Actor Jealousy & Comparisons

This week: Jealousy Losses. Ambition Wins

Comparisons; they happen. Especially in group settings such as the collaboration that is the performing arts. And they can destroy the harmony and productivity of any project. The comparison can be a seemingly innocent thought such as a dance captain musing to themselves that one the dancers in the theatrical company has a better extension.  Or it can be a morale damaging comment carelessly (or with malicious intent) spoken by a secondary role actor that they believe they have superior skills than the actor playing the leading role. Comparisons do damage. Whether spoken or silently pondered. While you may think comparing is helpful to better oneself; careful. Human nature often goes towards the negative like a sexual compulsive to a bathhouse. Either situation; the chatterer or the salacious sex fiend, leaves them feeling empty and less than their worth. Jealousies fester.

We all do comparisons of ourselves to others. My partner constantly reprimands me for diving into the infested waters of the comparison swamp. I’ll comment about peers who I assume or know to have more profitable careers than I. And then I’ll mope. For days. Sometimes weeks. Thinking ‘I’m not good enough.’ When my book ACTING: Make It Your Business was first released I was daily, almost hourly, obsessed with going to Amazon.com to see where my sales rank rated and how it compared with similar books. When my high school friend Kevin Murphy, the creative behind Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Reefer Madness – The Musical, became an executive producer and writer for Desperate Housewives I wallowed in the soulless self-pity of ‘Why can’t that be me?’ None of these actions were helpful to my moving forward in my goals. Nor was I a happy camper to be around in the company of others. And this wallow and worry was also a major waste of time and energy. Energy that could have been put to better use elsewhere; like an ambition to looking for new opportunities for growth. As I often say (but seldom follow) ‘Worry is a waste.’ Eventually I’ll slap myself and stop what is essentially career momentum stopping behavior.  We all have our moments but when they build from moments to eras then you need to fix your comparison problem.

Positive comparisons are fine such as one actor complimenting another on their performance, “It’s wonderful how you ground your character and keep the tension of the story; I’m learning much from your work.” With a comment similar to that you’re not only providing positive reinforcement to a fellow company member (who may be in their own comparison swamp) you’re also displaying your desire for growth.

BackstabA potential negative comparison such as one actor to another in a regional theater setting, “Your comedic timing is fascinating; I’ll never be as good as you.” opens a Pandora’s Box for trouble. It may have seemed that what was expressed was a compliment. But words have a funny way of being twisted and carrying meaning beyond what we intend. Let’s take a look at where the statement crashed. First; the comment, “I’ll never be as good as you” belittles your contributions and openly announces insecurities which others in the company seize upon as a confessed weakness and gives an invitation to dismiss you. Secondly, you empower the person to whom you’re speaking. And thirdly, the vagueness of the comment “fascinating” could be viewed as sarcasm by the recipient.

The comparison statement doesn’t even have to be made by you to the person you admire (or are jealous of). Some people with insecurities (and that’s the heart to where this problem stems) will whisper to others in a company that they believe their skills to be far superior to someone else within the same company. That statement then, like the childhood game of telephone, is spread from one company member to another. The telling of the comparison changes as the information is disseminated and distorted between exchanges. Eventually this brings attention of the person(s) you were comparing yourself to. Gone is company moral. Unnecessary tensions build. Distrust breeds. Negativity manifests within the production.

Making comparisons is not healthy if you continually focus on your faults or the faults of others.

One of the traps in the comparison swamp is perception. While you may look at someone else who dabbles in your field of expertise and think them to be wildly successful you never truly know what their life is like. To the public they may seem as if they have a sweetly composed life accompanied by a healthy bank account. But in reality they may be like you; comparing their career (or lack thereof) to someone else while wishing their own were better.

If you wallow in the “I wish that were me” then you’ll always be mired in the comparison swamp. Lost in the reeds. Drowning. When the comparatives surface in your cranium think carefully before giving them validity. Is it jealousy that prompted the thought or is it a desire to better yourself? If it’s the former, toss the thought of, “I could be better than so-and-so…” away. If it’s for the betterment of you and invigorates your ambition for improvement then embrace and keep the thought to yourself while working on finding means to be content with what you presently can develop or keep from your talents. You’ll be a much happier artist if you do so.

