Pay-to-play Auditions / Workshops: Who’s to Blame?

In the early 1990s an actress spotted an opportunity to exploit the industry guest portion of workshops without the educational value, and wham!: the first ‘pay-to-play’ studio was formed. [Read more…]

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Paul Russell
PaulRussell.net

pay to play workshops / auditions

 

[Author’s Note: Pay-to-play workshops. With the recent report of casting director, Scott David, for ‘Criminal Minds’ being fired by CBS because of a conflict of interest with providing workshops to actors; an update from a prior Answers for Actors post on how the entertainment industry became entrenched in this scenario.]

An acting studio advertises: “Get seen by Agents and Casting!” In reaction do you as an actor picket as a dissenter? Or participate as a presenter? Are you an artist above self-advocacy? Or an actor trudging the self-promotion trenches? Whatever your action or inaction the bedrock has been set.

The sediment first formed as showcases at acting studios. Actors learned acting skills under the advisement of iconic acting teachers. At the end of the class semester, be it six months or a week, an agent or casting director was invited to view the progress of the actors.

In the early 1990s an actress spotted an opportunity to exploit the industry guest portion of workshops without the educational value, and wham!: the first ‘pay-to-play’ studio was formed.

A valuable asset of the class—an outside industry-insider’s eyes—was quickly bastardized by mom-n-pop one-night forums as the success of the first pay-to-play studio succeeded tremendously. Hosts set up shop in cheap real estate. They wrangle agents and casting directors to watch actors—no class for improvement—actors are herded as cattle, and shoved through a door to read before industry for either the modest price of a movie date night or an extortion of a month’s wages.

The pay-to-play ‘paid audition’ created discourse among actors, and worse blemished what respected acting studios had been for decades offering as a fringe-benefit: industry eyes. The  acting studios witnessed precipitous declines in enrollment. What to do? Include alongside of the traditional classes a one-nighter pay-to-be-seen by industry.

The paid audition scenario for actors to be seen and heard by industry flourished quickly like fro-yo stands. The market demanded more opportunities. The market being actors vying for visibility alternatives, and frustrated by a lack of career momentum.

In 2009, after having been offered to teach at NYU-Tisch, I thought I’d share with non-student actors my decades of knowledge culled as an actor, director, and casting director. I always wished to teach, why not offer publicly what I myself learned? I offered modern marketing make-overs, plus branding combined with audition technique study as a four-week class. Just actors and I working on how to improve actors getting more work for before, during, and after the audition.

Slight problem arose before my rose-spectacle intentions. I couldn’t sell the damned class at a price point of $94. Despite my being invited to university theater programs to teach the master class version of this offering plus my career history and authoring a popular book on acting I couldn’t sway actors towards my offer of assistance. I panicked. I lowered the registration fee cost further. The response? Frozen tundra.

After much hand wringing I added an agent panel. Sudden thaw! Actors rushed me. Wait lists formed and grew. I was ashamed, and somewhat disheartened. But I want to share what I’ve witnessed working well by successful actors. My shame vanished upon witnessing attending actors succeeding.

(Shame though on the agent at Gersh who informed she had a ‘quote.’ A fee much higher than what is standard. She’s not attending these seminars for the actors. She’s there for the money. I retracted my invite.)

I’m not naïve as to what some of my students seek in the seminar. I can’t fault their ambition for an opportunity to snag an agent’s attention because that’s partly what I’m teaching actors to do: how to effectively agent themselves to agents and casting. I repeatedly stress to the attending actors not to focus on the agent panel but to leverage knowledge gained during our time together. I ask at the beginning of each Access to Agents, “What other than the obvious do you hope to gain from this class?” I seek truthful responses. One once was overtly honest, “I want limousines,” he said.

Too often a percentage of actors complain about agents and casting directors receiving a professional stipend to attend non-instructive seminars. This mostly stems from a, “I didn’t get what I paid for” knee-jerk response. Meaning the self-denial actresses and actors, who willingly registered for what was basically a wham-bam-thank-you ma’am audition, expected their thirty-five to forty bucks pooled to a paid auditor would sway subjectivity. Now who’s sporting rose-colored Oakleys?

Each actor must assess realistically what their participation in a seminar attended by entertainment industry will do for their career. Is the offering educational with a focus on improving the actor’s career long-term? Or is the opportunity an education-free evening where the actor hops onto a conveyor belt of actors with a short-term gamble they’ll be picked, processed and packaged prettily?

