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

AMIYB_Xmas

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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Casting Directors, Talent Agents, Directors & Actors

Love the Best-Selling Book for Actors
ACTING: Make It Your Business!

AMIYB_Amazon“Humorous and witty…
Actors everywhere who are trying to succeed in the business, young or old, on stage or on camera, anywhere in the world, take note:

This is your roadmap!”
BERNARD TELSEY, casting director – CSA
(NBC’s Peter Pan – LIVE!, Into The Woods – The Movie, Wicked, Sex & The City)
“All the right questions asked and answered…
and with a generous portion of good humor.”
SUZANNE RYAN, casting director, CSA
(Law & OrderUnforgettable)
“I love this book!
Paul’s book tells you what you don’t want to hear but really need to know
EVERY actor should read this book!”
DIANE RILEY, Senior Legit Talent Agent
Harden-Curtis & Associates
“Paul’s book made me proud to be a part of this community we call ‘show!'”
KAREN ZIEMBA, TONY & Drama Desk Award Winning Actress
“Paul Russell’s words are not only blunt & accurate they zero in on all the questions every actor wants to know but is afraid to ask!”
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“I had my Business of Acting, BFA Seniors, class do book reports on a variety of “business of acting” books and ACTING: Make It Your Business came out a clear winner—considered to be essential for their bookshelves!
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Chapman University

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How Often Should Actors Send Headshot to Talents Agents & Managers

Paul Russell
Visit Paul @ PaulRussell.net

“How often should an actor send a submission to an agent when seeking representation?” was the question that came flying at me this week during my master class. I got a cartoonish jaw-drop gape from the questioning actor when I replied, “Every other month for 12 months.”

There’s reasoning for repetition:

While visiting a popular talent agency office I perused multitudes of actor mailings trash bound. At this agency an intern opens and filters which actors get an agent’s glance and which actors’ headshots are to be hauled away in a Hefty bag.

While perusing the landfill bound P&Rs I noticed an actor’s mailing that required a once over by the agents. The actor is a regular on an ABC series. His cover letter stated his want to divorce his present representation. His resume was being tossed. I alerted a thankful agent.

Often at agencies, incoming actor inquiries (e-mail & land mail) are filtered by a young assistant or a collegiate intern. The juvenile gatekeepers are told by agents to only save actors, “who look interesting,” or “have good credits.” Trusting entertainment-industry knowledge and esthetics, of a post-adolescent whose knowledge of “looks interesting” and “good credits” is limited to BuzzFeed is a serious flaw in an agency’s assembly line of procuring new clients. It’s a deficiency actors must be aware of and aggressively overcome.

Your resume may have training, projects, directors or other information a talent representative respects while an early 20-something intern or assistant is woefully ignorant of and foolishly questions, “Oskar Eustis? Never heard of him.”

Contact talent representation more than once; preferably every other month for 12 months. If your submission(s) have been misplaced, or overlooked, you’re giving your marketing materials more opportunities to be seen.

Now you may be thinking; But Paul, agents will think I’m being rude, obsessive, compulsive… They’ll hate me. Guess what… if the agent(s) eyed your materials once and trashed you; they weren’t interested in your offering to begin with. So what are a few more mailings to someone who wasn’t previously interested? But you could change that. Also, how do you know the agent even saw your materials?

Plus another reason I advocate re-sending several times is that if you have new project announcements on your resume or heralded in your cover letter (an actor must always, always have a business-formatted cover letter written in the natural voice they speak to friends and family with) there’s something for the recipient to discover about you. You’re working. Which means you’re a valuable asset that an agent can champion.

The Tipping Point, brilliantly explores a study demonstrating the point at which someone stops saying “No” to an inquiry and relents with a “Yes.” You could hit that tipping point with someone with multiple mailings (just don’t do it every week or month). Don’t believe me? Ask my current literary agent how many times I contacted him before he offered me representation: 3 was the magic number.

BookMoreWork_TelseyQuoteSo send. But make sure that what you’re sending is professional, clearly defines you, and doesn’t have a lot of prose bullshit or gimmicks. If so, you’ll be always dumped into the trash. Or worse placed into the Freak File.

This industry is as much about talent, and resilience, as it is about, image, image, and image. Never give up on your marketing. And never let your marketing be less than your best performance.

For more info on finding agents and successful mailings read ACTING: Make It Your Business and/or register to meet and audition for agents in Paul Russell Casting’s master classes.

Never give up.

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 is the author of ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistakes and Achieve Success as a Working ActorFor more information, please visit www.PaulRussell.net.

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Special Skills on an Actor’s Resume

This Week’s Tip: Special Skills / No-No Skills

“No-No Skills” are items on an actors resume that should never – repeat NEVER be listed as skills on an actor’s resume.

The Special Skills section of an actor’s resume is not a landfill for useless information. This section should only contain actual special skills that can be performed on stage or screen. But many actors feel that they should have their Special Skills section of a resume challenge the verbosity of WAR & PEACE with “skills” that have no relevance to performing. Don’t even get me started on the useless “driver’s license” and” U.S. Passport” offenders. If a director needs a principal actor in a car, the actor is placed in a car that is put on a trailer or in front of a green screen. If you feel that you won’t be hired as an actor for a project without listing your driving skills or passport status then here’s what you do. Remove ALL acting credits on your resume because you’re not needed as an actor. Have just your name, contact information and put dead center on the resume that you can drive and/or have a passport. Your talent is not wanted, just your car or passport.