My best,
Paul

Read 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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ACTING: Make It Your Business

Don’t Be This Actor! – #1 Professional Relationship Killer

Casting directors, directors, talent representatives and producers often encounter the-world-belongs-to-me thespians who pretend friendship in hopes of leveraging career opportunities. Repulsed they avoid actors who…

Justin—never one to be mistaken for for Mr. Congeniality—turned to his buddy and quipped, “If I go to a bar I’m bound to get laid before the ugly lights burn.”

Sean peered at him. “Just because you’re single and breathing doesn’t mean everyone will drop a condom for you.”

Justin’s blind sense of entitlement excels in some opportunistic actors who masquerade as friends to colleagues but under their congenial masks they’re social piranhas: feeding their career’s insatiable ambition appetite from a trough of other’s good will.

Casting directors, directors, talent representatives,  producers, and universally aware actors often encounter the-world-belongs-to-me thespians who pretend friendship in hopes of leveraging career opportunities. Repulsed by repetitious actor retailing, talent champions, entertainment employers, and artists favoring integrity over an ambitious agenda, avoid the egocentric actor who leverages career momentum by offering a false friendship.

Recently a friend, who has furthered the career goals of many industry and household known actors, wearily commented that the actors he’d helped for decades and purported to term him ‘friend’ no longer contact him or return his ‘how are you’ inquiries since his pursuing a new career beyond entertainment. He’s no longer of use to their business aspirations. On occasion an actor will randomly e-mail him inquiring halfheartedly, “How’s life?” Then follows quickly the true outreach’s purpose; the social piranha desires career advancement assistance.

Another entertainment industry peer voiced similar of her being wanted by actors only for what she had to offer to representing their careers. As an agent of three-plus decades, who was formerly an actress, she provides her knowledge of audition technique and scene study at various studios. When she’s approached by actors seeking her for classes too many of the actors don’t first ask, “How can you guide me with this challenge in my skills I’m having?” Instead the actors ask, “If I study with you, will you also represent me?” Her response is, “One of my loves is sharing my experience and industry knowledge in order to benefit an actor’s skill set. I don’t teach for pay-to-play. I teach because I love actors.” She’ s lost many prospective students with her answer.

I received an e-mail, similar to many sent from actors never met:

“Thanks for all the info you post and opportunities to learn – I ordered your book from Amazon earlier today.”

I smile, until…

“Do you have a role for me? I want your feedback on my reel at **********.”

The actress doesn’t hear the shower beckoning her.

Ability and appropriateness are the first major factors to winning career goals. Honest intent, without exploitation, of your relations is equally as important a factor. No one is entitled to anything beyond living freely in pursuit of joy.

When reflecting upon your industry relations, or you’re tempted to link via a social network with industry ask yourself,  “Do I want to leverage (i.e. use) this person for my goals? Or do I want to build a relationship with this person I get so we both get to know the other for ourselves, and not for what we each do?”

Honest friendships foster mutual success, and opportunity…

Casting Directors, Talent Agents, Directors & Actors

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

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

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

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

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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 Elon, 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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ACTING: Make It Your Business

How Not to Contact a Casting Director or Talent Agent

The agent will feverishly respond to a faceless voice and announce to fellow agents, “Stop work! I don’t know who this actor is but damn they should be our client pronto. That’s the brilliance we need on our list!”

11:13 PM.

Thirty minutes prior I arrived home. Pulled myself under my comfy down-duvet, keeping warm as my cat Dorie sleeps peacefully at my feet. Then from my nightstand comes the piercing rings of my phone. Dorie helicopters and bolts.

I look at the in-coming phone number; area code 718. The outer boroughs don’t have my home digits.  And my inner circle knows I won’t answer a call after 9.

Irritated, I pick up the receiver and quickly cradle it back to silence.

The phone rings.

Thrusting off the duvet I turn to the annoyance, see the same 718 intruder. I grab the receiver. “What?!”

“Hello,” a male voice responds. I couldn’t tell if the Eastern European flavor was phony or true. “Is this Paul Russell?”

“Yes,” I hiss.

“Great. I’m an actor and I’m responding to-”

“I don’t care,” I interrupt. “You’re calling my home, keeping me from sleep. Don’t call this number again.” I hang up.

I’m dumbfounded by the actor’s stupidity calling with business after business hours. How he got my home land-line, I don’t know. Maybe he assumes it’s my office line.  But where’s the logic in calling so late? What is he expecting? An assistant manning lines 24/7 to answer vampire-ish actors? Was he going to leave a message, thinking once I heard his inquiry I’d cease life and work crying out, “Holy hotcakes! An actor!! They’re so hard to find. I don’t know what he looks like, what he’s done but I need his brilliance before another director grabs him!”

