How Actors Solve Problem Producers

This week: Problem Producers… Accusations & Resolutions

Paul Russell
Visit Paul @ PaulRussell.net

Miller, Pritchard, Akins and Brinkley. Just some of the more infamous producer names associated with alleged, questionable practices in relation to one or more of the following; arson, fraud, embezzlement and/or provision of unsafe work place conditions. Add now to that short list of names, often whispered with contempt by actors, directors, designers, stage mangers and some civilians, two more. Troutman and Waldman. Theatrical producers in Florida who recently got more attention than desired when they abruptly canceled a production while in rehearsals and the abandoned actors were left in Fort Lauderdale with no money and means of return to New York. Solution? Actors became activists and went to the press.

Two weeks ago I received an e-mail from one of the affected actors, Heather Gault, who is also a reader of this blog and my book. Let’s begin there:

“Dear Mr. Russell,

I wanted to write and tell you about a disturbing incident that happened to me and my fellow actor co-workers last week….

Recently, I and eight other actors were flown from NYC to Fort Lauderdale to perform a production of the Cy Coleman musical ‘The Life.’ We arrived and began rehearsals as planned, and things proceeded fairly normally for two weeks. Last Tuesday, we were called from our rehearsal by the producer, Jamison Troutman, who told us to leave the theater and go home, that the show had lost funding and would be canceled and we were not going to be paid. The next day, we were informed that not only would we not be paid for the week of work we had just completed, but that the production team (Troutman and Director/Producer Gary Waldman) was unable to fly any of us home–an obligation they had to us explicitly stated in our contracts, no matter what. There were six of us living in a cast house with no car, no paycheck, and no means home.

Then, Waldman and Jamison did the unthinkable (as if it got worse!). They told us it was our fault that the ‘money’ had fallen through, and that the only way we could redeem ourselves and the show would be to work for free on good faith that they would pay us . . . sometime. Naturally, we said no way. And so they pretty much left us to rot in our little house, and told us to leave via our own means…”

Gault went on to detail that local press both print and televised began to cover the story once she and her fellow actors went proactive to the media.  The accounts in the Miami Herald match the claims that the show was canceled and return transportation for the stranded actors was not provided. Eventually a local Good Samaritan helped pay for the actors to return to New York.

Unfortunately this kind of alleged producer behavior is not new nor is it rare. Particularly in the non-union world of the arts. Most producers are well-meaning, reputable, and often charitable to both the community they reside in and to their employees. Such as Richard Rose, the producing artistic director for the Barter Theatre, Charles Abbott of Maine State Music Theater and the Prather family. Unlike Rose, Abbott and the Prathers, it’s the few problem producers that go rogue on morals which cause actors, directors and designers to be wary of most if not all producers no matter how honorable. That’s unfortunate.

I worked for several producers who were less than Dickensian. One of them having been sued by Actors’ Equity after AEA withdrew its members from the producer’s productions upon complaints from the actors of unsafe working conditions; 2 AM rehearsals held in parking lots  and company members forced to sleep in the aisles of one of the theaters. That was over twenty years ago. That same producer remains in business with two, Keystone state, properties. (Arson Update: https://answersforactors.wordpress.com/2009/11/29/an-angry-call-to-alarm/)

Most producer abuses occur in the non-union circuit (both stage and screen). Several reasons for this I believe. First and foremost there’s no union jurisdiction. Secondly most of the talent on and off non-union stage and screen is younger, with higher expectations which often can not always be provided by a non-union budget. And so after years of less-than-happy employees the non-union producer becomes less than happy themselves. But high expectations is not always the cause for a producer, union-regulated or not, for behaving poorly. There are people out there who for lack of a better phrase but accurate; just plain suck.

So what can an employee of a rogue producer do? If you’re union, you have that organization to back you up. If you have representation, your agent or manager can try to negotiate a solution… if the producer is willing. If you’re non-union, there’s not much you can do. But, there are ways to make known to others a problem producer and/or to solve a major complaint.

First; try to negotiate a solution with the producing entity via constructive and calm communication. Don’t angrily confront the producer or antagonize. Communicate first through the chain of command (if one is established). Also, whomever you speak to, whether it’s a stage manager, company manager, assistant to the producer, whomever; treat the producer not as an unfair employer but as a person who may have their own challenges of which you’re not aware. I know from my own experiences with rogue producers (and there were too many) that my first suggestion seems Pollyanna. But hostility rarely wins. Also, be cautious of the manner in which you speak of your dissatisfaction to others within the company. Your dissatisfaction/complaint may not be relevant to others. Or, you may be speaking with someone who is close to the producer.