There is no ‘blame’ to be assigned here. How can we fault our peers their desire to improve their position when our self-identified definition of success may mirror theirs? I could offer my master classes sans industry. I tried once, twice, and even thrice. Crickets. Actors desired agents and casting directors. Before pointing fingers at casting directors and agents for being paid for their professional time, ask yourself: “Who’s paying?”

My best,
Paul

PaulRussell.net

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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 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.

Casting Directors, Talent Agents, Directors & Actors

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

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
(Hamilton, The Intern, NBC’s The Wiz – LIVE!, Into The Woods – The Movie, 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!

#StopTwitterCasting | Auditions, Actors & Social Media

Actors desperate for work and attention are complicit in becoming social media whores at the whims of their pimps: casting directors, directors, and producers.

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Paul Russell_HeadshotPaul Russell
PaulRussell.net

.
.There’s a malicious trend of false popularity trumping talent killing the art of acting. And actors desperate for auditions, work and attention are complicit in becoming social media whores at the whims of their pimps: casting directors, directors, and producers. Want an audition? Casting now requires on a growing number of projects that an actor, not a celeb, but a journeyman actor have a large social media following. At a prominent New England regional theater the casting of a dance track during call-backs had two viable candidates. The producers went with the female dancer who had the larger social media following.

For the Millennial actor this whoring social media followers to get an audition or to be cast in a project may seem routine. Let’s turn the clock back 20 years…

Before present day social media, and ‘followers’, and ‘friends’ you’ve never met but to whom you reveal the most intimate aspects of your private life publicly; before the narcissistic swamps which are not receding any time soon, the casting of journeyman actors was based on talent. Not an actor’s Twitter, Instagram, and/or Facebook following. Celebs? Sure, there was always a ‘box-office’ or ‘Q’ consideration. But now in the age of “look-at-me” diarrhea indulgence producers, directors, and writers are asking of no-name journeyman actors to have a set minimum of social media followers before the actor submit themselves for an audition. Have a paltry 50 to 200 social media followers the response is, “Don’t bother submitting. You’re not worthy.” Have over 100K, 500K or more followers then, “Yes! Let’s see that actor! Never mind the talent. If we hire 10 actors with each of them having a social media following of 200K per actor, that’s 2 million eyes on our project!”

A major flaw with that sweat-shop thinking. Followers does not equal commerce. If it did then my 60K followers across various platforms should have all bought my acting book, letting me enjoy the luxury of not having to constantly plug the pulp puppy. The percentage of sales for my acting book—hailed by industry, actors, and universities as a must-read—compared to my following is not equal.

Actors are encouraged to “buy” followers. Problem: all followers are not necessarily what is sought as a demographic. Through no choice of mine I have followers I never sought or want: hardware stores, plumbing companies, convenience stores, and many other non-arts related followers.

And while the employers of talent believe hiring actors with large followings will get the project more eye-time online that will only occur if their actors pay the social media platforms to bring eyes on the actor’s Tweets and updates.

This trend of followers over talent isn’t artful. We’re compromising the integrity of creating by buying into the false reality of reality entertainment. I dread the day I see on an actor’s resume placed in the Special Skills section, or worse as a credit, the number of social network followers the actor has.

Sir Laurence Olivier had talent: not a Twitter following.

#StopTwitterCasting

My best,
Paul

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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, 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 visit www.PaulRussell.net.

Casting Directors, Talent Agents, Directors & Actors

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

“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!

Audition Successes & Failures: Actor Tell-All from The Casting Table

Greetings fellow artists. I recently had a great opportunity as an active auditioning NYC actor: to sit on the other side of the table. It was a three-day masterclass, and it changed the way I now audition.

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Welcome Guest Blogger, actress Holly Williams who recently jumped to behind the casting table. Oh–what she witnessed. Holly shares insight on how actors can soar with success. Or flame out in failure. Holly is an AEA actress, having recently returned from 5 continuous years of work at the TONY-recognized Barter Theatre.

Holly WilliamsHolly Williams
holly-williams.com

Guest Blogger

Greetings my fellow artists. Currently, I am writing this blog on my phone waiting to sign up for an EPA appointment. I recognize a lot of you. I see you almost every morning at the crack of dawn at AEA, Telsey, Pearl, Nola and/or Ripley. We stand in line together. Crowd around the mirrors and put on our makeup. Or stretch, and make small talk. Or do our best to silently hum vocal warm ups while we wait to snag a slot. 

