“Scam” Paid Auditions vs. Legitimate Acting Classes

There is truth versus perception. SAG-AFTRA, the largest union representing screen actors, may have unintentionally caused confusion in truth versus perception for what is a legitimate class for actors, as opposed to what is a questionable workshop. Bewildered actors, both union and non-union, potentially suffer from the lack of career expansion misunderstanding what is a legitimate educational acting resource versus what is in SAG-AFTRA’s assessment, “a scam.”

ScamVsLegit

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Paul Russell
PaulRussell.net

 

There is truth versus perception. SAG-AFTRA, the largest union representing screen actors, may have unintentionally caused confusion in truth versus perception for what is a legitimate class for actors, as opposed to what is a questionable workshop. Bewildered actors, both union and non-union, potentially suffer from the lack of career expansion misunderstanding what is a legitimate educational acting resource versus what is in SAG-AFTRA’s assessment, “a scam.”

SAG-AFTRA recently warned its membership, via online media, that actors within its guild not participate in workshops attended by casting directors, agents, and/or managers in which actors pay to participate:

“It shall be deemed conduct unbecoming a member for any member of the union, directly or indirectly, to give or offer to give any money, gift, gratuity or other thing of value to an employer, or prospective employer, to any officer, agent, representative or employee of such employer or prospective employer, or to any employment or casting agency representing an employer, or prospective employer, or to any of their officers, agents, representatives or employees as an inducement to secure employment.”

Deeper in SAG-AFTRA’s declaration is a passing disclaimer potentially overlooked or misinterpreted by actors:

“This includes workshop-style situations where a casting director watches your scene or monologue, offers no meaningful critique or feedback, and is presented as someone looking for actors for ‘current and upcoming projects.’ This becomes a paid audition, which is against SAG-AFTRA rules.”

The phrase, “offers no meaningful critique or feedback” is the foundation to understanding what SAG-AFTRA considers a ‘class’ versus a ‘paid audition.’ Thoughtful advisement for bettering the actor’s craft, plus actionable constructive criticism is apparently in SAG-AFTRA’s view the keystone to a casting director, talent agent or manager participating in a educational resource for actors. But actors quickly scanning SAG-AFTRA’s membership directive, or non-union actors encountering similar discussion through the nefarious actor grapevine, potentially lump all educational actor workshops and classes together with the shove-actors-through-the-door, paid audition scenarios.

The Confusion

When actors mistakenly interpret from a union, or a colleague, that the vernacular of ‘workshops,’ ‘seminars,’ or ‘classes’ are pay-to-play scams then those actors assume that all actor-focused classes of which industry attend are illegitimate. A self-destructive disservice to the actor wishing to expand their career skills, and resumé.

A growing percentage of acting studio educational classes have their roots in the collegiate world. Annually, universities with esteemed acting programs bring to their campuses entertainment executives who share valuable experience with student actors via master classes. These casting directors, directors, and talent representatives leading collegiate master classes then offer the same insights expressed at universities in private acting studios of New York City, Los Angeles, and/or Chicago.

Differences Between Paid Classes With Industry vs. Paid Auditions

Classes / Workshops:

A class for actors is one that is either held over an extended period of time (several weeks or several months) or in an evening. Beneficial acting-career skills are taught to the actor, and during that learning process constructive feedback is given to the actor by the instructor and/or invited entertainment executive(s). Entertainment executives may include: casting directors, talent agents and managers, directors, or actors with well-established careers.

Paid Auditions:

Actors pay a fee to be seen by an entertainment executive or panel via a monologue, or a hurriedly put-together scene. No feedback to the actors is offered. The session for each actor lasts several minutes. The session for the executive(s) is a duration of several hours as the actors are presented like cattle at an auction. These studios often herald in their advertising, or via email blasts, that the studio is responsible for every career advancement made by each actor who shuffled through their system no matter how long ago the actor was herded through the studio’s chute. Often the studio has no association with, or influence on, the actor’s toil in procuring the booking(s). Some of these studios now advertise “exclusive rights” to a casting director or talent agent as attending only that studio’s sessions. “Tisn’t morals, ’tis money that saves…”

Are Paid Auditions Valuable?

