Thursday, December 27, 2012

At this time of year, many people make New Year's resolutions.  They say they'll excercise more, eat fewer fattening foods, perhaps drink less or spend less time surfing the Internet.  Quit smoking.  But it's hard to resist that yummy carrot cake.  Sometimes we're too tired to work out for a whole hour several times a week.  Facebook is fun, and all those videos and articles so interesting, time suck that they may be. 

We want to do better, be better, yet often allow the desire for instant gratification to self-sabotage us and our good intentions.  Many things may be fun in the moment, but can cause guilt, remorse or lower self-esteem after the fact.  Did we really need that whole half gallon of ice cream?  Well, at least it's Edy's Slow Churned.

Almost all resolutions require self-discipline.  Can we dig deep and find it now when we didn't have it before?  Many of us need to rely on outside sources.  Some have productivity, exercise or writing buddies who help them stay on track, either working with them or checking in to be sure they've met agreed upon goals.  Some impose monetary penalties on themselves or cancel social events if, say, they procrastinate.  Some use apps that cut off access to the Internet.  Others who lack self-control may need even more help to attain positive results.

Why can't people just be trustworthy?  Why don't citizens always do as we should and/or obey laws?  Speed bumps on neighborhood streets insure we don't go over the limit.  Red light cameras prove that we did or didn't enter the intersection on the yellow.  Nanny cams make sure caregivers are properly tending to children instead of, say, talking on the phone or watching TV.  GPS devices on phones and in cars tell parents where their kids are (unless the kid finds a way to jimmy them).          

The only way to be absolutely sure that people are doing what they say they will isn't usually feasible:  24/7 monitoring.  It's rare that a spouse or significant other, or mother and child, or partners, will be in each other's company every minute of every day.  So how do we really know what they're doing or not doing? 

How would you know if, say, your husband did in fact quit smoking? What's sufficient proof? Not finding cigarettes in his car or briefcase?  Not smelling smoke on his clothes or breath?  He might have quit.  Or he might be going to great lengths to make it seem like he did so he doesn't disappoint his spouse.  Even though he's still disappointing himself. 

So it comes back to self-discipline. The person should want to change for himself, not to please someone else.  What changes do you want to make?      

Thursday, December 20, 2012

What is the cost of healthcare?

No one would walk into a store and buy anything without knowing the cost before taking the item to the register.  Can you imagine buying a pair of jeans and waiting weeks until the bill came to find out the price?  Many people, myself included, often wait for sales to make purchases.

Yet most of the time, when it comes to the cost of healthcare, we're in the dark about what we'll have to pay.  How many doctors' offices post their fees?  Not long ago, I took a friend to an immediate care center. The initial visit cost was clearly stated on a sign on a wall; but it also said there might be additional costs. I went to a different one recently, and no costs were posted. When you're sick enough to be at an immediate care center, are you going to spend a lot of time and effort finding out how much your visit will cost, or do you just want relief?

Of course, part of this uncertainty is because neither the doctor can't be sure what services or in office tests you'll need before examining you.  If he/she wants to do a prodecure while you're in the chair, he/she probably won't know how much it costs.  Nor are medical personnel likely to wait while you try to search the Internet on your phone for average costs. 

So what's a patient to do?  The Healthcare Bluebook could prove useful if you know what you need in advance. Costs of many standard procedures vary widely, too, so doing due diligence on providers beforehand could save a lot of money.  Interestingly, the Affordable Care Act doesn't seem to include provisions to help patients gain knowledge of medical fees or require care providers to be more transparent. Maybe I just couldn't find them?

Sometimes, when the bill arrives, it's difficult to figure out what all the itemized items are for. Or there's just a lump sum, with no explanation. 

I have insurance (the already high premium is going up 5.6% next month), but also a high deductible. My last visit to a specialist will cost me $938 for less than 15 minutes of the doctor's time. I hadn't researched probable costs.  But if the symptoms persist and I go for another appointment as he suggested, I will.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Career vs. hobby

To me, part of the definintion of "career" (and my own term "feelancer") is earning money.  By money, I mean a fair wage for my time and product usage.  In this case, the product is me: my voice and/or image.