If resolution cannot be reached either through yourself, representation or your union you always have the option of leaving the situation. O.K. I hear in my head some reader screaming, “Right Paul but what about breaking the contract? I’ll be sued or get a bad reputation”. Union contracts offer an out. Non-union contracts? Well, if the producer is not obliging by the agreement put on paper between you two then the contract was broken and is null and void. Your reputation?

I recall working for a less than dishonest non-union producer who when I inquired for a change in housing that would include a working bathroom, didn’t have broken windows that allowed pigeons to enter, wasn’t cramped with eight people to the one and only room, and wasn’t above a loud nightclub he hissed in return, “You’ll never work in this town again.” And I calmly shot back. “Where, New Hope?” I remain in the business. Sadly, so does he.

The Internet has been a great tool for spreading information for both positive and negative experiences of those who work in the arts. One place online is Non-Equity Deputy found at:  http://nonequitydeputy.com/Default.aspx. Here is a grass roots web site that provides visitors to share both favorable and unfavorable tales of working the non-union circuit. One caution: Sites like this can also be abused by some disgruntled, anti-socialite users spreading uninformed gossip or malevolent postings. Verify with others within our community both positive and negative feedback on anyone (that’s what many directors, producers and casting personnel do with the gossip and work history feedback of actors).

If you encounter an experience which rivals that of Gault’s and her cast mates in Florida, go to the press. BookMoreWork_TelseyQuoteProblem producers do not like their communities to be aware of possible unfavorable behind the scenes behavior. But again, caution; the problem must be as severe as that in Florida. If you’re just unhappy about 12 hour work days, rustic housing and dressing rooms without heat; that’s typical non-union, regional theater. Get used to it.

Now, this may have seemed like producer bashing. No, it’s a heads up about those few producers with poor behavioral patterns. I have great respect for many of the men and women who, despite a declining public interest for the arts, provide employment for artists and entertainment for those seeking a diversion of creative intellect. As Sondheim wrote, “Art isn’t easy…” That applies to all involved.

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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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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Jobs Available

This Week: Sources for Survival – Overlooked jobs available now

I’ve been keeping quiet (at least publicly) about the economy a.k.a. The George W. Bush Legacy. As someone who is a news & political junkie I didn’t want to add voice, of what I know privately about some endangered producing entities both clients and non-clients, to the already depressing, non-stop, talking heads on MSNBC, CNN and that other cable network which my father faithfully watches.

Being the media addict that I am I listen and read intently for, what may seem to some, obscure indicators of things to come while digesting the parsing of Reuters, Olbermann, Matthews, Scarborough, Cooper and others. I also look to my e-mail in box. There is hope that we’re nearing the end of economic darkness. And now that pilot season has ended, casting is done for stock and regionals, and studios shutter for the summer; additional sources of income are needed for the entertainment workforce. Desperately.

I’ve recently been receiving a fresh influx of long ago familiar e-mails, which tapered off last fall, to one of my far too many e-mail addresses. Notices from senders from when I used to occasionally straddle the civilian world with my present career path. (If you think being on this side of the audition table garners big bucks can I sell you on the idea that Tim Gunn’s school-uniformed, sex-slave is Karl Rove?… shudder.)

Marketers seeking help are writing once again via missives to my AOL alias. Like cockroaches, marketers never go away… permanently. Marketing is one of the few areas of employ that neither firewalls or the Bush Legacy can kill. I used to be a part-time marketer. From writing ad copy for beers (which I never drank) to being, what you may or may not recognize as, a Brand Ambassador a.k.a. a promo model. The latter of which I’d never think myself to be but was.

There are civilian, survival jobs folks. And you don’t have to be pretty or intelligent (I think I just insulted myself… and the populous of Alabama).

If you can walk, be reasonably polite, follow instructions you can be a Brand Ambassador which can entail anything from giving free test drives in a new Caddy to strangers on the streets (did that in Philly for six weeks) to handing out Cliff Bars in Times Square (did that for a day). The hours are easy, the pay reasonable but not always immediate. But there’s pay. And best of all you don’t have to live in New York or LA to get involved. Repeat… you don’t have to live in NY or LA. Though I no longer do marketing (other than my own) I get offers of work from all over the country as I did this week for events in Connecticut, Florida, New York and elsewhere across the country.

Now, as I penned in that monster of an acting book I wrote, you do have to be careful of what marketing-staffing companies you get involved with. Below I’ve listed a few of the better companies for you to investigate.