A good number of actors have formed professional relationships with agents and/or casting directors from these scenarios. More actors though have found the one-night stand paid auditions to be a frustration. The feeling disenfranchised actors are the most vocal in opposition to what is perceived as a paid audition.

Why Paid Auditions Are Popular

The digital revolution has changed how casting and representation meet talent. Too many actors have mistakenly given-up on the snail mail method of marketing themselves. While the majority of entertainment industry players delete, unopened, unsolicited email from actors. The paid audition, for better or worse, has replaced how first introductions are made.

Actors drive the market for the one-night stands. Actors also drive the market for the legitimate classes, and workshops. Of each, the actor will pay their monies for the value of who is participating. Classes without prominent industry participation don’t sell well; often forcing respected teachers to cancel classes.

Classes for Actors vs. Paid Auditions

Benefits of the paid audition is a questionable gamble that places opportunity in the hands of the attending entertainment executive(s). Classes attended or led by entertainment executives can offer growth from which the actor creates opportunities.

What is truth of legitimate versus the perception of a scam? The answer is within what the seller honestly offers, and the results an actor realistically anticipates.

My best,
Paul

Paul Russell’s 5-Star, Best Selling Book on Acting including Hollywood & Broadway Actors & Agents!

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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 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.

Casting Directors, Talent Agents, Directors & Actors
Love Paul Russell’s Best-Selling Book for Actors
ACTING: Make It Your Business!

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
(Hamilton, The Intern, NBC’s The Wiz – LIVE!, Into The Woods – The Movie, Wicked)
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!”
KEN MELAMED, Talent Agency Partner
Bret Adams, Ltd.
“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!
Dr. NINA LeNOIR,
Dept. Chair – Dept. of Thtr.
Chapman University

Get smarter on the business of acting from legendary Hollywood & Broadway actors and talent agents in a casting director Paul Russell’s Best-Selling Book ACTING:AMIYB_Amazon Make It Your Bu

 

 

Top 10 Email Mistakes Actors Make

Email marketing by actors is fraught with career-hobbling traps. The following email blunders are the most often used career-stopping snares by which actors maim opportunities.

Email Mistakes_a4a

actor email

Paul Russell_HeadshotPaul Russell
PaulRussell.net

Email marketing by actors is fraught with career-hobbling traps. Convenience and speed lull actors in to a false sense of accomplishment in their marketing outreach to entertainment professionals who hire or represent actors. The following email blunders are the most often used career-stopping snares by which actors maim opportunities.

1. Forwards

Actors forwarding their prior sent email(s) to industry by sending as ‘new’ old correspondence to other industry contacts advertises that the actor is lazy.

email

 

Recipients see in an email’s subject the abbreviation ‘FWD.’ When a FWD recipient sees the abbreviation a red flag is signaled that the sending actor is complacent, and sloppy with their marketing which further translates into an image that the actor is likely just as much an unprepared sloth regarding their acting skills.

Actors who wish that consideration of their career be taken seriously as a professional must approach each professional as an individual—not as a check-mark accomplished in the actor’s marketing whoredom.

 

2. Email Addresses that are Tinder or Grndr Bound

How serious of casting or representation consideration of an actor is an entertainment gatekeeper to pursue when an inquiring actor has an email address beginning with ‘SexyStarr@,’ ‘MyOscarAwaits@,’ or similar correspondence handles? About as seriously as an actor shouldn’t consider a director, agent, or casting director if any of those acting job enablers has an email address that is MakeYouFamous@hotmail.com.

An actor’s email address is a reflection of their professionalism. An actor’s work email address is to begin with a derivation of the actor’s name, followed by the email carrier that the actor utilizes.

 

3. Dear Mr./Mrs. as Greetings

I’ll never be a Mrs. or a Mr. (my testicles don’t respond to either greeting).

As unprofessional and crass is my prior commentary so too are generic openers. If an actor wishes to be treated as an individual, then the actor must give the same desired respect to all entertainment professionals encountered.

We are given names—identities. We are not pronouns but nouns. An actor sending an email blast to 10 or 10,000 individuals may either copy-n-paste the body of the email into each individual message, and then manually type in the recipient’s name. Or, the actor could save time and hours of tedium by learning what is a database and how a ‘field’ inserts an individual’s name or other content into a mass email blast.