My partner (the former talent agency owner) every Monday would share weekend messages left on his agency’s voice-mail from actors he didn’t know. Actors seeking representation. What the Daffy Duck are these nits thinking?! The agent will feverishly respond to a faceless voice and announce to fellow agents, “Stop work! I don’t know who this actor is but damn they should be our client pronto. They left an after-hours message for representation. That’s the brilliance we need on our list!” (Sure. And the Kardashian Kollection is haute couture.)

Back to 718 Restus-interuptus.

The next morning (a Saturday) I’m deep in cleaning chore drudgery. My private line rings. I look at the number displayed. Mr. 718. Grabbing the receiver I offer a chilled, “What?”

“Hello is this Paul Russell?”

“Yes.”

“I’m an actor-“

“I don’t care. I told you last night this was my home number. Don’t you think it’s a bit rude calling near midnight, push yourself, and then when I tell you you’re calling my home and ask that you not call again, you don’t listen? And here we are back where we were last night. Me sleep deprived and not climatic you’re the cause.”

He apologizes. I ask where he got my number. He gives the name of a less-than-reputable trade.

And it’s not just journeymen actors being obtuse intruders. As I wrote in ACTING: Make It Your Business, a celeb called my home on a Christmas Eve to push himself for a project. As I stood nude, dripping wet from my disturbed shower, the former TV heart throb offered to fax his award nominations to me then and there.

If ever…you’re foolishly tempted to leave an after-hours, first approach, voice-mail regarding submitting yourself for general casting or seeking representation heed this long standing advisory: “Don’t call us. We’ll call you.”

Stalwartly disagree? Let’s put this in the real world perspective. When seeking a civilian job would you ring an HR director or employer after-hours to leave a voice-mail, “Hi, I’m unemployed. Seeking a job. Call me maybe.” If you have or would, share with the rest of the class the drugs keeping you floating in a perpetual air of ignorant bliss for ineffective, passive-aggressive, job seeking skills.

My Best,
Paul

Casting Directors, Talent Agents, Directors & Actors

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

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

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

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

Share Answers for Actors:

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E-mail Post to Friends…

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, 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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ACTING: Make It Your Business

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,
Paul

Casting Directors, Talent Agents, Directors & Actors

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

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

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

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

Share Answers for Actors:

Facebook Twitter More...

StumbleUpon.com
E-mail Post to Friends…

Follow Paul Russell Casting:

follow Paul on Facebookfollow Paul on Twitter

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 www.PaulRussell.net.

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ACTING: Make It Your Business

Don’t Call Us. We’ll Call You. (Really) | Answers for Actors

Why do some actors feel that because they are “artistes” they deserve recognition for everything thing they do from bowel movements to sending out job inquiries? A reader sent me the following:

Why do some actors feel that because they are “artistes” they deserve recognition for everything thing they do from bowel movements to sending out job inquiries?

A reader sent me the following:

“Hi Paul,

a month ago i sent my cv & pics & clip scenes to a castingagent [sic] for a movie project in London & asked if there’s still a possibility to do audition- the shooting will start somewhere in fall-i didn’t yet received an answer-yesterday i ‘ve mailed him again to let me know if audition is still possible-no reply- If a castingagent doesn’t reply does this mean that the actor/actress doesn’t match totally & thinks it isn’t worth to let him/her do an audition? Is it better to call him personnaly [sic] & ask him the reason? I am afraid i will come over as a jerk (you know)-Or should i let it this way? A Castingagent is supposed to help advancing an actor & i notice i get stuck (& in my case it’s dubble [sic] hard work to achieve my goal)-feel free to comment- Have a nice day Peter”

My reply:

“Hello Peter,

Thank you for the note.

Having once been an actor myself I understand your frustration. But that must be tempered with reality.

Casting directors are no different than human resources. Just as employers in the civilian world receive hundreds of applications and resumes from job seekers so do casting directors from actors. Not every inquiry can be answered.

When employers receive resumes they respond only to those they feel meet their expectations for the job opening(s). It’s no different in casting. As much as everyone would like to be recognized a response to each individual would be poor time management and counterproductive.

The best answer is an analogy I offer you by asking; do you respond to all ads and marketing you receive either via land or e-mail that doesn’t interest you? Of course not.

