Don’t Call Us. We’ll Call You. (Really) | Answers for Actors

Why do some actors feel that because they are “artistes” they deserve recognition for everything thing they do from bowel movements to sending out job inquiries? A reader sent me the following:

Why do some actors feel that because they are “artistes” they deserve recognition for everything thing they do from bowel movements to sending out job inquiries?

A reader sent me the following:

“Hi Paul,

a month ago i sent my cv & pics & clip scenes to a castingagent [sic] for a movie project in London & asked if there’s still a possibility to do audition- the shooting will start somewhere in fall-i didn’t yet received an answer-yesterday i ‘ve mailed him again to let me know if audition is still possible-no reply- If a castingagent doesn’t reply does this mean that the actor/actress doesn’t match totally & thinks it isn’t worth to let him/her do an audition? Is it better to call him personnaly [sic] & ask him the reason? I am afraid i will come over as a jerk (you know)-Or should i let it this way? A Castingagent is supposed to help advancing an actor & i notice i get stuck (& in my case it’s dubble [sic] hard work to achieve my goal)-feel free to comment- Have a nice day Peter”

My reply:

“Hello Peter,

Thank you for the note.

Having once been an actor myself I understand your frustration. But that must be tempered with reality.

Casting directors are no different than human resources. Just as employers in the civilian world receive hundreds of applications and resumes from job seekers so do casting directors from actors. Not every inquiry can be answered.

When employers receive resumes they respond only to those they feel meet their expectations for the job opening(s). It’s no different in casting. As much as everyone would like to be recognized a response to each individual would be poor time management and counterproductive.

The best answer is an analogy I offer you by asking; do you respond to all ads and marketing you receive either via land or e-mail that doesn’t interest you? Of course not.

Move forward and look to other opportunities.

My Best,
Paul”

That was my polite, I-just-woke-up-and-have-yet-to-munch my morning muffin-happy reply. Here’s the candor.

To those actors out there that think that every inquiry for work or audition by them merits a thumbs-up or down response; get a reality check. It’s not going to happen. If you keep waiting for replies from all you contact you’ll eventually drive yourself mad and be one of those scary people on a subway platform who reek of a sour milk stench and mumble incoherently that Disney — in collaboration with the government — is tracking brain waves.

Recently I encountered another cry for ‘answer me damn it’ within the following Facebook status of an actress:

Seting up interviews with agents next week in New York. Have 2 appointments already…does anyone have an agent they like or that they have heard is good? I don’t want to work with an agent who doesn’t have time to take a phone call, I want someone who can give me advice and who will steer my career in the right direction. NO SNOBS!!!!

“NO SNOBS!!!” ? Honey you’re the snob of reality for not understanding how life works.

I wonder how many times this actress receives telemarketing calls from strangers and gets cozy will the uninvited intruder selling their wares? Actors cold calling agents is no different than a telemarketer calling you. Just as your life and/or work is being interrupted so too are agents who are trying to serve their clients being pulled at by interloping, uninvited actors calling on the phone.

In my diversified work as a casting director, director, teacher and writer I send out multitudes of inquiries for employ. Is it realistic for me to expect a response from each individual? Do I really want hundreds upon hundreds of ‘thanks but no thanks’ responses from producers, university theater department chairs and/or publishers? Would you? How fucking depressing. Why ask for the rejection to be voiced? Why are some actors masochists and demand to hear a reply – even if it’s a ‘no’ — from whomever they contact for a job? Is it because they enjoy wallowing in woe? Or is it because their labors are creative and the muse-afflicted believe themselves elevated above all others on our humble spinning rock in space?

The tired but worn phrase “Don’t call us. We’ll call you.” is not a suggestion. It’s reality. An instructive that is telling you (and Sondheim appreciators) to move on…

To the actors who expect a nod and bow to every resume they submit for potential employ:

– Stop focusing on a single submission. Look to other opportunities.

– Stop bitching, blaming and bemoaning that you’re not hearing back from people who hire. Look at what you have on paper to offer; could it be improved? If all is well with the resume, cover letter and headshot then pursue others with a first approach.

– Stop thinking that because some God or deity has sparked your soul to be an actor this makes you ‘special’ above all others on this planet. You’re not. You’re an individual among many, all of whom are also asking to be heard. Everyone can not answer everyone. (If you come up with a telepathic invention to make this happen universally; I’m outta here.)

Keep marketing yourself. Go after new opportunities. Take classes to improve your abilities. And please, stop waiting for responses. You’re wasting valuable time getting mired in melancholy while others are moving past you as they focus on what’s next.

Move on.

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My Best,
Paul

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Paul Russell’s career as a casting director, director, acting teacher and former actor has spanned nearly thirty years. He has worked on projects for major film studios, television networks, and Broadway. Paul has taught the business of acting and audition technique at NYU and has spoken at universities including Yale, Temple and the University of the Arts. He writes a column for Back Stage and is the author of ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistakes and Achieve Success as a Working Actor. For more information, please visit www.PaulRussell.net.

