Naked City

Is There an Actor in the House?

A disgruntled big-city publisher (who was notoriously slow issuing freelance checks) once told us, "Whatever you do, don't piss off writers. They never forget, and they talk to everybody in town." The same must be true of actors, who were chewing the scenery and flaming the Web last week after a seemingly unremarkable ad appeared on a Web site devoted to showbiz subjects. "Statewide political ad to be filmed in Austin," read the open call. "Looking for all actors. This is an unpaid shoot." The ad gave contact numbers for an agency, and concluded, "To answer the question that I always get asked on something like this, 'It is a political ad. We don't have money to pay talent.'"

That wouldn't seem unusual except the TV ad (shot earlier this month) turned out to be for the Tony Sanchez for Governor Campaign, not exactly a shoestring operation. Last time we checked, mega-millionaire Sanchez had spent $20 million to defeat primary opponent Dan Morales and had pledged to spend "whatever it takes" to unseat incumbent Rick Perry this fall. A couple of the e-mails forwarded to "Naked City" speculated that the talent agency was being paid by the campaign and shorting the recruited talent.

But Sanchez spokeswoman Michelle Kucera said that indeed the campaign had asked for "volunteer" actors to take part in the commercial, "at the suggestion of an aspiring actor. Just as we look for volunteers to do phone-banking, stuff envelopes, or put out yard signs and that kind of thing. We did this at the recommendation of an actor, who posted it on the Web on their own."

Don't know if that will mollify the angry actors -- maybe at least the Democratic ones. One outraged Texas actor wrote to the campaign, "I am appalled to learn that Mr. Sanchez is ... not paying Texas Talent. Your candidate talks about Economic Development being a major concern of his, 'Tony knows how to create jobs, meet a payroll and stretch $1.00 into $1.20.' Is he stretching those $1 bills in his campaign fund into $1.20 by not paying actors for their skilled labor? ... By not paying Texas Actors for their work on his political ad, Mr. Sanchez is contributing to the loss of Texas Talent, not retaining it."

Ouch. Maybe next time the campaign will remember that actors have families to feed, just like electricians, cameramen, and spin doctors.

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