Acting : Unprofessional behavior? by LaShawn Pagán

LaShawn Pagán

Unprofessional behavior?

I recently completed a short film with three actors, one of which was a male. The premise of the film was understanding and acceptance regardless of ones previous experiences in life. The script (which I wrote) called for two kisses, one a 'hello' kiss between a bf and gf and the second one a more tender kiss from the bf to the gf - nothing too fancy or erotic. After almost four months of completing the film the actor, who agreed to the part without a problem sends me a message saying "I regret making this short film, because of it, my relationship has now ended" to which I replied that he might want to be in a relationship with someone more understanding as to what it means to be an actor/actress and that although these scenes were a bit romantic, what would he'd done if it required a sex scene? He proceeded to tell me he'd rather not have the film showcased because it would disrespect his girlfriend. His gf on the other hand took the liberty to contact me and tell me that I was very unprofessional for "making her boyfriend do the kissing scenes that he didn't want to do." I didn't respond to her, but I do remember having to tell him to bring it down a few notches because he was intensely kissing the actress who became uncomfortable. I just wanted to know if any of you guys had to deal with something similar and how did you resolve the situation? thanks!

Terry Hayman

Tough situation, La Shawn. How much have you invested in the film as shot? Smoothest way out might be to get the problem actor (who sounds like he should really reconsider his career choice) to pony up some money so you could reshoot with another actor.

LaShawn Pagán

I didn't spend thousands of dollars on it, but being an independent filmmaker, just starting out it was quite a dip into the bank account. My mistake (other than casting this guy) was not having him sing a release (I'm so upset about that). I tried consulting with an attorney to see if maybe I could use the email communications between us as a form of release, but he said that's very risky and not advisable. I' would love to have this guy shell out some money for a reshoot - but he's not answering me, and he (or probably his gf did, who knows) even went ahead and blocked me on a social media site... and you are right, he might need to reconsider his career choice - all of this headache coming from someone who bragged about being in several Hollywood productions...ugh

Chuck Pressler

Very unfortunate but your best bet is legal advice and clearly worry about protecting yourself and your work. So sorry this happened to you!

LaShawn Pagán

thanks Chuck, I have sought some legal advice, but let's see what I can do in the future, because this film is rather important - not because I wrote it - but because of the message behind it.

LaShawn Pagán

I completely agree with you Steven! I was a little worried that she would take to the streets and say ill things about me as a director/writer, because I'm sure that he told her I forced him to do these scenes. (seriously, it's not even that crazy, two simple kissing scenes!!) He has continued acting in the circuit, and recently has made a commercial, as well as being an extra in crossbones, (well, according to his facebook photos, because I haven't seen him in it - who's to say that he got in full make up and planted himself on a beach just for the pictures. People have done much worse to seem they're making things happen...) can I "inform him" that I will take legal action if he continues to obstruct the release of my film?

Franz Salvatierra

I think you did the right thing. If he accepted the script and performed the scene then its his responsibility to discuss it with anyone in his life who may have an issue with it. If his career is worth anything to him, you should be able to convince him to get the work out there. If not, then get it out there anyways because its your film. Also never work with the kid.

LaShawn Pagán

Franz, when I spoke to the lawyer, I was told that if I put the film out there without this actors signature in a release I could get in heavy financial problems....I'm a little worried about that

Michael "Cap" Caputo

Even on a small indie film there needs to be a 'gate keeper' on the set entrance with a pad of releases. Everyone signs or they don't go on set. (period) Tough lesson to learn but now you know why releases exist. You will be hard pressed to get this worked out. I agree, reshoot, body double the kissing scenes and see if you can get a release signed on those terms. Re-edit so the kisses are implied and see if you can get releases on those terms. Reshoot the project with an actor. i don't see any other options.

LaShawn Pagán

thanks for the advice Michael...this is a nightmare....

