Acting Techniques & Teachers

This Week: Worshiping a Technique and/or Teacher (a.k.a. The Cult Factor)

“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.”
– Paul Russell

Anyone who has read my book ACTING: Make It Your Business will recognize that quote of mine. It’s on the first page.

Recently I was teaching at one of the schools that I was invited to. (Possibly dangerous having me corrupt the minds of young actors.) We were working on audition technique. We began with the dinosaur of auditions; monologues.

The first student, while doing her monologue, stood with her feet as if glued to the floor. She would give an occasional gesture and then ended the piece with the word “scene”.

My reaction: “What the fuck?!”

I began to work with the student, telling her that in the professional world of auditions, actors can use the space and not be so regimented or worse; manufactured as she had been. Plus only green actors and amateurs say “scene” at the end of an audition.

To all of this the class gasped. Then came looks of confusion. Fear. Followed by students looking uneasily at each other. As if I had just said the vilest defamation against each of their mothers.

I asked what was wrong. Sheepishly they began to reply that they had been taught the complete opposite. A fellow teacher of the school had instructed them to stay “in a box”. If a move or gesture was needed it was to always be matched with a singular word or phrase each time they recited the monologue. And the actor was to have a set number of moves and gestures per monologue.

“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” is what shot out of my mouth.

Are they actors or puppets?

Not only was this plastic-acting being taught to a number of classes, year-after-year, at this institution; the teacher like me, has set these instructions for acting in a popular book. The book and the teacher I later learned have developed a large following which is nearly cult like. Oh my God.

There was a community theater producer who wrote a book on directing (there’s a dangerous mix). When I was investigating publishers for my book, I flipped through the pages of this director primer. The community theater Presario-author was advising aspiring directors, who may be asked to direct regionally a show that previously was on Broadway, to replicate the original New York production!  He instructs that they should not “tinker with what worked” for Broadway. So much for original thought. Young directors reading that book have been terribly misguided.

I once worked for this person. I wasn’t surprised about what I read because when I was asked to direct a show at his facility he handed me a bootleg video tape from the national tour of the show and asked that I replicate what was on the illegal documentation.  I refused. As an SDC director and by law I, and other directors, can not legally replicate the work of another director unless granted permission by that director.

You, as an artist and person, must use what bits of knowledge you pick up on your journey. Either exploit or discard the large volume of “This is how it’s done”’s that hurtle your way.

I’m fucking sick-and-tired of hearing the phrase “People say it should be done this way.” Really? Herd mentality rules? I don’t think so. If you believe in following the masses look at what it did for this country over the past eight years of the Bush administration.

As one of the actors interviewed in ACTING: Make It Your Business said; “There is no right or wrong way. If there were someone would write a book and make a ton of money.”

She’s right. All around. You must take what works for you.

Now you may be thinking; “But Paul, you’re giving advice now.” Yes, I am. And it’s based on my opinion. Most advice is just that. A conclusion formulated by personal experience and observation.

Don’t become cult-ish with any acting teacher, coach or author. I appreciate the tons of praise and compliments received for my musings here and in my book but I fear the day when I overhear someone say; “But Paul Russell said it has to be done this way.” It has to be done THAT way only if it works for you. Let others discover what works for them.

My best,
Paul

AMIYB_AmazonRead advice from legendary talent agents,
plus Hollywood & Broadway actors in Paul Russell’s Best-Selling Book ACTING: Make It Your Business!

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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Innovative Marketing Tool for The Actor

This week: An untapped marketing tool for actors

I’m surprised this hasn’t been utilized by actors… when it comes to marketing and hustling to get work; the smarter actors tend to lead.

In my thirty year career as a director, casting director and former actor I have never once come across an actor (including my past self) who had a reduced, easy-to-pocket, up-to-date resume on them at all times.

As I wrote earlier on this blog, there have been many occasions when I encountered actors who had no form of a picture & resume (i.e. their business card) with them. I’m not talking about just at auditions (though actors without a P&R while in the job search mode in not uncommon). I’m offering a solution to those who foolishly go without their P&R for whatever reason, including “it’s to big to handle”. To be an actor without some form of a picture & resume with you at all times is poor business practice, asinine and laziness.

So how to create and carry a miniature P&R to pocket in your pocket, purse or over-sized wallet? Two ways:

OPTION 1:

Know those postcards that you have of your puss? The ones other actors send out to say “Hi, my cat’s in heat and so is my career!” Well keep your puss on the front and drop the backside update about your pussy.