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How to gain Acting Success like Edie Falco | Answers for Actors

My partner, the agency owner, represented an actress who for fourteen years was known as ‘the downtown girl’. What’s that descriptive translate to? It meant that for more than a decade she did non-paying showcases, off-off Broadway plays in hovels and other venues while working multiple civilian jobs including waitress. Then mid-way into her second decade…

Paul Russell
Photo Credit: JackMenashe.com

In a recent Access to Agents class two students complained that they’d been in the business for “too long” without results. The first whiner’s tour of duty? Two years. My inner Harvey Fierstein voice graveled, “Oh, honey you’re barely an embryo.” The second impatient “Why-has-nothing-happened-for-me-yet?” actor bemoaned that she was in the business “three months” and that jobs had yet to materialize.

Oh, sweetie…you ain’t even swimming yet in entertainment’s coin purse.

For anyone who enters our highly competitive, crowded-as-a-C Train-at-5 PM-business thinking, “Oh…I’ll just give this a year or two and if nothing happens I’ll move on” do yourself and your serious minded peers squeezed about you a generous favor…move on…now. Ain’t much gonna happen in a year or two. Even cow intestine slurping, reality show contestants who glut our screens now find that that former shot-put placement to celebrity lands with a short slung thud.

And if it’s celebrity you’re seeking…oooh baby…you’ve got a long Disney E-Ticket attraction line of waiting. No Fast Pass lanes for anyone. And if you get to the front of that line, the ride may be broken beyond repair.

My partner, the agency owner, represented a now famous actress who for fourteen years was known as ‘a downtown actress:’ i.e. for more than a decade she performed in many little-to-no pay showcases and off-off Broadway plays in downtown Manhattan hovels while working multiple civilian jobs including waitress. Mid-way into her second acting decade a contact she made by networking downtown asked her for her favor to participate in a table reading of his new play. Neither the actress nor the playwright was widely known beyond the borders of New York’s entertainment industry. The play was eventually given a production downtown at a well-known theater’s village venue. The play and cast became a ‘must-see.’ Cast, crew and set were trundled to the theater company’s then uptown Times Square house. Greater success and exposure ensued. Nearly overnight many New Yorkers and visiting tourists became aware of the artists who had been toiling diligently—enduring many Ramen noodle nights—during their career for a period most civilians would consider, “Too long for too little return.”

But even during the play’s uptown hyperactive marquee exposure many civilians from Hollywood to Hell’s Kitchen, and a portion of the entertainment industry didn’t know the names of playwright Warren Leight and actress Edie Falco of Roundabout’s premiere of Side Man.  Now you do. How did Edie Falco become a name actors and civilians associate with success?

HBO executives took notice of Ms. Falco in Side Man and cast her in The Sopranos which led to her subsequent self-sustaining acting career. That success built on a foundation of Ms. Falco’s talent, patience, dedication, more patience, plus a Hudson River-sized channeling of luck via people championing her while she labored as a downtown actress for fourteen years.

Blog_AMIYB_BookCover_SideBarThe pace to a self-sustaining acting career varies. More often than not the journey for actors being able to ‘do what they love’ and nothing else without financial worry is a curving pot-holed course of great distance traveled until smooth straightway is rode.

Time. Give it generously to yourself. Embrace the journey—ruts and rolls included.

Patience. Determination. More patience. A dash more of determination. That’s how success is achieved: however you define your success.

It’s the persistent drip that cracks the stone.

My Best,
Paul

Paul Russell’s career as a casting director, director, acting teacher and former actor has spanned nearly thirty years. He has worked on projects for major film studios, television networks, and Broadway. Paul has taught the business of acting and audition technique at NYU and has spoken at universities including Yale, Temple and the University of the Arts. He is the author of ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistakes and Achieve Success as a Working Actor. For more information, please visit www.PaulRussell.net.

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Savvy & Simple NEW Marketing Tool for The Actor | Answers for Actors

…a simple delivery portal that can lead talent representatives, casting, directors, producers and other entertainment industry professionals to your recorded work, web-site, or online picture and resume.

Paul Russell
Photo Credit: JackMenashe.com

Have you got QR?

Do ya even know what QR is?

If you answered, “Isn’t he that omnipresent prankster from Star Trek – The Next Generation reruns?” pull off your Geordi La Forge visor and hide it in the dresser drawer aside your Mystery Science Theatre 3000 thong.

Over the past couple of years you may have noticed  square, maze-like, looking patterns mixing dots and boxes on adverts and posters. They’re not Rorschach blots to evaluate your fetish for cheese fries gulped in bed. Nor are they miniaturized paintings pulled from Pollock’s lost quadratic-period.

This little thingy to the right is QR code (Quick Response code).

The black-n-white, sneeze-splatter-de-squared isn’t as new as you may believe. These cubes, stylishly rigid to a virgin-mounrer wardrobe pallet, have been around since shortly after Picard and Q left our big-screen analogs in the mid-90s.