Yours Sincerely,
Mr./Mrs./Ms./It

 

4. Begin with Positive not Negative

From a recent actor’s email:

 

“As a casting director you may literally go through thousand [SIC] of cover letters and resume [SIC] every day,”

 

First impression upon reading the actor’s opener is, “This isn’t going to go well for the actor.” And I’m correct. The remainder of the opening sentence in the email continues:

“…and most of the time you wind most of these letters in the trash can.”

 

The email is on a laptop screen, not on paper in my hand.

Plus, there seems to be a verb or two missing in the statement. Or maybe the writer envisions that like a clock’s cogs I wind trashed paper counterclockwise in my trashcan. Or possibly I pass wind on letters in my trashcan.

What an actor writes—and how—presents a perceived value by the reader on the actor’s acting skills. The actor mistakenly continues…

“I would like to tell you unlike most of the stars, I have taken this career seriously. I have converted this profession into my work ethic.”

Next.

 

5. Incorrect Capitalization

From an actor’s email to casting:

“Being a Film Actor who has been an Actor for many years I know your office to be the best Casting Office with many Casting Directors who work on Stage and Screen Projects. My Acting Training is extensive at many Performing Arts Schools…”

If you cannot detect the 15 capitalization errors in the prior sentences, get thee to an unpretentious ghostwriter to write your correspondence.

 

6. Attaching (multiple) Headshots, Resume(s), or Reel(s)

An actor’s resume is to be placed within the body of an email (See here).

Attachments slow the incoming email program of your target, which in turn doesn’t endear the actor to the entertainment professional.

Attachments also signal to email providers that an incoming email with a single or multiple attachments is potentially SPAM.

Attachments are also suspect. A large percentage of people using email will not open attachments from an unknown sender.

Include, along with your formatted resume in the email body, a thumbnail of one headshot. Also include a link to your website.

 

7. Using Vocabulary that Doesn’t Match Your Speaking Voice

8. Using lots of Vocabulary to Say Nothing of Substance

9. Not Having a Proof Reader

10. Telling the Reader You’re Serious About being an Actor

In the following excerpt of an actor’s email all blunders, 7-10, happen simultaneously:

“I would appreciate if you see my resume wherein I have mentioned my experience and knowledge. If your watched my reel you can see how seriously I have taken this profession.”

For a guide on how to write effective actor marketing emails, and cover letters get the best-selling acting book that the casting director for HAMILTON calls, “the actor’s roadmap!” Read ACTING: Make It Your Business.

And… take control of your career in the acting master class that I teach at dozens of universities across the U.S. A 4-week intensive covering actor marketing, audition technique improvement, finding your brand/voice, and how to take control of an audition, and gain more work. 3 industry executives join me in guiding your work. Details @ http://paulrussell.net/AMIYB_MasterClass.html

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 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.

Casting Directors, Talent Agents, Directors & Actors

Love Paul Russell’s Best-Selling Book for Actors
ACTING: Make It Your Business!

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
(Hamilton, The Intern, NBC’s The Wiz – LIVE!, Into The Woods – The Movie, Wicked)
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!”
KEN MELAMED, Talent Agency Partner
Bret Adams, Ltd.
“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!
Dr. NINA LeNOIR,
Dept. Chair – Dept. of Thtr.
Chapman University

Get smarter on the business of acting from legendary Hollywood & Broadway actors and talent agents in a casting director Paul Russell’s Best-Selling Book ACTING:AMIYB_Amazon Make It Your Bu

Black-market Breakdown Theft Catches Actors

Sellers and conduits of black-market breakdowns and their customers—actors—infringing on Breakdown Services’ subscription copy write are being found, prosecuted, and fined. An actor need not participate with dollars in the subversive selling/buying of breakdowns to be caught in an attorney’s cross-hairs.

black market breakdowns

black market breakdowns

Paul Russell_Headshot

Paul Russell
PaulRussell.net

black market breakdowns

Sellers and conduits of black-market breakdowns and their customers—actors—infringing on Breakdown Services’ subscription copy write are being found, prosecuted, and fined. The dark shadows of online black-market breakdowns for casting of major studio films, network television, Broadway and prominent regional theater digitally dots a trail to the sellers who profit on the desperation of actors. A digital marker is also placed on the hopeful actors illicitly paying for casting breakdowns that only franchised talent agents and Breakdown Services vetted managers receive.

