How to Heat-up Your Acting Career in Summer | Answers for Actors

You’re under-employed and frustrated that your career is as stagnant as Mitt Romney’s mud wrestling aspirations. What’s an actor to do? Answers for Actors will help get you going strong…

Paul Russell
Photo Credit: JackMenashe.com

When summer swelter has settled in and you haven’t a share at Fire Island and/or no plans for swinging your sword at Shakespeare-on-the-Skillet (an outdoor dinner theater where ‘drama is served hot.’) You’re under-employed and frustrated that your career is as stagnant as Mitt Romney’s mud wrestling aspirations. 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 Kim Kardashian is in visiting a library. What’s an actor to do?

Work, damn it. While others sit shore-side and slither through Fifty Shades of Grey you advance. 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 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.

Is your headshot five years or older? (Psst… you’re not Dorian Gray.) Is your puss on paper CAA, ICM or WMEndvr quality or is it barely worthy of a cinder-block wall heralding your local K-mart manager? Or horror of horrors did your photographer pose you stiffly in a beauty shot destined for Toddlers & Tiaras? (Oh, the tragedy.)

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 principal resume with basic garbage that nearly any breathing primate can achieve we (principal casting) interpret this as the actor being overly insecure while bolstering 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 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 (cover letter on textured white linen or cotton paper, a pristine layout, business formatting, in-your-own-voice writing style) be the sum of perfection. Your actor marketing for employment and seeking representation must equal — if not be better — the pinnacle of 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 the quality standards of the civilian world. Bullshit. Take this nudge of success below from an ACTING: Make It Your Business reader:

Hi Paul,

I wanted to compliment you and thank you on your methods and strategies re: ACTING Make It Your Business. I just got offered the role of Joe in “The Last Night of Ballyhoo” at the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival this fall. I have you and your book/class to thank.  After the Resident Director of NCShakes saw my Off-Broadway show in February, I immediately sent him a follow-up letter (complete with laser-missile intentions and bolded name dropping) to introduce myself and ask to be kept in mind for future auditions.  Had I not sent that letter, I believe my chances would have been diminished for even being called in in the first place.  So thanks!

Chris R.

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. 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 well against the typical trashed headshots. They are industry exceptional and respected. Some headshots below are utilized by actors represented by leading 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 who for two decades led Independent Artists Agency. 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.

Resource for putting yourself directly in front of agents:

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 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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Agents, Managers, & Casting v. Shopping Mall Scammers | Answers for Actors

I must be screaming in the wind. Or there are many willful deaf actors bumbling through their bank accounts seeding dead presidents to persons and ‘companies’ that are nothing more than hogs feasting on the hopes of the actor aspirants.

Paul Russell
Photo Credit: JackMenashe.com

I must be screaming and flailing into the wind. Or there are many willfully-deaf and blind actors bumbling through their bank accounts seeding dead presidents to persons and ‘companies’ that are nothing more than hogs feasting on the hopes of the actor aspirants.

Too, too often I receive e-mails from past students who write that they received an invitation for representation but only if that actor takes classes with said ‘agency.’ And often I encounter ‘actors’ who boast they received their representation, ‘acting learnin,’ and headshots all in a one-stop shop via a mall kiosk in Paramus, NJ….

I authored numerous chapters on the subject of agents, managers, and casting in ACTING: Make It Your Business. Not wanting to irk my fingers, grey cells or the readers with redundancy pulled from that Random House title; a brief, new, reminder.

It’s time to scream once more into the gales about this.

What’s ‘this?’

Who is a talent agent? What is a talent manager? What is casting? Who and what are individuals who claim to be agents, managers and/or casting from which you should run your artisan ass away?

Casting:

Casting offices represent producers. Casting does not represent talent. Every day I get e-mails from actors that read similar to: ‘I wants be reppd by you as new talunt.” (Another dose of anesthesia to the Paul Russell table please.)

Legitimate casting offices do not charge actors to audition for projects. Casting offices can and may hold classes which broaden an actor’s skill and/or perspective but those classes are never to be deemed as auditions for casting. (It’s the short-sighted actor that thinks differently and often overlooks the long-term goals gained via a casting office’s classes.)

There is no governing union for casting. So to those actors who think that sending-off a virulent missive to the Casting Society of America (C.S.A.) about how a casting director who only gave you three minutes instead of four for your cow-costumed audition… you’re wasting your time.

Casting directors don’t hire the chosen actors. Casting directors assemble the talent for our clients to cast from. Reason why I often say, “I’m glorified human resources.”

Talent Agents:

For a person to hold the title of ‘agent’ who represents an actor the agent must be:

Franchised by the unions (Screen Actors Guild, Actors’ Equity Association, and AFTRA). Once franchised the agent can then represent both union and non-union talent. If an ‘agent’ is not franchised; they’re not an agent they’re a manager or shopping mall scam. (Go to Auntie Annes for a pretzel. You’ll be much happier.)

