Actorpedia: Hollywood Definitions

7074968The Hollywood entertainment business is quite different from other typical industries. Days don’t usually start until 10AM, office attire usually consists of t-shirts and jeans, and going to red carpet premieres is considered “work.” Not surprisingly, the entertainment “biz” is also rife with its own language and terminology – definitions that you should familiarize yourself with if you don’t want to get lost in the Hollywood wheeling and dealing.

Below, check out some of the more common terms that you’ll encounter as an actor (if you haven’t already).

Avail: (as in “What’s your avail?”) The abbreviated version of “availability.” For actors, your avail is when you’re not committed to a film, television show, or other gig. If you don’t know what your avail is, ask your agent/manager.

Above the Line: Refers to the directors/actors/producers and other top talent for a project. Being “above” the line means you’re higher on the food chain, make more money, and are just cooler all around (or so we’re told).

And: (as in “Can we get an ‘and’ credit for his billing?”) Not just a popular conjunction, the ‘and’ credit refers to an actor’s billing onscreen, and is usually placed with the final actor in the top billing. Have you ever seen film credits list the top actors and then say “…and Robert DeNiro”? The ‘and’ credit is usually used for well established actors. (see “Billing”)

Back End: A percentage of profits from a film after it has been released. Producers and directors usually get this, but more notable actors cash in on this too.

Below the Line: Basically refers to everyone else that isn’t “above the line,” i.e. the majority of a production’s crew, including production assistants, camera operators, etc. Buck up guys, you’ll get there some day!

Billing: Although it sounds like it’s referring to how much money you’re going to make, it’s not. Instead, billing refers to Hollywood’s other form of currency – NAME VALUE. An actor’s billing refers to where their name pops up in the opening/ending credits of a project (film, TV, etc). Agents and lawyers will negotiate furiously about how and where your name is placed. Position, font size, and whether the name appears onscreen alone or with another actor are always discussed.

Blacklist: This can actually mean 2 things in Hollywood. Typically, it refers to a list of Hollywood’s greatest unsigned movies. Secondly, it can refer to an unofficial list of actors that a casting office HATES, and will refuse to see for one reason or another. If you’re a diva or have a major attitude, you’re probably going to be on someone’s list!

Double Banger: Refers to a type of on-set trailer used by actors, larger than the standard Honeywagon.

PRE: The abbreviated form for ‘pre-read,’ which is basically another term for a first round audition. Casting directors will typically pre-read actors that they are unfamiliar with, so do your best to impress.

Sides: The basic of basic actor terms. Refers to scenes/pages selected from a script to be used for the auditioning process. Just don’t ask us why they call them ‘sides.’

Union: (as in, “Are you union?”) If someone asks what your union status is, they just want to know if you are a paid up member of one of the big three (SAG, AFTRA, AEA).

Pilot Season: Amongst the various seasons in Los Angeles, pilot season falls between winter and spring, and is probably one of the busiest times in the industry. This is the time when the networks and cable channels begin working on their pilot orders, which means actors need to be cast. During this season, LA essentially becomes a frenzied cattle call as everyone vies for the plethora of pilots. The sad part is, only a handful of these pilots will even get picked up, with even a smaller number ever going to series.

Drive-on: The pass that you need in order to “drive on” (clever huh?) to the studio lots. Studios have fairly high security so when you drive to the gate, they make sure that you’re on their “list,” and even double-check that name with a valid ID.

Honey Wagon: Another type of trailer for actors. Ironically, even though this name is the least risqué, it is actually the best type of trailer, fun fact.

General: (as in “Would you be available for a ‘general’ next week?) Another abbreviation, ‘general’ is short for a general meeting. Generals are a great way to meet casting directors, agents, and other execs. Of course getting a general is another matter, as most are typically done as favors for other people.

Pins: A fun term that is thrown around a lot in this industry. For you actors, casting directors will typically use this term to mean that you’re a choice for one of their roles (as in “I liked her a lot, I have a pin in her”).

Triple Banger: Again, just another type of trailer that’s negotiated with agents.

With: Similar to the above-mentioned ‘and’ credit, the ‘with’ credit is another billing term. This credit always comes before the ‘and,’ e.g. …with Brandon Routh…and Chris Evans, and is mostly only used with popular or established actors. It’s also helpful, if say, a production has more than a few equally famous actors. This way you can give the first position in the credits to the lead actor, and still give the ‘and’ or ‘with’ credit to the older, more famous actor who might have a smaller part. Everyone stays happy.

The above-mentioned words are just a sampling of the Hollywood-speak that goes on in this town. We’ll be posting more definitions in future updates!

 

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