OK, so you might be saying, “Paul, I ain’t no model.” or “I hate dealing with the public.” Fine. There is a side line job perfect for you presently hiring. Government.

The 2010 census is hiring. Now and next fall. All across the country people are needed to help with the census. Part-time and full-time. Take advantage of one of the few, at present, growth industries (albeit short termed). Following this missive is a link for finding more info on jobs with the 2010 census.

In ACTING Make It Your Business I, and the actors I interviewed, talk about a number of other civilian jobs opportunities available to get by. Now more than ever those jobs are vital to the survival of anyone involved in our industry.

I won’t go into doom and gloom here. I’ll keep what bad industry info I have and instead share some positive news that is beyond our community. Signs of hopeful growth and confidence are increasing. Slowly. While not at digital age speed impatience, present indicators are better than they were from several months ago. All of us need to follow that trend. Personally, I see June/July as a time when the indicators of better times ahead become more apparent. Those indicators are there now, but they’re faint whispers. Better a whisper than silence.

COMING NEXT SUNDAY: Deceitful Producers & Scam Exposed

Besos,

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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Marketing Job Links:

NOTE: (None of the following companies receive a commission or fee from the talent. If you come across a marketing staffing company that asks for a fee or commission one word; RUN)

Mirrorball (Based in NYC; they are a progressive, hip company. They also happen to be the company I wrote copy for many of their clients):

http://www.mirrorball.com/main.html (click on contact page for job info)

GMR (One of the event marketing leaders in the field and a company I worked for): http://www.gmrmarketing.com/

U.S. Concepts: http://www.uscpromomodels.com/

Event Pro Strategies (A sub-contractor that provides staffing):  http://www.eventprostrategies.com/index.php

GC Marketing Services (A sub-contractor that provides staffing): http://www.gcmarketingservices.com/home.html

2010 Census Jobs Link:

http://2010.census.gov/2010censusjobs/

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Actor Breakdowns over Blackmarket Breakdowns (Part 2 of 2)

THIS WEEK’S TIP: Actors & Black Market Breakdowns (Part 2 of 2)

Paul Russell
Visit Paul @ PaulRussell.net

This has got to stop. Actors paying thieves for black market breakdowns. Especially actors with representation.

Last week’s Part 1 of this blog caused a stir. It also prompted a reader to send me an e-mail he received from a thief selling the black market breakdowns. Attached to the e-mail was an example of the breakdowns. I couldn’t fucking believe it. Disgusting is the best I can say of the e-mail’s contents.

Here was someone preying on actor vulnerability and profiting off of actors by committing a serious crime of fraud and theft. Actors who engage in buying these breakdowns are just as culpable and can be prosecuted as well. I immediately contacted Breakdown Services.

More than likely the person who was selling the illegal Breakdowns is/was an intern or an assistant at a talent agency. Agencies pay a subscription fee to receive the Breakdowns. And Breakdown Services scrutinizes their subscribers. Joe-blow-off-the-street can’t get a talent agency subscription from Breakdown Services.

Now, actors with talent representation who receive black market breakdowns: Stop it. Beyond the illegality of the act you’re jeopardizing your relationship with your agent. For those with or without an agent who may be wondering how…. here we go;

The represented actor getting the illegal breakdowns often calls their agent and says, “I just saw on Breakdowns a role that I want to be submitted for…” The agent does one of two things (or both) rolls their eyes and reminds the actor, in terse tone, that as an agent THEY get the breakdowns and submit appropriate clients. After the call is ended, the agent usually mumbles to another agent in the office, “We need to drop that one.”

When an actor phones an agent with the, “I just saw on Breakdowns…” call; immediately the agent is thinking, “This client doesn’t trust me. Why should I be representing them?” Agents hate, repeat; HATE clients who use this supposed proactive choice for career advancement. Often the client doesn’t advance, they lose representation.

Agents talk to me often about this, including my partner who owns a talent agency. It’s one of the surest ways for a client to stop being a client. If you’re still not convinced think of it this way. Calling up your agent and telling them you saw a role on Breakdowns you think you’re right for, is equal to one actor giving another actor performance notes. It’s wrong. It’s rude. It’s not professional. And it needs to stop!

Trust that your agent is doing the best that they can for your interests. Stop engaging in activity that could bring serious charges against you and cost you money, time, reputation AND representation.

