Summer: Actor Heaven, Hell or Rebirth?

June 19, 2011 at 8:19 am | Posted in acting, acting teachers, Actor's Resume, actors, Actors & Agents, auditions, employment, entertainment | Leave a comment
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This Week: Actor Career Summer Strategies & Actor Renewal Resources

Paul Russell

Photo Credit: JackMenashe.com

For those of us north of the equator we’re gleeful that winter has passed and summer’s reborn.

Snow drifts that swallowed four-legged pets have completed their Wicked Witch of the West ‘I’m melting’ turn. The run-off now teases our toes on beaches. Blown away are the Arctic blasts of Donald Trump’s empty bellows for a Presidential run. Accompanying the sun’s lingering warmth sanity has returned. Almost.

If you’re an employed actor this summer performing on stage, on screen or even on the seas you’re probably a beaming busker happily depositing paychecks. All is nearly well and sane.

Not employed this summer as an actor?

Uhmm…

Employed, under-employed or unemployed this summer as an actor but waiting for a wave of auditions to swamp your schedule?

Uhmmmm…. Ahhhh… Oh boy…. How about them Phills?

When the Season of Sweltering Stagnation arrives, for any actor, summer can be hell or a rebirth.

Hell if the actor wallows; continually asking and wondering where are all the auditions? There won’t be many if any at all. Summer is one of the annual audition doldrums on our calendar. Industry folk, if not project engaged, are off to the beach and/or mountains with their i-Whatevers.  From June until late July the U.S. entertainment industry’s focus on new ventures is about as engaged as Sarah Palin is in a library.

So what to do during this seasonal summer slow-down? Regroup. Review. Plan a rebirth for your career goals. Get ready for the industry kick-start to the late summer / early fall casting.

Below are considerations to mull followed near the end by resource recommendations to assist you in your goals for success.

Review Your Actor Marketing –

Can your sales tools excel to a professional quality that would survive the intense scrutiny of Simon Cowell, CAA, Stephen Spielberg, Bernard Telsey, Marci Phillips or Paul Russell? Would we review your envelope, branding, cover letter, headshot and resume then exclaim, “This actor is fantastic! They have their shit together on paper which usually means the actor’s talent is just as impressive.”

Or would we roll our eyes after peering over your blah, Staples, manila envelope which you poorly scrawled our name and address upon? Your ho-hum mailer is a clone of the 98% of the actor mail received, never opened and trashed.

Does your headshot match LA & NY top-agency standards? Is your puss on paper CAA, ICM or WMEndvr quality? Most actor headshots fail to exceed beyond the image stiff, wall-hung, corporate mug-shot of a manager at an IHOP.

Are your resume credits appropriately formatted to the industry standard? Is your resume bloated with superfluous Special Skills? Have you piled in non-skill “assets” like ‘running’, ‘acting’, ‘biking’, ‘passport’ and ‘good with kids and creatures’ resume lint? When actors landfill their Special Skills portion of their resume with basic garbage that nearly any breathing, walking primate can achieve we (principal casting) interpret this as the actor being overly insecure and trying to bolster what the actor believes to be a weak resume. Less is more. Let the resume lint like, ‘drives stick and standard’ patter a dust-bunny life on your Extras / Low-budget features resume.

Would your marketing materials excel – in style and presentation – in a civilian job-seeking market? Is the overall professionalism worthy of the attention of a Steve Jobs, Bill Gates or Warren Buffet? If you’re confused or argue that you would never send your actor marketing to Bill Gates; I didn’t suggest such. I propose that your overall presentation; paper quality (textured white linen or cotton), layout, formatting, in-your-own-voice writing style be the sum of perfection. Your actor marketing for employ and representation must equal — if not be better — the pinnacle quality of a civilian’s job-search marketing for seeking employ at a Fortune 500 company.

Some actors become belligerent arguing ‘actor’ marketing does not have to equate in quality standards with the civilian world. Bullshit. The simplest truth to selling is that the sharper the marketing; slick without pretension, crisp and clean with professional lines– the better the buyer will respond to the seller. What’s on paper represents your work ethic, talent and professionalism. ‘Professional’ partly means that your marketing should resemble the sleek, styling efficiency of an Apple Store or the sophisticated simplicity of a Celebrity Cruises Solstice Class ship.

And most importantly; you must ‘speak’ in your own voice on paper. As if you’re writing a cover letter to your best friend. Avoid what you think others demand of your ‘professional voice’. Just be you (sincere, utilizing proper grammar and spelling). No gimmicks. No savvy-actor bullshit. You’re not a clone. You’re an individual.

