The Background Actor with The Extra Smell

Background actors, also known as extras, are often the most underappreciated and despised positions of employ within screen acting. Mostly because too large a percentage of background actors have that extra smell.

Extra Background Actors

Paul Russell_HeadshotPaul Russell – author ACTING: Make It Your Business, director & casting director

Background actors, also known as extras, are often the most underappreciated and despised positions of employ within screen acting. Mostly because too large a percentage of background actors have that extra smell.

Extras are the actors required to fill-out the background of a screen story. Without extras, the world of film and television would appear as empty as a movie theater playing a marathon of Adam Sandler flicks.

Some actors leverage being an extra–the grunt work of acting–as a chore for financial survival. Temporarily they’ll network on set with entertainment colleagues with the knowledge that the belittlement withstood of being herded like cattle around a set is a temporary gig and not a career. These actors though will encounter on set delusional actors who fervently believe that being an extra will eventually propel them to having their own star on the Hollywood Walk-of-Fame; possibly aside Donald Trump’s unearned star. These are the actors who are known in the industry as “having that extra smell.”

The extra smell actor is the actor who believes their self-declared stunning beauty or unusual look once glimpsed on the screen for less than a nanosecond will have a director or producer rise pointing to the screen and shout, “Get me that actor! That’s the star of my next budget-busting-blockbuster!”

More Characteristics of Actors with the Extra Smell

1. Actors with a shopping list of credits on their resume that are named as the following actual credit from an actor’s resume: “Professional business man on the park bench reading The Wall Street Journal as Jennifer Anniston jogged by.”

2. Actors who when opening their wardrobe closet refer to clothing by project names: “For my date tonight, I think I’ll wear The Lovely Bones.”

3. Actors with an app on their smartphone a search engine for public bathrooms that can be used as a changing room while on location.

4. An actor with more autographs of the principals “worked with” than principal credits on their resume.

5. An actor with a composite card that displays them in various costumes from their roles as an extra, and then they utilize that comp card as a headshot to casting for principal work consideration. Extra smell.

6. Actors who send a picture and resume to a casting office that casts only principals and the actor requests consideration for extra work. Doubly extra smelling.

7. A background actor listing the extra credits on their resume as “featured.” “Bingo!” called for the extra smell in the corner of your screen.

8. The extra actor who complains to the caterer at craft services that over the past several years the caterer’s tri-colored pasta salad has been deteriorating in quality. Table for one extra smell.

9. Actors who faithfully believe that if the director happens to silently notice them then that director will instantly, without hearing the actor speak, catapult that actor to principal status.

10. Actors who gaze dreamily at a nearby honeywagon on set and fantasize it’s an oasis of stardom. There’s a room for the actor with an extra smell.

11. If while dressed uniformly among peer extras, there’s the extra actor who notices that their robe has a silver buckle upon its sash while the extra standing aside them has a sash with a gold buckle. And this slight in lower metallic grade on a costume ignites the jealous actor’s anger. Wardrobe knows who has that extra smell.

12. An extra arriving on set with a backpack bulging with screenplays they wrote as vehicles for themselves to star in and their sole intent for the day is to distribute them to anyone who makes eye contact. Everyone sees that extra smell coming.

13. An extra working on a James Cameron film, and the closest proximity they made to Mr. Cameron is the third AD. But later when speaking to fellow extras the actor claims, “James thinks I would be fantastic for the president alien who stops the oil tanker from plowing into the Statue of Liberty.”

14. Actors who mistake casting directors Mali Finn and Jonathan Strauss for a Vegas act.

15. Actors watching a movie who ignore the principals in order to evaluate the extras in the background.

16. Actors lobbying SAG-AFTRA, The Academy of Motion Pictures & Sciences, and The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences that each implement the award category: Best Extra in a Comedy, Drama or Musical.

17. Actors whom after being cast announce on social media, “I got casted.” There’s an actor whose vocabulary has an extra smell.

Put into proper perspective by the participant background work as an actor does have benefits: A paycheck. A networking opportunity. When work for an actor as an extra is approached by an actor with fantasies that the silent background cross or sitting at a table will lead to eventual fame; that actor has an extra smell that prompts principal professionals to run. Talent representation and casting directors advise actors who want to seriously pursue principal screen work to minimize or delete all their extra credits from the resume when an acting resume is sent to principal casting directors and Legit talent agents.

