How Political Correctness Subverts Casting

HAMILTON wasn’t shot–the Broadway musical has been stabbed.

Hamilton

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HAMILTON wasn’t shot–the Broadway musical has been stabbed.

Political correctness is a polished saber slashing at honesty. Leaving behind truth bloodied on the ground. The overly zealous, speech-sanitizing kills slaughtering directness in the civilian world has too cozily crept into audition studios, rehearsal halls, and film locations where political correctness now claws at creative expression. The mega-hit HAMILTON is political correctness’ most recent felled victim.

HAMILTON is under fire from a black, civil rights attorney. He is offended by a casting notice put forth from the popular musical that dares to look beyond traditionally casting white actors to portray historical Caucasian characters. Before proceeding I suppose I must apologize for highlighting the gentleman’s skin pigmentation. But in context with HAMILTON’s alleged offense my honesty must breathe for I do not know if the offended lawyer is African-American, Haitian, of European, Caribbean, Brazilian, Canadian, or of Icelandic heritage. Perhaps he has some Asian or Native American ancestry? I cannot assume that a black man or woman in the U.S. is African-American, just as an African-American cannot be certain what my white skin tone represents of my heritage. (Dutch-French-Eastern European-Some Ancestral Background Unknown-American if it so matters to you.)

So what was so outrageous within HAMILTON’s open call casting notice? The notice included the phrase, ‘Non-white’ to winnow attendees. What the outraged civil rights attorney doesn’t understand is that actors will respond to almost every casting notice. When I cast the original New York production of COBB (Lee Blessing’s play about the racist ball player Ty Cobb) white actors submitted themselves to my office to be seen for the role of Oscar Charleston: a highly competitive baseball player of the Negro League who was saddled in life by white men as being ‘The Black Cobb.’  The casting notice included the historical slight but many white actors thought they could play disenfranchised ‘black.’ My casting colleagues experience similar with actors demanding to be seen for roles in which a director, playwright, or history does not desire the actor’s type (gender, skin-tone, height, or weight). So if the appalled attorney is to insist that casting notices not be specific in what creative teams are seeking of actors to portray characters—what does he suggest I and my colleagues write as descriptors for casting actors in FENCES, or THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES?

Casting directors are often riddled by worry for what vocabulary choices are to be implemented when issuing a casting notice for non-Caucasian actors. I’ve anxiously stared at my computer’s blank screen when about to write a breakdown seeking actors of any skin tone; especially when seeking a black actor and the phrase ‘African-American’ doesn’t apply to the character(s). ‘Black’ and ‘African-American’ are not the only vocabulary pitfalls stalling the writing of a casting notice. There are landmines with ‘Asian,’ ‘Latino,’ ‘Hispanic,’ plus other ancestral generalities, or gender, weight, height, or overall appearance. And now, ‘non-white’ to describe what is being sought for a character is maligned. Is ‘Caucasian’ the next offender?

The quandary for what is socially acceptable remains when encountering a script in which physical attributes of the actor are pertinent to the character(s). I’ve shied away from stating ‘heavy-set’ in some casting notices to instead stating the vagary of ‘a person of weight’ (which will offend some actors).

I mentally wrestled with honesty in describing a person’s religiousness when the director for the ill-fated musical OY! insisted I bring in only, “Jewish actors.” The casting dilemma stemmed from a then popular NY theater critic who previously bashed the director’s prior play for having ‘non-Jews’ portray ‘Jewish characters.’ What of actors of Jewish faith portraying Christians? Or will that offend a Christian, theater critic?

I repeatedly witness an Asian actor cry foul on Facebook when racial lines are blurred as a casting necessity due in part because there were no viable actors of the heritage to portray the role of heritage required. Yet the actor had no problem being cast as a Native American character in one of my past projects when we couldn’t find an age-appropriate, Native American actor in New York available to work several months at a remote regional theater.

How, in an industry in which we are to reflect the human experience, can we be honest in describing the physical attributes without offending? Writing a character breakdown sometimes involves over examination of watchwords which unfortunately results in a casting notice leading many inappropriate actors falsely believing they can play a part that is not remotely within their type. Sit in a casting chair. How would you write the physical attributes of my skin tone that stems from my Dutch-French-Eastern European-Some Ancestral Background Unknown-American pigmentation? Don’t use ‘white.’ Don’t detail me ‘Caucasian.’

The answer to how we describe each other is that we allow ourselves honesty in our words while being respectful. We know the dog whistle watchwords, and the blatantly offensive language. We reject their use when implemented outside of historical context. But when do inoffensive words of ‘non-white,’ ‘white,’ and ‘black’ become as offensive as the name of a football team? What then becomes the acceptable vocabulary?