 

A few weeks ago, I switched places. I had a great opportunity as an active, auditioning NYC actor: to sit on the other side of the casting table. This time I didn’t see you in your cute pajamas, lugging over-sized bags and winter coats. This time I was seeing bright-eyed and bushy tailed actors accomplish a savvy quick change into your audition-ready selves. I observed the notes casting director, and director, Paul Russell would write on your resumes to remember you by, the impression you gave when you walked into the room and when you left. In between auditions, he whispered what was working, what was not and why. I learned about the complications of solving the casting puzzle by listening to the creative team’s comments. It was a three-day masterclass, and it changed the way I now audition.

 

Look like your headshot:  

Like you, I have heard this a hundred times from various well-respected sources. One of those, “Duh- everyone knows that” truths, right? But more often than not, I wouldn’t recognize the person walking into the room based on your photo. Your headshot is the first thing I see. If your picture has a hair color/cut that changes your appearance, looks like you five or ten years ago (be honest with yourself about that) or is a super glamorous shot with makeup and hair fit for the cover of a magazine but not for the you walking into the room right now: I will not remember who you are at the end of the day. When all I have to look at and remember you by is your photo, let it look like you. So much of casting is outside your control. Looking like you headshot is not one of them..

 

Make your resumes easy to read:

I spent more time trying to hunt for information on your resume than I did watching your audition. Go to Paul Russell’s ACTING: MAKE IT YOUR BUSINESS book, turn to page 86 and follow the industry standard. I probably missed a marvelous part of your audition because I was searching for something that I should be able to find at a glance.

[As an aside: I thought my resume was FINE. I showed it to Paul on our break and he made all kinds of edits to it- and this is AFTER taking his class! So, for those of you like me who think, “Oh, this doesn’t apply to me.”….maybe get a second opinion just to be safe. Again, this IS within your control.]

 

Keep your audition material up to date!:

Our artistic producer LOVED asking people for something contrasting. And then he would ask for another piece–and another! I know this is rare. Most of us are used to only having time for one monologue or one 16-32 bar cut, and then leaving. But what surprised me the most was watching you have a panic attack at these requests. Some of you did not have another contrasting piece, or you flipped through your book frantically trying to find something and couldn’t decide, or you walked around in circles trying to remember another monologue you haven’t done in years. And even though I was on the other side of the table, rooting for you to remember your other material because I wanted to see more of your magic, I got nervous for you. Really nervous. So make it a goal to keep your audition material polished and ready to go when unexpectedly requested. This is in your control (see the pattern here?).

 

Be yourself. Have fun:

Okay- this is the thing that clicked the most for me. Now, I’ve taken Paul Russell’s masterclass twice and have taken advantage of his private coaching sessions. With all the notes I’ve taken on the business, marketing and audition strategy…two phrases I wrote down the most: ‘Be yourself’ and ‘Have fun.’

 

Easy, right? “How can I be anything other than myself? I get the chance to act and sing today. That’s always fun! Easy.”  After about the 30th audition witnessed, the phrases ‘Be yourself’ and ‘Have fun’ I had written down over and over again in my notes took on a new meaning. 

 

I realized I wasn’t being myself or having that much fun. Why? Because I would walk into an audition as my guarded self: Don’t speak unless spoken to. Put your professional game face on. Live in the moment once your audition begins. Politely thank them for their time and leave. If they are interested in more they will ask.

 

Do these also sound like your thoughts? They may–because I saw about 350 of you do the same thing. And you know what the result was? I had no idea who you were at the end of the day. 

 

‘Being yourself,’ and ‘having fun’ means allowing your authentic personality, all your wonderful quirks; your natural disposition; your likable and unique individuality to come into the room with you come through in the pieces you’re doing and also through the clothes you choose to wear. This is another way we get a glimpse of who you are in the limited amount of time we have with you in the room.

 

Those of you who found opportunities to let your authenticity come through made me remember you at the end of the day because I got a glimpse of your specific personality and I wanted to know you more and work with you one day. Even if you did not fit our casting puzzle: I remembered you.

