The Fighting Actor | Answers for Actors

Paul Russell
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I never surrender.

When I cast, and find actors passing on or who are not available for the project, I worry. Then I fight. Up until the last-minute before walking into the audition room I’m searching for the actor who will solve my problem. (I’ve been known to wake-up at 3 AM to scour my files.) My partner calls me ‘intense.’ REALLY? I DIDN’T NOTICE!!

Caps locks aside, yes, I’m intense because like you I hate failure. I never surrender. Maybe, in my past, I should have done so with a few poor choices in relationships; just waved the white flag and run away.

But I detest failure.

When my first book ACTING: Make It Your Business was going through its varied titles while finding a home one publisher told me it would never sell. HA! At the time I had two other publisher’s vying for the book and now it’s number one in its category for Random House. (Thanks to you… really… graci for your support.)

An actor wrote me recently with regard to my Access to Agents class. He had been waiting patiently several months on the Priority Actor list (actors I contact first to grab the seminar’s coveted seats before they’re gobbled up by the masses).

She asked:

“Paul I am interested in your feedback and working with you. I was going to sign up for your Access to Agents seminar, but I had met with 2 of the agents in the past year and to no avail. What are my other options? Thanks, Pam”

I wrote back Pam honestly:

Hi Pam,

Thanks for the note.

I always stress to students that this class is not just about the agent panel. I first began teaching this class, without the agents, to embolden an actor’s acting and marketing skills as well as their interview technique. I added the agents to provide the actor with additional, direct feedback because my voice alone (or any industry voice alone) is not a sacred judgment.

Past actors have been in your situation and taken the class. Sometimes the agents express renewed interest in an actor they’ve seen before. Sometimes the actor uses the skills learned in class and finds themself getting more auditions, and more work. And then there are the students who use the marketing, interview skills and find an agent on their own. I’m thrilled when that happens. I’m always happily surprised for what this class brings to actors who fully engage themselves.

Just because an agent saw you once (maybe twice) and didn’t respond… does not mean that they won’t take interest in you at another time and place. There are many reasons why this happens (agency limits/openings, actor growth/stagnation, and an agent being like you or I having a bad/good day). Don’t limit your options. Keep swinging. Never give up.

If you wanted to take this class just because of who is on the panel, then this isn’t the class for you. I don’t say that harshly. I just don’t want actors bidding time for three weeks in class focusing a narrow vision upon the panel at the end. This class is for the entire career, not one agent night.

You’ll need to ask yourself what you seek. Then you’ll have your answer.”

Now whether or not Pam takes the class, that’s her call. I’m not twisting her arm to do so. She has to evaluate her goals, her needs.


I do worry that if the agents on my present panel Pam auditioned for at a prior seminar appear somewhere else Pam will ignore them. Or Pam may have stopped sending her materials to the agents. That’s foolish. People (both agent and actor) change. Attention is sometimes paid where it was previously ignored. Take a gander below at the harsh rejections received by famous authors:

  1. Sylvia Plath: There certainly isn’t enough genuine talent for us to take notice.
  2. Rudyard Kipling: I’m sorry Mr. Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language.
  3. J. G. Ballard: The author of this book is beyond psychiatric help.
  4. Emily Dickinson: [Your poems] are quite as remarkable for defects as for beauties and are generally devoid of true poetical qualities.
  5. Ernest Hemingway (regarding The Torrents of Spring): It would be extremely rotten taste, to say nothing of being horribly cruel, should we want to publish it.

Never surrender.

Yes it may appear easy for me to place here that ‘don’t give up the ship’ platitude but I get rejection daily. From myself (self-doubt is an evil little termite that gnaws at our foundations) and from others. But what are my choices? I have to move on.

Move forward. Never surrender. And remember; using your talents in another form than acting before an audience is not surrender; it’s called survival.

And now a message from our sponsor; me…

Access to Agents is back for the new season. Few seats remain. The installment plan and discount expire soon. If you want to see how other actors never surrendered and succeeded visit the Feedback Page or better; go directly to  the Access to Agents page and register before someone else charges before you.

Shameless self-plug to help others over…  Enjoy every hour.

My Best,

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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

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