Now, before some actors misinterpret that prior statement and post on an online message board misinformation stating, “Paul Russell said….” let me re-state more plainly. Take the paychecks. Remove or minimize the extra credits on your resume if you want to be considered for principal work on screen. Have a separate resume listing acting history as an extra for when submitting for work to casting directors who cast background actors.

What if extra credits are all an actor has listed under the Film/TV header of their Legit resume and that actor wishes to grow beyond being an extra? Minimize. Actors with that extra smell will often include on their Legit resume every silent walk-on. Which in turn leads the purveyor (casting directors and talent agents) of the actor’s work history to ponder, “Can’t act. Directors don’t trust him or her with an Under Five or better.”

(continue reading)

HAMILTON’s casting director
praises Paul Russell’s book on acting
as “a must read for all actors… the actor’s roadmap!”

AMIYB_Amazon

There’s nothing disgraceful about being an extra (other than the sometimes disgraceful treatment of extras on set). An actor as an extra produces a paycheck. The under-appreciated work provides an actor with fresh contacts. The temporary employ won’t be an end-solution for becoming a star. Which by-the-by, fame should never be the reason for being an actor, and if that is an actor’s sole intent for being in the arts–that actor has that extra smell.

My best,
Paul
www.PaulRussell.net

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Casting Directors, Talent Agents, Directors & Actors

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

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

This is your roadmap!”
BERNARD TELSEY, casting director – CSA
(The InternHamiltonNBC’s The Wiz – LIVE!, Wicked)

 

“All the right questions asked and answered…
and with a generous portion of good humor.”
SUZANNE RYAN, casting director, CSA
(Law & OrderUnforgettable)

 

“I love this book!
Paul’s book tells you what you don’t want to hear but really need to know
EVERY actor should read this book!”
DIANE RILEY, Senior Legit Talent Agent
Harden-Curtis & Associates

 

“Paul’s book made me proud to be a part of this community we call ‘show!'”
KAREN ZIEMBA, TONY & Drama Desk Award Winning Actress

 

“Paul Russell’s words are not only blunt & accurate they zero in on all the questions every actor wants to know but is afraid to ask!”
KEN MELAMED, Talent Agency Partner
Bret Adams, Ltd.

 

“I had my Business of Acting, BFA Seniors, class do book reports on a variety of “business of acting” books and ACTING: Make It Your Business came out a clear winner—considered to be essential for their bookshelves!
Dr. NINA LeNOIR,
Dept. Chair – Dept. of Thtr.
Chapman University

 

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

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

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.

Side Note: FREE subscriber to Answers for Actors?

If not, then you’re not one of the 5,700 plus actors getting Answers for Actors delivered directly to your in-box. Each new post (once every two weeks) gets you industry info. I and my office do not view your e-mail address when you subscribe (the techno-elves do all that).  We just know you’re on-board and happily sharing in your journey. To subscribe for free use one of the subscription services either the gray ‘Follow Answers For Actors’ button to the lower right or the follow options in the right hand column.

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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An Actor’s Headshot is Worth a Thousand Jobs! – How to Get the Best Actor Headshot | Answers for Actors

“Headshot DOs & DON’Ts. What makes your headshots stand out? What makes for a good headshot? What is it that you might be lacking in a shot?” — This week a special industry guest gives insight on effective headshots for the successful actor. You’ll see some ‘scary’ examples of what not to do along with examples of what makes a headhsot excel.

Actor Headshot DOs & DON’Ts

[Note: Paul Russell steps aside this week and hands the keyboard over to a respected, entertainment industry guest.]

Guest Answers for Actors Contributor
Jack D. Menashe

What makes your headshots stand out?  What makes for a good headshot? What is it that you might be lacking in a shot?

One good answer to those actor questions by me — as a talent agency owner for nearly two decades —  is an answer I’ve provided for many years: Since ninety-five percent of the performing artists out there might possibly be doing something wrong in their presentation of a headshot… what’s gonna make you stand out is doing everything right. Below, I list a few major things which industry professionals, such as agents and casting directors look for in a headshot.

But let’s get down-n-dirty first with what’s being done wrong by some actors (we’ll get to the good stuff later, I promise).