Created in 1994 by a Toyota subsidy; QR code was first used as an alternative to bar code (another slave to black and white couture but with a sleeker silhouette) for high-speed tracking of automobile parts inventory.

Japan, South Korea, and the Netherlands were quick to utilize the QR coding for various mundane tasks of tracking. The U.S. postal system, in the mid-aughts of this new century, began utilizing QR code for postage and letter/package tracking.

When marketers, pricked by an intravenous drip-line from Starbucks, discovered that URLs and other data could be squarely scrambled and compacted to resemble Pac Man’s ‘hood, then digitally translated by consumers taking pictures (with the aide of a smart-phone app)  the gigabyte Gods rejoiced. Another venti-expresso-quad-double-latte-nonfat-five-pumps-white-mocha-whipped-cream-macchiato-style-six-pump-caramel dolce-drip for all!!

Actors, wisely following marketers’ lead (minus the caffeine induced cardiac arrest), can easily create and leverage QR to deliver to casting and public their:

  • Web-site
  • Video demo reel
  • Voiceover demo reel
  • Picture and Resume
  • Screen and stage project announcements and invites

And to create your own QR code you needn’t be a basement-dwelling, Dungeons & Dragons geek with a pallor paler than Voldermort.

All an actor has to do is search-engine the phrase ‘create QR code’ or ‘QR code generator’. Or hell… if your fingers are Lindsay Lohan lazy; ‘QR’

Once you discern which QR generator best suits your needs the QR generator web-site chosen will require you to type into a field (text box) the target/destination (web-site address, demo reel location, etc.) you wish, via your QR code, to lead visitors to. Simple as that. The QR code generator will do the mash-n-mangle translation into a black and white cube image for you. And best of all this all comes via an actor’s favorite Funk and Wagnell’s entry; ‘FREE’.

Where to place your QR code in your marketing?

  • Postcards
  • Business cards

Having your own QR codes on your portable, hard-copy marketing, like postcards and business cards is a simple portal that can lead talent representatives, casting, directors, producers and other entertainment industry professionals to your recorded work, web-site, or online picture and resume.

To QR or not to QR on a resume?

Jury is out, still debating internally.

The marketing advocate in me rallies, “Sure. Why not place in the upper right-hand or left-hand corner of your resume an unobtrusive QR code that when captured by a smart-phone displays your reel on the visitor’s device?”

The observer in me cautions; “People don’t like change. At base we’re somewhat resistant to the unfamiliar. And a pristine resume blotched by an ugly little square of dark splatter spoiling the clean, visual esthetic of a properly-industry standard-formatted resume with no explanation as to what that splotch provides might be ignored or dismissed. But… we cannot control the reactions of everyone encountered.

If you have online information and/or media (demo reel, web-site) that expands or includes information not on your resume, do you place QR code in one of of the upper corners? That’s your call.

No matter on what marketing you place a QR code there are some drawbacks…

QR Code Cautions:

  • Not everyone has a smart-phone.

As shocking as that may be to some “I-need-the-newest-Apple-addiction’ actors who forgo funds towards training but incur a debt-load larger than an elephant to accrue technology’s latest toys (I know who you are)… QR codes do nothing when a person (like moi) has a simple, not-so-smart, cell phone.

  • The Techno-phoebes & Ignorant
How To Video: Actor Marketing

As with every new advance in technology there are more lagers in learning than there are advocates utilizing discoveries. A number of your targets will not be knowledgeable about QR codes and how to access the information portal (i.e. downloading an app then taking a picture of your QR code). If you begin using QR code for your marketing to direct a target to a URL (web address), remember to also provide, in text, an explanation as to what the QR code provides (see example to the right).

As to whether or not this will be embraced by older casting personnel and talent reps.? ‘Old dogs, new tricks’ need not be rambled. Before color headshots became the accepted norm there was a welcome lag of 5 – 6 years by entrenched industry. If a stalwart industry person remarks to you “What the hell is that thing on your resume?!” enlighten the horse-drawn carriage curmudgeon. Then add that they ‘need to move beyond Pong and polyester bell-bottoms.’

Six months or two years from now QR codes could be as obsolete as the 70s’ nifty, darling of music delivery; 8-Track tapes. Technology trends like fashion, “One day you’re in. One day you’re out.” (Thank you Ms. Klum…  now wobble off the runway.) And when the next techno-fad is pushed upon us– that technology will be leveraged for a time until the next generation arrives six months later.

QR code. The option is yours. You, as the owner of your business that is acting, can either take control of your marketing or let others advance before you as you lag behind typing out your web-site’s URL. So 1998.

Onward.

My Best,
Paul

P.S. Want more knowledge on: actor marketing; how to find and keep and agent; audition technique; negotiating a contract; interview skills and career advancement? Join the thousands of actors who have read ACTING: Make It Your Business (Random House). A must-read at universities including NYU, Rutgers, Elon, Millikin and many other great schools.

