How To Get An Audition and Lose It

Some actors can win, and then lose auditions online as easily as Donald Trump insults via a tweet.

 

Paul Russell
PaulRussell.net

Some actors can win, and then lose auditions online as easily as Donald Trump insults via a tweet.

While casting the AEA national tour of a popular musical, a non-union actor’s submission earned attention from among the slush pile of submissions from non-represented actors. The email rose above the first-class talent representation submissions by agencies and managers.

He began well in his initial email submission:

 

“Hello Paul! I’m reaching out to you about the production of
*****. I have done the show… as the male understudy for all roles…”

 

Great! I thought. Hiring one understudy for all five of the male roles was a challenge. Various musical instruments are required to be played among the characters. If the actor’s audition was spot-on there’s one major puzzle piece solved. Give him an audition ASAP! But…

The actor wasn’t available for a live audition. I requested he place himself on-camera. A deadline was given. The deadline passed. 9 days overdue. No e-audition received. I contacted the actor again with a reminder. I detailed that the producer and creative team were aware of his interest. There was serious interest on our part. The actor replied:

 

“Hey Paul! Thanks for following up. Can I ask you about the understudy position? Are there guaranteed performances?”

 

My response:

 

“Hello Dirk,

The understudies presently under contract are not guaranteed performances. The contract offers paid weeks, per diem, travel, and hotel accommodations. My discussing more than what the contract presents is premature without first having audition material from the actor.”

 

His response?

 

“Hey Paul! Sorry if I have not been forthcoming with the specific tapes. I didn’t want to send it until I was sure I would take the job (if offered). Since there are no promised performances at this time I cannot take an understudy position.”

My initial reaction was, why did you submit for the position?! But, I restrained. I made aware the producer and creative team of the actor passing on the audition, and his reason.

Several days later an additional date was added to the production which precluded a signed principal from performing that added performance. I reached out to the producer to ask if I should inquire of the actor who passed on auditioning because there was no guarantee of a performance but now there was. The producer’s reply? A single sentence:

 

“I’m totally turned off by the email response.”

 

Don’t submit for an audition and then try to negotiate the contract prior to your audition. You’ll lose as did this actor. He lost the producer. He lost the director. He lost the musical director. He lost this casting office. He lost potential work that would have kept him employed for 7 months. Next.

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 taught master classes at dozens of acting programs at universities including Hofstra, 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 on Paul’s projects, visit www.PaulRussell.net.

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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!

 

10 Tips to Being a Happier Actor

How can you be the happier actor? How do actors keep their smile while facing adversity?

happy-actor

Paul Russell_Headshot

Paul Russell – casting director, director, author of ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistakes & Achieve Success as a Working Actors

 

How can you be the happier actor? Possibly the happiest actor on Earth? (Planet domination of joy may be theme park hyperbole.)

If we’re to believe Irving Berlin, show people are deliriously happy—branded so in his jaunty show tune lyric, “There’s no people like show people. They smile when they are low.” Possibly the only show “people” who match Berlin’s optimism are the saccharine animatronics singing at Disney’s Its A Small World.

Actors endure more rejection per week professionally seeking temporary employment than does a civilian job hunting a month for employment that is to be permanent. That’s a lot of lows at which actors are to smile at in return (thank you, Mr. Berlin). Yet, actors push forward. Actors seek coping skills so as not be mired in the debris of rejection. The happier actors climb and rise above the pile of dismissal. Atop the carnage actors look out on to the horizon of “What’s next.” How do actors keep their smile while facing adversity?

 

1. Equalize Auditions:

 

Equal all auditions with the same goal and manner of importance. Stressing more importance of one audition over another places unnecessary stress, worry, and anxiety on the actor.

All auditions offer individual opportunities for actors to play their skills with a spirit of fun. A period of control the actor owns. When placing all auditions on a level playing field the life-long career process of auditioning is no longer intimidating, or a cause for worry. The audition is but a cog in the wheel of effectively pushing forward the machinery of the actor’s industry.

