Author Topic: Actors/Directors: Taking Photos in Rehearsal-A Disturbing Trend...or Not...?  (Read 8605 times)

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RuthNY

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I've been wanting to discuss this topic for a while, as through recent years, I see more and more of a trend here.  Let me explain. AEA has pretty clear rules in every contract, so that Producers notify the cast, in advance, of when photos will taken, whether they be rehearsal shots or set-up shots, whether for media/website/social media purposes or archival purposes.

But, more and more, I'm seeing actors and directors taking photos during the rehearsal process, both in the rehearsal space and onstage, and then posting these shots to social media. These actors and directors do not "notify" anyone that they are shooting, and certainly do not ask "permission" to post these photos online. (Yes, I do concur that some directors / designers /actors do take photos along with the "official" photographer when a photo shoot has been posted. But that's not what I'm talking about.)

So, does anyone else see a problem here?  An official photo call notification, implies the producer's right to "use" the photos, and implies the actors' permission for them to be "used."  Actors prepare for photos by dressing or making-up in a certain manner, when they get "official notification," particularly for rehearsal shots.  But when photos are being taken of them with no notification, they cannot control how they appear in the photo, nor whether that shot will appear somewhere online, and be downloaded or reposted over and over again.

Not to mention the fact, that if you are an actor taking photos in a rehearsal, you may very well be doing that at the expense of the job you were hired to do, especially those actors who carry phones/cameras onstage during tech. etc., and pull them out and start clicking away whenever they are asked to "hold."

I feel that actors/directors should not be taking photos during rehearsals, except, maybe, during official photo calls, and then only when it does not hold up the process. I am also dead set against social media posting of photos, where the subject/actor was not even aware that the photos have been taken.  And yes, I've had actors come to me, asking me to tell their fellow actor to take a photo down off the internet.

Should actors/directors be subject to the same rules as producers?

Should photo taking, while on call (not on break) be banned altogether?

Or should we lighten up about all of this and allow producers to shoot whenever they like, too?

Any discussion?
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Maribeth

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Great topic, Ruth. I've noticed this trend as well in the last few years, and agree that actors/directors/whoever taking photos during rehearsal isn't kosher for all the reasons that you mentioned. On a recent show, the production manager worked it into their first rehearsal information speech, reminding them that 1) it's not permitted per AEA rules and 2) that it is disruptive to the rehearsal process, and asked them to respect the work of their colleagues by refraining from snapping photos. It really made a difference- I don't think I once saw a photo taken in rehearsal.

I honestly think that a lot of the time, people don't stop to consider the idea that anyone would mind.

I'm not very active on social media myself, so unless someone brings it to my attention I'm unlikely to notice if someone posted a photo online, but I don't think the rules should change. In my opinion, it violates the "safe space" of the rehearsal room to have folks taking photos and posting them online. (What happens on a break is a different story. But, many theatres remind patrons not to take photos of the set, so does that same standard apply to those working on the production? How strict do you need to be?)

BayAreaSM

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I've had this same issue with my dancers. They are AGMA and per our cba, just like AEA, notices have to be posted 24 hours in advance of any photography. Also, our photographers have to sign a contract/waiver with our company before shooting.

We have a very talented photographer who is a dancer in our company - and it is difficult to get a good shot of dancers in motion without knowing a thing or two about dance. At times we have signed him on our photographer contract, then posted a notice about photos when we want him to shoot. Unfortunately, when we don't post a notice, he will hide in the house during tech and take photos and post them on Facebook - which is not allowed. He will also shoot studio rehearsals with his phone and post it, without notice or permission. The dancers love his photos and tag themselves, because he only posts shots that look good and are technically correct. But the dancers don't seem to see that the photography rules apply to them as individuals.

This has been a big problem with our company, because if we try to post a notice less than 24 hours in advance (and I'm talking 30 minutes late) the dancer reps are all over us, but if a company dancer has a camera in the wings during a performance, none of the dancers seem to care.

This is a problem I've been trying to work on with Company Management for years, and it seems impossible to fix for our company. We can have as many as 5 rehearsals at the same time, with extra dancers in any studio snapping away. The only way I catch them is when I check Facebook. I also have the same resident company of 40 dancers all season long, and while I can make mention of that during our Company Meeting on the first day of the season, that, along with several other important items, is quickly forgotten by Friday.

loebtmc

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Yes, this makes me nuts - I always take the person aside and tell them they have to ask for permission first - they are always shocked! Wish my theaters had that intro discussion, and in the meantime I need to find a clever way to work it into the welcome to all.


On_Headset

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If you were born before 1980, you grew up in a world where photography was something pretty special: either you're getting dressed up and going to the photographer's studio, or you're commemorating an unusual event. Fix your hair, check your lipstick, get into a nice, attractive pose, look your best. Now smile!

