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.

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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.
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  • 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.
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  • 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.
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  • 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
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  • Wander free museums
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  • Sit in a coffee shop or fast food joint that has free WiFi where you can do your actor marketing and research
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  • 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.
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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!

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

Share this:

Casting Directors, Talent Agents, Directors & Actors

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

“Humorous and witty…
Actors everywhere who are trying to succeed in the business, young or old, on stage or on camera, anywhere in the world, take note:

This is your roadmap!”
BERNARD TELSEY, casting director – CSA
(The InternHamiltonNBC’s The Wiz – LIVE!, Wicked)
“All the right questions asked and answered…
and with a generous portion of good humor.”
SUZANNE RYAN, casting director, CSA
(Law & OrderUnforgettable)
“I love this book!
Paul’s book tells you what you don’t want to hear but really need to know
EVERY actor should read this book!”
DIANE RILEY, Senior Legit Talent Agent
Harden-Curtis & Associates
“Paul’s book made me proud to be a part of this community we call ‘show!'”
KAREN ZIEMBA, TONY & Drama Desk Award Winning Actress
“Paul Russell’s words are not only blunt & accurate they zero in on all the questions every actor wants to know but is afraid to ask!”
KEN MELAMED, Talent Agency Partner
Bret Adams, Ltd.
“I had my Business of Acting, BFA Seniors, class do book reports on a variety of “business of acting” books and ACTING: Make It Your Business came out a clear winner—considered to be essential for their bookshelves!
Dr. NINA LeNOIR,
Dept. Chair – Dept. of Thtr.
Chapman University

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

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

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