1. Order a set of postcards with your picture, name, phone & e-mail on the front. On the back leave the postcard blank. Order either standard size (4 x 6 inches) or oversized (5.5 x 8.5 inches) postcards.

2. Then you’ll need labels. What kind of labels? I’ve already done your homework for you.

For standard size postcards you’ll need Avery 8464 (3-1/3 x 4 inches) or another brand that is similar in size. If you can find a larger size that will fit without needing to be trimmed; great.

For oversized postcards you’ll need Avery 8165 (5.5 x 8.5 inches) or another brand of the same size.

3. Simply reduce your resume to the label size that you have chosen. If you cant’ fit your full resume on the label then edit waste and keep the best of the resume on the label.

INCLUDE a note that your full resume can be viewed at your web site. Don’t have a web site? Bad actor – 5 demerits.

4. Then in a small quantity put the printed labels on the back of your postcards. When you need to update your resume, reprint your labels and put on to another set of blank headshot postcards.

OPTION 2:

An alternative to having backside-blank-headshot-postcards would be to use a service like Vista Print (I use them for my marketing-whore materials), PostCards.com, ImageMedia or whomever you find on or offline that offers the best value and quality. With one of these services you can then have both your headshot and resume formatted and pre-printed to be on the respective front/back of your post card.

The down side to this is that you have to order a large volume and being that the resume information is pre-printed you can’t update information until your next print run.

The pro to having your reduced, postcard size picture and resume pre-printed is that it’ll look cleaner IF you formatted properly when ordering.

###

So there ya have it. I have yet to ever receive something like this from an actor. Ever. Receiving regular business cards with just a picture…? I’ve gotten tons that go into the trash. They tell me nothing of the actor’s history. Having postcards tossed onto my desk with invites to showcases or include pet updates….? Far too many and they too go into the trash because they also tell me nothing about the actor.

Give this a try. You’ll be viewed as innovative. Believe me not many people lead when given new ideas. Also you’ll be able to carry your headshot and resume everywhere you go. Everywhere (well maybe not to a clothing optional campground). Far too many actors have I run into at airports, on the street, at openings, or elsewhere and they didn’t have information to offer me that was useful, i.e. their picture and resume in a reduced form for BOTH of us to easily carry.

On a side note: Joel Carlton of DGRW (a bicoastal agency), Judy Boals, President of Boals Talent and Michael Rodriquez of The Roster are the guest agents for the next agent panel for Access to Agents. This is a four-week seminar intensive that prepares and introduces you to the people who help you find work. Plus you get a marketing make-over AND written feedback from the agents (and hopefully and invite to become a client). For registration visit: http://paulrussell.net/Access_to_Agents.html

My Best,

Paul

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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The Best Actor Headshots

This week: Headshots; to have a border or not?

Paul Russell
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To border or not to border… that is the question.

This past week a reader sent me a question about the latest picture and resume trends. He had been hearing many conflicting opinions (shocking in our industry) about whether a headshot should have a border or be full bleed (i.e. no border). Every five or so years the “in” headshot format alters. Who the hell determines this? I have no fucking clue. The start and persistence of some trends is as mysterious as Donald Trump’s reddish-blonde mop.

As to who cares about the headshot trends? Actors and photographers. Who doesn’t care as much? The people who don’t hire photographers but hire actors.

So the question… to border or not to border? It doesn’t matter. What matters is that the headshot looks like you each and every time you step in front of an auditor for the life of that headshot. Not a glamor shot. An honest picture of your puss.

More headshot quandaries:

Matte finish or Sears Picture Studio glossy? Matte finish.

Horizontal or vertical? Just like sexual positions it doesn’t really matter much as long as both are done well.

In ACTING: Make It Your Business agents, working actors of film and Broadway discuss extensively headshots that succeed plus display good quality headshot examples (like the  ones below):

and headshot mishaps (similar to these below… Note: don’t let this happen to you):

So what have we learned this week? The current headshot trend for borders or not is; it doesn’t much. Matte finish is preferred plus your headshot and sex in any position is ok as long as all are done well.

For more on picture and resume formatting, examples of quality headshots, how to find a headshot photographer, to make-up or not make-up for a photo shoot and much more check out ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistakes and Achieve Success as a Working Actor.

If you think this is a shameless self-promotional plug it’s not. My job on my career journey is to help and guide actors with and towards work so they can have a more successful career journey.