The trail begins simply. Actors receive an email from a supposed seller or conduit:

“Hello bd friends,

“Big apologies if you’re receiving this message more than once! It’s AVP Wilson (also known as Music Staff or XBD Henry), back once more with some very good news about the bd’s. The supplier I told you about a while ago has now cut their charge in half…

“So, as before, if you’re interested, just send an e-mail to “********** [at] ******* [dot] com” and ask about the “recipes,” and please tell them AVP sent you. They are very security-conscious, so please do not use words like “bd,” or what that stands for, or “casting” or “actor” or anything like that. Just use the word “recipes” and they’ll know what you’re looking for.

“Feel free to pass this on to friends, but please, only people you know are trustworthy and serious about their acting careers! If you do pass this on to anyone, I’d prefer that you not forward this message, but put the essential info (e-mail, recipes, avp etc) in your own separate message.

“Thanks, have a wonderful spring, and break a leg! AVP”

Sent from several email addresses the connector, which in this case may also be the seller, sent a blast email previously this year to actors announcing:

“… as some of you may recall, someone “outed” me in early 2014 and I got into big trouble. So I’m staying out of the game. However, since a number of you have asked where you might find another “source,” there is one I can recommend…”

How was AVP and the management company caught leading to legal action taken against them? These emails are also sent to Breakdown Services, which then forwards them onto the IT department, and then legal counsel.

Email isn’t anonymous. Email leaves a digital trail between sender and recipient. The latter tracing should strike grave concern to the hopes of actors who buy black-market breakdowns. If an actor is traipsing in black-market breakdowns more than likely that actor’s identity is known to investigation, as is known the identity of sellers and intermediaries. To be identified an actor need not participate with dollars in the subversive selling/buying of breakdowns. Receiving the emails alone from black-market breakdown parasites leaves a digital trail crawling to the actor’s inbox and identity.

Big brother Breakdown Services is watching. Or, is big brother’s ‘watching’ an in-house drawing in of actors with the prior email pitch for actors to buy black-market breakdowns? The actor won’t know. But when an attorney for Breakdowns Services reaches out to the actor, the actor will know they’ve been caught. In this business of ‘show’ will the actor then be smiling when they are low?

PaulRussell.net

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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 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.

Casting Directors, Talent Agents, Directors & Actors

Love Paul Russell’s Best-Selling Book for Actors
ACTING: Make It Your Business!

 

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
(Hamilton, The Intern, NBC’s The Wiz – LIVE!, Into The Woods – The Movie, Wicked)

 

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!”
KEN MELAMED, Talent Agency Partner
Bret Adams, Ltd.
“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!
Dr. NINA LeNOIR,
Dept. Chair – Dept. of Thtr.
Chapman University

 

Get smarter on the business of acting from legendary Hollywood & Broadway actors and talent agents in a casting director Paul Russell’s Best-Selling Book ACTING:AMIYB_Amazon Make It Your Business!

Pay-to-play Auditions / Workshops: Who’s to Blame?

In the early 1990s an actress spotted an opportunity to exploit the industry guest portion of workshops without the educational value, and wham!: the first ‘pay-to-play’ studio was formed. [Read more…]

Couch_Money

Paul Russell
PaulRussell.net

pay to play workshops / auditions

 

[Author’s Note: Pay-to-play workshops. With the recent report of casting director, Scott David, for ‘Criminal Minds’ being fired by CBS because of a conflict of interest with providing workshops to actors; an update from a prior Answers for Actors post on how the entertainment industry became entrenched in this scenario.]

An acting studio advertises: “Get seen by Agents and Casting!” In reaction do you as an actor picket as a dissenter? Or participate as a presenter? Are you an artist above self-advocacy? Or an actor trudging the self-promotion trenches? Whatever your action or inaction the bedrock has been set.