 

Paul tried to engage your authenticity when you walked into the room: He greeted you, he would ask questions about you, and compliment your work or attire. But like me, you gave a very short guarded answer, and then ended with “Thank you” and you left the room. It was a missed an opportunity to know you more!  I learned that asking you questions behind the table is to get an idea of who you are and imagine if we might like working with you. Don’t recite your resume to me- it’s right in front of me. Tell me something. A quick story about a unique experience you’ve had or enjoyed, and then let that personality fly!

 

And here’s the best part about being yourself: it’s so freeing. The nuances of your artistic gifts come through more which is a lot of fun!  Your energy changed mine. Watching you enjoy your audition resulted in my own enjoyment and I had fun with you. 

 

So drop that guard, find (appropriate) opportunities to have a quick conversation or a moment to potentially create relationships with someone on the other side of the table by being your authentic self. Because one day, for some project, your gifts, craft, particular attributes, and individualism will be the solution to a casting dilemma. And you will have the advantage of being someone that casting will remember who then say, “Oh, I like this person a lot. I’ve been wanting to work with them.”

 

So be yourself! Have fun!

_____

AMIYB_AmazonBernard Telsey, casting director for HAMILTON, The Intern, and The Wiz – Live! hails of Paul Russell’s book for actors, ACTING: Make It Your Business:

“Actors everywhere trying to succeed…

THIS IS YOUR ROADMAP!”

 Check out ACTING: Make It Your Business!

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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, 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 visit www.PaulRussell.net.

Best Solution on How to Send an Actor Headshot & Resume via Email

There’s a better way to ensure your emails with your headshot and resume gets seen by your intended target, and doesn’t drop into the spam chasm. A simple solution that is user friendly for both the sender and receiver. A solution that has casting or a representative doing one click: opening your email.

Email Success

Paul Russell_HeadshotPaul Russell – author, director & casting director

The majority of actor emails with picture & resume attachments to casting and agents or managers is dumped into spam folders going unnoticed. Worse; those vital actor messages seeking employment and/or representation are annihilated and unopened by a single click with hundreds of other actor emails. All that work and hope by the actor lost to the digital ether…

The spam algorithms of nearly all major email services (Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook, and the antiquated AOL) automatically dump emails from “strangers” to a recipient into the recipient’s spam folder. Gmail has the largest wall protecting its borders against spam. Once Gmail detects what the algorithms suspect is an alien email with an attachment the email is deported to a hidden folder unseen by the recipient.

There’s a better way to ensure your emails with your headshot and resume gets seen by your intended target, and doesn’t drop into the spam chasm. A simple solution that is user friendly for both the sender and receiver. A solution that has casting or a representative doing one click: opening your email.

 

Step 1:

No attachments.

Attachments = Spam Folder

Attachments ≠ Receiver Friendly

 

Besides the spam folder abyss; attachments cause recipients to avoid opening attachments for fear of viruses contained within the files. Your target deletes your precious email without their opening your message.

 

Step 2:

Insert a thumbnail image of your headshot in the body of your email (following your signature).

 

How to Place an Actor’s Resume & Headshot into The Body of an Email:

 

Step 1:

Create an industry-standard formatted resume in a table using a word document program.

Tables ensure your resume remains neatly, industry-standard formatted upon the email being opened.

(Below: The resume of the Russell-Menashe family queen cat Dorie)

Actors Resume Table Format for Email

 

Step 2:

The full-width email version of the resume is to be 5 ½ inches.

Email Resume Margin

 

NOTE: Studies reveal that the average, smallest width of an open email desktop browser window by a user is 5 ½ inches to 6 inches.

 

Step 3:

Make the resume table’s cell borders invisible by either using the “No Borders” option, or having the borders all colored white. This way the nasty, unattractive black lines won’t show or print.

Resume_No_Table_Lines

 

NOTE: Select the resume’s entire body (pressing “CNTRL” key & “A” key simultaneously for PCs) to change all the borders in one step.

Step 3a:

Select All with table showing

Step 3b:

No_Border_DropDown

Step 4:

Select the entire body of the resume and Copy (pressing “CNTRL” key & “C” key simultaneously on PCs)

 

Step 5:  Paste the resume into the body of your email BELOW your signature.