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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 writes a column for Back Stage and is the author of ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistakes and Achieve Success as a Working Actor. For more information, please visit www.PaulRussell.net.

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Online Audition Information $ite Bullsh*t

Most pay-to-get-a-chance-to-play audition information websites often recycle audition notices previously released via legitimate audition outlets like…

Paul Russell
Photo Credit: JackMenashe.com

Too many times I’m asked the question:

“Should I pay to join an online audition announcement site?”

No… and yes.

Let’s begin with the ‘No’.

Abundant as cockroaches there are many online sites that promise actors asinine claims that any professional from my side of the table can readily see through.

Claims that unabashedly promise:

“Get audition listings not found anywhere else!”

“Have industry look at you daily!” (We don’t.)

Or the grammatically incorrect heralds like the ones I recently discovered on one such scamming site:

“Get more Casting, auditions resources and Talent Agents
than all other sites combined.”

“Get a call when Casting directors wants you.”

(Did you notice the typos in those last two blandishments? ‘Auditions resources’? ‘Casting directors wants you’??   Hello? Desperate, ghetto grammar check aisle five!)

Most pay-to-get-a-chance-to-play audition information websites often recycle audition notices previously released via legitimate audition outlets like: BackStage.com, Playbill.com and Breakdown Services’ Actors Access.

Who stumbles and falls to fork cash to the phonies? Stage parents, teens and delusional adults.

At present, the only online audition information paid-subscription services I recommend are:

  • BackStage.com
  • Breakdown Services’ Actor’s Access (But actors won’t get the coveted Breakdowns for pilots, episodics, major-studio films, Broadway, and the better regional theaters. Why not? Another blog at another time.)

Legitimate, free, online audition sites I recommend are:

  • Playbill.com
  • Audition listings on performers’ union web sites

In regard to job listings on performers’ union web site, some unions, like AEA, announce audition listings to the public.

Why these specific site recommendations and not something like the grammar challenged Explore*****t.***? Because I know my recommendations are utilized by most casting directors and legitimate producing entities. As for the myriad of other sites, in which actors must pay for recycled audition announcements, casting doesn’t have the time, patience or care to engage.

You may see a casting notice from my office or another popular casting director on some remote, online, pay-for-audition-info site but I can guarantee you that Paul Russell Casting never submitted a notice to an oddity like the fictitious AuditionsЯ_Us.com.  Casting notices are often submitted exclusively to Breakdown Services for agent distribution and then surreptitiously copied and posted to pay-to-play scam sites. Or the pay-to-play sites lift the auditions notices from Playbill.com or Back Stage then ask you to pay for these notices found elsewhere for free or cheaper.

While the prospect of the former — getting illegal Breakdowns via a pay-to-play audition info site — may seem appealing to you remember this; Breakdown Services continually seeks out these websites which steal copy writ material. The sites are shut down. Leaving you, the paying subscriber, at a loss in pocket and culpable to the crime committed.

If you find a free service that recycles audition announcements; fine. But don’t pay for information which can readily be accessed elsewhere either for free or from a reputable, long-time channel of actor information. If you pay for notices such as from Back Stage you’ll do so with the confidence that the information is accurate because the site/publication received the casting notice directly from the people seeking actors. Go to where the industry goes to first and foremost to disseminate information.

Think of casting distributing audition announcements like the following civilian scenario: When you want to broadcast a message to your friends and networks do you utilize the popularity of Facebook or the desert that is MySpace and/or Friendster? If you answered Facebook then you understand what it is to publicize where the majority of your audience exists (which is what casting does). If you answered MySpace or Friendster then you deserve to be taken by the huckster pay-to-play audition information recycling web sites.

An actor doesn’t need to be Johnny Appleseed, spreading seed (i.e. money) to numerous sites for fear that they might just miss that one notice that’ll make them a ‘stahr!’ (Oh, puh-leeze.)

Be smart. Be judicious. And when visiting pay-to-play sites; if there are numerous mistakes in spelling and grammar more than likely there will be a volume of errors in the recycled casting notices.

Avoid pay-to-play recycled-audition-information sites. Be better than YouTooCanBeFamous.com (No, thankfully, that site doesn’t exist… yet.)

– Priority Actors –

What Is A Priority Actor?

Aaaannnd… it’s almost time again. My office is accepting names; for good reason.

Last season nearly sixty actors received meetings and/or call backs with Legit agents. Dozens got signed. More are now freelancing. Many actors I’ve met utilize learned marketing/audition skills to get more auditions and/or jobs. All of this success happened through Access to Agents. And this Fall, I’m going to renew the four week seminars. But…

Priority Actors get first access to the seminar’s limited seating. Then if leftover seats remain they’re opened to all. Historically; remaining seats are taken 72 – 96 hours after being announced.

