David O'Connor Discusses Business, SAG-AFTRA Changes
August 31, 2012 by Andrew Schneider
O'Connor Casting's David O'Connor took time out this week to chat about the current business climate and changes he's seen following the SAG-AFTRA merger.
"Business has been busy this year," O'Connor says. "We were casting Christmas commercials in July which is definitely a month or two earlier than usual. In fact, everything seemed to be a bit earlier this year."
For the Chicago-based casting company, the big up-tick in business have been foreign reality shows.
"We have been doing some Norwegian projects, shows where they're foreign but they want an American," O'Connor says. "We've been blessed on working on overseas productions where they're looking for Americans to be on their shows. We've become the go-to people for that kind of production and the world has definitely shrunk, so we can now have a huge outreach from a Midwest base."
Besides that, O'Connor says that commercial work has also picked up.
"There's more shooting in Chicago for productions that come through here and we're still successful on the searching going on nationwide," O'Connor says.
It's also been a 18 months since O'Connor Casting moved into their new office at 1219 W. Madison. The office underwent nine months of construction that included the addition of a second floor for a total of 12,000 square feet from basement to second floor and includes offices, studios, waiting rooms and spaces specially designed for producers that offer both computers and easy viewing of auditions from a separate space
"It's great," O'Connor says. "It's so nice to have space and clients absolutely love it. New York spaces are small and LA are hit or miss. Here people can move around and not be confined. And at the same time I was able to keep my rates where they were. Clients just got a nicer space."
Regarding the SAG-AFTRA merger, O'Connor has seen a variety of out-comes, some good, some not-so-good. His perspective facilitating talent for union and non-union jobs has given him a good perspective to judge the merger.
"The union is definitely stronger, membership is stronger," O'Connor says. "But it doesn't always work out for the actors. In the past, union actors would jump on a non-union project (even though it wasn’t proper without going Financial Core), but now it’s not commonplace. Now I'm starting to hear that more members are talking about not making enough money because their non-union work was supplementing their income."
At the same time, that doesn't mean more projects are going union, he says.
"Because talent is not crossing over as much it’s lessened the non-union casting pool a bit, as there’s not as many performers available or willing to do the work," O'Connor says. "What makes it more difficult for non-union productions is that there's a reason they went non-union to begin with. They want to be more lax, more open to doing more edits and revisions and placing the work in different medias. It’s a major cost factor sometimes and the main reason producers choose to go that route. The industry has changed completely in the last five years, web is definitely on the increase and incorporated in most projects in some capacity."
That means work being increasingly used on the web in video, banner ads and on mobile devices.
"Union has very regimented rules and rates," O'Connor says. "Agents always trying to limit usage and get more money, they're watching out for their actors. But for mid-size or smaller clients, those rates are all problematic. They don't have the budgets for it.
And the gray areas are expanding. O'Connor says that still photographers are increasingly shooting small amount of moving images to accompany a traditional print-type campaign for web banners or buttons.
"The second you get into moving images it takes it into union jurisdiction," O'Connor says. "Photographers are limited in their talent pool because they can only use non-union and no photographer wants to be limited, just like no director wants to be limited."
"It really hurts the performer because they can't get the print rates on top of the extra dollars," he continued. "We're talking about ten seconds of MOS movement in a web banner, someone taking glasses off, putting them back on and union members aren't up for those spots. It's a huge amount of money loss for union performers when you're talking about print/web rate. I'd guess fifty percent of photography is going non-union, in these cases, and it could be as high as eighty percent."
For himself, O'Connor loves working with the union.
"The union makes my life easy," he says. "But with the non-union side it's not easily laid out or understood… So I’m there to explain and advise, which is a large reason clients seek me out to do their projects.”