Many performers believe they have wonderful headshots. But often they’re mistaken. And they don’t realize that their shots aren’t so wonderful until long after their headshot doesn’t receive a response to audition inquiries. The actor with a bad headshot loses a lot of opportunities for work because of a sub-par headshot.

Many of the images which are sent in mailings are oddly angled and overly-lit,  and many of them are airbrushed within an inch of their 8×10 lives. Often these travesties don’t come close to documenting an authentic likeness and honest qualities of the artist who has set out to achieve for possessing a highly effective marketing tool.

Any opportunity an artist gets to have an opinion formed about them from casting, producers, directors or talent representatives is a valuable commodity.  In my office, all of the headshots received in the mail have been looked at by either agents or assistants.  What I find disappointing is the lack of knowledge that many artists have about the fact that bad headshots actually have a higher impact than the really good ones–in a really negative way.  Bad headshots are so much more memorable… believe me!

My least favorite are the composite photographs where an actor feels it is necessary to include images of themselves in every costume possible, from preacher to rabbi and from doctor to old lady.

Does anyone still wear a…

How to Emote a Bedspread

Too many artists are trying too hard to stand out. Their misguided efforts to be ‘unique’ often sacrifice quality. In the entertainment industry (as with life) the better the quality the better the response by goals and those you’re seeking.  As a professional in the business with a heart, that only wants the best for performers, I have to say that it is really important to get valuable feedback from an extremely reliable source before putting your materials out there to be criticized or judged in this business.

Actor Headshot Marketing Misfires:

     

Your marketing materials are most likely to be scrutinized before they are praised.

What I and industry love in a headshot is:

1:         It looks like you!

2:         Your eyes radiate life.

3.         Your make-up is light and clean (for females), minimal (for males).

4.         Less is more. Simplicity.

5.         Proper lighting.

6.         Proper cropping. Have your photo lab where you have your shots reproduced aid you in the proper positioning of your image within the photograph.

7.         You’re the star of your shot, not the background that you’re positioned before.

8.         High grade, photographic prints on quality paper (No home computer print outs).

9.         Natural positioning– (No riding of a motorcycle or feeding-of-animals-at-the-zoo shots! I know of casting directors and agents who have several of those side-show headshots from actors in their ‘Freak File’.)

10.       You look like someone who I feel like I want to get to know as a person just from seeing your picture!!!!

11.       Your picture exemplifies you both in personality and in type/branding.  A good photographer will work hard to bring out the best qualities of each actor before their lens. Unfortunately some photographers, in a hurry to get to the next actor, rush photo sessions and treat the actor like a product on an assembly line. And often the rushed results show in a poor, end product.

12.       Your headshot does not look exactly like the 5,000 other actors who’ve just gone to the same photographer.  (My least favorites are the headshots where one photographer has every actor sitting and/or squatting on a cobblestone SoHo street in New York. And then there’s the horizontal-headshot-before-a-white background-photographer who charges over a grand for repeating the same look and shot. Every actor looks the same. There’s no individuality.)

About fifteen years ago, as a then young talent agent being fed up with clients of mine being charged thousands of dollars for terrible headshots,  I enrolled in The New School’s professional photography program.  I wanted to be able to re-shoot my clients’ headshots (pro bono),  in order to get the audition appointments which I needed to get them work.

JackMenashe.com

Low and behold, the payoff was tremendous! What I set out to learn was all true– all it took was a beautiful, honest, professional headshot to push the actor from being a possible appointment to becoming one of the select top-tier actors on the casting list for tapings and director meetings.  My actors booked like wildfire because the new photos got them through the door.  My clients already had the goods to book the jobs. They just needed casting to recognize their potential!

Finding a great deal of enjoyment in capturing images of my clients, I soon set out for, and was granted SAG approval to begin working as the only SAG franchised, professional headshot photographer in New York.

A good headshot photographer shoots headshots because of their affinity and connection to performing artists.  Like you, the goal is to create a beautiful work of art that captures your look, energy and personality.  It is an opportunity for both you and your photographer to bring out all of the qualities that make you unique and marketable.  It’s important to enjoy your time shooting… after-all your photographer wants to have you at your best.  You work hard to be able to invest in your acting career.

What you can do to make your headshot session the best:

1.         Make every minute count and savor your experience of having your likeness captured proudly for all within the industry to see.