Move forward and look to other opportunities.

My Best,
Paul”

That was my polite, I-just-woke-up-and-have-yet-to-munch my morning muffin-happy reply. Here’s the candor.

To those actors out there that think that every inquiry for work or audition by them merits a thumbs-up or down response; get a reality check. It’s not going to happen. If you keep waiting for replies from all you contact you’ll eventually drive yourself mad and be one of those scary people on a subway platform who reek of a sour milk stench and mumble incoherently that Disney — in collaboration with the government — is tracking brain waves.

Recently I encountered another cry for ‘answer me damn it’ within the following Facebook status of an actress:

Seting up interviews with agents next week in New York. Have 2 appointments already…does anyone have an agent they like or that they have heard is good? I don’t want to work with an agent who doesn’t have time to take a phone call, I want someone who can give me advice and who will steer my career in the right direction. NO SNOBS!!!!

“NO SNOBS!!!” ? Honey you’re the snob of reality for not understanding how life works.

I wonder how many times this actress receives telemarketing calls from strangers and gets cozy will the uninvited intruder selling their wares? Actors cold calling agents is no different than a telemarketer calling you. Just as your life and/or work is being interrupted so too are agents who are trying to serve their clients being pulled at by interloping, uninvited actors calling on the phone.

In my diversified work as a casting director, director, teacher and writer I send out multitudes of inquiries for employ. Is it realistic for me to expect a response from each individual? Do I really want hundreds upon hundreds of ‘thanks but no thanks’ responses from producers, university theater department chairs and/or publishers? Would you? How fucking depressing. Why ask for the rejection to be voiced? Why are some actors masochists and demand to hear a reply – even if it’s a ‘no’ — from whomever they contact for a job? Is it because they enjoy wallowing in woe? Or is it because their labors are creative and the muse-afflicted believe themselves elevated above all others on our humble spinning rock in space?

The tired but worn phrase “Don’t call us. We’ll call you.” is not a suggestion. It’s reality. An instructive that is telling you (and Sondheim appreciators) to move on…

To the actors who expect a nod and bow to every resume they submit for potential employ:

– Stop focusing on a single submission. Look to other opportunities.

– Stop bitching, blaming and bemoaning that you’re not hearing back from people who hire. Look at what you have on paper to offer; could it be improved? If all is well with the resume, cover letter and headshot then pursue others with a first approach.

– Stop thinking that because some God or deity has sparked your soul to be an actor this makes you ‘special’ above all others on this planet. You’re not. You’re an individual among many, all of whom are also asking to be heard. Everyone can not answer everyone. (If you come up with a telepathic invention to make this happen universally; I’m outta here.)

Keep marketing yourself. Go after new opportunities. Take classes to improve your abilities. And please, stop waiting for responses. You’re wasting valuable time getting mired in melancholy while others are moving past you as they focus on what’s next.

Move on.

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My Best,
Paul

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

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10 Tips for An Actor’s Career | Answers for Actors

There are private, answers for actors you never see. Time to reveal…

Paul Russell
Photo Credit: JackMenashe.com

There are private answers for actors you never see. Time to reveal…

Almost daily, I get e-mails from actors asking questions. If time (and brain clarity) permit I’ll gladly answer.

Below are 10 tips for an actor’s career — exchanged via e-mails — that you haven’t seen. My one-on-one with actors, offering advice to better their careers in entertainment:

Contacting Talent Agents:

Paul, I’m compiling a list of agents and casting directors to send my headshot/resume to. Is it recommended to send packets to one person in the office or all? Thank you for the attention. George M.

Hi George,

Best to target one agent in the office.

Most offices have an assistant open the mail. It’s that assistant who decides to pass along your materials. If an actor sends more than one mailing to multiple agents in an office that assistant will often trash the additional copies and pass along only one copy of the actor’s materials.

If after your first round of mailings there is no response; try other agents in the office. Wait at least a month.

Now (pilot season) is the worst time of the year to do a mailing; agents and casting directors are focused on their projects. Wait until April, May, or summer and fall which are the best times to target agents.

Actors as Extras & The Actor’s Resume:

Paul, I teach at the University of Albany using your book as a text. A student of mine had a question. Below is his question and my reply:

From Student: Quick question, should background and stand-in have their own categories on my acting resume?