Actor Resume in Body of Email

 

Step 6: Create a thumbnail of your headshot

NOTE: Your headshot thumbnail is to be no larger than 250 pixels wide & high. Never place a full 8×10 in an email. The download on the receipt’s end is near endless. Plus the recipient will more than likely see only one of your large eyes, and then use scroll bars to see other too large proportions of you.

 

Step 7:  Copy the thumbnail headshot.

 

Step 8: Paste (or insert) the thumbnail of your headshot after your signature but before your resume

Thumbnail Headshot in Body of Email

 

Step 9: 

Write your best message for what you seek, and why you’re the best at what you do in the body of your email ABOVE your thumbnail headshot & resume.

 

NOTE: Write in your VOICE.

 

(Answers For Actors’ TIPs on HOW TO WRITE THE BEST COVER LETTER EVER)

 

Step 10:  Review for typos, voice, clarity, and then send!

 

You just beat spam algorithms.

When the receiver opens your email they are forced to view your headshot thumbnail & resume that is in the body of your email.

NOTE: Gmail & Outlook users may create the table resume within the email itself without doing the copy and paste from a file option. But it’s best to always have an email version on file, with the proper bowser widow size width resume (5 and ½ to 6 inches).

 

You’re done! Almost…

 

For many, many more actor marketing tips plus audition room technique, and how to best find and keep agents get that vital information from the people who know it best: Broadway and Hollywood actors, agents and casting directors speaking to you from the pages of the book the casting director for Hamilton, The Intern, The Wiz – Live hails as:

“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)

Get Paul Russell’s best-seller for actors; ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistake & Achieve Success as a Working Actor

Share this:

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.

Casting Directors, Talent Agents, Directors & Actors

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

When to Join an Actor Union? (AEA, SAG-AFTRA, AGVA)

The debate of ‘going union’ or not, and ‘when’ or ‘if” is a juggernaut of career soul-searching. When is going from a non-union actor to a union actor best?

UnionJoin

When is going from a non-union actor to a union actor best? Each actor has their own journey to one of those favored union cards be it from Actors’ Equity Association, SAG-AFTRA, or AGVA or all three: the triple crown of union status.

Once there was an impatient, young actor hired as a non-union performer by one of my L.O.R.T. clients. The actor strongly believed that if he didn’t get his Actors’ Equity card by age twenty-one his career would be over. When hired he’d hit his self-imposed card deadline but we hired him as a non-union performer (the producer’s budget dictated the necessity of a non-union actor to work alongside AEA actors). During his contract at the AEA theater he was miffed when he wasn’t bumped up from ensemble into an understudy vacancy. He threatened to quit. I intervened. We offered him his AEA card to remain.

While the solution provided immediate gratification for all sides, especially for the actor, it didn’t help him much past the near-term. Being young, developmental (i.e. new to the business), and a physical type that isn’t easily marketable for an actor he didn’t work much (nearly not at all) after receiving his AEA card. He was competing against stronger-skilled, union performers. Had he remained non-union for his early to mid-twenties he more than likely would have worked more often. As a non-union talent he was more valuable and desirable to union houses that hire non-union. Plus, he could work the lucrative market of non-union tours. I know of a good number of actors who played a non-union tour of a Broadway musical, and then were “upgraded” to making their Broadway debut in the NY counterpart of the show. Union card snagged.

For each creative participant in entertainment the ‘when’, ‘why’ and ‘what’ for becoming ‘union’ varies. For some, joining a union is a status symbol. Recognition as being ‘a professional.’ Union membership does not equal professionalism. Anyone working in entertainment has witnessed a portion of union actors, directors, designers, and stage craftspeople who behave worse than the worst tyrannical community theater artist. I was once heartened when sitting on a panel that included a Vice-President from Actors’ Equity Association who had said without reservation, “Being a member of Equity does not mean you’re a professional. That’s a myth.”

Whatever union represents your field of expertise know that the initials that follow your name designating inclusion into the club will not make you better at what you do. Only you can do that; not a union card. A union is for protection not perfection.

Pros & Cons of Becoming Union:

Pros:

–          Basic salary minimums set by each union

–          Health & Pension benefits (if employed a certain amount of weeks per year)

–          Arbitration should there be a dispute between the union member and his employer

–          Elevates professional status (but that doesn’t mean the talent rises as well. There are union actors who are outclassed by non-union talent)

Cons:

–          Less opportunities for work (unions forbid and fine members for accepting work without a union contract attached)

–          More competition (and often of higher caliber)

–          As a union member you cost the producer more to hire as they pay bigger bucks for your larger union salary, and also the producer must pay into your pension & health payments funds. (Producers are looking for ways to stay economically viable in a modern market where audience share is harder to obtain as competition arises from an overload of various entertainment platforms.)

