Experience v. Sheep Skin; Verdict?

This week: Lesson Learned: The Past Haunts

I’m peeved at my younger self and irked by academia.

I was recently contacted by a performing arts school to teach a business of acting course.

  • I’ve taught at NYU
  • I’ve spoken on the campuses of Yale, Temple, James Madison, Northeastern, The University of The Arts and numerous other training programs for performers
  • I’ve worked on multiple Broadway productions
  • I’ve been associated with the casting of films for 20th Century Fox
  • I’ve toiled long nights and days for HBO multiple times
  • I’ve been at the casting table for television series for Carsey-Warner, CBS and NBC
  • I have numerous producers and  regional theaters as clients
  • I’ve directed at a Tony award-recognized regional theater
  • And I’ve written a goddamn book about the business of acting that has been published by Random House and is presently being used by colleges and universities

But then in the interview came the question, “Did you go to college?” I replied truthfully, “No.”

To which I was told my lack of a certificate from a secondary institution of learning would prevent me from teaching at this particular school.

When I was younger I didn’t have the grades nor the money for college. I made my journey the hard, old-fashion way; through work. That was my only choice.

I then asked if the person who previously taught the course at this particular school had been a published author, worked on Broadway, cast for major studios and was a member of SDC like myself, “No”, was the reply.

Uh-huh. O.K. I get it… a college degree matters more than nearly 30 years of practical professional experience. F**k me.

I dedicated an extensive chapter to the subject of schooling in my book ACTING: Make It Your Business. I forewarned actors that without a B.A. or the bank-busting M.F.A. they would be penalized years later in their career.  Just look to me as an example. An actor cannot always be an actor 24/7. One way for an actor to earn extra money (and get on a health insurance plan) is by teaching. Without the diploma you can teach at non-accredited studios and schools. No degree? No teachy at colleges and universities (unless a MAJOR exception is made by the hiring academics… which is rare… they like inviting only those who are members of the degree club).

Lesson? Go to school folks. Without the sheep-skin, you’re screwed if you want to teach at accredited schools later on.

Now to be an actor do you need a degree? No. To be successful must one have a framed document from an institution of learning validating your worth? Well… here’s some parchment-less people who DIDN’T get graduating degrees (meaning they dropped out) or they never attended a secondary institution of learning:

  • Bill Gates (Founder of Microsoft)
  • Halle Berry (Actress)
  • Michael Dell (Founder and CEO of Dell Computers)
  • Henry Ford (Founder of Ford & inventor)
  • Mary Kay Ash (Founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics)
  • Steven Spielberg (Producer & Director)
  • Hans Christian Anderson (Author)
  • Rachel Ray (Television host & author)
  • John D. Rockefeller (America’s first billionaire)
  • Mark Zuckerberg (Founder of Facebook)
  • Ben Affleck (Actor & screenwriter)
  • Woody Allen (Screenwriter, playwright, director, producer & actor)
  • Andrew Jackson (U.S. President)

The list prior is just a small, small portion of successes  for whom without graduating degrees or a history of academics beyond high school went on to have notable careers and legacies. Now, I’m not equating myself with them. But I do ponder this. If one of the group prior with life-long expertise and practical experience (but no diploma) wanted to share their knowledge with others embarking upon a similar career would a college or university reject any one of these successful individuals from teaching on-staff on their campuses? Can you imagine a chair of political science address Andrew Jackson over a century ago with, “I’m sorry sir. Without a college education you’re experience as a congressman, army commander, military governor and this nation’s 6th Commander in Chief; none of that employment history qualifies you to teach politics to our students. You need a degree for that.”  I  can easily envision such an occurrence unless the school believes the non-accredited success to be a marketing coup for student recruitment then suddenly an honorary degree is printed. Academia can be both coveting and whoring about who gets in the teacher’s lounge and who doesn’t. And it’s not just the tenured that holds this snobbery.

Several years ago my agent — for my work as a director — got me two meetings with two separate regional theaters on the same day within an hour’s driving distance of each other. One; a national leader in presenting musicals. The other; a small stage tucked away in a town hall located on a very distant, winding back road. The latter theater I had never heard of during my thirty years in the business. At the large venue with multi-million dollar budgets there was no inquiry of my academic history. At the tiny-theater-in-Timbuktu the producing artistic director soured and abruptly ended our meeting when he learned that I did not go to a college or university for my craft.