— Paul Russell
PaulRussell.net

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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.

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

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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, 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!

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 Not to Be Blacklisted by Casting

A casting colleague recently posted on social media:

“Dear Actors. PLEASE READ BREAKDOWNS THOROUGHLY BEFORE SUBMITTING.

The disrespect I get from actors about how they are not available for an audition is disgusting.”

A casting colleague recently posted on social media:

“Dear Actors. PLEASE READ BREAKDOWNS THOROUGHLY BEFORE SUBMITTING.

The disrespect I get from actors about how they are not available for an audition is disgusting.”

The sentiment may be viewed as a harsh rebuke from this casting director who is widely known in our community to be accessible and deeply supportive of actors. But the casting director above has a frustration shared in the casting community. Every casting director encounters being stood-up repeatedly by actors for what is essentially a professional date to employment.

Yes, between an actor submitting and the casting director contacting the actor with an appointment, the actor’s schedule and circumstance may have altered to be that they are legitimately not available for the project and/or audition. Completely understandable. But when the percentage of turn-downs of appointments rises to near a quarter from the actors asking for an appointment (which happens) and the percentage of actors out of work is in the 90s percentile: too many peer actors are playing catfish with casting.

When a casting director receives submissions the process likely follows this process:

  1. Review agency submissions (in New York alone there are over 50 offices representing at the minimum 100 – 150 actors each. LA? Actor representation is as common as Starbucks is to suburbia). The casting director then ranks choices to 1st, 2nd and 3rd priority to be contacted.

Why the ranking? Because 1st and 2nd choice actors desired to be seen who are submitted by agents have a 50-50 chance of passing on the audition for various reasons. Enter the 3rd choices… 4ths and 5ths.

  1. Review unrepresented actor submissions. Actor response can be as few as 300 to over 1,000. The casting director is eyeing each picture; each resume; each credit on the resume just as they do with the actors who are represented. As with the represented actors the non-represented actors are placed with the represented actors in 1st, 2nd and 3rd priority to be contacted.

Then the casting director reviews all choices and plans how to strategically place each actor into individual 5 – 7 minute time slots of which the casting director may only have 20 – 30 for one day.

Most casting directors do not schedule the actors by happenstance. The experienced casting director methodically plans to the actors’ and projects’ best interest plotting which actor is seen in relation to the other actors being called in.

  1. Who do I want to be the first actor to set the day’s expectations?
  2. When do I put in the actor I have faith in but that actor from my experience needs a bit of hand holding? When do I place them in the schedule to have that actor at their best?
  3. Do I place Actor Jones (who I know will blow away my director) early or do I wait until after lunch when the creative team is refreshed but anxious that they may not have choices.

Choices:

When working simultaneously on a motion picture and casting for a regional Shakespeare festival I experienced great anxiety as I kept losing actors I wanted to call in for the festival. My casting colleague who only knew the luxury of major studio casting said to me, “Oh, Paul you only need one person per role.”

No. No, I don’t. In casting there’s a phrase we use at the table… “How deep are we?” Meaning: if our first choice who auditioned passes, and then our second choice who auditioned passes how deep can we go until we’re forced to begin the entire process again with actors not seen? A casting director who can’t go deep in one audition round is the casting director who retires to a MACY*S perfume counter.

The casting director places great concentration and effort in accepting and reviewing actor submissions. Respect by a portion of actors seems to be dwindling for the process and dedication to actors being considered for an audition appointment: of which there too few. A producer’s budget is the true gatekeeper.

When an actor submits on a project casting directors regard the actor’s submission as a commitment to:

  1. The actor is seriously interested in the project.
  2. The actor is available for the project and the audition.
  3. If offered a contract the actor will more than likely accept the job.

If an actor cannot answer ‘Yes’ to the preceding commitments: Do Not Submit for an Audition.

The old-school, foolish thinking: “Oh, I’ll just submit myself to keep my face in the casting director’s eye” is b.s. An actor submitting for consideration to a casting director for a possible audition appointment is no different than proposing to a romantic interest, “Would you be interested in a date?” If the person of desire answers “Yes” and then the inquirer replies “Only kidding. Not interested.” how much time do you think there will be before a palm stings a cheek?

An actor submitting to casting because they are a marketing flirt will leave the actor with few professional romances in this industry.