Additional Actor Headshot Advice: Industry perspective on actor headshots from a talent agency owner @ A Picture is Worth a Thousand Jobs – Getting Your Best Actor Headshot

AMIYB_AmazonRead advice from legendary talent agents,
plus Hollywood & Broadway actors in Paul Russell’s Best-Selling Book ACTING: Make It Your Business!

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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How Actors Solve Problem Producers

This week: Problem Producers… Accusations & Resolutions

Paul Russell
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Miller, Pritchard, Akins and Brinkley. Just some of the more infamous producer names associated with alleged, questionable practices in relation to one or more of the following; arson, fraud, embezzlement and/or provision of unsafe work place conditions. Add now to that short list of names, often whispered with contempt by actors, directors, designers, stage mangers and some civilians, two more. Troutman and Waldman. Theatrical producers in Florida who recently got more attention than desired when they abruptly canceled a production while in rehearsals and the abandoned actors were left in Fort Lauderdale with no money and means of return to New York. Solution? Actors became activists and went to the press.

Two weeks ago I received an e-mail from one of the affected actors, Heather Gault, who is also a reader of this blog and my book. Let’s begin there:

“Dear Mr. Russell,

I wanted to write and tell you about a disturbing incident that happened to me and my fellow actor co-workers last week….

Recently, I and eight other actors were flown from NYC to Fort Lauderdale to perform a production of the Cy Coleman musical ‘The Life.’ We arrived and began rehearsals as planned, and things proceeded fairly normally for two weeks. Last Tuesday, we were called from our rehearsal by the producer, Jamison Troutman, who told us to leave the theater and go home, that the show had lost funding and would be canceled and we were not going to be paid. The next day, we were informed that not only would we not be paid for the week of work we had just completed, but that the production team (Troutman and Director/Producer Gary Waldman) was unable to fly any of us home–an obligation they had to us explicitly stated in our contracts, no matter what. There were six of us living in a cast house with no car, no paycheck, and no means home.

Then, Waldman and Jamison did the unthinkable (as if it got worse!). They told us it was our fault that the ‘money’ had fallen through, and that the only way we could redeem ourselves and the show would be to work for free on good faith that they would pay us . . . sometime. Naturally, we said no way. And so they pretty much left us to rot in our little house, and told us to leave via our own means…”

Gault went on to detail that local press both print and televised began to cover the story once she and her fellow actors went proactive to the media.  The accounts in the Miami Herald match the claims that the show was canceled and return transportation for the stranded actors was not provided. Eventually a local Good Samaritan helped pay for the actors to return to New York.

Unfortunately this kind of alleged producer behavior is not new nor is it rare. Particularly in the non-union world of the arts. Most producers are well-meaning, reputable, and often charitable to both the community they reside in and to their employees. Such as Richard Rose, the producing artistic director for the Barter Theatre, Charles Abbott of Maine State Music Theater and the Prather family. Unlike Rose, Abbott and the Prathers, it’s the few problem producers that go rogue on morals which cause actors, directors and designers to be wary of most if not all producers no matter how honorable. That’s unfortunate.

I worked for several producers who were less than Dickensian. One of them having been sued by Actors’ Equity after AEA withdrew its members from the producer’s productions upon complaints from the actors of unsafe working conditions; 2 AM rehearsals held in parking lots  and company members forced to sleep in the aisles of one of the theaters. That was over twenty years ago. That same producer remains in business with two, Keystone state, properties. (Arson Update: https://answersforactors.wordpress.com/2009/11/29/an-angry-call-to-alarm/)

Most producer abuses occur in the non-union circuit (both stage and screen). Several reasons for this I believe. First and foremost there’s no union jurisdiction. Secondly most of the talent on and off non-union stage and screen is younger, with higher expectations which often can not always be provided by a non-union budget. And so after years of less-than-happy employees the non-union producer becomes less than happy themselves. But high expectations is not always the cause for a producer, union-regulated or not, for behaving poorly. There are people out there who for lack of a better phrase but accurate; just plain suck.

So what can an employee of a rogue producer do? If you’re union, you have that organization to back you up. If you have representation, your agent or manager can try to negotiate a solution… if the producer is willing. If you’re non-union, there’s not much you can do. But, there are ways to make known to others a problem producer and/or to solve a major complaint.

First; try to negotiate a solution with the producing entity via constructive and calm communication. Don’t angrily confront the producer or antagonize. Communicate first through the chain of command (if one is established). Also, whomever you speak to, whether it’s a stage manager, company manager, assistant to the producer, whomever; treat the producer not as an unfair employer but as a person who may have their own challenges of which you’re not aware. I know from my own experiences with rogue producers (and there were too many) that my first suggestion seems Pollyanna. But hostility rarely wins. Also, be cautious of the manner in which you speak of your dissatisfaction to others within the company. Your dissatisfaction/complaint may not be relevant to others. Or, you may be speaking with someone who is close to the producer.