 

2. Plan for After an Audition:

 

Stage and screen star James Rebhorn spoke of his auditions as a, “part of my ordinary day.” He’d plan errands for afterwards so that the audition didn’t dominate the day or his focus. His life dominated the day. His auditions became more relaxed. He was comfortable. Onward he’d go to his next duty for the day.

One Broadway actress volunteers after her auditions to feed the homeless at shelters. Some actors schedule to volunteer, directly after their auditions, to assist at an animal shelter, or to work with children with disabilities.

Plan on productivity for directly after an audition (or series of consecutive auditions) so that you are being further productive.  The happier actor is the actor who gets out of their head after an audition and jumps into life.

 

3. Don’t Advertise Auditions:

 

When actors announce on social media that they, “have a huge audition” later that day, or need “Your prayers and support for a big call-back” the actor is placing undue pressure on themselves. The actor now must live up to their social media audience’s expectations. An unnecessary weight the actor has placed on their own shoulders. Worse the actor is inviting follow-up inquiries. Friends and family asking after the audition, “How did it go? “Did you get the part?” “You’re so right for that role. There’s no way they don’t hire you.” When the audition doesn’t go as well as the actor anticipated the actor is then embarrassingly reduced to answering with disappointment to the follow-ups. The actor may then perceive their work in the audition (or entire career) as a failure.

.

4. An Hour a Day Towards Future Pay:

Maintain a set schedule of one hour per day, five days a week to market your skills as an actor. Give yourself definitive tasks to complete. Maintain a home-office work space and schedule to complete the goals:

  • Update (or create) your website that represents your work.
    .
  • Research online for outreach to potential employers. Don’t just answer present casting notices. Begin reaching out to independent filmmakers, theaters, and advertising agencies (the latter for print and commercial work). Get entertainment employers knowing you BEFORE they need you. You just may save them the cost of future auditions.
    .
  • Need representation? Send land mail inquiries for when seeking representation. Alex Butler, Senior Legit Agent for Henderson/Hogan, advises actors, “My assistant deletes emails. I open all land mail from actors that lands on my desk.
    .
  • Read online entertainment industry trade publication. Be informed as to what is happening, and discover what is about to happen. Plan as to how to be a part of what projects are going to happen before they begin casting. Set goals. Reach out to the creatives. Get to know them, and let them know you.

Responses to your work will be similar as that of marketers who reach out to you: eventual response or no response. There will be immediate responses. There may be responses that come months to a year later, or longer. Give your efforts time. Keep reaching out to contacts already known, while expanding your outreach to new contacts. Dripping water cracks the stone.

 

5. Get Out:

Depression loves loneliness, and abhors company. Depression or sadness breeds and thrives on your keeping to yourself. Get out of your living quarters, and out in to life and the world:

 

  • Take walks
    .
  • Wander free museums
    .
  • Sit in a coffee shop or fast food joint that has free WiFi where you can do your actor marketing and research
    .
  • Call (don’t text) a friend and plan to meet in a park or café. See and hear friends. Let friends see and hear you

 

6. Avoid Social Media:

 

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms are digital Petri dishes that foster and grow your comparison worries. Avoid long periods of sustained exposure to social media. Stop watching for, and comparing to yourself, the achievements of others. Your perception of others’ successes may not be the happy reality you believe they are enjoying. Focus on what you need to do to achieve your goals.

 

7. Learn, Grow, Network:

 

Take a class that truly educates, and expands your skill set as both an actor, and as a business actor. An actor is not only the product but the promoter of the product. The more assets (skills) an actor has the more marketable (employable) is an actor.

While learning you’ll network with actors, and other professionals in the business, who will inform you of opportunities available to you. You may also gain great new friends.
.

 

8. Exercise:

 

Movement forces blood flow which stimulates brain activity. Increased continuous movement also diminishes toxins in the body that cause us to be sluggish and depressed. An exercise routine can be as simple as fast-paced walks for 30 minutes to an hour around your neighborhood. Or solo or group activity at a gym. Move the body and you’ll move ahead emotionally.