This past week as I was going through a multitude of resumes that came to my office from un-represented actors I began to notice that some actors were listing special skills which had absolutely no qualified reason or logic to be on an actor’s resume. Below is just some of the recent bounty of No-No skills found. If you have any “skill” similar on your resume delete it immediately (including any references to passports and driving).

– “Walking” (Ok, the actor looks a bit mature in his pic so maybe, for him, walking is beyond ordinary)

– “Dog Owner”

– “Promiscuous Female” (THIS was on a actor’s resume… either he doesn’t know his sex OR he has a lot of sex and his partners ignore the mid-waist protrusion)

– “Piano Clowning” (THE PIANO meets Stephen King’s IT)

– “I own a Russian warmblood” (I dated a Russian who was warmblooded but he didn’t shed)

– “Zone II Hunter Finals” (huh?)

– “Related to Jimmy Stewart” (And your point is?…)

– “President of a Corporation” (So is Donald Trump but I wouldn’t want to watch his Lear)

– “Tetris” (Is this actress hoping for the remake of TRON?)

– “Amazing with Children” (On a mature male’s résumé… someone call Chris Hanson of DATELINE)

– “Excellent Impression of Parents”

– “Baby-sitting” (I got a resume from an older man who’s “amazing with children”… you two need to get together)

– “Role player for psychological testing of Boston-area police department applicants”

– “Hard Living” (Yo, sweetheart… we’re all suffering these days)

– “Furniture refinishing and tiny tot gymnastics (Imagine if she got the two confused. There would be a lot of damaged dinettes and shellacked kiddies)

– “Enjoys restoring cars in the family collection”

– “Owner of [name withheld] Jewelry”

– “Make incredible smothered burritos” (My local Taco Hell needs you)

BookMoreWork_TelseyQuoteWhenever I, other casting personnel and talent reps encounter these No-No Skills and similar on resumes the resume is often quickly tossed. Why? Our impression of the actor is that they are one or all of the following; needy, insecure, over-compensating, clueless, a freak. Acting is a business folks. A profession. That’s why I wrote my book, ACTING: Make It Your Business, to help people from making these kinds of mistakes and treat the business of acting as a profession.

What should be in the Special Skills section of a resume? See pages 78 – 80 in ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistakes and Achieve Success as a Working Actor. This is NOT a plug. It’s a plea to actors to stop hindering themselves by knowingly or unknowing making mistakes that jeopardize forward momentum in their careers.

AMIYB_AmazonMy best,
Paul

Paul Russell’s career as a casting director, director, acting teacher and former actor has spanned more than 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 Elon, Yale, Temple and the University of the Arts. 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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Actors – How Not to Fail an Audition

Paul Russell
Visit Paul @ PaulRussell.net

We all make mistakes.

I’ve made plenty (even here openly on this intermesh thing).

After three decades of working with, and for actors, I’m still surprised by the career destroying fuck-ups that some actors will willingly and without-thought-to-consequences do with what little gray matter may pulse within in their cranium.

This week as I was sitting at a talent agency I witnessed a first-rate screw-up by an actor that jeopardized his relationship with a Broadway casting office, director, producer and agent all in one simultaneous, mind-blowing shoot-themselves-in-the-career crash. It also made me never want to work with the actor as well.

For this exercise we’ll tag him as Actor-Withholding-On-Logic; a.k.a. A.W.O.L.

A.W.O.L. dumped his agent, via a weekend e-mail missive, for he felt that his life was quote “boring” and he needed a change (no, that’s not the main mistake for my mussing here, although being bored and leaving your agent because the Prozac dosage is no longer controlling the mood swings could be considered a career careening crash).

As I was chatting in the talent agent’s office a call came from another casting director’s office (one that I once worked at). The casting director, along with a well-known director, choreographer and several producers were sitting curious at a casting session for an upcoming Broadway production. They were left waiting for an actor who had not shown up to his scheduled appointment for a leading role within the production. The M.I.A. actor? A.W.O.L.

A.W.O.L.’s former agent got off the phone with the now irritated casting director and called A.W.O.L. to ask why he had not shown up to the appointment he confirmed to attend. He had gotten the audition appointment via his agent well before trashing said talent rep. A.W.O.L. informed his former champion that he felt he no longer had to attend the audition because he had just left the agency. Excuse me?!?

So here was an unemployed actor who had just dumped his agent while also dumping upon a casting office and a production team for Broadway. Can someone explain to me, especially in this economic climate why such arrogance (and obvious ignorance) exists? Wait, I may have answered my question; arrogance and ignorance are close cousins.

BookMoreWork_TelseyQuoteWhat’s the moral here? No matter what your relationship with your representation, an actor is to keep their commitment to confirmed audition appointments. And not only audition appointments but also commitments to commissions on projects that your representation helped get you seen for and negotiated the contract(s). One of the few pardonable excuses on making a pass on a confirmed audition is passing, literally, as in six feet under or oven-ash time. Even then you’ll need a doctor’s written note.

Be considerate of others. Don’t become known as problematic. The number of people working in this industry is very small. We talk. We share stories. Don’t become a story that you would not want to be a part of.

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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