If resolution cannot be reached either through yourself, representation or your union you always have the option of leaving the situation. O.K. I hear in my head some reader screaming, “Right Paul but what about breaking the contract? I’ll be sued or get a bad reputation”. Union contracts offer an out. Non-union contracts? Well, if the producer is not obliging by the agreement put on paper between you two then the contract was broken and is null and void. Your reputation?

I recall working for a less than dishonest non-union producer who when I inquired for a change in housing that would include a working bathroom, didn’t have broken windows that allowed pigeons to enter, wasn’t cramped with eight people to the one and only room, and wasn’t above a loud nightclub he hissed in return, “You’ll never work in this town again.” And I calmly shot back. “Where, New Hope?” I remain in the business. Sadly, so does he.

The Internet has been a great tool for spreading information for both positive and negative experiences of those who work in the arts. One place online is Non-Equity Deputy found at:  http://nonequitydeputy.com/Default.aspx. Here is a grass roots web site that provides visitors to share both favorable and unfavorable tales of working the non-union circuit. One caution: Sites like this can also be abused by some disgruntled, anti-socialite users spreading uninformed gossip or malevolent postings. Verify with others within our community both positive and negative feedback on anyone (that’s what many directors, producers and casting personnel do with the gossip and work history feedback of actors).

If you encounter an experience which rivals that of Gault’s and her cast mates in Florida, go to the press. BookMoreWork_TelseyQuoteProblem producers do not like their communities to be aware of possible unfavorable behind the scenes behavior. But again, caution; the problem must be as severe as that in Florida. If you’re just unhappy about 12 hour work days, rustic housing and dressing rooms without heat; that’s typical non-union, regional theater. Get used to it.

Now, this may have seemed like producer bashing. No, it’s a heads up about those few producers with poor behavioral patterns. I have great respect for many of the men and women who, despite a declining public interest for the arts, provide employment for artists and entertainment for those seeking a diversion of creative intellect. As Sondheim wrote, “Art isn’t easy…” That applies to all involved.

My Best,

Paul
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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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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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Jobs Available

This Week: Sources for Survival – Overlooked jobs available now

I’ve been keeping quiet (at least publicly) about the economy a.k.a. The George W. Bush Legacy. As someone who is a news & political junkie I didn’t want to add voice, of what I know privately about some endangered producing entities both clients and non-clients, to the already depressing, non-stop, talking heads on MSNBC, CNN and that other cable network which my father faithfully watches.

Being the media addict that I am I listen and read intently for, what may seem to some, obscure indicators of things to come while digesting the parsing of Reuters, Olbermann, Matthews, Scarborough, Cooper and others. I also look to my e-mail in box. There is hope that we’re nearing the end of economic darkness. And now that pilot season has ended, casting is done for stock and regionals, and studios shutter for the summer; additional sources of income are needed for the entertainment workforce. Desperately.

I’ve recently been receiving a fresh influx of long ago familiar e-mails, which tapered off last fall, to one of my far too many e-mail addresses. Notices from senders from when I used to occasionally straddle the civilian world with my present career path. (If you think being on this side of the audition table garners big bucks can I sell you on the idea that Tim Gunn’s school-uniformed, sex-slave is Karl Rove?… shudder.)

Marketers seeking help are writing once again via missives to my AOL alias. Like cockroaches, marketers never go away… permanently. Marketing is one of the few areas of employ that neither firewalls or the Bush Legacy can kill. I used to be a part-time marketer. From writing ad copy for beers (which I never drank) to being, what you may or may not recognize as, a Brand Ambassador a.k.a. a promo model. The latter of which I’d never think myself to be but was.

There are civilian, survival jobs folks. And you don’t have to be pretty or intelligent (I think I just insulted myself… and the populous of Alabama).

If you can walk, be reasonably polite, follow instructions you can be a Brand Ambassador which can entail anything from giving free test drives in a new Caddy to strangers on the streets (did that in Philly for six weeks) to handing out Cliff Bars in Times Square (did that for a day). The hours are easy, the pay reasonable but not always immediate. But there’s pay. And best of all you don’t have to live in New York or LA to get involved. Repeat… you don’t have to live in NY or LA. Though I no longer do marketing (other than my own) I get offers of work from all over the country as I did this week for events in Connecticut, Florida, New York and elsewhere across the country.