 

9. Give Back:

 

Volunteer an hour a week at a charity, and/or volunteer time and efforts at a theater company or an arts related organization. Helping others in need provides you the giver a sense of purpose while distancing you from the worries you may be letting get a grip on your goals. And possibly, while volunteering an arts organization, you may come across someone who needs your skills professionally. Feed your soul by lending a hand to others whose souls need nourishing.

 

10. Intern:

 

I often chide that I was once the oldest casting intern at age 29.  My casting, directing, and teaching career owes much to the foundation of my being that ancient intern. Interning at a casting office, talent agency, or production company brings you closer to knowing professionals as individuals. Entertainment is a people business.

An actor will have opportunity to witness while interning what fellow actors do that gets a positive response from casting and agents. And the actor will eye what mistakes actors make that drives away entertainment professionals.

 

Can You Be a Happier Actor?

Yes. But happiness is relevant to each of our needs and desires. No one’s happiness is the same as that sought by others. Once you define what your goal is for happiness then support and nourish its longevity.

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. He’s directed in New York and regionally. In 2017 Paul will be remounitng his production of MAMMA MIA! for the Barter Theatre. He’ll also direct productions of FOOTLOOSE and Disney’s THE LITTLE MERMAID. Paul has taught the business of acting and audition technique at NYU and teaches master classes at dozens of acting programs at universities including Hofstra, 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 on Paul’s projects, please visit www.PaulRussell.net.

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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!

“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

Paul Russell_Headshot

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

 

 

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.

Presentation1

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!

Audition Successes & Failures: Actor Tell-All from The Casting Table

Greetings fellow artists. I recently had a great opportunity as an active auditioning NYC actor: to sit on the other side of the table. It was a three-day masterclass, and it changed the way I now audition.

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Welcome Guest Blogger, actress Holly Williams who recently jumped to behind the casting table. Oh–what she witnessed. Holly shares insight on how actors can soar with success. Or flame out in failure. Holly is an AEA actress, having recently returned from 5 continuous years of work at the TONY-recognized Barter Theatre.

Holly WilliamsHolly Williams
holly-williams.com

Guest Blogger

Greetings my fellow artists. Currently, I am writing this blog on my phone waiting to sign up for an EPA appointment. I recognize a lot of you. I see you almost every morning at the crack of dawn at AEA, Telsey, Pearl, Nola and/or Ripley. We stand in line together. Crowd around the mirrors and put on our makeup. Or stretch, and make small talk. Or do our best to silently hum vocal warm ups while we wait to snag a slot. 

 

A few weeks ago, I switched places. I had a great opportunity as an active, auditioning NYC actor: to sit on the other side of the casting table. This time I didn’t see you in your cute pajamas, lugging over-sized bags and winter coats. This time I was seeing bright-eyed and bushy tailed actors accomplish a savvy quick change into your audition-ready selves. I observed the notes casting director, and director, Paul Russell would write on your resumes to remember you by, the impression you gave when you walked into the room and when you left. In between auditions, he whispered what was working, what was not and why. I learned about the complications of solving the casting puzzle by listening to the creative team’s comments. It was a three-day masterclass, and it changed the way I now audition.

 

Look like your headshot:  

Like you, I have heard this a hundred times from various well-respected sources. One of those, “Duh- everyone knows that” truths, right? But more often than not, I wouldn’t recognize the person walking into the room based on your photo. Your headshot is the first thing I see. If your picture has a hair color/cut that changes your appearance, looks like you five or ten years ago (be honest with yourself about that) or is a super glamorous shot with makeup and hair fit for the cover of a magazine but not for the you walking into the room right now: I will not remember who you are at the end of the day. When all I have to look at and remember you by is your photo, let it look like you. So much of casting is outside your control. Looking like you headshot is not one of them..