Actor E-mail Marketing —

Have your past e-mail campaigns faltered? Do you even have an organized, digital address book with casting, representation and producer contacts? Do you know the basics for how to create effective, slick, professional, html e-mails like the ones you receive in your in-box which display fantastically formatted layouts with images, colored background cells, elegant font, hyperlinks without the underlines, etc…? You need not know computer gobbly-gook script to create for yourself an e-mail marketing campaign. A select group of actors are jumping on this effective electronic trend at advertising themselves to creatives who hire and represent. (Many are my Access to Agents students.) And those actors are 4G-ing ahead of chained-to-the-post office thespians.

Actor Headshots –

To ensure that casting personnel, directors, producers and talent reps respond with an, “Oh my God, I love this picture and the look of this actor,” you must have a headshot that pops! To be noticed an actor’s headshot must excel in quality beyond the 150 plus headshots which daily, six days a week, land on my desk and the desks of my behind-the-audition table casting / representation colleagues. Be just a “passable picture” lost among your competition and you’re wasting your money. Sadder is; you’re not leveraging your optimal best during your short-existence upon this spinning ball of dirt.

The headshots below stand-up strong against the typical, trashed headshots. They are industry exceptional and respected. Some headshots below are utilized by actors represented by premier talent agencies.

 

If Your Actor Marketing Matches Excellence –

Great! But do you have strategies and organized marketing campaigns? What kind of campaigns? Are you sending your materials to industry on a regular basis when your targets are at their most receptive?

At the very minimal you, marketing yourself as an actor, should target the following:

  • Offices for Indie Films – target the in-house casting person and/or producer
  • Regional Theatres – target directly to the in-house casting person (often an artistic associate) and seek an audition at that theater. For a guide and assist refer to the Answers for Actors post “Getting Stage Work Before Others (Parts 1 & 2)”
  • Casting directors
  • Theater companies in your city / region
  • Agents & Managers (if unrepresented). During summer talent reps clean house and seek new clients. And when targeting don’t hit everyone in the office at once. Spread out your mailings so that the assistant or intern opening the mail doesn’t trash your bulk mailing (Interns – who mostly get the open-mail assignment — recognize envelopes coming from the same address. And thus when actors send several, individual mailings at once to an office, often only one envelope is opened as the rest are trashed.)

Actors Seeking / Needing (new) Representation –

Summer is the perfect time to grab a talent reps’ attention. With the industry in sweltering hibernation they’re dumping old clients for fresh faces. Go directly to the talent reps at agent seminars.

Actor Renewal Resources —

If you need to correct, adjust, or remake yourself,  your marketing materials and/or goals I recommend the following resources:

Headshot Photography:

All the above headshot examples came from the photographer that ABC Primetime Casting Director, Marci Phillips heralds as:

I see a lot of headshots and by far, Jack Menashe’s photography is the best of the best. Jack is dedicated to presenting actors at their best and he succeeds above all others.

Marci Phillips, casting director, ABC Primetime Television

I too highly recommend Jack Menashe. I trusted Jack with my book-jacket headshot. An industry insider from Independent Artists Agency; he’s offering a steep discount this summer. Details and his portfolio are at http://www.JackMenashe.com.

And if Marci Phillips’ word and mine are not enough; take a look at Jack’s work and the praise he’s received from clients and industry at http://www.JackMenashe.com.

Actor Resource on a Marketing Makeover, How to Find & Keep an Agent, Audition Technique, Acting Career Advice Directly from Agents and Actors of Broadway and Hollywood:

Grab a copy of what’s been hailed as:

The actor’s roadmap… humorous and witty.

Bernard Telsey, casting director / Broadway & Major Motion Pictures

Bernie, along with many actors and industry pros, has recommended the Random House book ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistakes & Achieve Success as a Working Actor. (Some casting director, director, former actor and Answers for Actors blogger penned it. His name escapes me…)

Resources for putting yourself directly in front of agents:

Actors’ Connection

One-on-One

And yes, the four week program that covers Finding & Keeping an Agent, Actor Marketing, Audition Technique, Interview Skills all of which climaxes with rehearsed, individual, auditions before an agent panel; Access to Agents (led by Paul Russell Casting).

Whatever device(s) you utilize for improvement is your choice. What’s most vital is that you leverage this period of inactivity to be active. Growing a career is tantamount to battle. If you judiciously plan your attack your odds rise for a successful campaign. Charge at your targets without an organized strategy, or be a summer slouch, and you’re bound to perish.

Be smart this summer. Be engaged. Renew.

My Best,
Paul

Related Links:

— Jack Menashe Photography: http://www.JackMenashe.com

— ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Achieve Success and Avoid Mistakes as a Working Actor: http://www.ActingMakeItYourBusiness.com

— Access to Agents: http://paulrussell.net/classes.html

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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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