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This Week: Where’s New Work for Actors?
Nearly gone are the days of the sole producer who stumbles upon or nurtures an obscure project with an inevitable eye towards commercial presentation. The heady and sometimes contentious days of Merrick, Prince, Mssrs. Shubert and yes, even Roth, are hazy memories to be recounted with a mixture of contempt, awe and sadness. In our current state of stars for the stage both in front and behind the curtain, actors are wondering where’s the work for newcomers (or unknowns) when Disney and DreamWorks bring in Oscar and Emmy winners to revivals or screen sensations turned sourly to stage adaptations? The answer came from industry professionals during a recent dinner discussion while savoring shrimp scampi pizza on a warm summer’s eve.
Recently a trio of behind the audition table comrades met for a casual dinner; I, a talent agency owner and a fellow casting director. We each began our talent championing journey after jumping over the audition table during the days of Johnson/Liff, Hughes/Moss and J. Michael Bloom (if you’re lost as to those identities they were major industry players equal to today’s Telsey & Co., Tara Rubin and Gersh.) Players change quickly in our industry. And the player that was once thought of as having longevity, the sole producer, is now near extinct.
Our stalwart trio discussed the swift current of continual change in our industry. My colleague in casting and I in the past would approach producers for our employ. Not so any more. The individual who now shepherds a piece to production often belongs to one once shunned from visible participation; the writer.
Writers (along with directors) are now spearheading the producing of new stage and screen works. One could contribute that this came about because of the influence of the festivals (NYMF, inde film festivals and alike). Young writers newly indoctrinated with degrees from NYU, Yale and numerous respected institutions of higher education are emboldened with a euphoric sense of ‘anything is possible’. This, accompanied by the low-cost overhead of festivals that display and nurture new works, has put the once powerful, sole producer as the industry follower not the explorer.
So how does this current shift in dynamics affect you?
If you’re industrious you can now open more freely accessible pathways to the industry players who produce; the directors and writers. They are the new entertainment entrepreneurs in the trenches along side of you struggling and winning (at times) to have their voices heard. If you haven’t been getting cozy with those who actually create the words, along with the leaders who direct them, then you’re not paving an Interstate of interconnecting networks to create new journeys for your career. If all you’re focused on are the back roads of general managers, agents and casting you’re entering the freeway production route far too late. You need to get in at the ignition of creativity. At the table reading conception when a screen/playwright’s words are first spoken aloud by a grouping of actors in the writer’s walk-up studio.
You know already that the challenge to being employed as an actor grows tougher each day. Advances are not made as easily as they once were even a decade or two ago (and back then we veterans thought times then were tough… no… those were the salad days compared to this wilting present).
Get to know writers and directors on a personal and professional level. They are the new producers.
Embrace honestly as friends your writer and director colleagues.
Friends hire friends.
True friends remain loyal.
Eventually… loyalty produces.
Actors (right) like Michael Sample, A’lisa Miles and more are among the successful actors who took control and got their careers moving forward via Access to Agents. Outcomes include; signing with agents, more & better paying audition opportunities, paid contracts and being better business-actors. Full details @ Access to Agents. (UPDATE: Seven actors were called back by agents in September. Only a few seats left for THE LAST TV & Film Series of 2010.)
Paul Russell’s career as a casting director, director, acting teacher and former actor has spanned nearly thirty years. He has worked on projects for major film studios, television networks, and Broadway. Paul has taught the business of acting and audition technique at NYU and has spoken at universities including Yale, Temple and the University of the Arts. He writes a column for Back Stage and is the author of ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistakes and Achieve Success as a Working Actor. For more information, please visit www.PaulRussell.net.
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