LaShawn Pagán

Thank you Steve, I really appreciate your input/advice. I never did misleed him or any of my cast, or any people I have worked with - ever- in any way. I believe that's the fastest way to kill a career. With that said, I have once again reached out to him, without a response, and will see about going through legal avenues

Douglas Eugene Mayfield

I'm probably going to sound like a savage but I'd simply ignore these people. No relationship worth a damn falls apart because one partner who is an actor kisses someone on screen. That's just an excuse not to bring up the deeper underlying problems which led to the other partner ending the relationship. And although I'm not at attorney and assuming you got the releases signed and there are no SAG issues with the production, I don't see how you can possibly have legal liability. So get your film out there and let these two go about their (allegedly/seemingly) loony business.

Jessie Bernard

That's not only unprofessional on his behalf ,but also childish. I have no advice for you. I do have a story though. Something similar happened to me where an actor did not want something released because she felt her hair didn't look right. I kindly showed her the agreement that she signed and released the film. From this point forward handle business first. Even things that seem minute. Hmmm I guess I did have some advice lol. Hope things work out for you!

LaShawn Pagán

Well thanks Jesse lol

Georgia Hilton

...and That... is why you always get contracts signed by everyone.. I agree with most on this one. Not your problem.

Royce Allen Dudley

Neither of these people are adults and the actor is not ready for the performing arts, period, end of sentence.

Chris Herden

Tell him he is being a jerk and might want to consider a different career path...

Aleisha Gore

If you have contracts, you are under no obligation to stop showing the film. It's done and it's yours to use. Maybe suggest you tell him if he likes you won't list his name on the credits or on imdb, etc... If you have all your legal issues covered, you have the right to use it.

Charles Keen

That's part of his career.. I think he was the unprofessional one for simple fact that he knew he was gonna do a kissing scene. So he should have informed his partner.

Dawn Alden

La Shawn, your mistake was trying to give him relationship advice in your first response to him - that may very well have escalated the whole thing right away. A more appropriate response would have been "I am sorry to hear that your relationship ended. I hope you find happiness in the future," and left it at that. Were his actions unprofessional? Absolutely, but by the same token, his private life is none of your business, nor is it your responsibility to give him advice on how to run it. I doubt very much that he is going to invest the expense to pursue legal action to stop you showing your film, so I think you are safe simply continuing on your way and doing what you were going to do with it in the first place. Stop trying to contact him, it's just adding fuel to the fire. You are never going to use this actor again, so you don't need to reestablish a good relationship with him. Just let it go and go about your business of showing your film however you would have done if this had never happened.

LaShawn Pagán

Thank you Dawn, I really appreciate the advice. At some point I didn't want to seem heartless, so that's why I gave him some sort of advice on his situation. I guess in the future I'll go with my gut and say "I'm sorry you're going through that". When it comes to trying to contact him, I sent one last message, just in case - but there will be no more contact from then on. I am exploring legal avenues in order to protect myself if he does, in fact, decide to take legal action against me, whenever I show my film. But all that aside, I really appreciate the good advice and the informative sound off that has been posted on this discussion. Thank you all!

LaShawn Pagán

You're completely right Andrew

Oriel Kerr

I wonder if there is a way to get witness testimony in regards to this? Maybe those in production can give a written account as to what went on but it might be viewed as he said/she said. Either way, I am sorry this happened to you. I had a similar experience with a young DP who was disgruntled because I fired him for unprofessional behavior. That situation got ugly as he proceeded to harass me and threaten production. I had to call the cops to make him stop but from now on, get EVERYTHING in writing before proceeding. Make sure those contracts have no loopholes anyone can exploit either. Don't beat yourself up too much--you live and you learn!

LaShawn Pagán

Thank you Oriel, I have drafted several contracts for future and current productions. and make sure that people sign them before I even set up for filming. The statements can be constituted as hearsay, but if those involved write their experiences and what they witnessed it's something else. I think that would be the last thing I'd resort to. You know...but, anyway...I thank you all for the advice and the input :)

Talia Price

If his girlfriend didn't want him to kiss another actress then why did she date an actor in the first place? With every profession I believe that people need to keep their "private" lives out of their "professional" lives. The actor sounds very unprofessional.

LaShawn Pagán

so right Talya, so right!

Dave McCrea

How does this actor have a leg to stand on legally? I'm confused. You have full rights to release the film from what I can see.