My reply: If your resume is still a bit thin, then for now you can include them under FILM or TELEVISION headings. Just be sure, in the ‘role” column, that you list your contributions to the project truthfully, be it ‘Background’ or ‘Stand In’. Once your resume starts to fill out. then lose these credits. . .

Any hints Paul on how to better answer this type of question would be appreciated! Many thanks- Yvonne P.

Hello Yvonne,

Thank you for the note. I’m happy to learn ACTING: Make It Your Business is part of your curriculum.

You’re near spot on about listing Extra work on a resume. Unfortunately because of a stigma of Extras (created by some over zealous Background Actors) and because Extra work is more about look and warm bodies than talent; listing the credits drags down a resume. But as you know we all begin with a blank page. Your advisory to the student is the best advice for this point in his/her career.

Several months ago I wrote a blog about Extras (That Extra Smell – Which Actors Have It).

I wish you and your students well. If ever you’d like me to visit to work with the students drop me a note. I enjoy visiting universities and working with the actors.

To Give-Up or Not to Give Up? / Actor Self-Deportation:

Hi, I’m currently wondering whether to try once again working in the ‘industry’ or just leave the country for good and find a proper job back home? What do you suggest? Cheers. Francisco.

Hi Francisco,

You ask a tough question.

Without knowing your talents (in person), your history, your goals, your strengths, your challenges and overall state-of-mind (which would require more than just font-based words); I can’t give you an informed opinion. Similar as to a car mechanic being told by a car owner, “My car’s not working right.” the mechanic would need to evaluate the car directly to discover solutions.

Also; the question you ask has no answer from an outsider. You really need to ask yourself what you want; what are your hopes, ambitions and desires? No one can give this answer but yourself. The best person for the advice you seek is you. You know best your strengths, challenges and frustrations. Ask yourself. But don’t follow the immediate response. Give yourself time to consider alternatives and consequences of your instinct.

An Actor’s Resume:

Hi Paul,

Two things. One, I just read your article about the cantankerous casting director and was relieved to know there are people like you who are actually in this business to encourage actors. I thank you for that. I appreciate you sharing your perspective and giving us the helpful tidbits that will keep us all going.

Second, I have a question. I’ve been a professional actor for 16 years. I’m a member of both SAG and AFTRA and have no day job. Yes, I make my living acting. With that said, I live in a small market that has very few film auditions and even fewer female roles when there are actual films being shot locally. So, while I’ve been supporting myself and my daughter for years and have a plethora of on-camera experience, my list of films is short. As a casting director, when you see a resume that is light on films, do you automatically assume a person is inexperienced? Thanks again for writing and I do plan to sign up to hear more from you! Nancy T.

Hi Nancy,

Thank you for the kind note and compliments. Much appreciated.

With this business being very subjective I can only speak for myself when I’m presented a resume with few or no film credits. My reactions cover a multiple of reflections; the actor hasn’t had opportunities, the actor may be lacking in skill, or simply… the actor is just one among many of the competition fighting for a job.

Everyone begins with a blank resume. Everyone trudges along at the start with a resume thin on credits. Other than an actor honing skills and marketing the hell out of their business which is acting… there are few, other, proactive options for the actor. Luck is the major remaining factor to filling a resume.

Demo Reels & Actors Access:

Hi Paul,

I have my demo reels on my website and I’m actually in the process of making a new one, is it important to have it on Actors Access? I don’t have it on now but when I submit I usually leave a note to check my website and I just am not getting a lot of auditions. I know there are probably a ton of actors submitting to the same stuff. I was just wondering if having a reel on the actual Actors Access profile is what makes a casting director even want you to come into an audition. Thanks Paul!

Maggie M.

Hi Maggie,

The best answer I can give is this… think of yourself as the casting director. What’s the easiest way for them to see your reel if they are on Actors Access?

As an actor you must think of yourself when you’re a consumer. Do you like websites that try to sell you something but to make the full buy you must click onto another website? Or would less clicking be better?

Also, on Actors Access — owned by Breakdown Services which 99% of casting directors and talent agents daily utilize – actor videos are featured on the login page for casting directors and talent reps. If your video(s) are not on Actors Access, you’re giving an advantage to your competition (peer actors).

Actors Crashing an Audition:

Hi Paul!

