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’.

TY_collage

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

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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.

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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

How Actors Get Auditions & Agents Via Google ‘Secret’

Google has a little known digital aggregate spy that will let an actor know about projects to be cast long before a casting notice or breakdown is released to industry. The handy snoop also keeps track of what agents are expanding their client base, and/or where the talent rep will next be making a heralded public appearance.

Google

Think you know where casting notices lurk? Breakdown Services, Actors Access, Back Stage, Casting Networks, Playbill, Google app… wait, what, huh Google what?

Google has a little known digital aggregate spy that will let an actor know about projects to be cast long before a casting notice or breakdown is released to industry. The handy snoop also keeps track of what agents are expanding their client base, and/or where the talent rep will next be making a heralded public appearance.

Google Alerts. What’s Google Alerts? And how does this nifty feature utilized mostly by media and political campaigns benefit an actor to get auditions and/or a talent agent and manager?

Simple.

Google Alerts is a Google app that tracks online names (or titles) when published, and then alerts the user of when specified names previously programmed by the app’s user appear online.

Want to know, or keep track, of a director’s or casting director’s next project? Program their name(s) into Google Alerts and you’ll be notified of when that casting director or director next appears online such as in an announcement “Steven Spielberg to Helm Upcoming Tom Hanks Thriller.”

Or maybe you know through the industry grapevine that “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” is rumored to be bound for a Broadway musical and you’d sell your nana’s dentures to be first seen and considered for casting. Program into Google Alerts ‘Best Exotic Marigold Hotel musical’ and you’ll get an alert the first time the whispered rumor is put into font online.

With alerts like the Spielberg and Best Hotel… you’ll receive additional alerts when creatives are named such as casting, director, et. al. You can then reach out to the people named well before a casting notice is released. You’re first in their thought and line.

Talent Representation

Want to target specific agents for your representation but don’t know at what seminar they will be at next? Program the name(s) of the agent(s), and their agency, into Google Alerts and you’ll be notified of their next public appearance. Additionally if the agent is mentioned in a press release in regard to a client’s work (or the agent jumps to another agency) you can personally congratulate the agent via their Twitter feed.

Google Alerts can be utilized to follow announcements on any title, studio, person (directors, writers, producers, managers, choreographers, agents), or entity (production company, theater, touring company, studio). How the actor leverages the information and the success of such depends on the actor.

Place this author’s name in Google Alerts and you’ll soon be getting an alert “Paul Russell to Direct U.S. Regional Premiere of [title].’ Yes, that’s a tease but there will be casting involved for the project I’m keeping mum about. Google Alerts will let you know when my producer makes the announcement official… One example of the many profitable ways Google Alerts assists an actor’s career.

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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.

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
!

Skype With Paul
A Casting Director’s Best-Selling Book for Actors

ACTING: Make It Your Business

How to Audition On-Camera Auditions for Modern Casting

Is the traditional actor’s reel a hipster man-bun bound for extinction? Yes.

Are on-camera auditions recorded in a casting director’s office (or in the office of the actor’s rep.) as relevant to the modern casting process as is Kim Kardashian is to winning a Pulitzer for literature? Yes.

On camera

PR_headshot_A4AIs the traditional actor’s reel a hipster man-bun bound for extinction? Yes.

Are on-camera auditions recorded in a casting director’s office (or in the office of the actor’s rep.) as relevant to the modern casting process as is Kim Kardashian is to winning a Pulitzer for literature? Yes.

Casting directors for the screen, whether TV network, indie films, online outlets like Netflix, or Hollywood film blockbusters rarely view an actor’s reel in today’s Twitter-paced world. The worry for actors is no longer, “How long is my reel?” The worry for actors, and actor representation, is: does the actor have digital real estate online with audition competitive clips that target project-casting specificity?

Digital Real (reel) Estate:

When casting is seeking actors for a screen project the director, producers, writer(s), and casting only want to view quickly one (maaaybe two) clips of the actor’s screen work that matches the project being cast. That’s it. No reel.

The record of the actor’s relevant on-camera history must be industry-accessible beyond Breakdown Services / Actors Access, and definitely not on YouTube which restricts the posting of protected material. (Plus YouTube is the public digital landfill taunting with distractions; pulling away with cute kitty clips a viewer’s attention from the actor.)

So what to do with that reel dormant on a drive? Old fashion reel, real estate (clips disjointedly mashed together as a whole) is strictly for seeking representation.

What does an actor need now to be casting-competitive digitally? We’ll get to that new industry standard shortly…

Auditioning On-Camera:

When creatives involved in casting for a screen project (and sometimes for stage projects) want to see the actor with material from that project the actor must often participate in Eco-casting: record themselves utilizing provided audition material, and then make available to the casting office the recorded audition. No longer do actors with representation go to their agent’s office to be ‘put on tape.’ Represented or not the actor must be both director, editor, and actor recording themselves. A daunting proposition for the actor that is today’s producer budget-tightening reality spawned by the digital revolution.