Terry Hayman

A caution here, everyone. La Shawn has already consulted an attorney who's told her there could be a problem. And for good reason. She doesn't have a signed release, and without that, here's my understanding of the issue. Note that I'm not an intellectual properties lawyer so don't take this as legal advice, but anyone working in this business should inform themselves of some of the basic legal issues. Using a video or film of someone in a commercial or even in many non-commercial settings can be judged a violation of that person's right to privacy. And oral agreements, whether others testify to them or not, don't necessarily hold any legal weight. A person who's right to privacy is violate might sue for monetary damages or an order restricting the showing of the film. So La Shawn's actor may be a jerk eight ways to Sunday, but she's right to treat the issue carefully.

Dave McCrea

"Releases" are for non-actors who happen to appear in the movie, not for actors who audition and are cast in a movie. We have contracts. So actors do not have the same legal standing as they have willingly volunteered to be in a movie. I think this actor would have no leg to stand on and the producer should just ignore his complaints and not waste their money hiring a lawyer to defend against this actor - kissing in a movie is ruining his relationship give me a break what an idiot! This guy sounds like the most whipped guy in the history of the world. Even without any contract, legally still the actor would have no recourse as the producer could provide evidence that the actor willingly volunteered to be in the movie. A half-decent lawyer could argue that the actor entered into an agreement the minute he showed up on set where they provided their acting in return for money and/or exposure, regardless if there was an actual written contract or not

Terry Hayman

Actor contracts generally have releases in them, either explicit or implied. Testimony that someone volunteered (which is unfortunately hearsay evidence) might work in court, depending on the day and the judge, but the point is to avoid court if possible. It's messy, unpredictable, and can be expensive.

Terry Hayman

Okay, further on this. I just happened to be talking with a lawyer and she totally disagrees with me. She's on Dave's side in that most judge's would say there's implied consent from the nature of the situation. So...hm.

Georgia Hilton

ok.. .. this is simple: you don't have a signed release.. You don't have permission to use his likeness or the footage with him in it for public display. FIRST RULE: EVERYONE and I mean EVERYONE signs a work-for-hire with all the right/usage/etc given to you or your production company. Get an Attorney and get a solid contract put in place for Actors, Producers, writers, pre/production/post Crew, Locations, larger props ( cars, planes, special items) , rental items, everything! "Contracts keep friends, friends and assholes at bay. " As much as this guy is a jerk, this one is on who ever Produced the project for not getting agreements in writing.

LaShawn Pagán

Thank you Terry and Georgia, I really appreciate your advice and input in this!

Richard Brodtrick

The worst thing for any person, I've noticed, is to work very hard at something, be proud of it, then find the Armageddon mistakes we've created, and needing to ACCEPT that mistake(s). I'm new here, so take this with a grain of salt, .... or some Brandy. - First thought is one you're very aware of, you didn't get sig doc. That was a bad thing, and in reading all the other posts, you're pretty aware of it. But now it's hard to accept the mistake because it affects the 'baby'. But accept we must. As to what to do? Do you love the baby enough to open up a legal storm? If so, prop the flick. Put it out. He'll argue, you'll argue. Legal wins. (Personally, and I'm NOT an attorney, I think he'll take the decision.) So the next Q I'd ask myself is, "how do I fix this?" If the kiss is as 'little' as you've stated numerous times, get it out. If the product is so good, but the kiss so little, you, as a writer, should be able to find a creative to eliminate the kiss. DUMP the kiss. Put your skill to work, make the flick better, and loose the smooch. BUT, not until AFTER you've secured you're contract. Tell (ask?) the guy you'll do a reshoot, eliminate the kiss for some other touching thing (a kiss IS pretty cliche, anyhow) like a handhold, or distant glance, or some other such, but that he's gotta sign the docs. IF he refuses, then consider this, he's on to bigger and better things, is he not? PERHAPS he doesn't need your movie/short. Perhaps he's feeling better, with his new work that's been mentioned, and he really is looking for a way to keep you from releasing. Perhaps he's secretly embarrassed by his/your work. Just perhaps. And in such a case, as I'm confrontive/combative, I'd RELEASE THE WORK. (And if goes on to great fame and fortune, you can hold the work up and say 'I made him!') Wow, I wrote a lot.....