Is showing up without an appointment something that is a horrible idea, frowned upon, tolerated or encouraged? Based on the number of people I’ve seen do it at auditions I am assuming it does happen at Equity and/or agent submission appointments, but I could be wrong.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

Alisa

Hi Alisa,

Crashing an audition (covered heavily by agents and actors in ACTING: Make It Your Business ) is generally something — at the B’way and studio level of the business — that is not welcomed. But… as Broadway actor, Michael Mastro explains in AMIYB he’s used tactics that have worked for him. And if something like he does works; great for all involved (if the casting people are open to the crash).

DVDs & Digital Marketing Submissions:

Hi Paul!

I recently auditioned for the Chorus Line, non-union, National Tour. I did pretty well, but got cut after learning the opening combination. I was going for the role of Maggie and come highly recommended by the Broadway professionals I have worked with, including Charlotte d’Amboise who just directed me in the role. I know if I had gotten a chance to sing maybe I would’ve been received better. Is it completely against protocol to send a reel of me singing ‘At the Ballet’ to the casting director with a note? Is there anything I can do in this situation? Or just wait for the next time around? Thanks so much!

Jessica H.

Hello Jessica,

Thanks for the note.

Never be hesitant in pushing yourself regarding your marketing. Send the video, but know this; most casting directors don’t open their own mail an assistant or intern does. So your video may or may not make it to the desk of the CD. And once on the desk there is no guarantee it’ll be viewed. But, you can at least have the satisfaction of never having to say to yourself “I should have sent something.”

My Best,
Paul

Paid Auditions / Seminars:

Is it a conflict of interest to have to pay agents and casting directors to audition for them. I’ve been dues paying SAG, AEA, AFTRA member for years (OK so I’m world famous in Rockland and not NYC) but they won’t see me. Makes me wonder … Duh! Crappy business. Thanks, Judy.

Hi Judy,

I covered paid auditions extensively in ACTING: Make It Your Business. Not only my perspective but also from agents and working actors as well. Each had their own strong opinions.

I still feel uncomfortable with them despite holding them myself. But I alleviate that personal discomfort by offering three weeks of marketing and audition tools to my students rather than the standard hit-and-run-audition seminars. The general, ‘paid auditions’ are now the most effective way of displaying your talents directly to agents. I know many actors personally who have gotten signed by agents and/or jobs from attending my and other paid seminars.

New York or LA; Which is Better for an Actor?:

I’m currently reading your book and it’s giving me such great advice, thanks for it. I just had a quick question, I’ve always wanted to be an actor in film so which place is ‘better’ for that between NYC and LA? Just to fill you in, I’m not a kid that just wants to hit the ‘Get me famous now’ button or anything like that. I’m willing to do the work, I just need some advice in the right direction. Thanks so much for your time.

Thom

Hi Thom,

Thanks for the note and kind words.

Your question is not an easy one to answer but I’ll try offering a bit of what I’ve witnessed over the years.

Actors with screen ambitions who do better in LA have one or more of the following:

An agent

Past film/TV credits

They’re young and/or ‘LA’ hot

They’re a unique, instantly, definable character

Actors with screen ambitions who go to NY first do so because:

There is an active screen community with film and episodics shooting in NY

An actor has more opportunity to keep their acting skills in shape by doing theater in NY (from Off-Off Broadway to larger venues)

NY allows an actor to build credits to transfer to LA with

There are no absolutes to any of the above. This business is like gambling; ya never know if you’re going to win or lose. You keep playing at your best and try to beat the odds.

Whatever your choice, NY or LA, I wish you great success.

And tip 10… (Applicable to all)

My own question I ask of myself often, “Why the hell do I direct, teach, and write?”

Answer; I know nothing better (at present) which doesn’t feel like ‘work’.

If ever you find yourself continually bemoaning your career participation as drudgery — whether its auditions, the need for continual training to expand your abilities, rehearsals, networking, and performing — then time to move on. You’ve abandoned the love.

My Best,
Paul

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, Temple and the University of the Arts. He writes a column for Back Stage and is the author of ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistakes and Achieve Success as a Working Actor. For more information, please visit www.PaulRussell.net.

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When to Join an Actor Union? – Answers for Actors

I was heartened once long ago 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.”

Paul Russell
Photo Credit: JackMenashe.com

There once 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.

I kid you not.

When hired he’d hit his self-imposed card deadline. During his contract at the union, regional theater he got his nose out joint when he wasn’t bumped up from ensemble into an understudy vacancy. So what was his reaction at his first, major, regional theater job? He sent a heated e-mail to the artistic director resigning his position. The artistic director called me. We were to go into auditions in New York and replace the soon-to-be departing peeved performer. This effort was going to cost a lot of money and time. I proposed a solution.