2.         Try to set aside the day of your shoot entirely to positive activities.

3.         Get rest the night prior to your shoot to catch as much sleep as possible.

4.         As far as make-up goes…

LADIES: Natural and minimal.  You don’t want to look too made up–it’s distracting, and the industry will be wondering what you are hiding. Most photographers have make-up artists on hand…however, many photographers, like myself are make-up artists as well and prepare you for your shoot.  You should have full input on your make-up colors and glosses, as you will be expected to look like the person in the headshot when showing up for auditions–plus, you want to feel both beautiful and comfortable.

MEN: Little to no make-up is always a good rule of thumb…nothing is more unattractive in a male headshot than heavy base, painted eyebrows and lipstick.  Rather, if you sport various looks in your real-life and auditions both with and without facial hair, you might want to consider photographing with some facial hair, and then doing a mid-photo-shoot clean-shave.

JackMenashe.com

I can’t stress enough to you how important it is to have a photo that not only shows who you are as a performer, but ‘speaks’ for who you are as a business person.

In our industry, those who hire or represent performing artists seek to work with artists who demonstrate qualities which reflect success.  After my spending a lifetime in entertainment I can honestly say that at the first glance of a headshot most seasoned industry professionals behind the casting/representation table can judge with certainty whether or not an actor has wisely invested time, education and money into an acting career.

JackMenashe.com

The frustrating truth is that for most of an actor’s career the headshot is often your only calling card.  Your ad. Your representative. Your brand. Don’t waste time using a headshot that doesn’t do you the justice you deserve.  Set yourself apart. Stand out by using a headshot that works for you.  Carefully evaluate the feedback that you’ve gotten on your current picture.

All in all, if you feel that a new headshot is in order, then you might just be on the road to opening up many doors that you could not jar before.

Best,
Jack
JackMenashe.com

Jack Menashe’s history as a talent representative includes being the owner of Independent Artists Agency. As a headshot photographer Jack’s clients include Golden Globe, TONY, Emmy winners and nominees.

His photography has appeared in New York Magazine, Vanity Fair, Playbill, Dramatists Magazine, Back Stage, CD covers and in performing arts books which highlight his work as headshots-to-have. Visit JackMenashe.com for his portfolio and client feedback.

Casting Directors, Talent Agents, Directors & Actors

Love the Best-Selling Book for Actors
ACTING: Make It Your Business!

AMIYB_Amazon“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
(NBC’s Peter Pan – LIVE!, Into The Woods – The Movie, Wicked, Sex & The City)
“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!

Lies On An Actor’s Resume

Did a profane playwright suggest to NYU-Tisch acting students to lie on their resumes by creating false credits?

Resume Lies…

Did a well-known playwright celebrated for buffaloing text with curses suggest to NYU-Tisch acting students to lie and create false resume credits? I hope the speedy plowman of dialogue, who honors the four-letter word as much as I, didn’t f**k with the emerging artists’ minds by encouraging falsified work history.

As told to me by a collective group of NYU students, allegedly the profane playwright suggested misrepresentation on the resume. Being that this startling information came to me second-hand I assume that the playwright’s comments were misconstrued and/or taken out of context. But… if the black belt of f-bombs did instruct the impressionable young admirers to lie, fib, stroke, misrepresent…someday when those students are in an audition room they potentially must answer an awkward inquiry about a falsified credit on the resume. Only then will they quickly learn what it is to be fornicated by the anarchist of American theater.

While casting at an open call I read the resume of an actress standing before me. My name as director was married to a past credit. Yes, I directed the production. Yes, it was at the theater listed. No, she didn’t play the lead role as her resume indicated. Nor was she cast as the understudy or in the ensemble. Possibly she was an usher? I don’t know. But if someone suggested to her she lie on her resume, where was that adviser instructing her how to skillfully handle that very uncomfortable and unfortunate moment of ‘gotcha?’

An actress wrote me that a past agent of hers instructed she lie on her resume creating false film credits. Allegedly the agent asserted to the actress that doing so would help the agent get the actress seen for TV and film projects. The actress inserted on her resume a friend’s basement-budget home movie. (The actress has since left ill-advising agent. Smart move.)

In the first years of my acting career when ignorance, insecurity, and youth blinded me from making productive, honest choices I foolishly created a resume falsehood regarding my education. I was embarrassed for not having a secondary arts education. But shame is no excuse for an untruth. When work continually kept coming my guilt and growing maturity forced the fib from my resume. I felt freed from my nagging conscious once I obliterated the deceit. And I never, ever, embellished again. Nor should you. Have more respect for yourself.