LaShawn Pagán

Richard, firstly, I thank you for taking the time to write your opinion on the matter. secondly: I don't want to eliminate the kiss, because, albeit kisses are considered to be cliche - the second kiss is representative of something, and that I will not dump. With that said, there is nothing that any of these actors should be ashamed of from participating in this film. I'm not saying this as the writer, I am saying this because it is true. Now, if he is in fact going out there and getting bigger and better work, good for him, I just hope his gf doesn't mind it when he gets a script where he has to play a gay man and do a sex scene with a male. What then? Like you've noticed, I have recognized my mistake and am taking steps to fix it. Do I love my baby enough to fight for it? yes I do, and I will.

Beverly Leech

Hey La Shawn, a kiss is just a kiss. Sounded respectful to me. Great opportunity to cast another actor who doesn't have a problem with it. My husband and I are both actors. We never have a problem with this. We're not so insecure as to think that a stage kiss is anything more than that. Give the gig to a deserving actor that isn't going to hold up the shoot. You don't need all this drama. Kissing is the oldest act of mankind, the one act that is larger than the individual. A mother to a child, the first kiss that opens the heart to another, the last kiss on a deathbed, the kiss of betrayal. Don't kill the kiss. It's your freakin' script. Stop twisting in the wind - find another actor. There's about 500 able-bodied, well crafted artisans ready to step in to those shoes - yesterday.

Thomas Fucci

Ridiculous, immature, unprofessional and obviously very, very insecure.

LaShawn Pagán

thanks Beverly! and that's what I thought you know, it's just a stage kiss....and Thomas, you sound just as infuriated as I was at the beginning of all of this :)

Tommy G. Kendrick

Sounds like you had a situation that should have been a non-issue and maybe you had an inexperienced actor? The film is finished? Looks like you dodged a bullet. This does bring up a good point, though, for both sides, actor and production. As an actor if you're uncomfortable with something in the script, so uncomfortable that you make one of those scrunched up faces when you read it, get it straight before you accept the role OR don't accept the role. It's one role, not a whole career. If you're unwilling or unable to do what's in the script, then pass. On the other hand, if you're producing and/or directing, make sure you are up front with your actors on what is going to be required. If you're not on the same page from the get go, it's not likely to end well. These things can happen on union and non-union shoots, by the way. And it can happen to background as well as principals. I once saw an extra get cajoled by an AD into letting a principal actor rip her top off to expose her breasts because the director decided, in the moment, between takes, that it would be funny. They asked for volunteers. No takers. Then they picked out the cutest girl with the biggest boobs. There we all stood, waiting to get the shot, this girl near tears, getting offered a few more dollars to do something that she never saw coming and that clearly made her uncomfortable. "Do you want to be an actress or not," she was asked? Not cool. Also NOT the situation you related at all. Your actor was unprofessional. Just saying: professionalism and a little respect work both ways.

Josué-Fernando Camberos

You are lucky.. at least your movie was completed. I had a friend / Actor who bailed on me halfway through the production because his gf of 2 months said she did not allow him to do the kissing scenes.

LaShawn Pagán

that's ridiculous.....

Bryan Stubbles

You got a bad apple along with his lady apple. Good riddance to them. There's a reason I only write ^^

Jim O'Neill

I know this was a short film you produced so budgetary constraints would not allow for the hiring of a casting director but it does prove how important their role is. Take it as a learning experience, so when you come to the next project you'll be able to weed out those who are committed to their profession and those who are not. All these little headaches along the way makes one a better director/producer down the road.

LaShawn Pagán

You are right Jim O'Niel, I have taken this as a learning experience and moved forward. It is very difficult being a one woman team, however, it gives me strength for future projects on how to deal with them properly and who to trust with certain things. :)

Giselle Marie

Very unprofessional on their part. I hope that actor is not pursuing acting professionally...he's in for some surprises that's for sure. Always have the talent sign RELEASES!

LindaAnn Loschiavo

Always have releases available for people to sign. When my stage plays are being taped, and we want EXIT COMMENTS, we get the releases signed first, then we tape the comments for the exit interviews.

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