To be a Priority Actor choose a series below. Then join the free sign-up located on the middle of each page:

Access to Agents TV/Film (September)

Access to Agents Broadway (October)

Read feedback from past successes, students, and from the universities I’ve visited: Thank Yous

My Best,
Paul

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Paul Russell’s career as a casting director, director, acting teacher and former actor has spanned nearly thirty years. He has worked on projects for major film studios, television networks, and Broadway. Paul has taught the business of acting and audition technique at NYU and has spoken at universities including Yale, Temple and the University of the Arts. He writes a column for Back Stage and is the author of ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistakes and Achieve Success as a Working Actor. For more information, please visit www.PaulRussell.net.

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Summer: Actor Heaven, Hell or Rebirth?

When the Season of Sweltering Stagnation arrives, for any actor, summer can be hell or a rebirth. What’s your destiny? Do you know how to exploit the entertainment industry during the summer months? Answers for Actors has tips and resources.

This Week: Actor Career Summer Strategies & Actor Renewal Resources

Paul Russell
Photo Credit: JackMenashe.com

For those of us north of the equator we’re gleeful that winter has passed and summer’s reborn.

Snow drifts that swallowed four-legged pets have completed their Wicked Witch of the West ‘I’m melting’ turn. The run-off now teases our toes on beaches. Blown away are the Arctic blasts of Donald Trump’s empty bellows for a Presidential run. Accompanying the sun’s lingering warmth sanity has returned. Almost.

If you’re an employed actor this summer performing on stage, on screen or even on the seas you’re probably a beaming busker happily depositing paychecks. All is nearly well and sane.

Not employed this summer as an actor?

Uhmm…

Employed, under-employed or unemployed this summer as an actor but waiting for a wave of auditions to swamp your schedule?

Uhmmmm…. Ahhhh… Oh boy…. How about them Phills?

When the Season of Sweltering Stagnation arrives, for any actor, summer can be hell or a rebirth.

Hell if the actor wallows; continually asking and wondering where are all the auditions? There won’t be many if any at all. Summer is one of the annual audition doldrums on our calendar. Industry folk, if not project engaged, are off to the beach and/or mountains with their i-Whatevers.  From June until late July the U.S. entertainment industry’s focus on new ventures is about as engaged as Sarah Palin is in a library.

So what to do during this seasonal summer slow-down? Regroup. Review. Plan a rebirth for your career goals. Get ready for the industry kick-start to the late summer / early fall casting.

Below are considerations to mull followed near the end by resource recommendations to assist you in your goals for success.

Review Your Actor Marketing –

Can your sales tools excel to a professional quality that would survive the intense scrutiny of Simon Cowell, CAA, Stephen Spielberg, Bernard Telsey, Marci Phillips or Paul Russell? Would we review your envelope, branding, cover letter, headshot and resume then exclaim, “This actor is fantastic! They have their shit together on paper which usually means the actor’s talent is just as impressive.”

Or would we roll our eyes after peering over your blah, Staples, manila envelope which you poorly scrawled our name and address upon? Your ho-hum mailer is a clone of the 98% of the actor mail received, never opened and trashed.

Does your headshot match LA & NY top-agency standards? Is your puss on paper CAA, ICM or WMEndvr quality? Most actor headshots fail to exceed beyond the image stiff, wall-hung, corporate mug-shot of a manager at an IHOP.

Are your resume credits appropriately formatted to the industry standard? Is your resume bloated with superfluous Special Skills? Have you piled in non-skill “assets” like ‘running’, ‘acting’, ‘biking’, ‘passport’ and ‘good with kids and creatures’ resume lint? When actors landfill their Special Skills portion of their resume with basic garbage that nearly any breathing, walking primate can achieve we (principal casting) interpret this as the actor being overly insecure and trying to bolster what the actor believes to be a weak resume. Less is more. Let the resume lint like, ‘drives stick and standard’ patter a dust-bunny life on your Extras / Low-budget features resume.

Would your marketing materials excel – in style and presentation – in a civilian job-seeking market? Is the overall professionalism worthy of the attention of a Steve Jobs, Bill Gates or Warren Buffet? If you’re confused or argue that you would never send your actor marketing to Bill Gates; I didn’t suggest such. I propose that your overall presentation; paper quality (textured white linen or cotton), layout, formatting, in-your-own-voice writing style be the sum of perfection. Your actor marketing for employ and representation must equal — if not be better — the pinnacle quality of a civilian’s job-search marketing for seeking employ at a Fortune 500 company.

Some actors become belligerent arguing ‘actor’ marketing does not have to equate in quality standards with the civilian world. Bullshit. The simplest truth to selling is that the sharper the marketing; slick without pretension, crisp and clean with professional lines– the better the buyer will respond to the seller. What’s on paper represents your work ethic, talent and professionalism. ‘Professional’ partly means that your marketing should resemble the sleek, styling efficiency of an Apple Store or the sophisticated simplicity of a Celebrity Cruises Solstice Class ship.