 

Make your resumes easy to read:

I spent more time trying to hunt for information on your resume than I did watching your audition. Go to Paul Russell’s ACTING: MAKE IT YOUR BUSINESS book, turn to page 86 and follow the industry standard. I probably missed a marvelous part of your audition because I was searching for something that I should be able to find at a glance.

[As an aside: I thought my resume was FINE. I showed it to Paul on our break and he made all kinds of edits to it- and this is AFTER taking his class! So, for those of you like me who think, “Oh, this doesn’t apply to me.”….maybe get a second opinion just to be safe. Again, this IS within your control.]

 

Keep your audition material up to date!:

Our artistic producer LOVED asking people for something contrasting. And then he would ask for another piece–and another! I know this is rare. Most of us are used to only having time for one monologue or one 16-32 bar cut, and then leaving. But what surprised me the most was watching you have a panic attack at these requests. Some of you did not have another contrasting piece, or you flipped through your book frantically trying to find something and couldn’t decide, or you walked around in circles trying to remember another monologue you haven’t done in years. And even though I was on the other side of the table, rooting for you to remember your other material because I wanted to see more of your magic, I got nervous for you. Really nervous. So make it a goal to keep your audition material polished and ready to go when unexpectedly requested. This is in your control (see the pattern here?).

 

Be yourself. Have fun:

Okay- this is the thing that clicked the most for me. Now, I’ve taken Paul Russell’s masterclass twice and have taken advantage of his private coaching sessions. With all the notes I’ve taken on the business, marketing and audition strategy…two phrases I wrote down the most: ‘Be yourself’ and ‘Have fun.’

 

Easy, right? “How can I be anything other than myself? I get the chance to act and sing today. That’s always fun! Easy.”  After about the 30th audition witnessed, the phrases ‘Be yourself’ and ‘Have fun’ I had written down over and over again in my notes took on a new meaning. 

 

I realized I wasn’t being myself or having that much fun. Why? Because I would walk into an audition as my guarded self: Don’t speak unless spoken to. Put your professional game face on. Live in the moment once your audition begins. Politely thank them for their time and leave. If they are interested in more they will ask.

 

Do these also sound like your thoughts? They may–because I saw about 350 of you do the same thing. And you know what the result was? I had no idea who you were at the end of the day. 

 

‘Being yourself,’ and ‘having fun’ means allowing your authentic personality, all your wonderful quirks; your natural disposition; your likable and unique individuality to come into the room with you come through in the pieces you’re doing and also through the clothes you choose to wear. This is another way we get a glimpse of who you are in the limited amount of time we have with you in the room.

 

Those of you who found opportunities to let your authenticity come through made me remember you at the end of the day because I got a glimpse of your specific personality and I wanted to know you more and work with you one day. Even if you did not fit our casting puzzle: I remembered you.

 

Paul tried to engage your authenticity when you walked into the room: He greeted you, he would ask questions about you, and compliment your work or attire. But like me, you gave a very short guarded answer, and then ended with “Thank you” and you left the room. It was a missed an opportunity to know you more!  I learned that asking you questions behind the table is to get an idea of who you are and imagine if we might like working with you. Don’t recite your resume to me- it’s right in front of me. Tell me something. A quick story about a unique experience you’ve had or enjoyed, and then let that personality fly!

 

And here’s the best part about being yourself: it’s so freeing. The nuances of your artistic gifts come through more which is a lot of fun!  Your energy changed mine. Watching you enjoy your audition resulted in my own enjoyment and I had fun with you. 

 

So drop that guard, find (appropriate) opportunities to have a quick conversation or a moment to potentially create relationships with someone on the other side of the table by being your authentic self. Because one day, for some project, your gifts, craft, particular attributes, and individualism will be the solution to a casting dilemma. And you will have the advantage of being someone that casting will remember who then say, “Oh, I like this person a lot. I’ve been wanting to work with them.”

 

So be yourself! Have fun!

_____

AMIYB_AmazonBernard Telsey, casting director for HAMILTON, The Intern, and The Wiz – Live! hails of Paul Russell’s book for actors, ACTING: Make It Your Business:

“Actors everywhere trying to succeed…

THIS IS YOUR ROADMAP!”