Now, as I penned in that monster of an acting book I wrote, you do have to be careful of what marketing-staffing companies you get involved with. Below I’ve listed a few of the better companies for you to investigate.

OK, so you might be saying, “Paul, I ain’t no model.” or “I hate dealing with the public.” Fine. There is a side line job perfect for you presently hiring. Government.

The 2010 census is hiring. Now and next fall. All across the country people are needed to help with the census. Part-time and full-time. Take advantage of one of the few, at present, growth industries (albeit short termed). Following this missive is a link for finding more info on jobs with the 2010 census.

In ACTING Make It Your Business I, and the actors I interviewed, talk about a number of other civilian jobs opportunities available to get by. Now more than ever those jobs are vital to the survival of anyone involved in our industry.

I won’t go into doom and gloom here. I’ll keep what bad industry info I have and instead share some positive news that is beyond our community. Signs of hopeful growth and confidence are increasing. Slowly. While not at digital age speed impatience, present indicators are better than they were from several months ago. All of us need to follow that trend. Personally, I see June/July as a time when the indicators of better times ahead become more apparent. Those indicators are there now, but they’re faint whispers. Better a whisper than silence.

COMING NEXT SUNDAY: Deceitful Producers & Scam Exposed

Besos,

My Best,

Paul

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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Marketing Job Links:

NOTE: (None of the following companies receive a commission or fee from the talent. If you come across a marketing staffing company that asks for a fee or commission one word; RUN)

Mirrorball (Based in NYC; they are a progressive, hip company. They also happen to be the company I wrote copy for many of their clients):

http://www.mirrorball.com/main.html (click on contact page for job info)

GMR (One of the event marketing leaders in the field and a company I worked for): http://www.gmrmarketing.com/

U.S. Concepts: http://www.uscpromomodels.com/

Event Pro Strategies (A sub-contractor that provides staffing):  http://www.eventprostrategies.com/index.php

GC Marketing Services (A sub-contractor that provides staffing): http://www.gcmarketingservices.com/home.html

2010 Census Jobs Link:

http://2010.census.gov/2010censusjobs/

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Actor Breakdowns over Blackmarket Breakdowns (Part 2 of 2)

THIS WEEK’S TIP: Actors & Black Market Breakdowns (Part 2 of 2)

Paul Russell
Visit Paul @ PaulRussell.net

This has got to stop. Actors paying thieves for black market breakdowns. Especially actors with representation.

Last week’s Part 1 of this blog caused a stir. It also prompted a reader to send me an e-mail he received from a thief selling the black market breakdowns. Attached to the e-mail was an example of the breakdowns. I couldn’t fucking believe it. Disgusting is the best I can say of the e-mail’s contents.

Here was someone preying on actor vulnerability and profiting off of actors by committing a serious crime of fraud and theft. Actors who engage in buying these breakdowns are just as culpable and can be prosecuted as well. I immediately contacted Breakdown Services.

More than likely the person who was selling the illegal Breakdowns is/was an intern or an assistant at a talent agency. Agencies pay a subscription fee to receive the Breakdowns. And Breakdown Services scrutinizes their subscribers. Joe-blow-off-the-street can’t get a talent agency subscription from Breakdown Services.

Now, actors with talent representation who receive black market breakdowns: Stop it. Beyond the illegality of the act you’re jeopardizing your relationship with your agent. For those with or without an agent who may be wondering how…. here we go;

The represented actor getting the illegal breakdowns often calls their agent and says, “I just saw on Breakdowns a role that I want to be submitted for…” The agent does one of two things (or both) rolls their eyes and reminds the actor, in terse tone, that as an agent THEY get the breakdowns and submit appropriate clients. After the call is ended, the agent usually mumbles to another agent in the office, “We need to drop that one.”

When an actor phones an agent with the, “I just saw on Breakdowns…” call; immediately the agent is thinking, “This client doesn’t trust me. Why should I be representing them?” Agents hate, repeat; HATE clients who use this supposed proactive choice for career advancement. Often the client doesn’t advance, they lose representation.

Agents talk to me often about this, including my partner who owns a talent agency. It’s one of the surest ways for a client to stop being a client. If you’re still not convinced think of it this way. Calling up your agent and telling them you saw a role on Breakdowns you think you’re right for, is equal to one actor giving another actor performance notes. It’s wrong. It’s rude. It’s not professional. And it needs to stop!