The changes have come swiftly. And too many actors haven’t caught up to the modern demands of on-camera auditioning, and digital real estate.

Two respected screen casting directors and a successful bi-coastal talent agency owner join my office for a 3-week on-camera intensive. The executive entertainment panel includes guests associated with major studio and indie films including projects for: HBO, ABC, CBS, NBC, American Horror Story, and many more successful screen outlets.

Together we share the importance not only on Eco-casting on-camera audition technique but also on the changes required for relevance for the modern actor’s digital real estate. The entertainment executives view and provide feedback on the actor’s work. Plus, participating actors receive an online, private link to their in-class on-camera work. The video files can be downloaded and saved.

WEEK 1: Mastering Media Real Estate (Having a reel is not necessary for participation.)

Discover the gold-standard for what Prime-Time TV & major film casting expect of proper and effective actor media in the digital revolution.

For the class participants with reels: Evaluation & advisement of modernizing your screen media for agents, and casting.

For actors without reels: A valuable insight for what is required to audition in an Eco-casting realm that is modern casting.

WEEK 2: Commanding the On-Camera Audition & Actor Branding – Getting the Job

Plus…

Analysis of Improvements 

Strengthen acting & live on-camera audition skills via scene study; define & leverage your type; Perfect your brand for when meeting industry employers; Target what makes you excel during an on-camera audition.

Utilizing audition scenes—from screen projects—I and my trusted assistant work with each actor to command every on-camera audition encountered.

WEEK 3: On-Camera Audition Technique & Branding Follow-up

Plus…

Final Analysis of Media Prior to Presentation to the Entertainment Industry Panel

Audit and consult on improvement of: on-camera technique; effectively commanding the audition, text analysis, and dressing right for your brand.

For actors with digital media: a review of their improved material.

Wrap-up Q&A preparing the actor for the panel.

Panel Showcase & Feedback

Prepared, actors individuality meet and present their improved on-camera skills to the adviser panel. Actors with digital media will have their material presented to the panel as well.

At the end of the evening individual written feedback is provided by the panel on the actor’s scene work. A wrap-up Q & A follows.

Two-dozen universities including Yale to Elon to Wright State annually invite me share my NYC master classes on their campuses with their acting-major seniors. You can get a jump on those actors, plus share with the entertainment executive panel what you and I worked on together to showcase your improvements.

The On-Camera Master Class that has as guest advisers: casting directors for HBO, ABC, NBC, CBS, major films and indie-films. Plus a Hollywood agent with clients on American Horror Story. Only 5 Seats remain between both series!

Grab your treat at: http://paulrussell.net/AMIYB_MasterClass.html

Dates, Executive Panel, & Registration @ http://paulrussell.net/AMIYB_MasterClass.html

Let’s get to work, my friend.

My best,
Paul Russell
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 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.

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
!

Skype With Paul
A Casting Director’s Best-Selling Book for Actors

ACTING: Make It Your Business

Hook-up Apps & Actors, Casting, and Talent Agents

Hook-up Apps

You’re in line for an open call. Or in the holding area for a screen project. Bored with your wait you tap open on your smart-phone a dating app (i.e. a digital hook-up facilitator: Tinder, Grndr, Scruff, et al.). For entertainment you casually swipe through faces, chests, or the gray-ish black boxes which hide an identity. Suddenly the face of a peer actor you see within real-life feet near of you is now showing on your phone! (Although in person, the hotness factor may be lesser. Or the weird-tongue sticking out factor in the picture is not as disturbing.) What do you do? Block? Swipe right? (The match wouldn’t make for a blockbuster) Swipe left? (I’m giving you the green light to my project.) Or do you nod to the actor whose profile shows that they’re on the app simultaneously as are you and you find the humor that you’re both human, but look here we are strangers on each other’s phone! (Do you have an agent and are they seeking my type?)

But what if the face and profile is of someone you know? Many hook-up apps display who has viewed a profile. You’re uncomfortably snagged? They’ll know that you know what they know which is: you each don’t want to live a life of cloistered solitude. Why not text: hi SmileyFace. Acknowledge the humor in the discovery. Or, maybe you both quietly have an undisclosed desire for each other? Will you be bold?

But… what if the face in the app on your smart-phone is the casting director for whom you’re about to audition? Or the mug is one of the creative team leaders helming the production you’re currently working on together? Or it’s a talent agent: yours. Or a talent rep you wish was yours professionally. Are they seeing you on their phone as well? What do you do?