Back to the school that recently snubbed my experience for their want of a sheep-skin stooge. As a parting gift  — when sent off on my way from the interview (held at a Starbucks) — I was told that I could be invited to give a workshop or lecture to the same students I was not allowed to teach on a week-to-week basis. Really? No comment.

‘Nuff said.

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 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.

 

Get One-On-One:

Get New Insights:

Get The Feed:

Classes with Paul Russell Paul's book ACTING: Make It Your Business!

Answers For Actors Feed

Visit Paul @ PaulRussell.net and/or:

Paul Russell on Facebook Paul on Twitter Paul on MySpace

Actors: Ill-mannered & Indebted

This week: “And I’d like to thank…”

(Sunday, September 13, 2009)

Paul Russell
Photo Credit: JackMenashe.com

Several months ago as I was going through the piles of actor mail I came across a familiar piece of “Thanks for the audition… ” correspondence but it had an odd twist. The actor writing me penned on the card; “Paul it was great meeting last week at the Nebraska Shakespeare auditions! Thank you for the feedback.” Uhmmmm. I wasn’t there.

Because of the economy and budget cuts NSF didn’t utilize my services this season. So either there’s a Paul Russell clone running around at audition studios (God help us) or this actor possibly attended the NSF auditions but didn’t pay attention to who actually was in the room.  Bzzt! Perception penalty. Thanks for playing. Next.

After every audition or paid seminar I (as well as other casting personnel) receive these note cards of gratitude. I have no qualm there. It’s a nice gesture by the actors who send them and I try not to feel guilty about disposing of each after they’ve sat on my desk for several years (the pile becomes a monster of dusty well-wishes that wishes to take over my desk).

Talent agents also receive thank you cards from actors they’ve met at “paid-auditions”. This is also wonderful and keeps the U.S. Postal system issuing a rate increase every twelve months instead of every six. While both casting and agents get these notes of niceties, they often come from the people who didn’t get hired or represented. The response from people who do get the jobs? Crickets. Rare is the actor hired for a project or the actor signed by an agent that sends a Hallmark or at least a Facebook freebie gif(t).

I personally don’t mind the ignorance of manners so much. BUT, agents; they deserve more respect. Particularly from clients. Agents are an actor’s champion. Daily, the agent is fighting for the actor to be seen. There’s a lot of font and telephony exchanged between agents and casting as the talent reps push to casting their clients for a project.

An actor being called in for a project is not as simple as; the agent sends a submission to casting and expects casting to return with appointments for their clients. Hell no. There is a lot of salesmanship going on from agents for those coveted audition time slots. Your agent is working their ass off for you.

And let’s go back to casting. It’s not always agents who think of the actor for a project and then submits them to casting. Many times it’s the casting director that thinks of an actor for a project, contacts the actor or their rep and sets them up for an audition. Without that casting person (a casting director, director, producer or writer) thinking of you; you wouldn’t have been considered for the job that you landed. But where’s the thank you? The silence is often deafening.

On a recent project handled by my office seven actors were given jobs. Seven people getting paid for several months of work (some of those individuals are now earning union weeks towards health insurance and pension benefits).  We had seen nearly three hundred people. Some of them at open calls. The rest called-in by my office. Of the hundreds who auditioned, my office received thirty-three thank-you cards. From the seven people who were hired, partly due to my calling them in for an audition, two thank-you cards. Two.

I don’t feel slighted for the lack of expressed graciousness by the five who did not send a missive of gratitude. But my wheels began to spin about the thirty-three thank-you cards that came from the people who didn’t get work from the audition. Would they have sent a thank-you card if any of them were hired? I would hope so (and it’s for the benefit of the actor not me as you’ll see further on in this post). Then I flipped that quandary. If any of the seven hired were overlooked for being brought onto the project would they have sent a thank-you card for the audition? Hmmmmm….

Now as I’ve said many times; don’t put casting personnel or agents onto a pedestal. We’re just glorified human resources. But it would be nice to hear more from the people who get the jobs, either at the support of an agent, casting director, director, producer or writer, than get what is typically a deluge of well-meaning notes of gratitude from the people who didn’t get the jobs. We recall the people hired, who sent thank you cards, more so than those who didn’t. At present those two cards from out of the seven actors hired sit on my desk. I know the names of those two actors. I honestly cannot recall the names or faces of the other five. I would have to dig through my files to know who they are. Who do you think I’ll be more readily able to recall for future casting?

