|THE KEENE STATE COLLEGE MAGAZINE FOR ALUMNI AND FRIENDS||VOLUME XVIII NUMBER 3 Spring 2003|
Michael Plante: If you want to get paid…
When Los Angeles partygoers hear that Michael Plante '89 is in casting at 20th Century Fox, their eyes light up.
"People come up to me saying 'what can you do for me?'" says Plante. "But when I explain to them that I'm in the legal side of casting and I could maybe give their résumé to someone, they drop me like a hot potato."
The 20th Century Fox Casting Administration Department – Legal is located in a tower adjacent to the Fox production lot in Century City, L.A. Plante works on the 13th floor, in a cubicle that has a view if he strains his neck and looks out through his boss's office window. At one time, Ronald Reagan had an office in the building, and would walk through shaking hands and signing autographs, surrounded by his security entourage.
Plante's job, he explained, is "about as far from glamorous as it gets." He and two colleagues are responsible for making sure that contracts for feature film actors are properly written, so that the actors get paid. He deals mainly with contracts for weekly actors and stunt people.
The job goes something like this: Once the casting director on a film project has made a deal with an actor, a deal memo is faxed to Plante's office. The memo describes the actor's role, the timeframe, and the salary. The Screen Actors Guild, the actors' union, requires that weekly actors get paid a minimum $655 a day or $2,272 a week. Plante takes these details and puts together a contract, which is sent back to the actor's agent, who then will likely try to negotiate a better deal.
"Often, the agent and the actor are looking for a 'two-banger,'" explains Plante. "This means the actor wants to be guaranteed that they will get a dressing room of a certain size, or an invitation to the premiere, or merchandizing rights. What the agent is trying to do is set a precedent on the actor's résumé for future deals."
If there is a question in the interpretation of a contract, Plante will turn to his legal bible, the Producers/Screen Actors Guild Codified Basic Agreement. "This is a union town and a lot of actors are seeking work and looking to move their careers forward," Plante explained. "We have to ensure that from the studio's point of view all the i's are dotted and the t's are crossed before we sign agreements."
Fox makes about 50 movies a year at its Century City lot. When production is in full swing, Plante may deal with up to 50 contracts a day. When things quiet down, he enjoys going to see movies. Especially the ones that he worked on.
"It's nice to see the product," Plante says. "Even though I'm far removed from the production process, I sit through all the credits because I know the people who made the movie." Plante is especially aware of the stunt people, whose contracts he developed. "When I see stunts in movies like X-Men or Planet of the Apes, movies I worked on, I just go 'Oh boy!'"
So how did a journalism major from Keene State make it to Hollywood? It's been a wandering path, Plante admitted. At KSC, he was involved in radio and television productions, working with faculty members Rose Kundanis and Michael Wakefield '90, M'93, and media specialist Steve Armstrong. "I really enjoyed the broadcast side of journalism," explained Plante. After completing an internship at New Hampshire Public Radio, Plante moved to New York City in search of opportunities. But journalism work was scarce and after a near miss getting a job as Dan Rather's assistant at CBS, he turned to the restaurant industry.
In 1995, Plante decided to make a new start and moved to Los Angeles. He found work as a temp for several studios, before landing his job at Fox. After eight years in the film industry, however, he's exploring a new path. "The film industry is not forever for me," he explains, and he's considering law school. At the same time, he feels he needs to enrich his soul by following his passion for theatre. All in all, says Plante, he's ready for change.
"I have a love-hate relationship with L.A.," he says. "I like the quality of life here, but I wish people would talk about something other than films."
Dave Orsman is a writer and editor in the College Relations Office.