Author Topic: Under what circumstance is it right to...?  (Read 7746 times)

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RuthNY

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Under what circumstance is it right to...?
« on: Jan 17, 2006, 02:12 pm »
I thought I'd begin a new thread expanding on a topic Matt brought up in the Full Time Employment thread.  

Matt states, "I was, for awhile, able to keep myself booked a year in advance. (Now, I missed some wonderful, high profile opportunities, including two broadway shows, because I was booked long in advance.) "

So here's the question open for discussion:  Under what circumstances do YOU feel it is right to give notice to a job "booked long in advance?"  For a "better" job, for more money, for something more creative, or in a city you'd prefer to work in? Or other reasons.

I've never gone back on my word on a job that I was committed to, even for the above reasons (including one offer that was A LOT MORE money.)  And sometimes I wish I could....  I'd love to know what you all think!

Ruth

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Mac Calder

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Under what circumstance is it right to...?
« Reply #1 on: Jan 17, 2006, 06:46 pm »
Under NO circumstances would I cancel a job that I have agreed to do, even if that job is a 'freebie' (ie amdram). Once you get a reputation as someone who cancels when a better offer comes along, you wont be able to loose it easily.

spotlightshadow

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« Reply #2 on: Jan 17, 2006, 07:37 pm »
I agree with MC.  I recently opted out of a (nicely paying) 6-month gig with a SPT because I had already committed to a (not-so-nicely-paying) 3-month gig with a community theatre which had booked me 2 months prior.  Turns out that the people I've met through this community theatre have been very impressed with my work and have all begun to sing my praises to just about everyone they meet.  ::knocks on wood::

One of the beauties of community theatre is that the people involved are HAPPY to have you there.  They're simply grateful that anyone at all is there to do the job.  If you treat your show with the same respect as you would give a professional show, it will pay off.  Working for a small, easily-pleased company is GREAT for references (and the ego!) for when you want to move up to bigger/higher-paying things.

Backing out of a show you've already agreed to would be damaging to your reputation...  And negtive gossip is always the quickest to spread.  So what happens when you're ready to apply for a big job in the city, but they've already heard that "you're a flake?"  

We all have to climb "up" the proverbial stage management ladder, right?  We shouldn't squash the smaller companies that help us get there.

hbelden

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another point of view
« Reply #3 on: Jan 17, 2006, 08:50 pm »
I don't necessarily disagree with anything that's been said here, but I have had a different experience - I think in certain special circumstances you can switch committments without damaging your career.

When I was still in grad school, I was offered a non-union job as an ASM for a small summer theatre festival.  I said yes to it with an eye towards working at this festival in the future.  Shortly thereafter, I was offered conflicting job as an ASM (not one that I had applied for or thought that I could get) that would turn me Equity and pay me more than three times as much for a shorter contract.  There was also at least two months before the first contract was to start.

I called up the first job and explained the situation to them; I think if I had been anything other than totally apologetic it would have gone badly;  I also didn't call them up with a fait accompli, I told them that I had this other offer and I wanted to take it but first I needed to make sure they understood.  

Later that year, the first theatre called me up and offered me the Union SM position for the following season.  I said yes on the spot, and lived up to that commitment.  I was flattered and honored that they didn't hold my previous decision against me.  After I finished that season with them, they said I was the best stage manager they had ever worked with and we agreed on a contract for the following summer as well!

So here are the circumstances that made it okay:
-I didn't have a signed contract;
-I hadn't been looking for other work behind their back;
-The conflicting job was worlds better for me than the first job;
-I gave more than two months notice, before any stage management work had been done on the season
-I had not yet met anyone (including the stage manager I would have been assisting)

In combination with that, it was an ASM position, and relatively easy to replace.  The personality of this particular producer came into play as well.

Since then, I've been a lot more careful about committing to jobs.  Usually I say yes only after I know I've at least explored other options.  For very early offers, I usually ask for some time to consider before saying yes/no, and producers have been understanding about that.

I'm in favor of the MRE clause in most small Equity contracts, and I appreciate the hard negotiating that got it in there, but I do think it's playing with fire.  A stage manager (as opposed to an actor) who made use of it would have to have weighed the situation very carefully, I think.
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Mac Calder

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Under what circumstance is it right to...?
« Reply #4 on: Jan 18, 2006, 01:51 am »
I have never asm'ed,  but I have replaced asm's who have quit with 2 days notice quite easily. A couple of them cancelled on me with no good reason, and I can tell you know that no theatre I have worked with will employ them. A couple have had really good reasons and I have not held it against them. The one show I pm'ed, my SM cancelled because she got a better paying job (about $50 per week) and I was forced to work my ass off because she called me night of the auditions to cancel and could not find a replacement. She recently applied to be an ASM under me, and her application is now lining the bird cage.