Trust that your agent is doing the best that they can for your interests. Stop engaging in activity that could bring serious charges against you and cost you money, time, reputation AND representation.

And finally; a reader asked me,  “Is it effective for actors living beyond the metro areas of New York or LA to subscribe to Actor’s Access?” (Breakdown Services subscription service to actors). No. Most of the BookMoreWork_TelseyQuoteauditions are in NY or LA. Auditions come quickly after they are announced. You need to be living in or near the area that the majority of auditions that are happening. Casting personnel don’t want to bother with actors who submit themselves for an audition in NY or LA when the actor permanently resides in bum-fuck Kansas. (No offense to Kansas, my finger just went for the “K” key and there were only two state options after that. I’ll offend the blue-grass moonshiners another time).

So, wrap up here. Represented actors, stop using and paying for illegal breakdowns. Stop calling your agent with the, “I just saw on Breakdowns…” call. Unrepresented actors, I do not condone or suggest the use of illegal breakdowns. But if you do engage in that illicit behavior read in Part 1 of this post. But be warned, you are committing a crime.

My best,
Paul

AMIYB_AmazonRead advice from legendary talent agents,
plus Hollywood & Broadway actors in Paul Russell’s Best-Selling Book ACTING: Make It Your Business!

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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Actor Breakdowns over Blackmarket Breakdowns (Part 1 of 2)

Actors & black market breakdowns (Part 1 of 2)

Keep Calm and Audition On

There’s a not so secretive practice among unrepresented and represented actors: black market breakdowns.

If you’re not familiar with the term “breakdown” it’s the casting notice that casting offices release to agents through a service called Breakdown Services. Franchised agents and vetted managers pay a subscription rate to receive these casting notices.

Black market breakdowns are unauthorized copies of these breakdowns that are sold (or shared in some form) within the actor/entertainment community. It’s illegal: i.e. copy-write infringement, plus theft of services. Engaging in black market breakdowns is also harmful to professional representation relationships of repped actors who receive black market breakdowns and often contact their agent bemoaning, “I saw on Breakdowns today the following roles that I want to be submitted for…” The harm is two-fold: the behavior displays that the actor does not trust the agent to work diligently on behalf of the actor. Secondly: the agent is aware the actor is receiving black market breakdowns. There are agents who report their clients to Breakdown Services that the actor(s) has access to black market breakdowns. Why? The agent does not wish to risk being implicated of being in compliance with the actor if the actor is found by another means to be engaging in the illegal activity. If the agent if found to be complacent the agent, and/or the entire agency, may loose their legal access to the life blood of casting: breakdowns.

Where you can get black market breakdowns? I don’t know. I do know that the now defunct operation of Redwood Talent, a ‘management’ company, formerly run by actors sold to actors breakdowns. Redwood Talent also charged monthly rates to their clients. The more the client paid the more the actor was submitted in response to breakdowns. Allegedly one of Redwood’s owners (again an actor) would visit backstage the Broadway houses and sell breakdown access to actors in the Broadway shows.

Breakdown Services attempted to stem the tide of the black market breakdown flow between actors by offering, via its web site, a service called Actor’s Access. Actors would receive the same breakdowns that talent agents receive. That was the original intent. A fair and transparent one offered by Breakdown Services. Up until several casting directors complained that they were receiving what they considered unsolicited submissions directly from actors. A compromise was reached between Breakdown Services and the complaining casting directors:

Casting offices now have options on who in the industry receives their breakdowns via Breakdown Services: subscribers of Breakdown Services, Actor’s Access, or both. With each breakdown–if the casting director wants to cast wide their net for talent beyond agencies–the casting office must inform Breakdown Services to release the breakdown to Actors Access. A number of casting offices are either not aware of this option, forget, or choose not to have submission from Actors Access. But Actors Access remains one of the must-have actor assets for casting information.

An actor, whether represented or not, with a subscription to Actors Access who discovers the casting of a project that does not appear on Actors Access can submit themselves for consideration.

Via sleuthing online, The Call Sheet, or Breakdown Services’ better directory of agents and casting: an actor acquires the land-mail address of the casting office. Place the name of the project and role(s) on the outside of your submission (and in the cover letter as I write about in ACTING: Make It Your Business) and send it! Envelopes are opened. Emails are often deleted without being clicked ‘open.’ Be aggressive. Be above board.

My Best,
Paul

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Paul Russell’s career as a casting director, director, acting teacher and former actor has spanned 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 over two-dozen universities including Yale, Elon, Wright State University and Rutgers. He 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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Chapman University

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