How to Get Casting Director & Talent Agent Attention

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How to Get Casting Director & Talent Agent Attention

One pivotal, pro-active, career-changing step delivered actress Holly Williams five continuous years of 365 days-per-year of union principal work plus paid vacations and benefits. Holly also received multiple agent meetings and representation. Gonzalo Trigueros booked a principal role in his first film after he, like Holly, discovered how to snare successfully the attention of both casting and representation.

Fall casting for screen projects, Broadway, and regional theater is in full swing. An actor nabbing the eyes and ears of casting, directors, and/or representation while among their crowded peers is never an easy task. Sometimes, the actor feels as if they’re screaming into the wind while no one is listening. An actor need not scream. An actor must navigate the gales to be the sole breeze caressing the ears of their targets. How did Holly, Gonzalo and do your competitive peers be that successful breeze? They take control of their careers, and never apologize for their boldness. Like fellow pro-active actors who land screen projects, Broadway, and/or representation these step-forward actors began their winning marathon here: Paul Russell Casting. I’m just a signpost. Actors choose to either ignore, or take advantage of my direction pointing actors to their desires. Holly and Gonzalo chose to follow and charge ahead:

Drive your career for longevity in four, short weeks as you and I along with 3 entertainment industry executives work together to bring home your goals. A month-long intensive to embolden your career for the long haul:

WEEK 1: Mastering Getting Seen & Known – Skilled Modern Actor Marketing

Pinpointing, leveraging & effectively branding your individuality. Includes: creating dynamic actor web sites (including mobile friendly), email campaigns that gain entertainment industry attention (without being lost to spam), and smartly leveraging social media and the digital revolution to an actor’s advantage to make each actor rise above the competition. Plus, ensuring your hard-copy marketing gets seen by gatekeepers: guaranteed.

WEEK 2: Mastering Every Audition – Getting Jobs

How do some actors get more call backs & job offers? We target the behind-the-casting-table insights into what makes each actor’s individuality excel while in the audition room. Utilizing audition scenes—from current screen and theatrical projects—I and my assistant work with each actor to command every audition encountered.

WEEK 3: Commanding the Audition Room & an Executive Gatekeeper’s Office

A reinforcement session to audit and increase improvement on commanding every audition room, improving text analysis, and discovering an audition and interview wardrobe that is unique to you, and tells casting and talent representation, “This is who I am. Embrace it.”

Interview strategies are demonstrated.

Q & A preparing the actor for the panel.

WEEK 4: Entertainment Executive Panel’s Guidance & Feedback

An open Q & A with a panel of entertainment executives who represent actors as principals in major-studios films, TV series, Broadway, national tours, and regional theater.

Then… each actor is individually introduced by me to panel members. The actor presents their new and improved skills discovered from the prior 3 weeks of my personal guidance.

The evening culminates with individual feedback for each actor as provided by the panel.

A wrap-up follows.

Two-dozen universities from 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 now sharing with the entertainment executive panel what you and I worked on together to showcase your improvements.

October 2015 is the ONLY 1 of 2 master classes of this kind for 2015/16 to be held in NYC.

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

10 actors only accepted.

Show us what you have and desire. Let’s get to work, my friend.

My best,
Paul Russell

Paul Russell’s career as a casting director, director, and former actor spans projects for major film studios. His involvement with casting principal talent includes over 500 projects covering: 20th Century Fox, HBO; television networks, Broadway, and regional theater. His work as a casting director is recognized with the Drama Desk winning (best casting ensemble) COBB produced in New York & LA by Kevin Spacey, COSBY, ER, the original company of DISNEY’S BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, the original productions of STRING FEVER (starring Cynthia Nixon), PERA PALAS (Sinan Unel), WOODY GUTHRIE’S AMERICAN SONG (Drama Desk noms.) plus casting for Asolo, San Jose Rep. Two River Theatre Co., Florida Stage, Nebraska Shakespeare Festival, Lark Theatre Company, Barter Theatre (TONY recipient) and over a dozen more NYC and regional theaters.

As a director featured in American Theatre Magazine Russell worked with legendary playwright John Guare directing the regional premier of Mr. Guare’s A FREE MAN OF COLOR. Paul also directs for the TONY-winning Barter Theatre, and in New York.

Paul is the author of the best-selling acting book for actors ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistakes and Achieve Success as a Working Actor (Penguin Random House). He teaches master classes at over two-dozen universities including: Elon, Wright State University, Illinois Wesleyan University, Rutgers University, Emory & Henry College, and Louisiana State University. Russell taught the business of acting for NYC-Tisch‘s acting program at The Atlantic Theatre.

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

Agents. Auditions. Freak File. Flying phones. And a naked actor’s self play……

Naked auditioning actors? (Check.) A powerhouse casting director raging a “My Mr. Happy is bigger than yours” tirade with a big agency talent agent. (Double check.) A casting director’s phone tossed as a grenade? (Triple check.)