In New York, LA and other major U.S. cities agents are required by some of the unions to have a union-approved office (meaning a SAG representative visits and gives the agent’s work space a ‘yea’ or ‘nay’) that has a waiting area for the actors and access to clean toilet facilities. If an ‘agent’ has neither an office nor toilet for the actor, or office space has not been approved by SAG; they are not an agent they’re a manager or shopping mall kiosk scam. (Visit The Piercing Pagoda for a new hole; you’ll feel not as incomplete.)

Franchised agents cannot offer classes directly to their clients as an agreement term for representation. If an ‘agent’ demands such; they’re allegedly a willful modeling ‘agency’ of Philadelphia, a manager, or a shopping mall kiosk scam. (Shuffle to the Apple store and further debt yourself by grabbing the newest I-Phone; you’ll feel superior over your CrackBerry devotees.)

Agents can only collect 10% of your salary on individual projects that are deemed commission-able by the unions. If an ‘agent’ asks you for 20% of your earnings from either performance and/or civilian wages they’re allegedly a Mary Contrary ‘agency’ of Philadelphia, a manager or a shopping mall kiosk scam. (Stroll to Nordstrom; another Jimmie or Madden pairing will keep the two dozen others in your crammed closet from feeling neglected.)

Agents can not require or request of their clients fees for:

  • Office supplies
  • Web-site inclusion
  • Yearly/Monthly membership

Agents can recommend preference of photographers but they can not insist an actor-client have headshots taken by a particular photographer. Nor can an ‘agent’ insist your headshots, which you pay for, be taken by his assistant (who happens to be a headshot photographer… isn’t that just special). Allegedly this questionable practice has been festering for far too many decades at a NY talent rep’s office named for a King.

Talent Managers:

Can do whatever they want and take whatever they will of which you sign-over in your contract with the manager. (This is where your grammar school English teacher test-trick of ‘read-the-entire-test-before-starting-to-discover-that-you-needn’t-take-the-exam-because-the-last-test-question-tells-you-not-to-take-the-test’ comes into adult play.) Read before engaging damn it.

Shopping Mall ‘You Can Be A Star’ Kiosks & Strip Center Trollers:

Pull aside parents who have children trailing and proclaim, “Your little Susie or Johnny is adorable. He/she should be on TV. I have connections to make that happen.” Some of these operators have kiosks. Others just roam the walkways or troll the cement before a Toys R Us and/or Wegmans. Some areas of the country are crawling with these cockroaches: Long Island, New Jersey, SoCal, and Florida. Anywhere there are gulable persons with gratuitous disposable income.

The operators deplete the savings of parents and/or the ‘actors’ with offering headshots no better than a Hicksville High, U.S.A. senior portrait. Also often included as a ‘representation’ requirement are acting classes taken with a teacher who may believe taffeta is appropriate audition wear for the role of a lawyer defending a homicidal ballerina.

Why do some ‘actors’ get taken in by the scammer-employed, bored looking teenage girls or middle-aged women with finger-on-chalk-board accents who flatly shout out to passersby: “You a movie star?! You a model, right?’ Because idiot is as idiot does. The people who fall for the scams are the types that would also go to the Garden State Plaza in Paramus seeking a personal injury lawyer from Johnny Rockets.

I’ve encountered stage parents bilked thousands of dollars for upfront fees for ‘representation’ and/or ‘consultation’ from cockroach shopping mall talent managers. And each time the parent says to me, “I just thought this is how the industry works. You pay $500 to be represented and submitted to casting…”

Why do so many abuses of actors exist? Because industrious interlopers of our trade know that there is a large percentage of ‘artistes’ who believe cash, instead of long term labor, can bring instant rewards. Ain’t gonna happen folks. Just ain’t. And there’s far too much ignorance among the victims who get taken by the scams.

If you believe differently; do me a favor. Stop reading this but not until you visit PayPal and transfer a thousand dollars into my coffers. My repeated advisories here, in ACTING: Make It Your Business and in person don’t seem to be enlightening the delusional. Maybe a significant loss from their savings with nothing provided in return might raise a modicum of awareness as to what and who is legitimate versus the fraudulent.

I would hope this the last of this type of advisory found here at Answers for Actors. We’ve all had enough of ‘actors’ thinking they can find fame via unscrupulous individuals who demand monies in exchange for false promises. Enough. Finis. No mas. Kaputt. ¿Comprende?

(Was that a pulmonary surgeon yesterday offering same-day procedures at his kiosk in the Willowbrook Mall? Hmmmm.)

My best,
Paul

 Get MORE of Casting Director Paul Russell’s Best-Selling Book for Actors – ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistakes & Achieve Success as a Working Actor

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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, 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, please visit www.PaulRussell.net.

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