Who’s Harming Actor Individuality?

the one occasion in which I wouldn’t cringe from an actor saying, “Paul Russell says…

Paul Russell
Visit Paul @ PaulRussell.net

I questioned an actress in my audition master class why she wore a clunky necklace that TSA would consider a weapon. She replied, “Because you told Amy to wear a necklace so her face would be the focus.”


I advised Amy that for what Amy was wearing she consider adding a necklace so auditors are drawn to her mask. My advisory was for Amy alone.

Recently I taught university actors how to dress to match their personality and type for when meeting with talent representation and/or casting during a non-casting get-to-know-the-actor session. All the ladies in the class wore nude (beige) Jessica Simpson heels. Why? Because a former casting director known for casting non-union tours preached that all actresses in auditions wear nude Jessica Simpson heels. Maybe he has a fetish for the footwear? Whatever. Sadly, he led these and many other ladies down a conveyor belt of cloning. Audition studio hallways look like Jessica Simpson showrooms. Where’s individuality? Where are actresses thinking for and being themselves?

When in my master classes I teach engaging cover letter and e-mail content, I will always encounter an actor challenging, “I was told by a casting director that casting directors don’t read cover letters or e-mails.” In essence that actor believes that the one (or two) lazy casting directors who refuse reading are deities of what is revelatory in actor marketing. But what of casting directors, directors, talent reps, and other job providers like Todd Thaler, Jonathan Strauss, Lynne Jebens, Rob Ashford and others who want to know more of an actor than just that actor’s credits and appearance? The talent employers who actually read cover letters and e-mails so as to discover an actor’s personality and work ethic via the actor’s voice in font? The actor who worshiped one or two jaded casting directors’ words as gospel that ‘no one reads’ has closed-off opportunities while peers who write cover letters and e-mail content are opening new entries to work and career expansion.

When it comes to subjective advisories that opine personal preference I’m a firm believer of my opening statement in my book ACTING: Make It Your Business:

“Everything I say is right

Everything I say is wrong

There are many conflicting opinions in this industry

Don’t take one person’s word as gospel including my own

Take what works for you”

Are there exceptions? Yes. Facts. And gut instincts.

If you were told that all actors at auditions must wear the same article of clothing as fellow actors, is that fact or opinion? What does your gut instinct answer?

We are in an age which people believe satire such as The Onion, or political hyperbole and anonymous comments posted online is fact. A lemming passage of bottom feeder ignorance where too many ardently assume Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act are two separate programs. Are we losing the will to think for ourselves? Abandoning ability to digest information and evaluate its relevance to individuality; consuming en masse force-fed fodder?

MasterClass_AdThink for yourself. Learn from what speaks to your instincts. This is the one occasion in which I wouldn’t cringe from an actor saying, “Paul Russell says…think for yourself.”

Being an individual is fact.

SIDE NOTE: Want to get the same audition & actor marketing classes I share with B.F.A. & M.F.A. students at universities including NYU, Elon, & Rutgers? The last audition & marketing master class of the year led by me and informed by a panel of three talent agents has only a few seats left. Grab opportunity @ http://paulrussell.net/Access_to_Agents_TVandFilm.html

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 Backstage 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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ACTING: Make It Your Business

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