I contacted the actor and asked him what his problem was. He bitched and moaned about not being appreciated, and that his work in the ensemble was not fulfilling his ‘artistic soul’. He wished he were back in New York seeking work. This was during the employment doldrums of summer.

After hearing his complaints, and my not wanting to go into costly auditions, plus my desire to not want my client to focus on the discovery that they’d hired via my office a high-maintenance performer, I asked Mr. P.P. if he would stay the length of his contract if I could get the theater to offer him his union card at the end of his term. “Yes,” he replied without hesitation. The theater agreed. The actor stayed plus his contract was extended  earning him union work-weeks towards health insurance coverage.

But…

While the solution provided immediate gratification for all sides, especially Mr. Peeved Performer, it didn’t help him much past the near-term. Being young, green and an odd type he didn’t work much (nearly not at all) after that gig because he was now up against stronger, union performers. Had he remained level-headed and non-union for his early to mid-twenties he more than likely would have worked more often. Why? Because as a non-union talent he was more valuable. He had good dance skills, a fair voice, and enthusiasm. But those assets were paltry against the union performers who had many more credits, skill, and training.

Going union. Only in theater does this quandary seem to stymie participants in the performing arts as to when, why and how to join a collective barging unit. Especially since in the late ‘90s and well into the 21st century large-scale, non-union tours that looked identical to their Broadway parents (minus the Broadway budgets necessary to hire union talent on and offstage) began cutting into union work that was once a vital source of income for the theater artist. Then to compound that injury the deep economic crisis of the new century’s first decade which prompted many union houses in the regions to dump union contracts and agreements in favor of hiring a non-union, lower payroll in order to survive. Suddenly for the first time in decades the non-union artist had the upper hand for attractiveness in being hired. With a capital ‘C’ that stood for cheap it was commerce over competence that was (and continues to some degree) to be a major factor in who got work (non-union actors) and who remained unemployed (union actors paying union dues).

For each participant in the theatrical arts the ‘when’, ‘why’ and ‘what’ union varies. For some, joining a union is a status symbol. Recognition as being ‘a professional’. To which I reply; bullshit. Union membership does not equal professionalism.

I have witnessed many union actors, directors, designers, and stage craftspeople behave worse than the worst community theater artist. Many of the drama deviants make Waiting For Guffman look like Broad-way.

Also being union does not mean the person paying membership dues is a talented person of high regard. Need I mention some names of actors, directors and choreographers whose dreadful work has been seen while we all gasp and allege, “My dog could have done better.”

I was heartened once long ago 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.”

Yes! Finally someone from that occasionally arrogant organization openly opposed the AEA mantra that the only ‘professional actor’ is an ‘AEA actor’.

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. Membership cards are generally plastic; an adjective defined as ‘synthetic’. Your career is more substantial. How you toil at your trade should not solely be reliant upon an identification card that is renewed only when you pony-up an annual payment to a union.

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 many union members 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 must pay into your pension & health payments funds.

For the theater artist there’s a lot of non-union work in the regions and on the road. The younger and greener (i.e. less work history) you are the less likely you are to work as a union performer. The actors who have a solid resume with numerous union and/or first class (Broadway and sit-down tours) are the actors who get the audition appointments over the newly joined union actor who has one or two credits at small regional theaters or summer stocks. Yes, the situation sucks but that’s life.

Going union is your call. But before you make the choice, when the card is offered, ask yourself the following questions:

Do I want to work?  Or do I want to work occasionally with the possibility of better pay and benefits? As a performer; does my age, skill set and experience equal my union peers?

If the final answer is ‘no’ then possibly reconsider your choice to stay and grow doing non-union work. You’ll become a stronger union candidate.

But eventually, the choice will always be yours.

My Best,
Paul

AMIYB_AmazonRead advice from legendary talent agents,
plus Hollywood & Broadway actors in Paul Russell’s Best-Selling Book ACTING: Make It Your Business!

 

Paul Russell’s career as a casting director, director, acting teacher and former actor has spanned nearly thirty years. He has worked on projects for major film studios, television networks, and Broadway. Paul has taught the business of acting and audition technique at NYU and has spoken at universities including Yale, Temple and the University of the Arts. He 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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