MatthewShiner

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going back on my word
« Reply #5 on: Jan 18, 2006, 10:01 am »
Twice in my career I have had to break a contract.

1)  A death in my partner's family; I asked to be replaced on the current show.  (The death occured first day of tech, I was replaced a week after opening.)  I think everyone understood, but I still feel terrible about it.

2) The second was I had to break contract on a non-union asm opera gig, when I was first offered a psm position.  I don't feel quite so bad about this one, I gave over three months notice, and I was going from being freelance, and to taking a full time job.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Anything posted here as in my own personal opinion, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of my employer - whomever they be at a given moment in time.

akearson

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« Reply #6 on: Jan 18, 2006, 02:21 pm »
I think much of it is the market you work in. The market I work in is pretty forgiving if you turn down a job or leave a job for a better or higher paying gig. As long as you give the proper notice. And if you haven't signed a contract, then it is definitely not held against you. Certainly there are loyalties to certain companies, but is understood that people have to make a living. I think there are graceful ways to back out of a job offer if you need to.

As a side note, I left at intermission on a Sunday matinee to take my very sick daughter to the hospital and never came back. I was the 1st ASM under a WCLO contract. She was in the hospital 12 days with pneumonia. I was immediately replaced and will return to PSM the next show. Everyone was very supportive, and I didn't feel the least bit guilty.

kjdiehl

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Under what circumstance is it right to...?
« Reply #7 on: Jan 19, 2006, 10:55 pm »
Yeah, handling it gracefully is definitely key. I am also a big proponent of the More Remunerative Employment clause, and I've taken advantage of it, and helped fellow members do so as well.

Important things to keep in mind:

1. Give Proper Notice! This might be the biggest thing. Most Equity contracts require you to give 2 wks notice. Or a wk's notice for a temporary leave of absence, (for an actor to go to an audition, for example.) But this is the bare minimum. As soon as you have a strong idea that you're interested in another job, tell your employer! And best  of all, try to help them find your replacement. Thankfully, I've always been able to have a replacement ready to take my job before I even told my producer I was leaving. That makes it a lot easier on them.

2. Make sure it's worth it.  Making $50 more a week is not worth it. Making several hundred dollars more a week might not even be worth it, if the new job is only for a couple wks. But a production contract? Yeah, that's worth it. No matter what. And it's important that producers understand that.

Thankfully, I've always worked for theatres who understand that all us freelancers  are always looking for the next or better job. And as long as you treat your current employers with the respect of decent notice and a good enough reason for leaving, then you shouldn't have any trouble.
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centaura

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how you play it
« Reply #8 on: Mar 01, 2006, 01:10 pm »
Quote
People back out all the time. It's more a question of backing out gracefully and not making it a habit!


I agree with this one - its all in how you back out, and the circumstances around the back out.  And, not making it a habit.  The job I'm at now I got totally unexpectedly, after giving a tentative verbal 'yes' to go out as a replacement on a tour.  

I had inquired of the touring company if they knew yet whether they would need a replacement for the spring (it was a company I had worked for for several years and had a good rep at) and as of the Fri of that week, their person wasn't going to quit (he'd been threatening).  So, I did some job hunting over the weekend.  On Mon. things had changed - the guy did give his notice, and they wanted me as the replacement, and I said 'yes'.  (this was all during the tour's hiatus)  Well, the Thurs of that week I found out that I was on the short list for one of the companies I had sent resumes to over the weekend.  Now this was a case of debating between a 6month tour contract with a company that while they liked me, I was ambivalent about them - to a full-time, year-round, salaried with benefits position at a road house that paid more.  I couldn't pass up the offer.

I was honest with the touring company, and they agreed that I couldn't pass up the other offer.  I helped them get ready for the spring part of their tour, doing some of the prep work that their departing person hadn't done, and I have been helping them with info on the venues that they're going to.  If I ever decide to leave the new job, I will be welcome back at any time there.

It does bring up a crisis of conscious though - and I think that anyone who does it on a regular basis should be looked at twice.  I was horribly torn between the two commitments when I found out that I was being considered for the second job, and I really hope that I never have to be in that position again.

-Centaura

BalletPSM

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Under what circumstance is it right to...?
« Reply #9 on: Mar 01, 2006, 09:44 pm »
I backed out of two community theatre gigs last season because I was offered my current full time position.

Thankfully,  both directors were two former professors of mine who I had worked with several times before.  They COMPLETELY understood.  It helped that I had a replacement lined up for both when I told them I wanted to take this position and wouldn't be able to stage manage their shows.

On the first show, I still worked as the stage manager as long as I could until I had to leave because of the ballet (whose tech/performance dates directly conflicted with the first show's dates).  The nice thing about a professional company...they rehearse during the day which leaves most evenings free!)

