the first round of auditions isn’t really the time to play and figure things out. It’s also not the time to interview actors in-depth. That is more for callback or second callbacks / chemistry reads.

While you should have a clear idea of what you want, you should also be open to actors that bring unique takes on a part. I think you can have such a specific idea for a character in mind, it’s easy to miss some amazing things happening right in front of you. It’s rare if impossible that an actor will come through the door and flawlessly embody exactly the character on the page, exactly as you imagined them. I think it’s good to be flexible and focus on finding an actor who does good work while also fitting the role well. Maybe even be open to changing a role for a uniquely talented actor.

Have a good reader - if you’re the director, don’t do it yourself. Have someone there to do these scene you’re using for the audition with the actor. It’s generally a weird feeling for the actor to have to perform their audition making eye-contact with the director. They need to act with someone - preferably another actor (who should be off-camera, but close to the camera).

Finally, remember that you’re production could grind to halt if you cast someone unprofessional or irresponsible. Cast the best person for the role, not the person who might have a big youtube following or who claims to have connections. If that person happens to be the best for the part and you trust them to show up and do their job, then great! Otherwise, I wouldn’t factor it in very much - social media influencers are rarely able to get their audiences to migrate and those “connections” aren’t worth anything if they can’t come through. If they have such great connections, why are they not off doing bigger things - or just their own things? Cast the person who is best for the part, who you trust to show up prepared and do their job well.

Teach Me Tuesday: Making the most of a casting session
(Chris O'Brien 🤖) #60

nah - my fault for not reading closely!!

(Chris O'Brien 🤖) #61

Did I ever consider writing one before acting in them? Yes - I wrote a webseries of short comedy videos in 2011 that was released a couple years later called Pretty Shorts that grew out of a webcomic I used to write!

I didn’t ever see webseries as a goal, but once I got to LA, I had a lot of opportunities to act in them. It’s been a really good way to develop my skills acting on camera, meet and network with great people, and explore different styles and genres that I might not otherwise have many chances to work in!

I just like acting and I like working, I don’t care too too much about where and how I do that as an actor. I think there is a little more creative freedom in the web world, which is something I wish more creators would take advantage of - but I also understand. Most if not all of the people doing web work are doing it to showcase their abilities and develop their skills to move onward into more traditional media.