The sediment first formed as showcases at acting studios. Actors learned acting skills under the advisement of iconic acting teachers. At the end of the class semester, be it six months or a week, an agent or casting director was invited to view the progress of the actors.

In the early 1990s an actress spotted an opportunity to exploit the industry guest portion of workshops without the educational value, and wham!: the first ‘pay-to-play’ studio was formed.

A valuable asset of the class—an outside industry-insider’s eyes—was quickly bastardized by mom-n-pop one-night forums as the success of the first pay-to-play studio succeeded tremendously. Hosts set up shop in cheap real estate. They wrangle agents and casting directors to watch actors—no class for improvement—actors are herded as cattle, and shoved through a door to read before industry for either the modest price of a movie date night or an extortion of a month’s wages.

The pay-to-play ‘paid audition’ created discourse among actors, and worse blemished what respected acting studios had been for decades offering as a fringe-benefit: industry eyes. The  acting studios witnessed precipitous declines in enrollment. What to do? Include alongside of the traditional classes a one-nighter pay-to-be-seen by industry.

The paid audition scenario for actors to be seen and heard by industry flourished quickly like fro-yo stands. The market demanded more opportunities. The market being actors vying for visibility alternatives, and frustrated by a lack of career momentum.

In 2009, after having been offered to teach at NYU-Tisch, I thought I’d share with non-student actors my decades of knowledge culled as an actor, director, and casting director. I always wished to teach, why not offer publicly what I myself learned? I offered modern marketing make-overs, plus branding combined with audition technique study as a four-week class. Just actors and I working on how to improve actors getting more work for before, during, and after the audition.

Slight problem arose before my rose-spectacle intentions. I couldn’t sell the damned class at a price point of $94. Despite my being invited to university theater programs to teach the master class version of this offering plus my career history and authoring a popular book on acting I couldn’t sway actors towards my offer of assistance. I panicked. I lowered the registration fee cost further. The response? Frozen tundra.

After much hand wringing I added an agent panel. Sudden thaw! Actors rushed me. Wait lists formed and grew. I was ashamed, and somewhat disheartened. But I want to share what I’ve witnessed working well by successful actors. My shame vanished upon witnessing attending actors succeeding.

(Shame though on the agent at Gersh who informed she had a ‘quote.’ A fee much higher than what is standard. She’s not attending these seminars for the actors. She’s there for the money. I retracted my invite.)

I’m not naïve as to what some of my students seek in the seminar. I can’t fault their ambition for an opportunity to snag an agent’s attention because that’s partly what I’m teaching actors to do: how to effectively agent themselves to agents and casting. I repeatedly stress to the attending actors not to focus on the agent panel but to leverage knowledge gained during our time together. I ask at the beginning of each Access to Agents, “What other than the obvious do you hope to gain from this class?” I seek truthful responses. One once was overtly honest, “I want limousines,” he said.

Too often a percentage of actors complain about agents and casting directors receiving a professional stipend to attend non-instructive seminars. This mostly stems from a, “I didn’t get what I paid for” knee-jerk response. Meaning the self-denial actresses and actors, who willingly registered for what was basically a wham-bam-thank-you ma’am audition, expected their thirty-five to forty bucks pooled to a paid auditor would sway subjectivity. Now who’s sporting rose-colored Oakleys?

Each actor must assess realistically what their participation in a seminar attended by entertainment industry will do for their career. Is the offering educational with a focus on improving the actor’s career long-term? Or is the opportunity an education-free evening where the actor hops onto a conveyor belt of actors with a short-term gamble they’ll be picked, processed and packaged prettily?

There is no ‘blame’ to be assigned here. How can we fault our peers their desire to improve their position when our self-identified definition of success may mirror theirs? I could offer my master classes sans industry. I tried once, twice, and even thrice. Crickets. Actors desired agents and casting directors. Before pointing fingers at casting directors and agents for being paid for their professional time, ask yourself: “Who’s paying?”

My best,
Paul

PaulRussell.net

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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 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.

Casting Directors, Talent Agents, Directors & Actors

Love Paul Russell’s Best-Selling Book for Actors
ACTING: Make It Your Business!