Behind-the-scenes tales of the entertainment industry are exposed, along with acting career-tips by casting director, director and author Paul Russell. A candid discussion hosted by Darbi Worley actress and producer/host of Everything Acting.

Everything Acting Podcast (click on arrow to play) Length, 30 mins. 25 secs.:

AMIYB_AmazonRead advice from legendary talent agents,
plus Hollywood & Broadway actors in Paul Russell’s Best-Selling Book 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 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, 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, please visit www.PaulRussell.net.

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How to Create the Best Acting Reel…

Modern actor reel_3

The traditional actor’s reel is dead.

The term ‘actor’s reel’ soon will rest aside the, “Fax me your résumé’s” crypt. Talent agents, managers and their clients no longer share with casting a 3.5-minute historical compilation of an actor’s on-camera work. Doing so is akin to a lumbersexual parading skinny jeans at a Chick-fil-A. Très passé gauche.

An actor’s modern digital media doesn’t rely on old rules. Length? Roll back your counter. There’s a new running time for efficient, and industry-acceptable length. Fancy editing? Oh. My. Gawd. So 80s MTV. Modern actor digital media requires a new and simplistic format that directly targets specific casting.

And then there’s media real estate. Actors are being overlooked if they haven’t staked prime media real estate. The free—to nearly free—properties with the best digital curb appeal that attracts more industry views to an actor’s on-camera landscape. If you’re thinking YouTube; please rewind to 2009. Actors need to be looking to Vimeo, Actors Access or better the digital content platforms that representation utilizes to submit clients to casting: Active Pitch.

So what is the modern actor’s reel? It’s not a reel, nor should it be termed such just as a recorded sitcom should no longer be archaically termed ‘videotaped.’ The digital revolution has dramatically changed both live and recorded auditions. Reels are now segmented. Reduced to targeting projects specifically. Yes, some talent representation review an actor’s traditional reel when considering talent. But when that talent becomes a new client the reel is sliced and diced as if a filet on Top Chef. And when the talent is unrepresented the actor in relation to casting is no longer burdened by:

Reel length

Contrasting content

Dynamic editing

An actor’s digital media representing skill and work history is much simpler thanks in part to modern attention spans being compacted in the age of where 140 characters abbreviates content. And secondly, by the ease of sharing content online without need of a disc drive or the more ancient and bulky VHS player.

To further support, navigate and bring actors into the modern actor reel movement that casting and representation expect and utilize: I’m sharing the expectations for both digital and live on-camera auditions that I provide to MFA & BFA acting programs. A new master class for actors with or without screen history. A panel of film, TV, commercial and theatrical casting directors, and agents join me.

Yes, this is a post out of the norm for Answers for Actors. (And to be quite honest an uncomfortable posting by its author.) The posts here are generally of a prescriptive narrative. General advisories in text here for an actor’s digital media will not fully serve the individual. My sharing the casting clips utilized by actors on Prime Time TV, and the effectiveness of such may only be done privately in a class setting. Comparing an actor’s digital media to that of peers can only be done in a class setting. A blog post limits my ability to further advise beyond general umbrella statements.

Whether or not you’re available for the master class know that for your digital media representation to be effective to casting should:

-Target specific projects utilizing your media history that reflects the casting project targeted

– Showcase media that has production values (lighting, camera work, the work of peers) that you want to best represent you

– Have media real estate beyond public outlets that often distract the viewer from your media (i.e. YouTube is not an actor’s prime media real estate)

Master Class Curriculum:

WEEK 1: Mastering Your Media Real Estate to be Effective & Competitive (Having a reel is not necessary for participation.)

WEEK 2: Analysis of Actors’ Media Improvements

Plus…

Commanding the LIVE On-Camera Audition & Actor Branding – Getting the Job

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

Plus…

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

WEEK 4: Panel Feedback

Lead instructor and guest advisers’ participation does not connote offers of employment or representation to class participants. These classes are for educational purposes only and will not secure or provide opportunity for employment in the field or representation by an agent. 

For details on the panel and the on-camera master class visit: http://paulrussell.net/AMIYB_MasterClass.html

 

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Follow Paul Russell Casting:

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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, 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, please visit www.PaulRussell.net.

Get One-On-One:

Get Work:

Follow:

Classes with Paul Russell Paul's book ACTING: Make It Your Business!

Paul on Twitter

Paul Russell on Facebook

Visit Paul @ PaulRussell.net

 

ACTING: Make It Your Business