And finally; a reader asked me,  “Is it effective for actors living beyond the metro areas of New York or LA to subscribe to Actor’s Access?” (Breakdown Services subscription service to actors). No. Most of the BookMoreWork_TelseyQuoteauditions are in NY or LA. Auditions come quickly after they are announced. You need to be living in or near the area that the majority of auditions that are happening. Casting personnel don’t want to bother with actors who submit themselves for an audition in NY or LA when the actor permanently resides in bum-fuck Kansas. (No offense to Kansas, my finger just went for the “K” key and there were only two state options after that. I’ll offend the blue-grass moonshiners another time).

So, wrap up here. Represented actors, stop using and paying for illegal breakdowns. Stop calling your agent with the, “I just saw on Breakdowns…” call. Unrepresented actors, I do not condone or suggest the use of illegal breakdowns. But if you do engage in that illicit behavior read in Part 1 of this post. But be warned, you are committing a crime.

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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Actor Breakdowns over Blackmarket Breakdowns (Part 1 of 2)

Actors & black market breakdowns (Part 1 of 2)

Keep Calm and Audition On

There’s a not so secretive practice among unrepresented and represented actors: black market breakdowns.

If you’re not familiar with the term “breakdown” it’s the casting notice that casting offices release to agents through a service called Breakdown Services. Franchised agents and vetted managers pay a subscription rate to receive these casting notices.

Black market breakdowns are unauthorized copies of these breakdowns that are sold (or shared in some form) within the actor/entertainment community. It’s illegal: i.e. copy-write infringement, plus theft of services. Engaging in black market breakdowns is also harmful to professional representation relationships of repped actors who receive black market breakdowns and often contact their agent bemoaning, “I saw on Breakdowns today the following roles that I want to be submitted for…” The harm is two-fold: the behavior displays that the actor does not trust the agent to work diligently on behalf of the actor. Secondly: the agent is aware the actor is receiving black market breakdowns. There are agents who report their clients to Breakdown Services that the actor(s) has access to black market breakdowns. Why? The agent does not wish to risk being implicated of being in compliance with the actor if the actor is found by another means to be engaging in the illegal activity. If the agent if found to be complacent the agent, and/or the entire agency, may loose their legal access to the life blood of casting: breakdowns.

Where you can get black market breakdowns? I don’t know. I do know that the now defunct operation of Redwood Talent, a ‘management’ company, formerly run by actors sold to actors breakdowns. Redwood Talent also charged monthly rates to their clients. The more the client paid the more the actor was submitted in response to breakdowns. Allegedly one of Redwood’s owners (again an actor) would visit backstage the Broadway houses and sell breakdown access to actors in the Broadway shows.

Breakdown Services attempted to stem the tide of the black market breakdown flow between actors by offering, via its web site, a service called Actor’s Access. Actors would receive the same breakdowns that talent agents receive. That was the original intent. A fair and transparent one offered by Breakdown Services. Up until several casting directors complained that they were receiving what they considered unsolicited submissions directly from actors. A compromise was reached between Breakdown Services and the complaining casting directors:

Casting offices now have options on who in the industry receives their breakdowns via Breakdown Services: subscribers of Breakdown Services, Actor’s Access, or both. With each breakdown–if the casting director wants to cast wide their net for talent beyond agencies–the casting office must inform Breakdown Services to release the breakdown to Actors Access. A number of casting offices are either not aware of this option, forget, or choose not to have submission from Actors Access. But Actors Access remains one of the must-have actor assets for casting information.

An actor, whether represented or not, with a subscription to Actors Access who discovers the casting of a project that does not appear on Actors Access can submit themselves for consideration.

Via sleuthing online, The Call Sheet, or Breakdown Services’ better directory of agents and casting: an actor acquires the land-mail address of the casting office. Place the name of the project and role(s) on the outside of your submission (and in the cover letter as I write about in ACTING: Make It Your Business) and send it! Envelopes are opened. Emails are often deleted without being clicked ‘open.’ Be aggressive. Be above board.

My Best,
Paul

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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 over two-dozen universities including Yale, 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, please visit www.PaulRussell.net.

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

This is your roadmap!”
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“All the right questions asked and answered…
and with a generous portion of good humor.”
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Paul’s book tells you what you don’t want to hear but really need to know
EVERY actor should read this book!”
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How Often Should Actors Send Headshot to Talents Agents & Managers

Paul Russell
Visit Paul @ PaulRussell.net

“How often should an actor send a submission to an agent when seeking representation?” was the question that came flying at me this week during my master class. I got a cartoonish jaw-drop gape from the questioning actor when I replied, “Every other month for 12 months.”

