Acting : Actors and tattoos by Nathaniel Velez

Nathaniel Velez

Actors and tattoos

Is it really detrimental for an actor's career to get a tattoo? I'm planning to get a small paw print and a date with it(in roman numerals) either in my shoulder or lower arm (the part where it's not visible when your arms are in a neutral position). Some people frown upon tats (i.e. there are other ways bla bla) some people say it doesn't matter. A friend of mine actually has about 5 visible tattoos and he got casted as a priest in a tv show. Anyways, I just want to get your opinions. Thanks

Kristi Speiser

I know a very well know actor who has many tats. His career has changed and he now regrets it. He has to cover them up with makeup when he wants certain roles. Think if tats make sense for what types you will be playing.

Philip Sedgwick

Let's say you get cast as a conservative, religious business man and have to wear a white shirt. In a scene you are doing a presentation and it calls for emphatic gesturing. What do you wear under a white shirt to cover it up that cannot be seen? An alternative is make-up. From a production point of view putting on make-up costs for a make-up artist and time in make-up. That's a fiscal liability. If it's between you and someone tat-free, guess who gets the part? Whatever is more economical and less time consuming. Here's a fun tat fact that is not related to your question: In Arizona, rattlesnake bites occur more on people with tattoos that those without tats. Hmm?

Philip Sedgwick

Oh, and you could run into rights/ownership issues. The tat artist owns the image. What if the artist wants compensation for the use of her/his work in a production? Here's an interesting case: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/warner-bros-settles-hangover-ii...

LindaAnn Loschiavo

Nathaniel, I guess you have a lot of money to spend --- so why not spend it on acting lessons, voice training, optimizing your actor's web site, and a great reel? You will never regret having spent $$ on essential items that will forward your career.

Marlene Hamerling

Both Philip Sedgewick and Leonie Charles made good points. I recently attended a SAG-AFTRA seminar with several top makeup artists, and they addressed the added time and cost of covering tattoos. If you're just starting out, you want to make yourself as bookable as possible. And if you're being sent up for co-star roles, at the moment, and there's someone comparable for the role who won't require the "extras," they'll go with that person. That having been said, it's your life and it's your brand.

Shawn Speake

Don't get a job stopper! It's hands down the worst decision I've made in my career. After meeting with Jay Z about a record deal, I got my arms tatted up because I was on my way to being a rockstar! The deal fell through and these tats have been a pain in my ass ever since. Please don't do tattoos!

CJ Walley

They've got a hell of a story though, Shawn :)

Marlene Hamerling

Ouch!

Shawn Speake

Don't get me wrong, I'm still the coolest. A little ink can't stop this show. I'm Just over tattoos.

Joey Wolf

Your Milage May Vary. I opened Google and typed internet slang YMMV. It's amazing what can be found by actually using the thing right in front of us.

Marlene Hamerling

That's what I did, too. I can probably count the number of times on one hand that I've googled something and gotten no results.:-)

Marlene Hamerling

Thanks, Leonie! I am wearing it proudly, glued to my forehead!:-)

Andrew Bee

Hi Nathaniel. I feel the question to ask yourself is, "who am I now and how does the industry see me?" Your agent, if he or she is good, is selling you in a specific way, based on what feeling you project the strongest. We are all totally categorized, stereotyped, and profiled in this business out of necessity. This is not a bad thing. It just is. Getting tattooed immediately, instantaneously puts you in a category that divides people. Look at the comments on this post as an example. What it comes down to is if you truly, honestly believe in the tattoos, get them, but get them with the knowledge and education of how the industry views them. Angelina Jolie, early on in her career, was not getting work, no she basically said, "fk you", and got herself tattooed. Three weeks ago, I was at an acting seminar in Toronto, and a fairly well known Canadian actor was interviewed. This guy is covered in tattoos. When the obvious question was asked, he replied that he was absolutely authentic with his tattoos. He also has made a career out of saying "fk you." He is under 5000 on IMdB, so he has had a very good career as an actor. It simply comes down to you. You have to feel totally congruent about expressing yourself this way, and make sure your agent supports it.

Shawn Speake

That's a great post, Andrew.

Marlene Hamerling

I agree.

Andrew Bee

Thanks, Shawn and Marlene.

Benjamin Mennell

Hi Nathaniel. Based on my experience in casting, a good portion of the talent we audition have tattoos. As long as you keep it sensible, you should be fine.

Douglas Eugene Mayfield

I'm not an actor but I'd ask myself the following questions. How much do I want the tattoo? How much am I willing to risk not getting a role? Can I cover the tattoo easily if a director wants me to do so? All that said, I suspect that if, based on an audition, the director and the producer really want to cast you in a film but did not want the tattoo to show , they'd work it out. (I've solved bigger problems on a moment's notice in my involvement in low budget film making.) One additional thought. Suppose you are up for a role and there is some disagreement among the principles on the film who should get that role. My suggestion - never give anyone an excuse to turn you down. Based on what I remember from a documentary on Janet Leigh. in the Orson Welles pic, A Touch of Evil, she had a broken arm which limited her movements, interaction with other actors, etc. But she gave great performance and they worked around her limitations as they shot. Repeating - If they want you, they'll figure out how to make it work but don't give them any excuse not to want you.

Marlene Hamerling

Sage advice.

Calum Darroch

Philip Sedgwick: An interesting case, but worth noting that the tattoo was deliberately used by the production and was not one that the actor already had. I think it would be common sense that - in law - you own your tattoos.

Philip Sedgwick

@Calum: Personally, I would avoid common sense in matters of intellectual property and follow the letter of the ICC, Berne Convention and relevant copyright law of the country of production and laws of the home country to the production entities, and country of holder of intellectual property.

Marlene Hamerling

I'm with Philip on this. Common sense and the law are not necessarily one and the same.:-) For example, one has to be scrupulous about not showing product labels in a scene, though you can show the back of a bright orange box of Tide, even though it's recognizable from that angle. On the other hand, there's an entire industry built around product placement in films. If the protagonist in a blockbuster is drinking Pepsi and the label shows, you can bet that the company paid to have its product featured.

Philip Sedgwick

The artist owns the creation, and in terms of the rules of ownership of "contracted work," it's complicated. The photographer who shot my promotional photos had me sign a legal release regarding the photos before our shoot - as in she is copyright holder and I am buying limited use of the photos. I do not own the photos. Check out how it works when posting pics on IMDB. It's someone's art you are posting, though it is your image. When I write a screenplay on a work-for-hire assignment, at the end of the process when all parties agree on the script, I create a legal document assigning all rights to the hiring party. In this business, being savvy in legal matters is essential. And have an entertainment attorney ready to go. They are worth their fees in protection, that's for sure.

Andrew Bee

Great post, Philip.

Philip Sedgwick

Thanks!

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