If you were born after 1990, you grew up in a world where photography is ubiquitous. Every minute of every day ends up on instagram (lipstick or otherwise), and that's totally totally normal. (Even if you yourself don't take these constant snaps, you definitely know people who do.)

I think that, as the acting community shifts from the earlier model to the later one, attitudes towards social-media photography are going to change very rapidly. (And this is triply true as we come to depend more and more upon crowdsourcing to fund our productions and social media to promote them.) Until then, things are going to be bumpy, but I don't think this is a shift that can be prevented.

Even in more traditional companies, donors seem to like feeling involved in the process as more than just passive recipients of art. They don't just want to sit in the audience, they want their finger in the pie. And things like throwing a few rehearsal photos on Facebook actually do seem to make a difference. They're trivial to produce, they don't really injure the actors (okay, okay, they may feel weird, but it's not like anyone's losing revenues or royalties here), and, they work.

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All this being said, you have my full agreement that they can be damned distracting in rehearsal halls, especially if the person behind the camera is being a nuisance. Mute the shutter sound, turn off that @&$#ing flashbulb, and try not to be a prick about it.

But I think they're here to stay, and any push to eliminate them is only going to find temporary success.

Maybe the solution is to have "casual photo days"? During this hour-long block of rehearsal, our publicity intern will be hanging around with a camera, discreetly taking some shots for our donation campaign. Pay her no mind, she knows what she's doing, and she'll do everything she can to be unobtrusive.

lsears

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I've been in situations where rehearsal photography drove me crazy and others where it was great.  Most of the time I don't allow photos in my rehearsal rooms during work time and make it a point to tell the cast that anything I take - preset pics, fight/dance choreography video is strictly monitored and won't make it to the communications department for the theater's use as publicity, etc.

Three specific instances come to mind:
Christmas a few years ago - I was ASM on a play with a fairly well known lead.  One of the younger cast members took a few photos in an early staging rehearsal and our lead very politely stopped her stage business and said, please don't take pictures of me while I'm working, I find it distracting.  The actor apologized profusely and was very embarrassed.  He came up to stage management at the next break to apologize to us and also to say that he was confused because someone from the theater's admin offices was the one who had asked him to take photos to use on the blog.  We apologized for the theater putting him in awkward situation and told him the theater should have asked the permission of the full cast before directing him to take pictures of his co-workers.  We called AEA, and other that no photos being taken in rehearsal nothing ever came of it because the theater was on a skeleton crew for the holidays.  No one from that department was working when we desperately wanted to talk to them.  Years later, the various level at which things went wrong still pisses me off.

Earlier this season - I was doing A Raisin in the Sun and had a cast where most people had worked together before, or at with one other person in the company, or with the director.  It was a very tight knit group and it ranks as one of the most moving rehearsal processes I've ever been through.  An actor with very little stage time was added as a silent character that was called for every rehearsal, not knowing if we'd use him in a given scene or not.  He had just started getting into photography and asked the cast and the director if he could take photos from the sidelines while they worked.  Everyone said yes.  The actor told me he had obtained permission.  The director told me she had given permission.  Everyone trusted this man to use his actor instincts to know what was okay to shoot and what wasn't.  I almost never noticed him taking pictures in the room, he was very unobtrusive.  After we closed he put a few on facebook and it is amazing how well they tell the story of a remarkable group of people and a remarkable process.  Those pictures are precious to me, I think, in part because there is nothing casual about them, and also because they were posted post-closing, separate from the press/personal pr machine, when they were about celebrating and sharing an individual's perspective on a significant experiance.

The non-union opera I just closed is very formal in it's press and the designers are very adamant about not releasing pictures of anything before hand.  They bring in a very talented photographer to shoot pictures of rehearsal, tech and invited dress, but they rarely release those before opening.  The costumes are always spectacular and a singer this year posted a pic of himself from a costume fitting.  He made it his facebook profile picture and got rave reviews.  He mentioned to the costume designer that everyone liked his picture and she said, 'Actually, I should have told you not to do that.  I would have preferred that you didn't.  You see, until the curtain goes up on opening night everything is a surprise.  They don't know what to expect.  And now, they've seen the most spectacular costume there is which doesn't appear until Act 3.  So you've ruined Acts 1 and 2 for them. So in fact, I don't think it's very good.'  The singer felt bad and removed the picture.  After opening the designer told him to put it back up.

Until something more specific comes out from AEA or AGMA I'll stick to my current routine of checking with theater management and the director on how they would like to handle rehearsal/tech/backstage pictures being taken or being posted to social media.

Maribeth

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Maybe the solution is to have "casual photo days"? During this hour-long block of rehearsal, our publicity intern will be hanging around with a camera, discreetly taking some shots for our donation campaign. Pay her no mind, she knows what she's doing, and she'll do everything she can to be unobtrusive.