There’s reasoning for repetition:

While visiting a popular talent agency office I perused multitudes of actor mailings trash bound. At this agency an intern opens and filters which actors get an agent’s glance and which actors’ headshots are to be hauled away in a Hefty bag.

While perusing the landfill bound P&Rs I noticed an actor’s mailing that required a once over by the agents. The actor is a regular on an ABC series. His cover letter stated his want to divorce his present representation. His resume was being tossed. I alerted a thankful agent.

Often at agencies, incoming actor inquiries (e-mail & land mail) are filtered by a young assistant or a collegiate intern. The juvenile gatekeepers are told by agents to only save actors, “who look interesting,” or “have good credits.” Trusting entertainment-industry knowledge and esthetics, of a post-adolescent whose knowledge of “looks interesting” and “good credits” is limited to BuzzFeed is a serious flaw in an agency’s assembly line of procuring new clients. It’s a deficiency actors must be aware of and aggressively overcome.

Your resume may have training, projects, directors or other information a talent representative respects while an early 20-something intern or assistant is woefully ignorant of and foolishly questions, “Oskar Eustis? Never heard of him.”

Contact talent representation more than once; preferably every other month for 12 months. If your submission(s) have been misplaced, or overlooked, you’re giving your marketing materials more opportunities to be seen.

Now you may be thinking; But Paul, agents will think I’m being rude, obsessive, compulsive… They’ll hate me. Guess what… if the agent(s) eyed your materials once and trashed you; they weren’t interested in your offering to begin with. So what are a few more mailings to someone who wasn’t previously interested? But you could change that. Also, how do you know the agent even saw your materials?

Plus another reason I advocate re-sending several times is that if you have new project announcements on your resume or heralded in your cover letter (an actor must always, always have a business-formatted cover letter written in the natural voice they speak to friends and family with) there’s something for the recipient to discover about you. You’re working. Which means you’re a valuable asset that an agent can champion.

The Tipping Point, brilliantly explores a study demonstrating the point at which someone stops saying “No” to an inquiry and relents with a “Yes.” You could hit that tipping point with someone with multiple mailings (just don’t do it every week or month). Don’t believe me? Ask my current literary agent how many times I contacted him before he offered me representation: 3 was the magic number.

BookMoreWork_TelseyQuoteSo send. But make sure that what you’re sending is professional, clearly defines you, and doesn’t have a lot of prose bullshit or gimmicks. If so, you’ll be always dumped into the trash. Or worse placed into the Freak File.

This industry is as much about talent, and resilience, as it is about, image, image, and image. Never give up on your marketing. And never let your marketing be less than your best performance.

For more info on finding agents and successful mailings read ACTING: Make It Your Business and/or register to meet and audition for agents in Paul Russell Casting’s master classes.

Never give up.

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 is the author of ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistakes and Achieve Success as a Working ActorFor more information, please visit www.PaulRussell.net.

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Special Skills on an Actor’s Resume

This Week’s Tip: Special Skills / No-No Skills

“No-No Skills” are items on an actors resume that should never – repeat NEVER be listed as skills on an actor’s resume.

The Special Skills section of an actor’s resume is not a landfill for useless information. This section should only contain actual special skills that can be performed on stage or screen. But many actors feel that they should have their Special Skills section of a resume challenge the verbosity of WAR & PEACE with “skills” that have no relevance to performing. Don’t even get me started on the useless “driver’s license” and” U.S. Passport” offenders. If a director needs a principal actor in a car, the actor is placed in a car that is put on a trailer or in front of a green screen. If you feel that you won’t be hired as an actor for a project without listing your driving skills or passport status then here’s what you do. Remove ALL acting credits on your resume because you’re not needed as an actor. Have just your name, contact information and put dead center on the resume that you can drive and/or have a passport. Your talent is not wanted, just your car or passport.

This past week as I was going through a multitude of resumes that came to my office from un-represented actors I began to notice that some actors were listing special skills which had absolutely no qualified reason or logic to be on an actor’s resume. Below is just some of the recent bounty of No-No skills found. If you have any “skill” similar on your resume delete it immediately (including any references to passports and driving).

– “Walking” (Ok, the actor looks a bit mature in his pic so maybe, for him, walking is beyond ordinary)

– “Dog Owner”

– “Promiscuous Female” (THIS was on a actor’s resume… either he doesn’t know his sex OR he has a lot of sex and his partners ignore the mid-waist protrusion)

– “Piano Clowning” (THE PIANO meets Stephen King’s IT)

– “I own a Russian warmblood” (I dated a Russian who was warmblooded but he didn’t shed)

– “Zone II Hunter Finals” (huh?)