And most importantly; you must ‘speak’ in your own voice on paper. As if you’re writing a cover letter to your best friend. Avoid what you think others demand of your ‘professional voice’. Just be you (sincere, utilizing proper grammar and spelling). No gimmicks. No savvy-actor bullshit. You’re not a clone. You’re an individual.

Actor E-mail Marketing —

Have your past e-mail campaigns faltered? Do you even have an organized, digital address book with casting, representation and producer contacts? Do you know the basics for how to create effective, slick, professional, html e-mails like the ones you receive in your in-box which display fantastically formatted layouts with images, colored background cells, elegant font, hyperlinks without the underlines, etc…? You need not know computer gobbly-gook script to create for yourself an e-mail marketing campaign. A select group of actors are jumping on this effective electronic trend at advertising themselves to creatives who hire and represent. (Many are my Access to Agents students.) And those actors are 4G-ing ahead of chained-to-the-post office thespians.

Actor Headshots –

To ensure that casting personnel, directors, producers and talent reps respond with an, “Oh my God, I love this picture and the look of this actor,” you must have a headshot that pops! To be noticed an actor’s headshot must excel in quality beyond the 150 plus headshots which daily, six days a week, land on my desk and the desks of my behind-the-audition table casting / representation colleagues. Be just a “passable picture” lost among your competition and you’re wasting your money. Sadder is; you’re not leveraging your optimal best during your short-existence upon this spinning ball of dirt.

The headshots below stand-up strong against the typical, trashed headshots. They are industry exceptional and respected. Some headshots below are utilized by actors represented by premier talent agencies.

 

If Your Actor Marketing Matches Excellence –

Great! But do you have strategies and organized marketing campaigns? What kind of campaigns? Are you sending your materials to industry on a regular basis when your targets are at their most receptive?

At the very minimal you, marketing yourself as an actor, should target the following:

  • Offices for Indie Films – target the in-house casting person and/or producer
  • Regional Theatres – target directly to the in-house casting person (often an artistic associate) and seek an audition at that theater. For a guide and assist refer to the Answers for Actors post “Getting Stage Work Before Others (Parts 1 & 2)”
  • Casting directors
  • Theater companies in your city / region
  • Agents & Managers (if unrepresented). During summer talent reps clean house and seek new clients. And when targeting don’t hit everyone in the office at once. Spread out your mailings so that the assistant or intern opening the mail doesn’t trash your bulk mailing (Interns – who mostly get the open-mail assignment — recognize envelopes coming from the same address. And thus when actors send several, individual mailings at once to an office, often only one envelope is opened as the rest are trashed.)

Actors Seeking / Needing (new) Representation –

Summer is the perfect time to grab a talent reps’ attention. With the industry in sweltering hibernation they’re dumping old clients for fresh faces. Go directly to the talent reps at agent seminars.

Actor Renewal Resources —

If you need to correct, adjust, or remake yourself,  your marketing materials and/or goals I recommend the following resources:

Headshot Photography:

All the above headshot examples came from the photographer that ABC Primetime Casting Director, Marci Phillips heralds as:

I see a lot of headshots and by far, Jack Menashe’s photography is the best of the best. Jack is dedicated to presenting actors at their best and he succeeds above all others.

Marci Phillips, casting director, ABC Primetime Television

I too highly recommend Jack Menashe. I trusted Jack with my book-jacket headshot. An industry insider from Independent Artists Agency; he’s offering a steep discount this summer. Details and his portfolio are at http://www.JackMenashe.com.

And if Marci Phillips’ word and mine are not enough; take a look at Jack’s work and the praise he’s received from clients and industry at http://www.JackMenashe.com.

Actor Resource on a Marketing Makeover, How to Find & Keep an Agent, Audition Technique, Acting Career Advice Directly from Agents and Actors of Broadway and Hollywood:

Grab a copy of what’s been hailed as:

The actor’s roadmap… humorous and witty.

Bernard Telsey, casting director / Broadway & Major Motion Pictures

Bernie, along with many actors and industry pros, has recommended the Random House book ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistakes & Achieve Success as a Working Actor. (Some casting director, director, former actor and Answers for Actors blogger penned it. His name escapes me…)

Resources for putting yourself directly in front of agents:

Actors’ Connection

One-on-One

And yes, the four week program that covers Finding & Keeping an Agent, Actor Marketing, Audition Technique, Interview Skills all of which climaxes with rehearsed, individual, auditions before an agent panel; Access to Agents (led by Paul Russell Casting).

Whatever device(s) you utilize for improvement is your choice. What’s most vital is that you leverage this period of inactivity to be active. Growing a career is tantamount to battle. If you judiciously plan your attack your odds rise for a successful campaign. Charge at your targets without an organized strategy, or be a summer slouch, and you’re bound to perish.

Be smart this summer. Be engaged. Renew.