So next time you get a job. Think of who in the chain of decision making got you there. Say thank you. Jobs are hard to come by, especially nowadays. Courtesy and remembrance is always welcomed on both sides of the audition table.

And speaking of this side of the table:

Cyd LeVin (Film Producer & Senior Legit Agent for Independent Artists Agency), Marilyn Scott-Murphy (Co-owner of Professional Artists) and Jed Abrahams (Senior Legit Agent for Talent House) are my guests on the agent panel for our next acting career advancement intensive; Access to Agents.

During this four week intensive I’ll prepare you to audition for the panel of talent agents who cover film, TV and Broadway using scenes from current and recent film, television and theatrical projects. And in addition to personally introducing you to the agents I will assist you in a make-over for your marketing materials, refine audition technique and develop interview strategies for when you meet with the agents and with future casting personnel and directors. Career counseling is also provided.

Registration ends soon. I only accept 10, talented, proactive performers per series. Three seats remain open.

For details on all of the above visit our site http://paulrussell.net/classes.html.

I look forward to helping you reach your goals.

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.

 


E-mail This Post to a Friend or Two…

Get One-On-One:

Get New Insights:

Get The Feed:

Classes with Paul Russell

Paul's book ACTING: Make It Your Business!

Answers For Actors Feed

Visit Paul @ PaulRussell.net and/or:

Paul Russell on Facebook Paul on Twitter Paul on MySpace

An Actor’s Most Guarded Secret

This week: Defending Your Duration Data

My partner and I recently returned from a weekend at an all-male, gay, campground in the mountains of Pennsylvania. (For family in the know, it’s the one with the big green, wooden gate and bunny under the pine tree. ‘Nuff said.)

O.K. so what have my too-close-for-comfort encounters with randy bears and wolves in the woods have to do with actors? There’s an unspoken truth; one closely guarded common secret held secure both by many actors and nearly all gay men. Their true age.

Whenever the other half and I go to this particular campground (or any gay gathering) we’re always asked, “How long have you two been together?” Knowing that my sidekick protects his age with more secrecy than his ATM pin number I created a reply that would respect his privacy and give a true answer as to how long we’ve been together. Until January of this year I was able to respond with, “Three Presidents long.” This leaves for a lot of confusion for the questioner each and every time. Why? First we’ve been graced, for now, with looking younger than our numerical existence on this spinning ball of turf and tides. Second, the sources of inquiry always struggle to recall their American Presidents. Now that we’ve been together for four Presidents long, maybe I can give some slack to the executive office recall challenged. But when it was three Presidents long how much more difficult is Bush, Clinton, Bush? Two disasters sandwiching a stain.

Once the questioner matches math to history then comes their shock which amuses both me and my partner. “When did you guys meet? When you were thirteen?!” To which the beau quickly quips back with, “No. We met in the womb.” And that usually quells further inquiry to what is really desired by the questioner; our ages.

Actors often get similar round-a-bout questions in auditions by the hiring personnel in pursuit of discovering an artist’s age. The most common coy ploy is directors and casting asking the actor when they graduated college. When I ask that question I do it in order to recall if I saw the actor in their graduating showcase. When some other directors do it they may be asking just for sake of conversation. Often it’s to determine age. (So you “older” actors may want to take the year you graduated off of your resume).

Years ago one of my audition assistants, also a friend and actress, told me her age. I was floored. I thought she was ten years younger than what she had reveled. I continue not to think of her as her numerical age. Despite my ability to view her still as younger than the number of years accumulated since her birth I know not to reveal her age to anyone; especially my partner who now represents her.

As I covered extensively in my book ACTING: Make It Your Business there are times when an actor will be asked directly what their age is. The answer to give, if any at all? If you’ve read AMIYB, then you know the answers already. If you haven’t read my book… well, just like my age, some things I don’t give up freely (and that goes also for randy bears in the woods).

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.

 

Bookmark and Share

 

E-mail This Post to a Friend or Two…

Get One-On-One:

Get New Insights:

Get The Feed:

Classes with Paul Russell Paul's book ACTING: Make It Your Business!