– “Related to Jimmy Stewart” (And your point is?…)

– “President of a Corporation” (So is Donald Trump but I wouldn’t want to watch his Lear)

– “Tetris” (Is this actress hoping for the remake of TRON?)

– “Amazing with Children” (On a mature male’s résumé… someone call Chris Hanson of DATELINE)

– “Excellent Impression of Parents”

– “Baby-sitting” (I got a resume from an older man who’s “amazing with children”… you two need to get together)

– “Role player for psychological testing of Boston-area police department applicants”

– “Hard Living” (Yo, sweetheart… we’re all suffering these days)

– “Furniture refinishing and tiny tot gymnastics (Imagine if she got the two confused. There would be a lot of damaged dinettes and shellacked kiddies)

– “Enjoys restoring cars in the family collection”

– “Owner of [name withheld] Jewelry”

– “Make incredible smothered burritos” (My local Taco Hell needs you)

BookMoreWork_TelseyQuoteWhenever I, other casting personnel and talent reps encounter these No-No Skills and similar on resumes the resume is often quickly tossed. Why? Our impression of the actor is that they are one or all of the following; needy, insecure, over-compensating, clueless, a freak. Acting is a business folks. A profession. That’s why I wrote my book, ACTING: Make It Your Business, to help people from making these kinds of mistakes and treat the business of acting as a profession.

What should be in the Special Skills section of a resume? See pages 78 – 80 in ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistakes and Achieve Success as a Working Actor. This is NOT a plug. It’s a plea to actors to stop hindering themselves by knowingly or unknowing making mistakes that jeopardize forward momentum in their careers.

AMIYB_AmazonMy best,
Paul

Paul Russell’s career as a casting director, director, acting teacher and former actor has spanned more than 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 Elon, 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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Actors – How Not to Fail an Audition

Paul Russell
Visit Paul @ PaulRussell.net

We all make mistakes.

I’ve made plenty (even here openly on this intermesh thing).

After three decades of working with, and for actors, I’m still surprised by the career destroying fuck-ups that some actors will willingly and without-thought-to-consequences do with what little gray matter may pulse within in their cranium.

This week as I was sitting at a talent agency I witnessed a first-rate screw-up by an actor that jeopardized his relationship with a Broadway casting office, director, producer and agent all in one simultaneous, mind-blowing shoot-themselves-in-the-career crash. It also made me never want to work with the actor as well.

For this exercise we’ll tag him as Actor-Withholding-On-Logic; a.k.a. A.W.O.L.

A.W.O.L. dumped his agent, via a weekend e-mail missive, for he felt that his life was quote “boring” and he needed a change (no, that’s not the main mistake for my mussing here, although being bored and leaving your agent because the Prozac dosage is no longer controlling the mood swings could be considered a career careening crash).

As I was chatting in the talent agent’s office a call came from another casting director’s office (one that I once worked at). The casting director, along with a well-known director, choreographer and several producers were sitting curious at a casting session for an upcoming Broadway production. They were left waiting for an actor who had not shown up to his scheduled appointment for a leading role within the production. The M.I.A. actor? A.W.O.L.

A.W.O.L.’s former agent got off the phone with the now irritated casting director and called A.W.O.L. to ask why he had not shown up to the appointment he confirmed to attend. He had gotten the audition appointment via his agent well before trashing said talent rep. A.W.O.L. informed his former champion that he felt he no longer had to attend the audition because he had just left the agency. Excuse me?!?

So here was an unemployed actor who had just dumped his agent while also dumping upon a casting office and a production team for Broadway. Can someone explain to me, especially in this economic climate why such arrogance (and obvious ignorance) exists? Wait, I may have answered my question; arrogance and ignorance are close cousins.

BookMoreWork_TelseyQuoteWhat’s the moral here? No matter what your relationship with your representation, an actor is to keep their commitment to confirmed audition appointments. And not only audition appointments but also commitments to commissions on projects that your representation helped get you seen for and negotiated the contract(s). One of the few pardonable excuses on making a pass on a confirmed audition is passing, literally, as in six feet under or oven-ash time. Even then you’ll need a doctor’s written note.

Be considerate of others. Don’t become known as problematic. The number of people working in this industry is very small. We talk. We share stories. Don’t become a story that you would not want to be a part of.

My best,
Paul

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

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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