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
(Hamilton, The Intern, NBC’s The Wiz – LIVE!, Into The Woods – The Movie, Wicked)

 

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!”
KEN MELAMED, Talent Agency Partner
Bret Adams, Ltd.

 

“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!
Dr. NINA LeNOIR,
Dept. Chair – Dept. of Thtr.
Chapman University

 

Get smarter on the business of acting from legendary Hollywood & Broadway actors and talent agents in a casting director Paul Russell’s Best-Selling Book ACTING:AMIYB_Amazon Make It Your Business!

#StopTwitterCasting | Auditions, Actors & Social Media

Actors desperate for work and attention are complicit in becoming social media whores at the whims of their pimps: casting directors, directors, and producers.

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Paul Russell_HeadshotPaul Russell
PaulRussell.net

.
.There’s a malicious trend of false popularity trumping talent killing the art of acting. And actors desperate for auditions, work and attention are complicit in becoming social media whores at the whims of their pimps: casting directors, directors, and producers. Want an audition? Casting now requires on a growing number of projects that an actor, not a celeb, but a journeyman actor have a large social media following. At a prominent New England regional theater the casting of a dance track during call-backs had two viable candidates. The producers went with the female dancer who had the larger social media following.

For the Millennial actor this whoring social media followers to get an audition or to be cast in a project may seem routine. Let’s turn the clock back 20 years…

Before present day social media, and ‘followers’, and ‘friends’ you’ve never met but to whom you reveal the most intimate aspects of your private life publicly; before the narcissistic swamps which are not receding any time soon, the casting of journeyman actors was based on talent. Not an actor’s Twitter, Instagram, and/or Facebook following. Celebs? Sure, there was always a ‘box-office’ or ‘Q’ consideration. But now in the age of “look-at-me” diarrhea indulgence producers, directors, and writers are asking of no-name journeyman actors to have a set minimum of social media followers before the actor submit themselves for an audition. Have a paltry 50 to 200 social media followers the response is, “Don’t bother submitting. You’re not worthy.” Have over 100K, 500K or more followers then, “Yes! Let’s see that actor! Never mind the talent. If we hire 10 actors with each of them having a social media following of 200K per actor, that’s 2 million eyes on our project!”

A major flaw with that sweat-shop thinking. Followers does not equal commerce. If it did then my 60K followers across various platforms should have all bought my acting book, letting me enjoy the luxury of not having to constantly plug the pulp puppy. The percentage of sales for my acting book—hailed by industry, actors, and universities as a must-read—compared to my following is not equal.

Actors are encouraged to “buy” followers. Problem: all followers are not necessarily what is sought as a demographic. Through no choice of mine I have followers I never sought or want: hardware stores, plumbing companies, convenience stores, and many other non-arts related followers.

And while the employers of talent believe hiring actors with large followings will get the project more eye-time online that will only occur if their actors pay the social media platforms to bring eyes on the actor’s Tweets and updates.

This trend of followers over talent isn’t artful. We’re compromising the integrity of creating by buying into the false reality of reality entertainment. I dread the day I see on an actor’s resume placed in the Special Skills section, or worse as a credit, the number of social network followers the actor has.

Sir Laurence Olivier had talent: not a Twitter following.

#StopTwitterCasting

My best,
Paul

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Paul Russell’s career as a casting director, director, acting teacher and former actor has spanned over 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, Elon and Wright State University. He is the author of ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistakes and Achieve Success as a Working Actor. For more information visit www.PaulRussell.net.

Casting Directors, Talent Agents, Directors & Actors

Love Paul Russell’s Best-Selling Book for Actors
ACTING: Make It Your Business!

“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!”
KEN MELAMED, Talent Agency Partner
Bret Adams, Ltd.
“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!
Dr. NINA LeNOIR,
Dept. Chair – Dept. of Thtr.
Chapman University

Get smarter on the business of acting from legendary Hollywood & Broadway actors and talent agents in a casting director Paul Russell’s Best-Selling Book ACTING:AMIYB_Amazon Make It Your Business!

Should Actors Send Thank You Cards To Agents, Casting Directors & Directors After an Audition?

A well-known acting teacher is advising actors to ‘bribe’.

