“Scam” Paid Auditions vs. Legitimate Acting Classes

There is truth versus perception. SAG-AFTRA, the largest union representing screen actors, may have unintentionally caused confusion in truth versus perception for what is a legitimate class for actors, as opposed to what is a questionable workshop. Bewildered actors, both union and non-union, potentially suffer from the lack of career expansion misunderstanding what is a legitimate educational acting resource versus what is in SAG-AFTRA’s assessment, “a scam.”

ScamVsLegit

Paul Russell_Headshot

Paul Russell
PaulRussell.net

 

There is truth versus perception. SAG-AFTRA, the largest union representing screen actors, may have unintentionally caused confusion in truth versus perception for what is a legitimate class for actors, as opposed to what is a questionable workshop. Bewildered actors, both union and non-union, potentially suffer from the lack of career expansion misunderstanding what is a legitimate educational acting resource versus what is in SAG-AFTRA’s assessment, “a scam.”

SAG-AFTRA recently warned its membership, via online media, that actors within its guild not participate in workshops attended by casting directors, agents, and/or managers in which actors pay to participate:

“It shall be deemed conduct unbecoming a member for any member of the union, directly or indirectly, to give or offer to give any money, gift, gratuity or other thing of value to an employer, or prospective employer, to any officer, agent, representative or employee of such employer or prospective employer, or to any employment or casting agency representing an employer, or prospective employer, or to any of their officers, agents, representatives or employees as an inducement to secure employment.”

Deeper in SAG-AFTRA’s declaration is a passing disclaimer potentially overlooked or misinterpreted by actors:

“This includes workshop-style situations where a casting director watches your scene or monologue, offers no meaningful critique or feedback, and is presented as someone looking for actors for ‘current and upcoming projects.’ This becomes a paid audition, which is against SAG-AFTRA rules.”

The phrase, “offers no meaningful critique or feedback” is the foundation to understanding what SAG-AFTRA considers a ‘class’ versus a ‘paid audition.’ Thoughtful advisement for bettering the actor’s craft, plus actionable constructive criticism is apparently in SAG-AFTRA’s view the keystone to a casting director, talent agent or manager participating in a educational resource for actors. But actors quickly scanning SAG-AFTRA’s membership directive, or non-union actors encountering similar discussion through the nefarious actor grapevine, potentially lump all educational actor workshops and classes together with the shove-actors-through-the-door, paid audition scenarios.

The Confusion

When actors mistakenly interpret from a union, or a colleague, that the vernacular of ‘workshops,’ ‘seminars,’ or ‘classes’ are pay-to-play scams then those actors assume that all actor-focused classes of which industry attend are illegitimate. A self-destructive disservice to the actor wishing to expand their career skills, and resumé.

A growing percentage of acting studio educational classes have their roots in the collegiate world. Annually, universities with esteemed acting programs bring to their campuses entertainment executives who share valuable experience with student actors via master classes. These casting directors, directors, and talent representatives leading collegiate master classes then offer the same insights expressed at universities in private acting studios of New York City, Los Angeles, and/or Chicago.

Differences Between Paid Classes With Industry vs. Paid Auditions

Classes / Workshops:

A class for actors is one that is either held over an extended period of time (several weeks or several months) or in an evening. Beneficial acting-career skills are taught to the actor, and during that learning process constructive feedback is given to the actor by the instructor and/or invited entertainment executive(s). Entertainment executives may include: casting directors, talent agents and managers, directors, or actors with well-established careers.

Paid Auditions:

Actors pay a fee to be seen by an entertainment executive or panel via a monologue, or a hurriedly put-together scene. No feedback to the actors is offered. The session for each actor lasts several minutes. The session for the executive(s) is a duration of several hours as the actors are presented like cattle at an auction. These studios often herald in their advertising, or via email blasts, that the studio is responsible for every career advancement made by each actor who shuffled through their system no matter how long ago the actor was herded through the studio’s chute. Often the studio has no association with, or influence on, the actor’s toil in procuring the booking(s). Some of these studios now advertise “exclusive rights” to a casting director or talent agent as attending only that studio’s sessions. “Tisn’t morals, ’tis money that saves…”

Are Paid Auditions Valuable?

