SECONDED! Also, this might not apply if you’re already in the thick of it @Meg, but when starting a new project, try to set expectations early. Let people know what you need from them before the project goes into full swing so you aren’t making up rules as you go instead of starting with and sticking to a communication structure.
Why is firing not an option? Writing people out is ALWAYS an option.
Too much has already been filmed, friendships hang in the balance, when they are on set they do great work, plus no one’s getting paid anyways so I don’t have much leverage. They’re doing me a favor too which complicates things further.
Also I have to believe there’s a step or a strategy between total problematical cooperation and firing.
I don’t know your shooting schedule, but here’s what I’d try:
Reach out one more time. Ask to take this friend to coffee or dinner. Give 2 dates & times within the week.
If you don’t hear back within 4 days, start writing this person out OR change your edits OR whatever to move around their absence.
If you DO hear back, enjoy the outing & casually, non confrontationally, bring up the problems it causes when you don’t hear back. Figure out why this person is being a pain for you. End on a good note.
Doing someone a favor really only works when you actually do the entire favor and being someone’s friend really only works if you’re actually being a friend.
I am wondering at what point I should stop contacting the actor and just arrange everything thru his agent. He just no longer replies to my Facebook messages and it is the only means of contact I have with him. I recently messaged him to say that we are taking his character in a different direction. According to messenger, as of July 26th, he hasn’t seen that message. I hate the idea of starting to post casting calls on Facebook when I haven’t gotten a chance to talk to him first. Mind you, we haven’t shot anythign yet and all we really had was a verbal agreement. But I have been starting to feel like he is deliberatly ignoring my message.
That’s a tough one! I haven’t had much experience working with actors with agents, since all of my projects so far have been very low budget and largely volunteer. Perhaps @HackettKate can shed more light on that level?
As to your other more general concerns, verbal agreements are rough, because you really have no recourse if the person doesn’t hold up their end. We actually have two great articles about writing contracts for beginners, here and here, if you’d like to brush up! Feel free to comment with further questions on either if you have follow ups!
Do you not have a phone number for the actor? My general rule is to contact them via email (or, in your case, FB) several times over the course of either a few days or a week, depending on your timeline, then eventually just call them directly, because it’s much harder to avoid that. If they still don’t respond and you have to move forward, call and leave a voicemail that you have to part ways due to lack of communication. With just a verbal agreement, that’s really all you owe him, and even if he eventually gets back to you, this kind of behavior can’t be normalized by you giving him so many chances- it’ll just get harder once you start filming and have to decide between reshoots or dragging out the production to fit his whims.
Hope this helps!
Oh i have learned from this to always have phone numbers. Fb was my only means of communication. And yes, all my productions have been very low budget volutneer work. Even volunteer actors some times have agents. I have one actor right now, that his rep manages his facebook account. It is a new expereince for me, for sure.
His agent isn’t going to give a crap if you aren’t paying the actor (/the agent). You can always try, but my guess is it’s going to get lost.
Like I said – it’s time to cut your losses. This is not a friend worth keeping in high esteem (don’t, you know, set fire to his car, but like – gently walk away. It’s not worth it). This person is hurting your work for WHATEVER reason & you need to move forward, not get stuck.
He is a problem. Filmmaking is about solving problems & working around them. What can you do to work around him?
“Don’t set fire to his car”
yeah. I’m not setting fire to his car and this would have been paid work. If the agent doesn’t care a crap. Fine. I’ve done the best I can to give him a heads up. I do feel like he deserves that much. I do know he is incredibly busy filming a movie right now,so that has probably been part of the reason, I haven’t heard from him in over a week. But this communication with has been kind of rough even b/f that. It is hard not to feel it is deliverate. You are are right, I do need to move forward. Can I atleast TP his car?? lol j/k
only if you post pics!!
Oh, I’m sorry - I thought this was a “friend favor” thing & that was complicating firing him. If he’s being paid, sure, get the agent involved and give it a few days – but make yourself a good plan B.
Big takeaway: always have a contract and stick to it. If someone isn’t giving you what you need, then you don’t need them.
It’s now much time later, so I don’t know if this will still help or not, but I’d like to share a similar issue I had with an actor…
I had an actor who was constantly displaying poor behavior. He was constantly late, he never read communications thoroughly (he skimmed them and missed important stuff), there were several other things but the worst was, I sent him a scene for his reel, and he didn’t like the edit so he re-cut it. That was the final straw.
He had been continually asking about the editing, making it clear he wanted to edit, even though I repeatedly told him I was doing the editing.
He was working for no pay. I always feel hesitant to discipline, or push hard, actors who are volunteering their time. Plus we had already done a bunch of filming so the story wouldn’t make sense if we lost him.
I basically had to weigh my options. He was showing a lack of respect for my authority on this project. I needed to “crack the whip” so to speak. I needed to show him that I had authority that he needed to respect, if the project was going to succeed. We still had a ton of filming to do, and we’re planning 3 more seasons. The future of the project was at stake.
Looking at the bigger picture, as tough as it was, I decided I was willing to lose him, and take the lose of time and money and recast and reshoot, for the sake of the rest of the project. Not ideal, no, but rather that than continue to struggle against him for 3 more seasons.
I wasn’t going to outright fire him though, cause if there was a way to keep him and fix it I wanted that option.
I was very polite and professional but also very blunt and straight forward. I explained to him in a clear way the issues I had. I made it clear that if the problem was not corrected his involvement with the project would no longer continue. I was polite but firm.
As soon as he realized he was not untouchable, despite being principal cast, he took a step back and apologized. The problems were then corrected.
Some times it takes a firm hand. Sometimes it’s a power struggle. Yes them doing you a favor puts you in a position, but that does not give them the power to take advantage. Don’t go off half cocked in anger, but crack the whip and remind them who’s in charge.
Yes, you run the risk of losing them, but if they are that much of a problem perhaps you’re better off. There are plenty other actors ready to step in.
Sometimes people respond better to a strong authority figure than to a friend.
I’m so sorry you had to deal with that, but I’m glad it worked out! My experience with firmness ended less favorably, but I’m still glad I did it, and I can rest easy knowing I conducted myself with respect.
FYI, since you’re here, at the top of the hour we have a live Ask Me Anything with an award-winning web series producer and creator who has successfully crowdfunded as well as found distribution for herself if you wanted to stop by and pick her brain!
I’m also a worry wort and experienced much of what you said! Glad I’m not the only one!
I am in the process of recasting the part and I guess he more or less knows that I moved on. We are still friends on facebook but just how long that will last I have not idea.
To anyone facing this issue I need to make this clear from someone who was in this exact position. NOBODY is untouchable.
Heres the thing. YES it may be unpaid but that isn’t permission to treat the production like a joke. I personally no longer take that kind of attitude. Regardless of how much is filmed, I will recast.
At some point you will just get over the attitude. And either you’ll give up film making as the passion is dead or you’ll give up working with those kind of people.
At the end of the day one of 2 things will take a hit, your passion for the work or the body of work and one is harder to be rejuvenated…if it can be at all.