Answers For Actors Feed

Visit Paul @ PaulRussell.net and/or:

Paul Russell on Facebook Paul on Twitter Paul on MySpace

Casting Director Accountability

This week: Twittergate – A final thought & reflection

I didn’t want to continue a discussion on last week’s “Twittering from The Audition Room” by a casting director. But the response to my last blog, A Casting Director’s Rude Behavior characterized by Back Stage as “chastising” was overwhelming with people e-mailing and calling me; stating that they would report Ms. Eisenberg’s audition room behavior to C.S.A. (Casting Society of America) and A.E.A. (Actors’ Equity Association).

After meeting with A.E.A. on Friday, August 14;  Ms. Eisenberg offered, via Twitter an, apology:

I apologize to the actors and professionals who put themselves on the line every time they audition… By mutual agreement, future tweets will not be coming from the audition room regarding the actors auditioning.

Now is the time for everyone to move forward from this incident  and begin the process of forgiveness for an error in judgment (which we all have made from time-to-time).

But before final closure an afterthought:

While reading the deluge that came in response to my response to the original inappropriate actions of said casting director tweeting live audition feedback of actors publicly (original blog here) a thought came to mind: Actors believe that casting directors are fully accountable to unions or an organization. We’re not. And therein lies part of the problem which prompted last week’s inappropriate behavior. Some casting directors believe themselves impervious to consequences for their actions. Which leads to a mindset of “I answer to no one but myself and that gives me power over you.” “You” being the actor, talent agent or manager.

Actors you are not the only ones who must endure, at times, rude behavior from less-than-despicable casting personnel. Agents and managers must often face that same abuse when trying to push their clients to a casting director. If you think your last audition was met with frost from the Antarctic presence behind the audition room table imagine what a talent rep. faces from that same iceberg on the phone or in the cold life-less text of an e-mail.

When I began writing ACTING: Make It Your Business one of my main goals was to write about what happens on the casting side of the audition table and the abuses that occur. Eventually I devoted a whole chapter to audition horror stories; not mine but actors who encounter rude auditors. And then how to react in the room during such occurrences. Having been an actor I was pissed-off by the behavior of some “casting gods”.

A casting director only has three people to answer to for their actions. Talent. Their client. Themselves. The last will either be the flaw or strength in that chain of command. For if the casting director is basically flawed in character then they will have no moral compass. If the casting director has humility, knows what is socially and professionally acceptable then they will treat others with the respect they would prefer for themselves. Beyond self-governing there is very little oversight from talent and the casting director’s client. Actors often don’t voice displeasure in response to a casting director’s treatment of them for fear of being black-listed. Clients are often unaware of what happens when not in an audition room with the casting director.

The unions for actors (A.E.A., SAG and AFTRA) have little to no authority over a casting director’s audition room behavior. Same goes for C.S.A. (which is not a union but a membership organization). The only entity, besides the casting director themselves, who can bring consequence is the casting director’s client; the producer. Only they can dismiss the C.D., terminating their service. As long as casting directors are not answerable to anyone but ourselves and our clients it’s only our professionalism and humanity that keeps an audition room from becoming a second layer of hell for actors.

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.

Bookmark and Share

 

E-mail This Post to a Friend or Two…

Get One-On-One:

Get New Insights:

Get The Feed:

Classes with Paul Russell Paul's book ACTING: Make It Your Business!

Answers For Actors Feed

Visit Paul @ PaulRussell.net and/or:

Paul Russell on Facebook Paul on Twitter Paul on MySpace

How to Successfully Accept Criticism & Praise

Paul RussellEveryone has got a f-ing position.

…And I’m not talking about fav fetish or predilection of sexual gymnastics. But everyone does have a position—an opinion—on something. Too often the subjective observations are fished from Snide Swamp.

Celebs and pols (short-hand for politicians), and spotlight seekers handle the white glare of unwanted heat with asbestos skin: at least publicly. We non-spotlight mortals may not fare as well.

Human nature is wired to focus on the negative over the positive. We’re drawn to it like injury claim lawyers are to car crashes on the Jersey Turnpike. Before you shake your head in denial that you yourself are not-guilty of this non-pleasurable foible let’s rumble down your memory’s lane.