Well, sure, but a lot of theatres do this, and as long as there's a photo notice given to the actors, there's no problem.

Even in more traditional companies, donors seem to like feeling involved in the process as more than just passive recipients of art. They don't just want to sit in the audience, they want their finger in the pie. And things like throwing a few rehearsal photos on Facebook actually do seem to make a difference. 

Many places do take a couple of rehearsal shots to use in promoting the show, and encourage the actors to share them online. Actors taking the photos themselves, whenever they feel like it, is different and doesn't allow the theatre to control the information being posted (which is essentially marketing for the show, whether you want it to be or not). 

dallas10086

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I'm in a non-AEA house but I found that actors taking pictures in rehearsal - and being on their smartphones in general - was pulling their focus and concentration. I start every first rehearsal with a quick speech that my Production Manager approved, which includes:
-no use of smartphones or tablets in the rehearsal room aside from breaks, unless you're using a sound recording app during music rehearsals.
-during downtime feel free to take all the pictures you want, but do not post to social media.
-don't take pictures that the subject wouldn't want the world to see.
-don't take pictures while in the dressing rooms.
-after the first performance, feel free to post all the pictures you want!

There have only been a couple of cases that I thought common sense would have told an offender that they stepped over the line. I had one actor take a picture of the scenic renderings posted in the room and put it on Facebook; I saw it online and explained to him why he needed to take it down. I had a rather moronic actor decide to take his paparazzi sized camera backstage and take pictures of the action onstage during a performance. Ripped him a new one for that.

Since we're a smaller 'big city', pictures posted to social media is free publicity and markets the show in some cases better than our own marketing department. Our marketing department encourages actors/crew to send in pictures they think the public would be interested in, and oftentimes we see our own pictures on the company Facebook and Twitter feeds.

MatthewShiner

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I am adding this to my uber production list of things to talk to general management / production management about, and get the the producer's policy on this.

I generally address in my letter to the cast about focus and respect in the rehearsal room, asking the photos please not be taken during rehearsal (and with some directors, no cell phones, tablets, etc in the room - but it depends on the director).  As far as pictures in the rehearsal hall, backstage, etc . . . I ask that common sense be used, and no one should be photo graphed without their permission - and usually I make a joke about not wanting a bad hair day to end up on Facebook and live for ever.  I also ask they respect the designer and their work by not posting photos of costumes, set . . . etc . . . Usually, but just presenting it out there as a non-issue, and that mutual respect should be used . . . then I have found it, in my past, not to escalate to becoming a "real issue".
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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.

NomieRae

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...and sometimes people are very touchy about any photos, ever. While I never take photos of my cast, crew, etc without proper notice, I have in the past taken pictures of (what I considered) innocuous things... such as my large coffee on my prompt book, silly prop table outlines, rehearsal furniture that is absurdly labeled... etc. and posted them to my personal social media sites as a smirking view of the process.

I am careful that it doesn't reflect on designers (such as a photo of a scenic piece in process), of course, but after one particular rehearsal photo was posted, a designer asked me to take it down as it was "disrespectful to his process." So down it came and now I just err on the side of not posting anything ever.  While I didn't understand his issue with the photo, it was a good reminder that what you think may be an innocent photo is actual a culmination of many people's collaboration and thus things can get out of hand quickly.
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SMAshlee

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No notice - no photos.  Plain and simple!

With today's media world literally in our hands with smartphones, I have a no phone policy in rehearsals. I agree that it is distracting and can be very annoying to others who are doing their best to stay focused. I also find it unprofessional. One of the places I worked had a strict no backstage photo policy which came about when some costumed characters found themselves in a very strange position in the dressing room and the photo wound up on a social media site.  Needless to say, that did not go over well.

Social media can make or break someone's career.  Take the taco licker for instance - he was fired after social media circulated his meant-to-be-funny image.  While it's not my job to police social media as the stage manager, it is my job to make the rehearsal space a safe working environment that gives actors the freedom to try new things and not be self-counscious of John posting some crazy image from rehearsal that they were unaware was taken. Same goes for unfinished designs; it's a disservice to the designer.

MatthewShiner

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But the reality is, in an AEA environment, how do you enforce this rule?
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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.

PSMKay

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Collect phones and cameras at sign in under the pretense of collecting valuables?

MatthewShiner

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I am unsure in any environment I am in I could take away someone's phone for a 8 hour rehearsal, or ten hour tech . . .

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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.

Jessie_K

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Having not done an equity show in a few years, I'm not up to date on the contract language regarding social media.

All shows that I've worked on recently have had strict language about posting photos (and words) regarding company activity on social media.

Could most of this be solved by adding such a clause to people's contracts?