Incidentally, after I left the second show as stage manager, a couple weeks later the choreographer had to back out because he was having back surgery -- and the show hired me as the choreographer.  (which I could still do with my job at the ballet!)

It usually will work out fine -- as long as you give them plenty of notice (as has already been said) and help line up a replacement (if the theatre allows and wants you to).  Going to the director/producer the day before rehearsals begin and saying that you can't do the show (except under extreme circumstances) is not acceptable.
Stage managing is getting to do everything your mom told you not to do - read in the dark, sit too close to the TV, and play with the light switches!

Rosemary

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« Reply #10 on: Apr 13, 2006, 09:38 pm »
I have had to back out of two jobs for better paying ones or for extreme personal circumstances BUT I think it is imperative to find a replacement before you quit - especially if it's a young company who can't afford to pay well. They may have had a hard enough time finding you so the least you can do is help them fill the position.

Kimberly

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« Reply #11 on: Apr 14, 2006, 02:48 pm »
I backed out of SM'ing a community theatre gig last year that I was committed to months ahead of time to run lights for a pro DC theatre to get my foot in the pro DC door. The Director at the community theatre was/is a close friend so I was certain she'd understand my position with needing to make MONEY doing SM'ing (finally!). However, she took it really hard and was very upset with me about it cuz I had gone back on my word. I felt horrible about it, but it truly came down to which direction would PAY since my day job doesn't make me a rich person by any means. And living in the DC area is just as expensive as NYC or Boston!

Anyway, I stood my ground and signed the contract with the DC theatre company. However, that same community theatre Director came back to me a couple months after I turned her down (and initially it was a VERBAL yes), and asked me to SM her Fall show with her own new pro theatre group (which pays!).

So, even though it was a 'bumpy' ride at first, I think I ended up winning in the end and all turned out ok. Time heals usually.........
Live well, laugh often, and love much!

jensparkingonly

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Under what circumstance is it right to...?
« Reply #12 on: Apr 14, 2006, 07:18 pm »
Just being honest and professional with your employer about other job offers goes a long way.

I was two weeks into rehearsal for a show on a SPT contract when the director of a national tour called out of the blue and offered me a production contract that went into rehearsal the Tuesday after the show I was working on opened. I explained the situation to the company I was working for at the time and explained that I did not want to leave them in a bind but couldn't afford (either professionally or financially) to turn down this opportunity. I also had a plan in place to cover my position. They were completely understanding and willing to work with me on replacements, etc...   Turns out the tour was postponed a few months so everything worked out in the end.

I never hid what my professional intentions were and I kept an open communication line about the other job as details were sorted through. One of the artistic directors told me she was impressed with how professionally I handled the situation and that they were just as excited as I was about me getting this other offer.  And they continue to offer me work each year.
Jen Matthews
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Mac Calder

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Under what circumstance is it right to...?
« Reply #13 on: Apr 14, 2006, 09:07 pm »
Honesty does go a long way. Even though I have no shortage of work I find myself more often than not barely scraping by, because I do a hell of a lot of "Semi Professional" or amdram stuff. I hate backing down on a show, and I really do try not to, but recently (thanks to all these great laws and regs that have been introduced (and my lack of certification in line with these regs), combined with large events like the commonwealth games which have put many shows on hold "Indefinantly") pro work has been VERY hard to come by, outside of the "We can't pay you much, but we can give you a hundred bucks" type short season shows.

I have an understanding with the people I have lined up at the moment that if there is a pro show that offers me work, I may end up dropping their show, because otherwise I don't eat (I could go into a rant about the stupidity of Australias welfare system, and the fact that since I am U21, it is means tested on parents assets making me ineligable to claim certain concessions etc but that is beyond the scope of this forum) and they have all been fairly understanding, with the exception of one or two "one timers" who's business I don't care about anyway.

End of the year and I am off to get proper training though (thank god... maybe I will end up pulling a decent wage soon!!!)

Kestrel_Childers

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« Reply #14 on: May 01, 2006, 02:00 am »
With freebies that want to try to get me in advance, I've tentatively said yes to them with the understanding that I really needed to get paid work and may opt out if that occured, and that if they couldn't agree to that, then they should probably try to find someone else, and usually, people are fairly agreeable to a tentative agreement when it's a freebie.

The only other times I've backed out on a paid agreement was when I agreed to do work with a theatre company that knew me really well and really liked me, or with a group of people that were friends/old classmates, and were very understanding and encouraging about taking a job that paid more.

Generally, it's a bad idea, unless you know them well enough to know that it would be ok with you backing out.  

Even then though, I generally try to make sure I know another stage manager who is not currently busy that I think would be appropriate for their project, and was confident enough in their abilities to recommend them to the theatre, incase they don't have anyone in mind that they can call last minute.

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