How many times have you received praise for a performance or deed but then in the midst of that praise there was one critical response? A less than enthusiastic kneel before your feet, or a rejection against drinking the Kool-Aid that is your brilliance? Remember that nasty remark made by an antagonist who pleasures in pointing out fault over favor? Now with your memory jogged how much did the one critical comment obscure the plethora of praise? Come on, be honest. It had to irk you a bit. If so, you stepped onto the land mine that is the negative booby-trap.

F**k the negative.

And recall that criticism is a synonym for opinion. Got it? It’s not a judgment chiseled in granite. There is no Supreme Court (other than your parents) handing out verdicts of shame upon you. Only you (and yes maybe the parental units) do that. Stop distressing. Flee the negative.

And damn the positive.

Praise positive and critics negative cannot be the barometer for how you measure your success or failure.  If you focus on either you’ll become lost in a forest of distorted mirrors: forever seeing reflections that are projections provided by others. Smash the mirrors. Govern your own way out of the thicket of thorns and protective pines.

Reflect on comments given after the sting of negativity or the euphoria of praise has passed. Once emotionally removed from the point of impact your objectivity will know whether to
alter what is not effective (criticism), or build on a well-structured foundation (praise). Or, once time has passed and your objectivity returns, you may find yourself dismissing comments negative and/or positive. Either way; push forward.

Pre-P.S. Please, no opinion notes to me that this was an opinion about opinions. Infinity mirrors belong in one of two places: day-rate motels, and South Philly row homes.

And yes, that was an opinion about having an opinion within an opinion piece.  At least that’s my opinion.

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!

 

 

 

 

Share Answers for Actors:

Facebook Twitter More...

StumbleUpon.com
E-mail Post to Friends…

Follow Paul Russell Casting:

follow Paul on Facebookfollow Paul on Twitter

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 Actor. For more information, please visit www.PaulRussell.net.

Get One-On-One:

Get New Insights:

Get The Feed:

Classes with Paul Russell Paul's book ACTING: Make It Your Business!

Answers For Actors Feed

Visit Paul @ PaulRussell.net and/or:

Paul Russell on Facebook Paul on Twitter Paul on MySpace

Paranoia, Phonies & “Phrauds”

This week: Actor Apprehension, Apocryphal Agents & Con “Casting”

I despise thieves of thespians and the shadow these delinquents cast upon honest professionals.

Despite having been an actor prior to jumping the audition table to directing and casting, it wasn’t until the release of my book, as well as teaching and writing for various publications—when my visibility went from ‘that guy behind the audition table’ to ‘that Paul Russell behind the audition table’—that I fully realized just how cautious actors are about relatively unknown-to-them casting, representation and/or educational opportunities.

My anonymity, which I greatly enjoy, and career stature had lulled me into a false sense of security that actors were trusting of entertainment professionals. Wrong. Oops. My bad naïveté.

Colleagues of mine—reputable agents, veteran casting directors, established teachers and other long-career-termed entertainment professionals—and I are suspect to a segment of the acting community. Why? Several reasons. First and foremost is because younger and/or newbie actors pay little attention to industry history. (Except possibly that Rent was some sort of songy-thing that came to Broadway after the movie—or was that High School Musical?—both answers incorrect, by-the-by.)

Second reason for reticence is the shysters and cons that sadly exist in our trade. While on this side of the audition table, I was peripherally aware of dubious entities on the Internet and the brick-and-mortar shams: The strip-mall ‘talent and modeling agencies’ or online ‘casting call-boards’ that lure starry-eyed hopefuls with a promise of career advancement for a hefty registration fee… and, “Oh, that’ll be an additional $1,500 for pictures with our photographer” bullshit.

Often these backers of the promissory plastic notes of notoriety were less-than-promising professionals. They were sub-cellars far below my foundation. I believed that most actors were above falling for the piranha ploys, able to decipher the genuine from the faux-pros.

I was woefully idealistic.

During one of my classes, students and I were talking about those who exploit the hopes of actors—in particular, one organization that calls itself a ‘casting agency.’ The alleged NYC ‘castings office’ (emphasis on ‘NYC’ and the second ‘s’ in ‘castings’ and you may know who I’m talking about) contacts actors by phone with a sales pitch that, for a fee, they will register you within their files—which they then make available to talent reps. Actors buy this drivel.

Excuse me?!?!?!

Okay, first of all: A legitimate casting office will never, ever ask for money to keep your picture and resume on file. Never.