Going union for an actor can not be answered by a blog, agent, casting director or by an actor’s peers. The answer must come from each actor’s circumstances (work history, marketability against other union actors, desire for the abundance of opportunities of non-union gigs vs. sparseness of landing union gigs). Before an actor makes the choice of joining an actors’ union, when the opportunity is offered, the actor needs to query themselves:

Do I (the actor) want to work near continuously (non-union)?  Or do I want to work occasionally with the possibility of better pay, benefits, and possibly better working conditions (union)? As a performer; does my age, skill set and experience equal that of my union peers?

The debate of ‘going union’ or not, and ‘when’ or ‘if” is a juggernaut of career soul-searching. The when, if, and why can only be answered by each actor’s circumstances, desires, and most importantly; needs.

My Best,
Paul
www.PaulRussell.net

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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.

Should Actors Send Thank You Cards To Agents, Casting Directors & Directors After an Audition?

A well-known acting teacher is advising actors to ‘bribe’.

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A well-known acting teacher is advising actors to ‘bribe.’ A $10 to $15 gift-card as a “Thank You for Seeing Me” must be sent by every actor to each director, casting director, and talent representative after that actor has been granted an audition opportunity by the entertainment industry gate-keepers.

I received a distressing e-mail from the mother of an actress who was terribly led astray by the Fagen-esque acting teacher:

“Mr. Russell,

I just finished reading your book ACTING: Make it Your Business… You had suggested that thank yous should always be sent after auditions.

My daughter has been taking one-on-one acting lessons with a teacher in NY. He suggested that when we go to auditions, or to those paid sessions where we are seen by agents/casting directors, we send thank you comp cards with a short note from her, as well as a Starbucks gift card ($10-15).

1) Do you think this is appropriate? I am not sure how this ‘gift’ might be interpreted.

2) How far out can we wait to send them? Is 3-4 weeks reasonable?

Thank you for your help. B.”

My dismay dictated a response:

“Hello B.,

Handwritten thank you cards via Hallmark or Papyrus stationary are always welcomed (and in this digital revolution…rare); especially if the handwritten note includes a personal message relating to the audition/auditor thanking the professional for advice/response or an action you and your daughter deeply appreciated. A thank you card is  most effective when sent within twenty-four hours of the audition/meeting while the just-passed moment remains relevant to both the sender and receiver.

As to the Starbucks gift card…the teacher who suggested such may be imposing his desire for getting his daily caffeine intake gratis via actors.

Gifts of appreciation accompanying a handwritten missive are only warranted when the situation calls for such as when a director, casting director and/or agent assists an actor booking a job, or the employment provider went above and beyond the normal bounds of duty.

When ‘gifts’ are given by actors to auditors for the auditors just being corporeal in the room no bribe is going to move a true professional to recognize an actor more.  And ‘bribe’ is how an unwarranted thank you gift is viewed by my above-board colleagues. You may want to question what other advice the gratis-coffee-seeking-misguiding of our trade has inappropriately directed.”

Thank You Note Tips:

how to be an actor

  • A handwritten thank you is most effective when personalized with an anecdotal reference
    how to be an actor
  • Send a thank you for the occasion(s) in which you and the person(s) met had a sincere connection professionally and/or personally that you truly cherished or was of great benefit to you
    how to be an actor
  • Avoid the costly and time wasting thank yous after each open call and/or EPA attended in which there was no engagement beyond the requisite professional courtesy between yourself and the personnel behind the table. Open call thanks yous are best to be sent when the audition conversation led to a call-back and/or a one-on-one exchange that changed your professional and/or life outlook
    how to be an actor
  • If a gift is included the thought behind the accompanying gift should be heartfelt and not viewed as a tax deduction to be later labeled in April as ‘business expense.’
    how to be an actor

As agents, plus Hollywood & Broadway actors advise in ACTING: Make It Your Business, handwritten thank you cards are always welcomed when the thought behind the sender’s intent is of sincere gratitude, and not a marketing ploy. Bring heart and pen to a desk the next time you wish to say, “Thank you.”

