Do Actors Need a Business Card? | Answers for Actors

This week: Getting Acting Job Opportunities via an Actor’s Business Card…

One Christmas I and my partner (the talent agency owner) were on a plane heading to my parent’s Florida home. Because of booking the flight at last minute I was sitting next to a jock-type who was watching football on the Jet Blue in-flight TV while my partner was sitting one row behind watching, as is his custom, The Girls Next Door (Oh good God… he’ll never be CNN material).

When we got off the flight my other half and I began speaking about a work issue at his agency as we walked through the quiet, yet swank, Sarasota terminal. While at the rental car desk, behind us came a voice.

“Excuse me; I heard you were an agent?” There’s no escape even in Death’s sunny waiting room.

We turned ‘round and it was the football-watching, jock-type who I had been sitting next to for the past two hours. He was a New York based actor visiting his snowbird Sarasota parents as well.

He ignored me, not knowing what I do for cha-ching, and focused on my other half. He was polite, introduced his smiling folks… to my partner. Again, I was ignored. Which is O.K. I’m basically shy (yes, believe it) and love my anonymity. But I’m also a bit of a devil and love to play with human behavior. So after he presented to my partner his business card with his picture and turned to leave I couldn’t help but be mischievous and casually mentioned, “You know you were sitting for the last thousand miles next to a director and casting director.” Ping! I suddenly gained his attention, a parental introduction and of course deemed worthy of his business card.

Opportunist? Yes. Wrong? Yes and no.

This actor knew that here was an opportunity to introduce himself to gate keepers (agents and casting directors are nothing more than glorified employment agencies and human resources). He was right to begin a conversation. Where did he go wrong?

He would have been smarter had he had his picture and resume with him. A business card with a picture may work for funeral directors and car salesman (you always want a trust-worthy face handling your car and dead) but it has little relevance to agents, directors, casting directors, producers, and writers, anyone who provides work opportunities. It doesn’t help us getting to know the actor as an actor.

I’m surprised how many actors do not carry with them, at all times, some form of their picture and resume. That’s your business card! You never know who the hell you’ll run into and where. Just this past week I was walking in my suburbia neighborhood on my way to Whole Foods for my morning muffin and yogurt when someone called out “Paul Russell!” It was an actor who had read my book. He went to offer me his contact info but came up empty. Now you may argue, “Well Paul, I can get the person’s contact info and e-mail or I can hard copy them my resume.” Good luck in getting a personal e-mail. Double the good luck chances that the e-mail will be opened or that you’ll be recalled.

Now caution note here about running into someone who can help advance your work goals: Talent reps., directors, writers, producers, choreographers, stage managers are the same as you when on the street or at a Starbucks. We’re people. People, possibly like you, who enjoy privacy and anonymity. If you get into a conversation with an industry person who you think can help you in the future in obtaining work, be extremely tactful, polite and respectful of space. And treat us not as objects of use to you but as someone to get to know as a person. Don’t forget that we’re all people, not opportunities. That is so often forgotten. And when we’re treated as a doormat, it’s a big turn-off. I know talent reps who have been accosted by actors as the agents were shopping for underwear, getting their Sunday morning coffee, or sweating in a sauna.

If the person you run into asks for your picture and resume, of course give it to them. Don’t ambush. That happened to Alan Alda once in a hospital by a nurse who believed herself to be an actress. It pissed off Mr. Alda so much that he used the occurrence for fodder in a later movie. On my book tour I encountered, in each city, actors who could be runner-ups to Mr. Alda’s nurse-actress. I’d give the free, one-hour seminar on the business and then sign books that attendees generously purchased. People would wait in line for their turn to speak with me and have their copies of my book signed. And without fail, in each city, there were several actors who would wait in line without a book, come to the table hand me their picture and resume then ask me to keep them in mind for future casting. Excuse me?

What is most important in the message here is this: Try at all times to keep a picture a resume on you. One that is up-to-date, the picture and resume are stapled together and clean in appearance. Have it in some form; full or reduced to an over-sized postcard easier for constant carry. You may not run into an industry person on the street but there will be many times when you’re needed to be at an audition with very little notice. Sometimes only an hour’s notice. This happens often with film and TV casting.

I teach. Students at NYU, privately and as a visiting guest to campuses across the country. In every situation one of the first things I ask (including my weekly NYU students) is, “Who here has their picture and resume, stapled together, ready to hand to me or anyone in the industry you meet on the street who can get you work?” I’m lucky if one hand goes up. And forget about the stapled together request… that would be asking far too much.