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A well-known acting teacher is advising actors to ‘bribe.’ A $10 to $15 gift-card as a “Thank You for Seeing Me” must be sent by every actor to each director, casting director, and talent representative after that actor has been granted an audition opportunity by the entertainment industry gate-keepers.

I received a distressing e-mail from the mother of an actress who was terribly led astray by the Fagen-esque acting teacher:

“Mr. Russell,

I just finished reading your book ACTING: Make it Your Business… You had suggested that thank yous should always be sent after auditions.

My daughter has been taking one-on-one acting lessons with a teacher in NY. He suggested that when we go to auditions, or to those paid sessions where we are seen by agents/casting directors, we send thank you comp cards with a short note from her, as well as a Starbucks gift card ($10-15).

1) Do you think this is appropriate? I am not sure how this ‘gift’ might be interpreted.

2) How far out can we wait to send them? Is 3-4 weeks reasonable?

Thank you for your help. B.”

My dismay dictated a response:

“Hello B.,

Handwritten thank you cards via Hallmark or Papyrus stationary are always welcomed (and in this digital revolution…rare); especially if the handwritten note includes a personal message relating to the audition/auditor thanking the professional for advice/response or an action you and your daughter deeply appreciated. A thank you card is  most effective when sent within twenty-four hours of the audition/meeting while the just-passed moment remains relevant to both the sender and receiver.

As to the Starbucks gift card…the teacher who suggested such may be imposing his desire for getting his daily caffeine intake gratis via actors.

Gifts of appreciation accompanying a handwritten missive are only warranted when the situation calls for such as when a director, casting director and/or agent assists an actor booking a job, or the employment provider went above and beyond the normal bounds of duty.

When ‘gifts’ are given by actors to auditors for the auditors just being corporeal in the room no bribe is going to move a true professional to recognize an actor more.  And ‘bribe’ is how an unwarranted thank you gift is viewed by my above-board colleagues. You may want to question what other advice the gratis-coffee-seeking-misguiding of our trade has inappropriately directed.”

Thank You Note Tips:

how to be an actor

  • A handwritten thank you is most effective when personalized with an anecdotal reference
    how to be an actor
  • Send a thank you for the occasion(s) in which you and the person(s) met had a sincere connection professionally and/or personally that you truly cherished or was of great benefit to you
    how to be an actor
  • Avoid the costly and time wasting thank yous after each open call and/or EPA attended in which there was no engagement beyond the requisite professional courtesy between yourself and the personnel behind the table. Open call thanks yous are best to be sent when the audition conversation led to a call-back and/or a one-on-one exchange that changed your professional and/or life outlook
    how to be an actor
  • If a gift is included the thought behind the accompanying gift should be heartfelt and not viewed as a tax deduction to be later labeled in April as ‘business expense.’
    how to be an actor

As agents, plus Hollywood & Broadway actors advise in ACTING: Make It Your Business, handwritten thank you cards are always welcomed when the thought behind the sender’s intent is of sincere gratitude, and not a marketing ploy. Bring heart and pen to a desk the next time you wish to say, “Thank you.”

My best,
Paul

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Casting Directors, Talent Agents, Directors & Actors

Love Paul Russell’s Best-Selling Book for Actors
ACTING: Make It Your Business!

“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
(The InternHamiltonNBC’s The Wiz – LIVE!, Wicked)
“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!”
KEN MELAMED, Talent Agency Partner
Bret Adams, Ltd.
“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!
Dr. NINA LeNOIR,
Dept. Chair – Dept. of Thtr.
Chapman University

Get smarter on the business of acting from legendary Hollywood & Broadway actors and talent agents in a casting director Paul Russell’s Best-Selling Book ACTING:AMIYB_Amazon Make It Your Business!

Paul Russell’s career as a casting director, director, acting teacher and former actor has spanned over 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.

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Talent Agent Charges Clients Additional Fee as Part of Representation

Representing NYC-based actors a talent agent, based in the Philadelphia area, apparently charges clients a fee as part of representation. The three-figure fee stated by the agent is “a necessity.”

money_gremilin

Representing NYC-based actors a talent agent, based in the Philadelphia area, apparently charges clients a fee as part of representation. The three-figure fee is stated by the agent as “a necessity.” Required so that the actor be included on the agent’s website. A website that until recently highlighted a link to an article in which the agent purports that she has been visited by the Blessed Mother thrice. The home page of the agency’s website also includes strongly worded admonishments to clients on professional behavior.