A good number of actors have formed professional relationships with agents and/or casting directors from these scenarios. More actors though have found the one-night stand paid auditions to be a frustration. The feeling disenfranchised actors are the most vocal in opposition to what is perceived as a paid audition.

Why Paid Auditions Are Popular

The digital revolution has changed how casting and representation meet talent. Too many actors have mistakenly given-up on the snail mail method of marketing themselves. While the majority of entertainment industry players delete, unopened, unsolicited email from actors. The paid audition, for better or worse, has replaced how first introductions are made.

Actors drive the market for the one-night stands. Actors also drive the market for the legitimate classes, and workshops. Of each, the actor will pay their monies for the value of who is participating. Classes without prominent industry participation don’t sell well; often forcing respected teachers to cancel classes.

Classes for Actors vs. Paid Auditions

Benefits of the paid audition is a questionable gamble that places opportunity in the hands of the attending entertainment executive(s). Classes attended or led by entertainment executives can offer growth from which the actor creates opportunities.

What is truth of legitimate versus the perception of a scam? The answer is within what the seller honestly offers, and the results an actor realistically anticipates.

My best,
Paul

Paul Russell’s 5-Star, Best Selling Book on Acting including Hollywood & Broadway Actors & Agents!

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

Casting Directors, Talent Agents, Directors & Actors
Love Paul Russell’s Best-Selling Book for Actors
ACTING: Make It Your Business!

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

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

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

 

 

Top 10 Email Mistakes Actors Make

Email marketing by actors is fraught with career-hobbling traps. The following email blunders are the most often used career-stopping snares by which actors maim opportunities.

Email Mistakes_a4a

actor email

Paul Russell_HeadshotPaul Russell
PaulRussell.net

Email marketing by actors is fraught with career-hobbling traps. Convenience and speed lull actors in to a false sense of accomplishment in their marketing outreach to entertainment professionals who hire or represent actors. The following email blunders are the most often used career-stopping snares by which actors maim opportunities.

1. Forwards

Actors forwarding their prior sent email(s) to industry by sending as ‘new’ old correspondence to other industry contacts advertises that the actor is lazy.

email

 

Recipients see in an email’s subject the abbreviation ‘FWD.’ When a FWD recipient sees the abbreviation a red flag is signaled that the sending actor is complacent, and sloppy with their marketing which further translates into an image that the actor is likely just as much an unprepared sloth regarding their acting skills.

Actors who wish that consideration of their career be taken seriously as a professional must approach each professional as an individual—not as a check-mark accomplished in the actor’s marketing whoredom.

 

2. Email Addresses that are Tinder or Grndr Bound

How serious of casting or representation consideration of an actor is an entertainment gatekeeper to pursue when an inquiring actor has an email address beginning with ‘SexyStarr@,’ ‘MyOscarAwaits@,’ or similar correspondence handles? About as seriously as an actor shouldn’t consider a director, agent, or casting director if any of those acting job enablers has an email address that is MakeYouFamous@hotmail.com.

An actor’s email address is a reflection of their professionalism. An actor’s work email address is to begin with a derivation of the actor’s name, followed by the email carrier that the actor utilizes.

 

3. Dear Mr./Mrs. as Greetings

I’ll never be a Mrs. or a Mr. (my testicles don’t respond to either greeting).

As unprofessional and crass is my prior commentary so too are generic openers. If an actor wishes to be treated as an individual, then the actor must give the same desired respect to all entertainment professionals encountered.

We are given names—identities. We are not pronouns but nouns. An actor sending an email blast to 10 or 10,000 individuals may either copy-n-paste the body of the email into each individual message, and then manually type in the recipient’s name. Or, the actor could save time and hours of tedium by learning what is a database and how a ‘field’ inserts an individual’s name or other content into a mass email blast.