You might easily tap ‘block.’ But how can you block hundreds of casting directors, agents, directors, producers, and writers of which you don’t know if they are using the same hook-up app(s) as you? You can, and will, appear on their phone and not be aware of their digitally spotting your intimate desires. Yikes?

Personal privacy perished when the first email was sent by Ray Tomlinson in 1971. Cut-n-paste, and eventually ‘share’ and ‘like’ ripped back all of our privacy curtains. So, what to do with your privacy on dating apps?

Firstly, no matter what your level of visibility as an actor you must understand that you are a public figure. Doesn’t matter if you’re known for being an actor below 14th Street in New York, or appearing in low-budget features shot in Louisiana, or appearing as an U/5 in an episodic shot in LA: being an actor equals being a public figure. With that in mind, how do you safely navigate your private life that the public may view on hook-up apps?

Well, you could do the no-image-attached-to-a-profile scenario. Or be one of hundreds of chest only shots as are like the chests breeding like bunnies on Scruff & Grndr. But no face pics = no taps of “I’m interested.” So how do you get favorable taps, woofs, pecks, or something more than a ‘waz up?’ while balancing public/private?

  1. Post profile pics that include your face which wouldn’t embarrass your mother
    ———-_____
  2. Keep your private pics (in your private folder of the app) G-rated to PG-rated. If you have genital nudity remember screen shots will be easily taken of your photos, and then shared with others without your knowledge.
    ———-_____
  3. Refrain from explicit language in your profile. There’s more to you than your sexual fetishes or desired position(s). Write a profile that if you came across it as a stranger your initial reaction wouldn’t be ‘freak’ but ‘this sounds like a sane person who wouldn’t talk endlessly about them self.’
    ———-_____
  4. Post on a dating app pics or information that you wouldn’t have qualms sharing publicly on social media platforms. (Caution: politics expressed on a hook-up site only excites FOX or MSNBC addicts. Is excessive viewing of either network considered a fetish? Hmmm.)

You can avoid the apps altogether. Go old-fashion. But dating via bars is so Saturday Night Fever.

Colleagues of mine come across the profiles of actors (strangers and friends) on social apps. If they know the actor well, and the actor’s profile isn’t lurid with fetishes, my colleagues might drop a note to their actor-friend stating the surprise and humor that both on the app. No harm. No foul. Smiles hopefully all around. Forgotten and moving on.

But what does an actor do when a casting director, agent, or director isn’t so much congenial as they are creepy and want to crawl into an actor’s crannies?

  1. Politely respond that you’re flattered (if you are). Then, if you have no dating interest, state so directly adding that you wish to maintain a strictly professional relationship. Be tactful. Be polite. Be honest.

These digital encounters with professional peers on dating apps are going to occur if you utilize such apps. You’re always in control of the situation. You’re the one who, either by continuing a texting conversation or not, makes the choice of what occurs next. If you perceive yourself as not being in control that’s when the creepy in our business seize the opening in the door that you left open.

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 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.

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
!

Skype With Paul
A Casting Director’s Best-Selling Book for Actors

ACTING: Make It Your Business

Scam Casting, Agents & ‘Classes’ – Actor Beware

I listened to the voicemail from the NYC ‘castings office,’ with the telemarketer drolly promising thespians triumph in the trade, I got angry. No… that’s too polite. I was livid. Pissed.

Fraud

Paul Russell_HeadshotPaul Russell
PaulRussell.net

.

I despise thieves of thespians and the shadow these delinquents cast upon honest professionals.

Despite having been an actor prior to jumping the audition table to directing and casting, it wasn’t until the release of ACTING: Make It Your Business, as well as teaching and writing for various publications—when my visibility went from ‘that guy behind the audition table’ to ‘that Paul Russell behind the audition table’—that I fully realized just how cautious actors are about relatively unknown-to-them casting, representation and/or educational opportunities.

My anonymity, which I greatly enjoy, and career stature had lulled me into a false sense of security that actors were trusting of entertainment professionals. Wrong. Oops. My bad naïveté.

Colleagues of mine—reputable agents, veteran casting directors, established teachers and other long-career-termed entertainment professionals—and I are suspect to a segment of the acting community. Why? Several reasons. First and foremost is because younger and/or newbie actors pay little attention to industry history. (Except possibly that Rent was some sort of songy-thing that came to Broadway after the movie—or was that High School Musical?—both answers incorrect, by-the-by.)

Second reason for reticence is the shysters and cons that sadly exist in our trade. While on this side of the audition table, I was peripherally aware of dubious entities on the Internet and the brick-and-mortar shams: The strip-mall ‘talent and modeling agencies’ or online ‘casting call-boards’ that lure starry-eyed hopefuls with a promise of career advancement for a hefty registration fee… and, “Oh, that’ll be an additional $1,500 for pictures with our photographer” b.s.