My Best,
Paul

Related Links:

— Jack Menashe Photography: http://www.JackMenashe.com

— ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Achieve Success and Avoid Mistakes as a Working Actor: http://www.ActingMakeItYourBusiness.com

— Access to Agents: http://paulrussell.net/classes.html

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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 writes a column for Back Stage and is the author of ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistakes and Achieve Success as a Working Actor. For more information, please visit www.PaulRussell.net.

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VIDEO – 5 Must-Do Tips to Getting What You Want

This Week: Simple Steps for Actor Success

Ever wonder how Tom Cruise got to be the lucrative franchise that is Tom Cruise? Or marvel with disbelief and disdain how some politicians have risen to prominent positions in their career? Particularly the newspaper-avoiding, history-ignorant, “You betcha! I can see Jesus from my home spa bidet” philistines? Both successful pol and actor know how to effectively leverage life to their advantage. For your career journey you can do the same (just spare us your reality program and Oprah couch acrobatics).

Chris Matthews, the jack-hammer host of Hardball, has spent his entire life observing politicians win what they want. Before forcing politicos to be forthright he was a speech writer for the Carter administration and an aide to the gruff-n-gregarious House Speaker Tip O’Neill. Several years ago Matthews wrote a wonderful, no-nonsense manual, instructing how anyone outside of politics can maneuver like a pol to get what they want. Life’s A Campaign is a must-read that applies to actors. But this week I bring you Matthews “live”.

Recently Matthews was the commencement speaker for Temple University. He offered the graduating class five tips for getting ahead in life. Below are two videos in which Matthews candidly targets these steps for success in any career journey. I know of many actors who plotted or unknowingly followed these journey propelling advisories. Will you be one more?

And if Matthews’ delivery in the second video seems reminiscent of someone who was an actor and is now a director, casting director and author; you’d be right. One of the original working titles for ACTING: Make It Your Business was Hardball for Actors.

 Enjoy.

Five Tips To Getting Ahead in Life & Career| Hardball – Let Me Finish

The Temple University Address

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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 writes a column for Back Stage and is the author of ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistakes and Achieve Success as a Working Actor. For more information, please visit www.PaulRussell.net.

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(Part 2) Getting Stage Work Before Other Artists

STOP!

If you missed Part One of Getting Stage Work Before Other Artists then the next installment below, Part 2 , will make no sense to you. Go to the link below for Part One.

(And while you’re here you should freely subscribe to get these posts delivered directly to you so that you don’t let your competition get all the info while you’re being left behind. Three subscription choices to the right at the bottom.)

Getting $tage Work Before Other Artists (Part 1)

Getting $tage Work Before Other Artists (Part 2) – Read on below…

Welcome back.

Last we left off we were in the middle of Project: Target Regions (If you need a refresher go back to Post 1 and return… I’ll wait.)

Project Target Regions Step 4

Timing is everything to winning work.

With regional and summer stock theaters you must always think beyond the present and to the future in terms of seeking work. Meaning; plan your visits to be when the theaters are planning their next season. If you’re wondering when that is for each individual target theater you could call and ask the assistant to the producing artistic director. But generally a regional stage begins planning the next season in the middle or near the end of their present season. That’s when you have to be like a laser guided missile and hit your targets.

Now, you may have noticed I chose a month in my cover letter example (Part One of this post) to Mr. Rose: July. I picked that purposely because I know that the Barter annually begins formulating their next season (which begins the following January) in July.

You can choose any general time period that your little wordsmith heart and digital calendar desires, as long as the theater is in operation during that proposed time slot. Emphasis on “proposed”. You don’t have to actually have a trip planned for the period you forecast.

‘Huh?’ ‘Excuse me?’ ‘Do you mean lie about being in the area?’, you may be bantering about in your brain. No! You’re not truly fibbing in font. You’re planning. (Sometimes too much honesty can hurt your career, remember that).

After you get your first bite for a meeting/audition with a regional producing entity (Ya-hoo!), then you begin the actual planning for your journey to jobs. And that’s when you begin pushing harder to get more appointments at other theaters in the same region.

You can choose a day, week, or month of your liking but you’d be better off timing your “planned trip” to match a time when the people you need to put your face in front of are most accessible.

As for day of the week, Monday is always best as that’s the traditional dark day of theater. At union theaters there are usually no rehearsals, the administrative and tech staff are beginning the week anew without pressure (unless it’s a tech week of which you should always avoid for visiting a theater). Non-union theater schedules? Anything goes. There are no rules for them.

 

Project Target Regions Step 5

O.K. you got one appointment. Now get more within the region. Economize and make the most of your venture. Push for appointments at other theaters within the region. Let others know that a neighbor of theirs has taken an interest in you. Ever notice how someone with a partner is sometimes more attractive and desirable than those who are single? Same rules of want apply to work. Re-target. Again. With an e-mail and/or post-card.