BookMoreWork_TelseyQuoteWhen any of us create falsehoods the damage done is not in the moment of ‘gothcha’ as like when the actress with a resume lie baring my name sheepishly stood before me. No, it’s your self-esteem that suffers a near-fatal blow. Lies like honesty cannot be permanently erased. Like the pictographs on cave walls etched millennia ago, a trace will remain. Somewhere. Or with someone. Most prominently with your conscious.

Be better to yourself. Be honest. We all begin with a blank page. Best to keep the page clean than mar it with falsehoods.

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 Hits & Misses (Part 1)

Two industry voices. Both Jack Menashe, senior agent, President of Independent Artists Agency, and casting director, director Paul Russell are candid in their views about the do’s & don’t’s about the do’s and don’t’s in pictures, resumes, emails and marketing.

This Week: Do’s and Don’t’s for Actors’ Pictures, Resumes, E-mails & Marketing

As part of a three-part video series we begin with the first of several interviews filmed by Back Stage.

Two industry voices. Jack Menashe, who served as President of Independent Artists Agency, and myself are candid in our views about the do’s & don’t’s for actor pictures, resumes, emails and marketing. (Length: 3 mins., 22 seconds)

NOTE: Yes, I know about the jerry-curl hair flopping about my forehead in the video. It was just one of those days when a few errant strands felt like partying. But hey, look at my new headshot to the left; taken by none other than Jack Menashe — apart from his agenting he’s multi-talented. With my endorsement Jack is offering Answers for Actors readers a major dicsount. When you contact him via JackMenashe.com just mention code: Jmen123.

O.K. onto the vid and my misbehaving curls… (grrrr).

Bookmark and Share |   JackMenashe.com

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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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What is THAT Smell?!

This week: The Stench of Desperation; Actors Trying too Hard

You and I both know how difficult the challenge often is to garner attention in our business. I’m speaking of positive, career-forward recognition, not the Lindsay Lohan lapses of judgment.

I’ve written in my book and spoken in classes of past gimmicks of actor ‘Look-At-Me!’ foibles that I and my colleagues have come upon. Ranging from footwear bribery, attempts at culinary collusion for a callback to cereal boxes loaded with an actor’s reel hidden deep within the cornflakes. (It’s not the children of the corn that are always the flakes.)

So, yes, I and many casting directors, talent agents, artistic directors, directors, choreographers, managers, producers, anyone who gives the nod of affirmation for employ has seen their share of actors trying too hard to gain attention. And there’s a single word for this act; desperation.

That noun describing an action or state of despair once displayed is difficult to remove from the memory of those who witness it. Kind of like the stench from when having a run-in with a skunk. The odor of desperation follows you. And sadly, people who make attempts for attention don’t often see themselves as coming across as desperate. With noble intent they charge forward in a manner that turns off their objective. Think of one of your past loves who whined or were needy for you and how disenchanted you became of their arduous affections. They, with a heart full of great desires, were desperate. The cause? For each scenario that differs. Sometimes fear of failure lures one to desperation. But often insecurity is the main culprit that leads the innocent into committing an act of desperation.

While casting for the national tour of The Diary of Anne Frank my office received possibly one of the more misguided attempts to gain attention and an audition appointment. Below are images of her cover letter. The actress’ name I’ve altered for privacy. Sadly the burn marks made by the sender for make-believe-authenticity are authentic to the actress.

Now take a closer look below and you’ll see that the actress, in attempt at making her cover letter look as if it were ripped from Anne’s diary, was summoning the departed victim of one of mankind’s darkest hours.

The actress’ intent went beyond desperate to bordering on an obsessive passion for the real-life character.

Entertainment is a business. When pursuing the employ of fantasy the pursuit should be as professional as with your approach to finding your survival jobs. I doubt that you would (and hope that you would not) send a query letter for employment like the above to a Fortune 500 company, the Trump Organization or any civilian employer.

My partner, the talent agency owner, recently received an 8”x10” mailing (below) from an actor that could be interpreted by any recipient to be another act of desperation for attention. Now, the young man probably did not perceive such as he spent many hours and monies upon marketing that he believed to be professional and slick:

Yes, it is a bit polished. No, you should not do similar. As a comp card? Possibly. As a headshot and resume which the above was intended to be? It’s too slick for our purposes. It and the actor try too hard. Less is more. A simple headshot with on the back a résumé printed on clean, crisp, white paper. That package would have been more effective and apropos.