Often these backers of the promissory plastic notes of notoriety were less-than-promising professionals. They were sub-cellars far below my foundation. I believed that most actors were above falling for the piranha ploys, able to decipher the genuine from the faux-pros.

I was woefully idealistic.

During one of my classes, students and I were talking about those who exploit the hopes of actors—in particular, one organization that calls itself a ‘casting agency.’ The alleged NYC ‘castings office’ (emphasis on ‘NYC’ and the second ‘s’ in ‘castings’ and you may know who I’m talking about) contacts actors by phone with a sales pitch that, for a fee, they will register you within their files—which they then make available to talent reps. Actors buy this drivel.

Excuse me?!?!?!

Okay, first of all: A legitimate casting office will never, ever ask for money to keep your picture and resume on file. Never.

Secondly, casting directors do not submit talent to agents. Agents submit talent to casting offices. A casting office’s clients are producing entities. Actors are not clients of a casting office. Actors (you) are our resource for solving puzzles. We don’t ask you for money in relation to casting. We don’t get a commission if you book a job. We don’t get kickbacks. For our work in organizing and finding talent, our clients (the producers) pay us a fee. Casting is, as I’ve often said, nothing more than glorified human resources. We’re talent headhunters.

Back to my student and the paranoia-and-piranha problem.

As I listened to the voicemail from the NYC ‘castings office,’ with the telemarketer drolly promising thespians triumph in the trade, I got angry. No… that’s too polite. I was livid. Pissed.

It’s these practitioners of phishing performers for pence and pennies that by merely existing bleed-and-breed distrust among performers towards the true professionals. That actors’ mistrust that blankets us all with ire on both sides of the legitimate audition table.

Sometimes that mistrust is warranted when purportedly professional people cross the line into unprofessional behavior. The most recent example I encountered being when one student of mine began speaking of his agent in Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia agent provides her clients with copies of breakdowns from Breakdown Services (which is an act of illegal copyright infringement). She also allegedly provides her clients with agency letterhead and labels. She then suggests to the people she is supposed to be servicing that they take it upon themselves to submit for projects they believe to be appropriate.

I was hoping that maybe my student was wrong, but when he forwarded me an email a few days later that was sent to him by the ‘agent,’ it did contain a breakdown from Breakdown Services along with instructions for the actor on how to submit themselves to Bernard Telsey.

I was enraged. I took a breath. Relaxed. And then I alerted Breakdown Services. That ‘agent’s’ behavior is not, repeat, not professional, legal or typical of what are a legitimate talent agent’s responsibilities.

A legitimate talent agent, franchised by the unions to represent actors within a union’s membership, is the only person authorized to submit an actor via a breakdown released on Breakdown Services on behalf of an agency.

(Self-submission via Actor’s Access is different, if you’re wondering. But if you’ve read my prior posts on breakdowns, you know that Actor’s Access doesn’t include access to the really good breakdowns. Sorry.)

I was annoyed. And yes, angered by practices of questionable or illegal motives of persons and entities that take advantage of artists (or anyone). An actor’s life is difficult enough in trying to survive financially. Exploitation beyond and within our ranks has me wanting any of the practitioner’s balls on a spit. And if the felonious don’t have testicles, I’ll take teeth as substitutes.

So what is an actor to do to differentiate the legit from the illegitimate?

Do your homework. Investigate. And by investigate, I don’t mean rely on Internet message boards where anyone with keyboard courage and a need for anti-depressants can flame-out a rant without accountability.

Ask working professionals who are actively engaged in your field about opportunities that are presented to you. And don’t assume because you or someone you ask hasn’t heard of a particular industry professional or entity that either is not above board. I’m often inquired of by actors who ask me about producing entities or industry people of which I’ve no knowledge. My reply is always, “I don’t know them, but that doesn’t mean anything other than that I’m ignorant to who that is.” No one is omnipresent (except maybe Oprah).

Caution is fine when used with reason and knowledge. Don’t be quick to cast-off an opportunity because you haven’t heard of a name or institution. There are many respected people working diligently behind the scenes that not every actor has heard of. Do you know: Kevin Huvane, Pat McCorkle, Richard Rose, Kim Miscia, John Clinton Eisner, David Kalodner, Sarah Fargo, Larry Hirschorn, Francine Maisler….?  Hopefully you do. If not, Google my friend, Google.

Now back to those frauds… Where’s my barbecue spit?

My Best,
Paul

Share this:

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 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.

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
!

Skype With Paul
A Casting Director’s Best-Selling Book for Actors

ACTING: Make It Your Business