 Check out 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 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.

When to Join an Actor Union? (AEA, SAG-AFTRA, AGVA)

The debate of ‘going union’ or not, and ‘when’ or ‘if” is a juggernaut of career soul-searching. When is going from a non-union actor to a union actor best?

UnionJoin

When is going from a non-union actor to a union actor best? Each actor has their own journey to one of those favored union cards be it from Actors’ Equity Association, SAG-AFTRA, or AGVA or all three: the triple crown of union status.

Once there was an impatient, young actor hired as a non-union performer by one of my L.O.R.T. clients. The actor strongly believed that if he didn’t get his Actors’ Equity card by age twenty-one his career would be over. When hired he’d hit his self-imposed card deadline but we hired him as a non-union performer (the producer’s budget dictated the necessity of a non-union actor to work alongside AEA actors). During his contract at the AEA theater he was miffed when he wasn’t bumped up from ensemble into an understudy vacancy. He threatened to quit. I intervened. We offered him his AEA card to remain.

While the solution provided immediate gratification for all sides, especially for the actor, it didn’t help him much past the near-term. Being young, developmental (i.e. new to the business), and a physical type that isn’t easily marketable for an actor he didn’t work much (nearly not at all) after receiving his AEA card. He was competing against stronger-skilled, union performers. Had he remained non-union for his early to mid-twenties he more than likely would have worked more often. As a non-union talent he was more valuable and desirable to union houses that hire non-union. Plus, he could work the lucrative market of non-union tours. I know of a good number of actors who played a non-union tour of a Broadway musical, and then were “upgraded” to making their Broadway debut in the NY counterpart of the show. Union card snagged.

For each creative participant in entertainment the ‘when’, ‘why’ and ‘what’ for becoming ‘union’ varies. For some, joining a union is a status symbol. Recognition as being ‘a professional.’ Union membership does not equal professionalism. Anyone working in entertainment has witnessed a portion of union actors, directors, designers, and stage craftspeople who behave worse than the worst tyrannical community theater artist. I was once heartened when sitting on a panel that included a Vice-President from Actors’ Equity Association who had said without reservation, “Being a member of Equity does not mean you’re a professional. That’s a myth.”

Whatever union represents your field of expertise know that the initials that follow your name designating inclusion into the club will not make you better at what you do. Only you can do that; not a union card. A union is for protection not perfection.

Pros & Cons of Becoming Union:

Pros:

–          Basic salary minimums set by each union

–          Health & Pension benefits (if employed a certain amount of weeks per year)

–          Arbitration should there be a dispute between the union member and his employer

–          Elevates professional status (but that doesn’t mean the talent rises as well. There are union actors who are outclassed by non-union talent)

Cons:

–          Less opportunities for work (unions forbid and fine members for accepting work without a union contract attached)

–          More competition (and often of higher caliber)

–          As a union member you cost the producer more to hire as they pay bigger bucks for your larger union salary, and also the producer must pay into your pension & health payments funds. (Producers are looking for ways to stay economically viable in a modern market where audience share is harder to obtain as competition arises from an overload of various entertainment platforms.)

Going union for an actor can not be answered by a blog, agent, casting director or by an actor’s peers. The answer must come from each actor’s circumstances (work history, marketability against other union actors, desire for the abundance of opportunities of non-union gigs vs. sparseness of landing union gigs). Before an actor makes the choice of joining an actors’ union, when the opportunity is offered, the actor needs to query themselves:

Do I (the actor) want to work near continuously (non-union)?  Or do I want to work occasionally with the possibility of better pay, benefits, and possibly better working conditions (union)? As a performer; does my age, skill set and experience equal that of my union peers?

The debate of ‘going union’ or not, and ‘when’ or ‘if” is a juggernaut of career soul-searching. The when, if, and why can only be answered by each actor’s circumstances, desires, and most importantly; needs.

My Best,
Paul
www.PaulRussell.net

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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.