Secondly, casting directors do not submit talent to agents. Agents submit talent to casting offices. A casting office’s clients are producing entities. Actors are not clients of a casting office. Actors (you) are our resource for solving puzzles. We don’t ask you for money in relation to casting. We don’t get a commission if you book a job. We don’t get kickbacks. For our work in organizing and finding talent, our clients (the producers) pay us a fee. Casting is, as I’ve often said, nothing more than glorified human resources. We’re talent headhunters.

Back to my student and the paranoia-and-piranha problem.

As I listened to the voicemail from the NYC ‘castings office,’ with the telemarketer drolly promising thespians triumph in the trade, I got angry. No… that’s too polite. I was livid. Pissed.

It’s these practitioners of phishing performers for pence and pennies that by merely existing bleed-and-breed distrust among performers towards the true professionals. That actors’ mistrust that blankets us all with ire on both sides of the legitimate audition table.

Sometimes that mistrust is warranted when purportedly professional people cross the line into unprofessional behavior. The most recent example I encountered being when one student of mine began speaking of his agent in Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia agent provides her clients with copies of breakdowns from Breakdown Services (which is an act of illegal copyright infringement). She also allegedly provides her clients with agency letterhead and labels. She then suggests to the people she is supposed to be servicing that they take it upon themselves to submit for projects they believe to be appropriate.

I was hoping that maybe my student was wrong, but when he forwarded me an email a few days later that was sent to him by the ‘agent,’ it did contain a breakdown from Breakdown Services along with instructions for the actor on how to submit themselves to Bernard Telsey.

I was enraged. I took a breath. Relaxed. And then I alerted Breakdown Services. That ‘agent’s’ behavior is not, repeat, not professional, legal or typical of what a legitimate talent agent’s responsibilities are.

A legitimate talent agent, franchised by the unions to represent actors within a union’s membership, is the only person authorized to submit an actor via a breakdown released on Breakdown Services on behalf of an agency.

(Self-submission via Actor’s Access is different, if you’re wondering. But if you’ve read my prior posts on breakdowns, you know that Actor’s Access doesn’t include access to the really good breakdowns. Sorry.)

I was annoyed. And yes, angered by practices of questionable or illegal motives of persons and entities that take advantage of artists (or anyone). An actor’s life is difficult enough in trying to survive financially. Exploitation beyond and within our ranks has me wanting any of the practitioner’s balls on a spit. And if the felonious don’t have testicles, I’ll take teeth as substitutes.

So what is an actor to do to differentiate the legit from the illegitimate?

Do your homework. Investigate. And by investigate, I don’t mean rely on Internet message boards where anyone with keyboard courage and a need for anti-depressants can flame-out a rant without accountability.

Ask working professionals who are actively engaged in your field about opportunities that are presented to you. And don’t assume because you or someone you ask hasn’t heard of a particular industry professional or entity that either is not above board. I’m often inquired of by actors who ask me about producing entities or industry people of which I’ve no knowledge. My reply is always, “I don’t know them, but that doesn’t mean anything other than that I’m ignorant to who that is.” No one is omnipresent (except maybe Oprah).

Caution is fine when used with reason and knowledge. Don’t be quick to cast-off an opportunity because you haven’t heard of them. There are many respected people working diligently behind the scenes that not everyone has heard of. Do you know: Kevin Huvane, Pat McCorkle, Richard Rose, Kim Miscia, John Clinton Eisner, David Kalodner, Sarah Fargo, Larry Hirschorn, Francine Maisler….?  Hopefully you do. If not, Google my friend, Google.

Now back to those frauds… Where’s my barbecue spit?

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.

Bookmark and Share

E-mail This Post to a Friend or Two…

Get One-On-One:

Get New Insights:

Get The Feed:

Classes with Paul Russell Paul's book ACTING: Make It Your Business!

Answers For Actors Feed

Visit Paul @ PaulRussell.net and/or:

Paul Russell on Facebook Paul on Twitter Paul on MySpace

Actors Effectively Using Social Media

This week: Modern Actor Marketing via a Modem

I found a wonderful status on Facebook recently:

“Christopher Stadulis TODAY – Auditioning for a role on Law & Order: SVU & auditioning with CD Jamie Schulman (Jen Euston Casting) & CD Jessica Kelly (Chrystie Street Casting) THURSDAY – auditioning with Agent Holly Vegter (Hartig-Hilepo Agency)”

One day later it was followed by an updated status:

“Christopher Stadulis got a callback for L&O:SVU! Just finished auditioning with CD Jonathan Strauss who loved my work. He wants me to go back today @ 4:15 to audition with the Director of this episode of L&O:SVU. Then I will be meeting & auditioning with CD’s Jessica Kelly (Chrystie Street Casting) & Jamie Schulman (Jen Euston Casting).”