My best,
Paul

Share this:

Casting Directors, Talent Agents, Directors & Actors

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

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

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

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

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

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Talent Agent Charges Clients Additional Fee as Part of Representation

Representing NYC-based actors a talent agent, based in the Philadelphia area, apparently charges clients a fee as part of representation. The three-figure fee stated by the agent is “a necessity.”

money_gremilin

Representing NYC-based actors a talent agent, based in the Philadelphia area, apparently charges clients a fee as part of representation. The three-figure fee is stated by the agent as “a necessity.” Required so that the actor be included on the agent’s website. A website that until recently highlighted a link to an article in which the agent purports that she has been visited by the Blessed Mother thrice. The home page of the agency’s website also includes strongly worded admonishments to clients on professional behavior.

For years the Philadelphia agent’s practice has been reported by actors and recently corroborated in an mail exchange obtained by Answers for Actors between a client and the agent:

email1

email2

The agent is a SAG-AFTRA franchised agent. In the SCREEN ACTORS GUILD CODIFIED AGENCY REGULATIONS between agents and the actor union to represent SAG-AFTRA members the fee seems to violate the agreement. Under Section VIII Disciplinary Provisions, Sub-section C the following is stated:

“The following offenses are those for which an agent or a sub-agent may either be fined or in the discretion of the arbitration tribunal for which the franchise of an agent or sub-agent may be suspended, revoked, or conditionally franchised:

(2) Charging or contracting to charge in excess of ten percent (10%) for his services under an agency contract, directly or indirectly, and whether as commissions, fees or other charges for performing any other services for an actor whether as attorney, business manager, personal manager, publicity agent or otherwise…

Inclusion of an actor’s picture and resume for a fee on an agency’s website could be considered a form a publicity.

In the agreement an “agent may not receive for agency services in the motion picture industry from an actor a higher rate of commission than ten percent (10%), directly or indirectly, or by way of gratuity or otherwise.” The clause goes on further to state:

  1. Notwithstanding anything in the Regulations, Basic Contract or any agency contract, no member shall ever pay more than ten percent (10%) commission for agency services in the motion picture industry…”

If a new client of an agency hasn’t booked work via that agency then the $150 fee seems to far exceed 10% of the actor’s zero income.

Answers for Actors contacted a representative from SAG-AFTRA’s franchise office. The representative was asked if a franchised agent can charge actors $150 to be placed on an agency’s website. Madelyn Sosa, Information Management Coordinator for SAG-AFTRA responded: “It depends in which location the agencies are located in. In Los Angeles our agencies are not allowed to charge a fee.”

In response to Ms. Sosa, Answers for Actors followed-up October 27,  2015 asking if a Philadelphia agency representing NYC-based actors and charging a fee for inclusion on the agency’s website as a requirement violated SCREEN ACTORS GUILD CODIFIED AGENCY REGULATIONS. The inquiry remains unanswered.

Actors have reported that the Philadelphia SAG-AFTRA office sent an email in 2014 to members and agents stating:

“The SAG-AFTRA Philadelphia Board of Directors has voted to terminate the website waiver that permitted franchised agents in the Philadelphia Local to charge a yearly fee to performers for including photos/resumes on their website. All Philadelphia agents have been advised that this termination will go into effect on June 1, 2014.

Therefore, as of June 1, 2014 franchised agents may no longer charge members (or non-members) a fee for posting or maintaining pictures or resumes on any website for work in areas where SAG-AFTRA has exercised jurisdiction. “

Long-standing rule of practice for union franchised agents is that an agent may only collect 10% commission on commission-rated payments from producing entities to actors: no other fee charged by an agent is permitted.

A represented actor included on an agency’s website is virtually unheard of. Most casting directors do not visit agency websites for casting as most agency websites don’t wish to publicly announce their client lists. The majority of submissions by agents of their clients to casting for stage and screen projects occurs predominantly via Breakdown Services. The actor’s picture and resume is placed on an online platform provided to agents for a subscription payable to Breakdown Services. If an agency is charging their clients an online fee is it not too implausible that the fee subsidizes the agency’s subscription to Breakdown Services?

My best,
Paul

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.

Share this:

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:
Make It Your Business
!

Master Classes with Paul Russell
A Casting Director’s Best-Selling Book for Actors

ACTING: Make It Your Business