For years the Philadelphia agent’s practice has been reported by actors and recently corroborated in an mail exchange obtained by Answers for Actors between a client and the agent:

email1

email2

The agent is a SAG-AFTRA franchised agent. In the SCREEN ACTORS GUILD CODIFIED AGENCY REGULATIONS between agents and the actor union to represent SAG-AFTRA members the fee seems to violate the agreement. Under Section VIII Disciplinary Provisions, Sub-section C the following is stated:

“The following offenses are those for which an agent or a sub-agent may either be fined or in the discretion of the arbitration tribunal for which the franchise of an agent or sub-agent may be suspended, revoked, or conditionally franchised:

(2) Charging or contracting to charge in excess of ten percent (10%) for his services under an agency contract, directly or indirectly, and whether as commissions, fees or other charges for performing any other services for an actor whether as attorney, business manager, personal manager, publicity agent or otherwise…

Inclusion of an actor’s picture and resume for a fee on an agency’s website could be considered a form a publicity.

In the agreement an “agent may not receive for agency services in the motion picture industry from an actor a higher rate of commission than ten percent (10%), directly or indirectly, or by way of gratuity or otherwise.” The clause goes on further to state:

  1. Notwithstanding anything in the Regulations, Basic Contract or any agency contract, no member shall ever pay more than ten percent (10%) commission for agency services in the motion picture industry…”

If a new client of an agency hasn’t booked work via that agency then the $150 fee seems to far exceed 10% of the actor’s zero income.

Answers for Actors contacted a representative from SAG-AFTRA’s franchise office. The representative was asked if a franchised agent can charge actors $150 to be placed on an agency’s website. Madelyn Sosa, Information Management Coordinator for SAG-AFTRA responded: “It depends in which location the agencies are located in. In Los Angeles our agencies are not allowed to charge a fee.”

In response to Ms. Sosa, Answers for Actors followed-up October 27,  2015 asking if a Philadelphia agency representing NYC-based actors and charging a fee for inclusion on the agency’s website as a requirement violated SCREEN ACTORS GUILD CODIFIED AGENCY REGULATIONS. The inquiry remains unanswered.

Actors have reported that the Philadelphia SAG-AFTRA office sent an email in 2014 to members and agents stating:

“The SAG-AFTRA Philadelphia Board of Directors has voted to terminate the website waiver that permitted franchised agents in the Philadelphia Local to charge a yearly fee to performers for including photos/resumes on their website. All Philadelphia agents have been advised that this termination will go into effect on June 1, 2014.

Therefore, as of June 1, 2014 franchised agents may no longer charge members (or non-members) a fee for posting or maintaining pictures or resumes on any website for work in areas where SAG-AFTRA has exercised jurisdiction. “

Long-standing rule of practice for union franchised agents is that an agent may only collect 10% commission on commission-rated payments from producing entities to actors: no other fee charged by an agent is permitted.

A represented actor included on an agency’s website is virtually unheard of. Most casting directors do not visit agency websites for casting as most agency websites don’t wish to publicly announce their client lists. The majority of submissions by agents of their clients to casting for stage and screen projects occurs predominantly via Breakdown Services. The actor’s picture and resume is placed on an online platform provided to agents for a subscription payable to Breakdown Services. If an agency is charging their clients an online fee is it not too implausible that the fee subsidizes the agency’s subscription to Breakdown Services?

My best,
Paul

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.

Share this:

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!”
KEN MELAMED, Talent Agency Partner
Bret Adams, Ltd.
“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!
Dr. NINA LeNOIR,
Dept. Chair – Dept. of Thtr.
Chapman University

Get smarter on the business of acting from legendary Hollywood & Broadway actors and talent agents in a casting director Paul Russell’s Best-Selling Book ACTING:
Make It Your Business
!

Master Classes with Paul Russell
A Casting Director’s Best-Selling Book for Actors

ACTING: Make It Your Business