Not having your business card (i.e. an updated picture and resume) with you as often as possible means that you are losing out on opportunities for future employment. It’s your career. Your opportunities for work lost or won.

My Best,
Paul

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!”
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Paul’s book tells you what you don’t want to hear but really need to know
EVERY actor should read this book!”
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“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!

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

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ACTING: Make It Your Business

Mistake Actors Make on Their Resume

According to a too large percentage of actors I encounter you can’t act.

Paul Russell
Photo Credit: JackMenashe.com

You can’t act…

…possibly according to your résumé, and too many of your actor-acquaintances. You’ll never be a good enough actor to play a lawyer. Nurse. Doctor. Cop. Politician. Any profession beyond that of an actor.

An epidemic of your peers foolishly believe that if an actor doesn’t possess a degree for a particular, non-acting profession or own a police uniform, nurse’s scrubs, or lab coat, they won’t be considered by casting for an audition and/or job to play a principal role reflecting the occupation of study and/or dress.

You may scoff. Trade casting chairs with me. Discover in the following exchange (based on a true conversation) where this poison festers—delusional, novice actors I and my casting colleagues encounter:

 “Why do you have on your acting résumé your graphic design degree?”

“Because,” the actor defensively began, “it’ll snag me a role playing a graphic designer.”

“I guess Mandy Patinkin playing artist Georges Seurat was miscasting. Mandy went to Julliard for acting, not painting.” Before the jawing actor responds I continue, “So you profess a director will consider your unrelated degree over acting as the trump card, and not cast a superior actor without the graphic’s degree.”

The actor’s cheeks bloomed red. “No, it’ll help me get a better shot at the role.”

“If I follow your failed logic, then I should be auditioning graphic designers, not actors. You believe that what you can fiddle with fonts and squiggles is more important than story-telling.”

The actor then tossed back, “It’s gotten me work. I did a gig with Travel Trunk Players.”

“That’s non-union, touring, childrens theater.” I then review the actor’s résumé for the credit; ‘ensemble.’ “I’m sure you’d want to elevate your career beyond non-union kid plays that doesn’t have cash for a staff. Those debt-ridden producers often hire actors to do double duty. Let me guess; you painted the set between rehearsals.”

“And designed the playbill.”

“Three jobs worked for the paltry price of one. Your parents must be proud.”

If you, as an actor, have more faith in costumes, and non-performing arts’ degrees to get you work as an actor than your story-telling skills to believably portray a role, I recommend thus: excise your acting credits (i.e. speaking principals) from your résumé. You believe acting doesn’t matter.

When an actor becomes obstinate about hugging onto irrelevant information on their résumé I further propose, “If you earned a mathematics degree then applied for an accountant position or tax preparer at H&R Block, would you provide your potential civilian employer your acting credits? If so, and I was Human Resources, I’d be suspicious of your honesty. Do you act your accounting proficiency to cover embezzlement schemes? Are digits a side-line? What career do you truly want? You’re confusing your message for desired employment.”

That same confusion of message occurs when an acting resume contains a non-arts related degree. When an actor lists on their acting résumé, non-acting degrees and/or costumes, the offense brings up more questions than answers—How serious is this actor as an actor? How late in life did this actor change careers, and why: Unhappy with life? Has a lack of conviction? Or is acting their fantasy? Why is the actor providing irrelevant information to the craft of acting? And how insecure are they in their craft the actor must muddle their acting resume with non-acting degrees?

If an actor remains deaf to reason, I ask the actor review actors from Kevin Kline to Harrison Ford. Two, of thousands of thespians who portrayed American presidents. Actors who didn’t possess a political science degree on their résumés. Before Robin Williams played Theodore Roosevelt he burst onto American television in the ’70s as Mork from Ork. Where was his B.S. in Earth and Space Exploration making him suitable to play a visiting alien? I wonder what Anthony Hopkins—who played Hannibal Lector—has listed on his résumé under special skills?

I’ve cast many actors as lawyers, medical professionals, law enforcement personnel, politicians, scientists, and writers in principal roles; never did a director demand the actors auditioning hold a degree in the field in which the character worked.

Exceptions? Yes. If a project has in its casting breakdown that the role requires the actor have a history within a civilian profession or skill, and you own that history or skill make the casting personnel aware of your specialty. Projects that hire relying more on non-acting skills for profession skills are commercials, screen extras, and industrials.

Keep your acting resume relevant to acting. And once hired: just act.

My best,
Paul

AMIYB_AmazonGet entertainment industry-standard resume formatting for actors here.

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

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

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