Recommended E-mail Format for Follow-up:

Project Target Region Step 6

Once you have appointments at your theater(s) budget your trip as cheaply as is possible. If you have friends and family within a comfortable driving distance of your target(s); stay with them. The next best and cheapest accommodations of course are available by booking low-rate motel/hotels at discount hotel bookings sites online. Remember that you’re not taking the trip for the luxury of where you sleep but for gaining future opportunities to afford and enjoy four diamond accommodations.

If you don’t have relatives, friends, or friendly ex’s in the area(s) to be visited, or can’t afford a motel/hotel then weather permitting there is always camping (if you have a tent) or sleeping in your car. “Ew”, you may be thinking. But while the latter may seem really disgusting because you would awake with horrible morning breath (or worse yet, back-seat hair), you can always shower the skin, clean your enamels and style your do at truck stops, a local Y or health club (some have better facilities than four-star hotels). While sleeping in a tent or car is not the most glamorous of accommodations, they are the cheapest other than on couches of friends and relatives. And these two options (tent or car) can be done without long-lasting, emotional, debilitating affects. I’ve survived both without problem although my right-eye does twitch uncontrollably on occasion when passing by a Flying-J or TravelCenters of America.

Borrow transportation if you can. If not, rent as low as is possible without having to hitch a horse to the front bumper. If you don’t have a driver’s license (as an adult you really should grow-up and have one) bus or train your way to the jobs.

Keep the trip simple as far as expenses are concerned. And remember: All expenses for finding work are tax-deductable. That includes; gas, mileage, rentals, accommodations and meals while away from your home base. Keep your receipts!

Project Target Regions Step 7

Once you’re on the road that doesn’t mean you stop targeting theaters in the region you’re visiting. With mobile devices keeping us in constant contact almost anywhere at anytime, you can e-mail or call prospective employers. Simply be direct and say/write/text, “I’m in your neck of the woods this week visiting [insert theater/producer name]. I would love just fifteen minutes of your schedule and introduce myself to you. Thanks!”

There’s no shame in seeking employment. So if you’re reticent about this “aggressive” marketing of your product that is you either get over yourself or get into a new, more secure, career where you are not a professional job seeker. (Armed forces anyone?)

Target Regions via Vacations:

A student of mine and I were in a discussion about how he should be targeting theaters in the region of his residence, Greater Philadelphia a.k.a. The Delaware Valley. I was giving him some homework to do for the next class when he casually mentioned that he was taking his son to Pittsburgh to scope out colleges. Before he finished the sentence I stopped him.

“Did you contact any of the theaters in Pittsburgh to let them know you’ll be in the area?”

He knew I had caught him at missing an opportunity. The forty-year plus old man sheepishly looked down at the floor like an adolescent caught breaking curfew and mumbled that he didn’t but should have. Duh! Yes. The trip had already been planned. Hotel and travel arraignments made. If he had contacted the thriving theater market in and around the Steel City he could have written his family’s school-scoping-excursion off as a business expense! He also would have been creating new contacts that would have possibly led to a job that would help pay for his son’s costly secondary education! This guy lost an opportunity. Life 1. Student 0.

If you’re planning a vacation, a weekend road trip or any journey to areas where there are live theaters (or theme park entertainment if you’re so inclined to toiling in that trade) within a two hour driving distance from your destination don’t forget to pack some appointments into your schedule. Follow the previous Target Regions steps for getting yourself in front of people who can provide you with potential paychecks. One of the perks to taking meetings (or auditioning) while on a personal pleasure peregrination is that you can leverage that expense of luxury into a business deduction. I’m often amazed when I talk to theatrical friends and students who tell me they went to the Gold Coast of Florida or to the Berkshires (both cornucopias of regional theater) for a recent vacation and upon my asking, “Did you meet with any theaters while there?” and they look at me as if I just said something immoral about their mother. Then they realize the opportunities lost and ask me, “Should I have made contact with the theaters in the area?” What do you think? Life 2. Friends & Students 0.

And don’t overlook visiting college theater programs. Academia does occasionally hire guest artists, directors, choreographers and designers. The educational institutions also bring in professionals to teach or lecture. You might be able to pick-up a future guest lecture gig and enrich the knowledge of aspiring theater professionals (you were once one yourself, time to give back a little of what you’ve learned).

[End of Part 2. Next post includes what to take on your travels PLUS interview technique. If you’re not a subscriber to the the always free Answers for Actors I can guarantee that you’ll you’ll miss this important conclusion to this series and future posts. Several methods of getting the feed directly to you, at your convenience, are in the above, right column —–>. There’s one option below as well.]

My Best,
Paul

Paul Russell’s career as a casting director, director, acting teacher and former actor has spanned nearly thirty years. He has worked on projects for major film studios, television networks, and Broadway. Paul has taught the business of acting and audition technique at NYU and has spoken at universities including Yale, Temple and the University of the Arts. He writes a column for Back Stage and is the author of ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistakes and Achieve Success as a Working Actor. For more information, please visit www.PaulRussell.net.

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