I see too many opportunities that are in perpetuity...meaning my product can be used forever in whatever media is specified in the job specs.  Often these are print jobs, perhaps stock images, but can be for any kind of acting work.  When media options were broadcast, local or national TV and/or print (either business to business or consumer), that was bad enough.  Then came cable.  With the advent of the Internet, your in perpetuity image, commercial or video could pop up anywhere at any time or stay on a site for decades, with no additional compensation or even a fair buyout fee.

So far, no IP gig I've seen has paid enough to justify them having the right to use my product year after year...along with possibility of keeping me from doing higher paying work in that product category.  The first job may say it's non-exclusive, but the next may ask what other jobs I've done in that category and not want to book me for theirs because of them.  One print job wanted to know if we'd ever done any jobs in that, albeit somewhat narrow, category. 

To some, $500 for a day, for example, or $150 for a half day, may seem like a lot of money.  It's far more than minimum wage.  But it's not industry standard, and without an additional, substantial usage fee, not worth it to me.  Some actors desperate for work or any credits will succumb, so IP jobs won't go away.  And many actors do student or indie films for free, hoping to build their demo reels, gain on-camera experience, and/or make connections with the next Spielberg.   

It's not always easy to quantify whether my time is better invested in, say, a non-paying Web series that might or might not go viral, or self-marketing to grow my paying client list or taking a class to improve my skills. 

Frequently, when it rains it pours.  If I've committed to a non-paying/very low paying gig, chances are I'll get an audition for or book a much higher paying/better for my career one.  Perhaps more actors will consider the long term vs. the short term and whether they're building a career or acting for a hobby when deciding whether or not to submit/be submitted for anything IP.      

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Produce your own work?

More and more at acting industry/networking events, speakers and colleagues recommend producing our own work (POOW), to get noticed and thus get more work.

Quality video equipment and editing programs are much less expensive than they used to be.  And YouTube and Vimeo make it easy to post projects online.

To POOW, however, you’ll need to wear many more hats, such as producer, line producer, director, writer, location manager, cinematographer, editor and marketing manager.  Or convince friends to work for free, or raise enough money to cover paying people in addition to production costs.  I’ve seen so many Indiegogo and Kickstarter campaigns for friends’ projects. Is the novelty of contributing is wearing off? 
How many hours would you have to put in to create a short film?  A web series?  Then to promote it?  How much money will you earn, and/or how many people will see it?  Not every video will go viral. 

Some friends do theatre, and may earn nothing or $200-300 for the entire rehearsal process and run of the show.  If you put in 5o hours, you’re earning less than minimum wage.  But you may want to work with a certain theatre and/or director, hope for a good review or that agents/casting directors will attend and like your performance or be impressed by your latest credit.
Would all that time be put to better use self-marketing?  One new client might yield more benefits more than entering a short film I've made into festivals or being in a play that doesn't attract attention. 
Others record audio books, usually for $150 on up per finished hour (fh) of audio, with a novel being appx. 10 hours, or $1500.  That may seem like a good rate, but you have to take into account any research such as pronounciations of character's names or words you don't know, reading the book, editing, proofing or paying a proofer, and making any corrections. 
Audiobook site ACX estimates that it takes 6.2 hours to get one fh, which, at $150 per finished hour, amounts to just over $24 per hour of your time.  Much better than minimum wage, but much less than you can earn via an agent or for regular narration--if you get the work.  However, you can record audiobooks on your own schedule, assuming you have a satisfactory home recording setup.  And if you can score a fh rate of, say, $300, and can reduce production time, you'd make closer to $50 or $75 per hour. 

When deciding if a project is worth my time, I take several factors into account:

How much am I earning per hour of my time? 
Are there new skills I can learn?
Who will see/hear the project? 
How long will it run/be available?
Who will I be working with? 
How hard is the work?
How flexible is the turnaround time/schedule?