Finally! An actor, among the thousands who have friended me as a “networking receptacle” using their Facebook status for something other than telling me:

  • My cat is in heat and so am I.
  • I hate life and people. You should too!
  • I just took this quiz to find out that my personality for religious sects is: Amish.

People (i.e. bitter career-barren-actors) have written nasty notes to me that I utilize Facebook as a marketing tool for my book ACTING: Make It Your Business and for my classes. My reply? “Why, yes. Yes, I do. I’m also marketing my career as both a director and casting director and dispensing casting and career information at no cost to actors. Got a problem with that?”

And here’s something I don’t openly share (until now); I’m not thrilled with having to be a self-described “marketing whore” but when it comes to survival we all have to have a bit of the selling slut in each of us. Online social networks have become a modern medium for everyone to sell their wares with the least amount of cost for the most return.

As I replied to a mean-spirited missive from one actor (I’ve never met) who friended me to market himself:

“Facebook is a marketing tool for all. Know that our office daily receives inquiries and requests from actors to attend their shows (often at a cost to us), seek representation (of which we do not do since we are not an agency), provide employment (of which we’re happy to offer access if the actor is avail., willing and correct for a project).”

What I really wanted to reply was, “You friended me. Stop bitching and market yourself.”

In my classes I often instruct my students to watch what I do on Facebook, Twitter and MySpace and excel past me. Some do. Others remain timid. It’s timidity that keeps one from advancing.

Joining a Facebook or MySpace group that is administered by a casting office, producer, director, theater or an actor collective is not actively marketing oneself. It’s passive and lazy. Friending same and expecting the person you networked to suddenly look upon you as brilliant for your talent just because you’re on their friend list will garner the similar response; electronic crickets.

Like Christopher Stadulis, put in your status something of use. Provide career advancing information to the person(s) you’re networking. Let the people from whom you want notice know that others are noticing you for your talents and/or achievements.

I recently had a student who exploited Facebook well with the release of his film The Graduates. For weeks he would put in his status, links to trailers for the film plus announce screenings and praise for his performance. A few of his friends may have tired of the promotion but what kind of friends were they if they didn’t support and encourage his achievement?

If you’ve joined an online social network you should be seeking out directors, writers, producers, agents and casting directors. And not just the household/industry name names… go for the up-and-comers. They’re the ones who need you as much you need them. Find industry people who have friends in common with you. Strangers are more apt to electronically accept a virtual friend if they see there are a number of mutual friends between themselves and the person inviting the online friendship. They’ll ignore the ignore button for fear that they may offend someone whom they may have met but can’t recall. It’s that fear, doubt and potential for embarrassment that is the Achilles heel to a stranger’s friend list.

If you’re not comfortable with networking online. That’s O.K. You’re leaving open vacancies to be filled. Thousands of other people are taking your place and their fearlessness to network is putting them ahead of you in this journey that is life.

I’ll be the first to admit that I hate promoting myself. Always have and probably forever will. But I’ve learned to deal with my squeamishness of selling out of necessity (medical bills, rent, food, etc). If I didn’t get a reality check I wouldn’t have worked on Broadway, wouldn’t have done films for 20th Century Fox, gone would be my directing credits, and never would my book have been published by Random House. I also would not have been able to share my insights here with you. My fear would have left my life empty. And it did for awhile at the beginning of my career to which I have great regret. What I missed can never be recovered. For I’ll never know what opportunities I let pass me by for my being passive.

The choice is yours. Use effectively the social network tools provided. Or ignore them and they’ll ignore you.

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.

 

Bookmark and Share

 

E-mail This Post to a Friend or Two…

Get One-On-One:

Get New Insights:

Get The Feed:

Classes with Paul Russell Paul's book ACTING: Make It Your Business!

Answers For Actors Feed

Visit Paul @ PaulRussell.net and/or:

Paul Russell on Facebook Paul on Twitter Paul on MySpace