An actor isn’t successful unless famous. A musician isn’t successful unless they have a bountiful bank account.
The anachronistic movie musical La La Land, filmed in the style of a late 1940s/early 1950s movie musical set in modern day, demonstrates how Hollywood perpetuates a mythical “La La Land” that doesn’t exist, but insists to civilians, “This is how the entertainment industry really is.” No, it’s not.
Young actresses with questionable representation (or virtually no agent) don’t get into first-rate auditions or plucked from one-night showcase obscurity into fame as this film pretends is reality. Yet the film, like most third-rate Hollywood portrayals about Hollywood, relies on worn clichés as fact: casting directors are distempered women; directors are cold hearted; young actresses are all white and from Small Town, U.S.A.; jazz musicians are moody (though in this case white); actors would be truly happy if the love of their life gave up their dreams, so they can achieve the success they desire.
How can you be the happier actor? Possibly the happiest actor on Earth? (Planet domination of joy may be theme park hyperbole.) If we’re to believe Irving Berlin, show people are deliriously happy—branded so in his jaunty show tune lyric, “There’s no people like show people. They smile when they are low.” Possibly the only show “people” who match Berlin’s optimism are the saccharine animatronics singing at Disney’s Its A Small World.
Actors endure more rejection per week seeking temporary employment than does a “civilian” hunting for permanent employment in a month. That’s a lot of lows at which actors are to smile (thank you, Mr. Berlin). Yet actors push forward, actors seek coping skills, so as not be mired in the debris of rejection. The happier actors rise above the pile of dismissal. Atop the carnage, actors look out on to the horizon for what’s next. How do actors keep their smile while facing adversity?
1. Equalize Auditions
Equalize all auditions with the same goal and manner of importance. Stressing more importance on one audition over another places unnecessary stress, worry, and anxiety on the actor.
All auditions offer individual opportunities for actors to show their skills with a spirit of fun—a period of control the actor owns. When placing all auditions on a level playing field, the lifelong career process of auditioning is no longer intimidating or a cause for worry. The audition is but a cog in the wheel of effectively pushing forward the machinery of the actor’s industry.
Is writing about yourself a wincing, dreadful proposition, equal to the prospect of a dinner theater staging of Sweeney Todd starring Sarah Palin and Gilbert Gottfried?
When sending an e-mail in response to a casting notice are you left witless as to what to type onto that intimidating white field? Do you quickly pen a single sentence containing listless language nearly every actor uses, such as “cast,” “headshot,” “resume,” “please,” and “perfect?” Or, like too many actors for whom deafening silence is the reply to their seeking an audition appointment, do you cowardly leave the body of your e-mail blank?
Then this is the blog post for you.
Rule #1 on Cover Letters
Change your vocabulary mindset.
Stop thinking of your hard-copy and digital communication as “cover letters” and instead as “messages.” “Cover letter” is so Jane Austin-austere and formal. Messaging (“Message”) is what you do nearly 24/7.
Writing about you is easy; you do it daily without knowing so.read more
Did you know that Domhnall Gleeson is the #1 IMDb STARmeter ranked actor for being a Taurus? Your either thinking, “Who???,” “What’s my astrological ranking on IMDb?,” or better yet, “Yeah, so what? I’m a Virgo.”
You’ve probably seen more than once in your social network newsfeed(s): “My IMDb STARmeter rank is…”
No one cares. Honestly. If you do, then your deluded ego is wasting energies on a website that’s part of Amazon.com’s Internet commerce behemoth.
Aside from actors tweeting that IMDb has placed them six million degrees closer to Kevin Bacon, no one cares how an actor’s extra work pay stubs have raised or plummeted your ‘industry ranking’ as determined by algorithms programmed by a silicon valley nerd. No one except perhaps Amazon.com’s CEO Jeff Bezos banking funds garnered via click-through-adverts and upgraded IMDbPro memberships. And parasites who offer STARmeter boosts (for a fee) to nudge ranking.
IMDb is useful for historical information such as when a Yale M.F.A acting student or TMZ blogger seek the answer to who played Ophelia to Mel Gibson’s Hamlet? (Helena Bonham Carter.)
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 homepage 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 between a client of the Philly agent and the agent:read more
“Comparison is the thief of joy.”
– Theodore Roosevelt
Every artist shares a demon. When will you slay the beast?
An actor’s journey can be a self-imposed hell if the actor eyes the successes of peers with envy. Sound familiar? You look over your shoulder and suddenly there’s a colleague who breezes by effortlessly on to their goal while you ask yourself, “What about me? Where’s my happiness and success?” Despair fogs your muse. Daily life becomes gray. Enter the demon: Comparison.
I occasionally live with this career hobbling devil. Comparison haunts me.
His phone calls to me came daily. Jon Stewart, long before his Oval Office meetings with President Barack Obama, was doggedly pursuing a meeting with a woman most people had never heard of, but whose work was enjoyed internationally.
It was the mid-1990s, well before The Daily Show. I was working as gatekeeper for the formidable and detail-diligent casting director Mary Colquhoun on the casting of Picture Perfect, starring Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Bacon, and written and directed by Glenn Gordon Caron (Moonlighting, Medium). In fact, I was her gatekeeper on three films. Mary was strictly devoted to her English birth certificate. God save the assistant who didn’t adhere to writing all correspondence and deal memos in the Queen’s English. A generous heart buried in stone, Mary brought many of her assistants to tears, including (allegedly) Alan Filderman, whom she berated for tripping and injuring himself in her presence.read more
by Paul Russell
60 Reasons Actors Don’t Need a College Degree in Acting
I confess. I have a shame.
During my early career (the ancient acting days)… I fibbed. I lied about my education. I foolishly believed an actor needed to display on a resume evidence of a college education as an actor. Why? Professional validation to being an actor. I should have slapped myself. Often.
But. Time passes. Opportunities arise. Beliefs evolve. My past continual work as an actor nationally; as a director directing at TONY® award-winning theaters and working with legendary playwright John Guare; casting for Broadway and major studios; plus being published by Penguin-Random House proves wrong my youthful immature fears and assumption: an actor needs a college degree in the performing arts B.S.
Yes, a college education eases an artist’s wedging around towering and creaky doors of entertainment’s gatekeepers. Actor training programs broaden skill set, and create networking opportunities. But a bank busting BFA, MFA or any letter assembly that depresses your finances is in no way an absolute necessity.
Why? 60 examples:read more
by Paul Russell
How Not to Contact a Casting Director or Talent Agent
Thirty minutes prior I arrived home from work after trudging through snow. Pulled myself under my comfy down-duvet, keeping warm as my cat Dorie slept peacefully at my feet. Then from my nightstand came the piercing rings of my phone. Dorie helicopters and bolted.
I look at the incoming 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?”
by Paul Russell
How to Create the Best Actor Résumé That Gets Auditions
Smart marketers know well how to nab your attention making the sale while exploiting personal interests. Actors can hold casting’s attention and score an audition (or talent representation) with résumés leveraging successful techniques modern marketers exploit.
Top 5 Résumés Every Actor Must Have
Having one-résumé-fits-all-needs is poor actor-marketing.
Legit casting and agents have no interest in your commercial, voice-over, and extra history. In contrast, commercial casting and agents care little for your playing the Bard on the boards in Barrington, VT.
As marketers target individual consumer’s interests so must an actor. That begins with the actor’s résumés.read more