Yours Sincerely,
Mr./Mrs./Ms./It

 

4. Begin with Positive not Negative

From a recent actor’s email:

 

“As a casting director you may literally go through thousand [SIC] of cover letters and resume [SIC] every day,”

 

First impression upon reading the actor’s opener is, “This isn’t going to go well for the actor.” And I’m correct. The remainder of the opening sentence in the email continues:

“…and most of the time you wind most of these letters in the trash can.”

 

The email is on a laptop screen, not on paper in my hand.

Plus, there seems to be a verb or two missing in the statement. Or maybe the writer envisions that like a clock’s cogs I wind trashed paper counterclockwise in my trashcan. Or possibly I pass wind on letters in my trashcan.

What an actor writes—and how—presents a perceived value by the reader on the actor’s acting skills. The actor mistakenly continues…

“I would like to tell you unlike most of the stars, I have taken this career seriously. I have converted this profession into my work ethic.”

Next.

 

5. Incorrect Capitalization

From an actor’s email to casting:

“Being a Film Actor who has been an Actor for many years I know your office to be the best Casting Office with many Casting Directors who work on Stage and Screen Projects. My Acting Training is extensive at many Performing Arts Schools…”

If you cannot detect the 15 capitalization errors in the prior sentences, get thee to an unpretentious ghostwriter to write your correspondence.

 

6. Attaching (multiple) Headshots, Resume(s), or Reel(s)

An actor’s resume is to be placed within the body of an email (See here).

Attachments slow the incoming email program of your target, which in turn doesn’t endear the actor to the entertainment professional.

Attachments also signal to email providers that an incoming email with a single or multiple attachments is potentially SPAM.

Attachments are also suspect. A large percentage of people using email will not open attachments from an unknown sender.

Include, along with your formatted resume in the email body, a thumbnail of one headshot. Also include a link to your website.

 

7. Using Vocabulary that Doesn’t Match Your Speaking Voice

8. Using lots of Vocabulary to Say Nothing of Substance

9. Not Having a Proof Reader

10. Telling the Reader You’re Serious About being an Actor

In the following excerpt of an actor’s email all blunders, 7-10, happen simultaneously:

“I would appreciate if you see my resume wherein I have mentioned my experience and knowledge. If your watched my reel you can see how seriously I have taken this profession.”

For a guide on how to write effective actor marketing emails, and cover letters get the best-selling acting book that the casting director for HAMILTON calls, “the actor’s roadmap!” Read ACTING: Make It Your Business.

And… take control of your career in the acting master class that I teach at dozens of universities across the U.S. A 4-week intensive covering actor marketing, audition technique improvement, finding your brand/voice, and how to take control of an audition, and gain more work. 3 industry executives join me in guiding your work. Details @ http://paulrussell.net/AMIYB_MasterClass.html

My best,
Paul

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

Casting Directors, Talent Agents, Directors & Actors

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

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

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

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

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

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

Couch_Money

Paul Russell
PaulRussell.net

pay to play workshops / auditions

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My best,
Paul

PaulRussell.net

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

Casting Directors, Talent Agents, Directors & Actors

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

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

This is your roadmap!”
BERNARD TELSEY, casting director, CSA
(Hamilton, The Intern, NBC’s The Wiz – LIVE!, Into The Woods – The Movie, Wicked)

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Talent Agent Charges Clients Additional Fee as Part of Representation

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

money_gremilin

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

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

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email2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My best,
Paul

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

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Casting Directors, Talent Agents, Directors & Actors

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

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

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

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

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

ACTING: Make It Your Business

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

Hook-up Apps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My best,
Paul

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

Casting Directors, Talent Agents, Directors & Actors

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

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

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

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

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

ACTING: Make It Your Business

Scam Casting, Agents & ‘Classes’ – Actor Beware

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

Fraud

Paul Russell_HeadshotPaul Russell
PaulRussell.net

.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was woefully idealistic.

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

Excuse me?!?!?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Best,
Paul

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

Casting Directors, Talent Agents, Directors & Actors

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

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

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

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

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

ACTING: Make It Your Business

How to Get Casting Director & Talent Agent Attention

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.

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.

UPDATE: Only 3 Seats Left!

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