But it wasn’t just the irregular P&R format that caught my attention. There was also a lengthy, five-paragraph, cover letter full of prose  containing near nothing as to valuable, substantial information like; education, past projects, and people he has worked and/or studied with. Much of the content mirrored the following phrase:

“Throwing my headshot into the trash can would be a mistake… some agent is going to make a lot of money.”

Oh, no he didn’t. But oh yes he did.

Now you may be formulating the following thought, But Paul, he got your attention. Yes. Yes, he did. But it’s not the kind of attention I believe he wanted. My initial reaction was, “My God, how much time and money did this young man spend to put together a mailing that overcompensates for lack of substance in his work history?” He was trying too hard to make up for a thin resume. Of which the latter (a thin resume) is not a crime or fault.

I and my colleagues would be thrilled to see the exampled actors here (and similar like them) succeed by making professional-in-appearance choices in their journeys instead of driving down dead-end driveways of desperation. I give hardball tough love here, in my book and in classes because I honestly want success for every actor I encounter. Their success is my happiness. Not because I arrogantly believe myself to be right but because I don’t enjoy seeing actors fail as a result of simple mistakes they have made. Overcompensating is one of those easily tripped upon errors.

We all begin with nothing. Be proud of what you have to offer. Don’t subjugate substance for splash. Don’t go Six Flags fireworks on your resume to overcompensate for a mom-n-pop history. Some of the most productive producers of story-telling art have been those lesser known venues. Never be ashamed. (And unless you want to permanently destroy a cover letter never take a match to your missives.)

You know where we all should be trying too hard? At enjoying life. Living to our fullest potential has no odor of desperation.

Besos,
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 Email Addresses

This week: Actor Email Addresses Used in Addressing Entertainment Professionals

The pre-pubescent use of sexually suggestive, “personality expressive”, childish monikers misused and abused in e-mail addresses utilized for business correspondence has got to stop. Now. If you’ve read my book you know that I stress “this industry is all about image, image, image…” That’s not a mirror mantra for the narcissistic. It’s a reality of the entertainment industry.

Often as I go through the actor mail (hard copy and digital) I groan or sigh heavily in disbelief as I come across actors seeking professional work from a casting person or representation by an agent while utilizing e-mail addresses that are in no way professional.

Below is just a small sampling from the saturation of sophomoric e-mail addresses that I’ve found on actor resumes or spammed to my in-box. In order to spare these fools of flippant font further shame and protect the sillies from spam; the servers (Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail, etc) have been removed.

dirtyprettyone2000 (The video prequel to nastynaughtyone2001?)

chinkychinese (Does this person have a severe case of self-loathing or are they utilizing  the addy as a dating advert to rice queens?)

AnnoyinActress

swishyfishy

foolishactor (Yes. Your e-mail address proves the message.)

instantactor (Just add bottled water!)

danceweasel (Shirtless, twitching twinks-with-drinks in hand comes to mind.)

puzled.one (If you can’t spell “puzzled”; yes… indeed, you are “puzled”.)

Grahammy_poo (Let’s not even envision to where this double entendre could lead.)

And….

pussylvr

Really? Are these people kidding or are they just insane, myopic morons? This is a business folks. A profession. If the e-mail address in use for your professional correspondence resembles a fifth grader’s ha-ha quotient (i.e. fart jokes and school yard nicknames) then I and others who hire will not take you seriously. Seriously.

For any professional, electronic correspondence an actor’s e-mail address should include the performer’s name or part of it. Such as:

NormaDesmond@whatever.com

N.Desmond@whatever.com

Norma_D@whatever.com

“IngénueForLife”, “MyManMax” or “IamBig” would not be appropriate, professional, e-mail address monikers for Ms. Desmond. (And if you’re wondering who Norma Desmond is… please hand in your acting and/or gay card. Now.)

Keep the silly and inane e-mail addys for friends and family who may be more forgiving than a business contact. Leverage your electronic loony-ness with them. Put a professional, digital image to your e-mail address when addressing professionals. Got it danceweasel? Good.

‘Nuff said.

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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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