Do Actors Need a Business Card? | Answers for Actors

This week: Getting Acting Job Opportunities via an Actor’s Business Card…

One Christmas I and my partner (the talent agency owner) were on a plane heading to my parent’s Florida home. Because of booking the flight at last minute I was sitting next to a jock-type who was watching football on the Jet Blue in-flight TV while my partner was sitting one row behind watching, as is his custom, The Girls Next Door (Oh good God… he’ll never be CNN material).

When we got off the flight my other half and I began speaking about a work issue at his agency as we walked through the quiet, yet swank, Sarasota terminal. While at the rental car desk, behind us came a voice.

“Excuse me; I heard you were an agent?” There’s no escape even in Death’s sunny waiting room.

We turned ‘round and it was the football-watching, jock-type who I had been sitting next to for the past two hours. He was a New York based actor visiting his snowbird Sarasota parents as well.

He ignored me, not knowing what I do for cha-ching, and focused on my other half. He was polite, introduced his smiling folks… to my partner. Again, I was ignored. Which is O.K. I’m basically shy (yes, believe it) and love my anonymity. But I’m also a bit of a devil and love to play with human behavior. So after he presented to my partner his business card with his picture and turned to leave I couldn’t help but be mischievous and casually mentioned, “You know you were sitting for the last thousand miles next to a director and casting director.” Ping! I suddenly gained his attention, a parental introduction and of course deemed worthy of his business card.

Opportunist? Yes. Wrong? Yes and no.

This actor knew that here was an opportunity to introduce himself to gate keepers (agents and casting directors are nothing more than glorified employment agencies and human resources). He was right to begin a conversation. Where did he go wrong?

He would have been smarter had he had his picture and resume with him. A business card with a picture may work for funeral directors and car salesman (you always want a trust-worthy face handling your car and dead) but it has little relevance to agents, directors, casting directors, producers, and writers, anyone who provides work opportunities. It doesn’t help us getting to know the actor as an actor.

I’m surprised how many actors do not carry with them, at all times, some form of their picture and resume. That’s your business card! You never know who the hell you’ll run into and where. Just this past week I was walking in my suburbia neighborhood on my way to Whole Foods for my morning muffin and yogurt when someone called out “Paul Russell!” It was an actor who had read my book. He went to offer me his contact info but came up empty. Now you may argue, “Well Paul, I can get the person’s contact info and e-mail or I can hard copy them my resume.” Good luck in getting a personal e-mail. Double the good luck chances that the e-mail will be opened or that you’ll be recalled.

Now caution note here about running into someone who can help advance your work goals: Talent reps., directors, writers, producers, choreographers, stage managers are the same as you when on the street or at a Starbucks. We’re people. People, possibly like you, who enjoy privacy and anonymity. If you get into a conversation with an industry person who you think can help you in the future in obtaining work, be extremely tactful, polite and respectful of space. And treat us not as objects of use to you but as someone to get to know as a person. Don’t forget that we’re all people, not opportunities. That is so often forgotten. And when we’re treated as a doormat, it’s a big turn-off. I know talent reps who have been accosted by actors as the agents were shopping for underwear, getting their Sunday morning coffee, or sweating in a sauna.

If the person you run into asks for your picture and resume, of course give it to them. Don’t ambush. That happened to Alan Alda once in a hospital by a nurse who believed herself to be an actress. It pissed off Mr. Alda so much that he used the occurrence for fodder in a later movie. On my book tour I encountered, in each city, actors who could be runner-ups to Mr. Alda’s nurse-actress. I’d give the free, one-hour seminar on the business and then sign books that attendees generously purchased. People would wait in line for their turn to speak with me and have their copies of my book signed. And without fail, in each city, there were several actors who would wait in line without a book, come to the table hand me their picture and resume then ask me to keep them in mind for future casting. Excuse me?

What is most important in the message here is this: Try at all times to keep a picture a resume on you. One that is up-to-date, the picture and resume are stapled together and clean in appearance. Have it in some form; full or reduced to an over-sized postcard easier for constant carry. You may not run into an industry person on the street but there will be many times when you’re needed to be at an audition with very little notice. Sometimes only an hour’s notice. This happens often with film and TV casting.

I teach. Students at NYU, privately and as a visiting guest to campuses across the country. In every situation one of the first things I ask (including my weekly NYU students) is, “Who here has their picture and resume, stapled together, ready to hand to me or anyone in the industry you meet on the street who can get you work?” I’m lucky if one hand goes up. And forget about the stapled together request… that would be asking far too much.

Not having your business card (i.e. an updated picture and resume) with you as often as possible means that you are losing out on opportunities for future employment. It’s your career. Your opportunities for work lost or won.

My Best,

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!
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!

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

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ACTING: Make It Your Business

How Often Should Actors Send Headshot to Talents Agents & Managers

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

There’s reasoning for repetition:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more info on finding agents and successful mailings read ACTING: Make It Your Business .

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


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