Who Labels Actors as Frauds? – A Surprising Answer

February 6, 2015 at 8:15 am | Posted in acting, actors, auditions | Leave a comment
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Paul Russell
“Actor? You’re only as good as your last performance.”

“You’re not an actor unless you’re a working actor.”

Civilians slap actors with these damning comments; but worse are actors who abuse themselves:


Alissa’s above undermined self-confidence or similar update on social media “I’m-not-working-in-my-profession-means-I’m-a-fraud” may have once mirrored your own damaging thoughts to your career.

You and I have been preached these and similar falsehoods so many times that we—like the short-sighted who have dumped on us that limiting historical perspective—gorge on the empty career-confidence calories the slights provide.

I’ve a family member who has been unemployed for nearly a year. I’ve never understood what his civilian toil is—my mother once claimed he worked for the CIA because of his foreign travels. (My mother should be the family writer.) My family member’s long-term unemployment—just like a doctor’s, lawyer’s, or mason’s does not make them—or him any lesser than who he is. He’s just unemployed. He actively seeks employment in his areas of expertise. If you met an unemployed marketing guru would toss in their face, “Oh you’re not a marketer. You don’t have a job as one.” No. With civilians and their careers, you and I don’t have a civilian’s limited scope of a person’s ambitions and history.

Do Not ActorBut when, as an actor, you’re asked what you do for a living by a civilian or colleague and you’re unemployed are you sheepish? Do you fear the next questions that will invariably come? “What have I seen you in?” “What are you doing now?” You probably do dread those inquiries because you’ve been whipped repeatedly by civilians (and by insecure colleagues) uneducated to an acting career’s challenges that if you’re not working now as an actor; you’re not an actor.

You have a history. Own it. Your present does not reflect your entirety. I too tire of the question “What have you done lately?” I answer: “Do you have time for me to recount my thirty-plus years of experience as an actor, casting director, director, acting teacher, and author? A thousand-plus projects is what I’ve done recently. My history is longer than yesterday or an hour ago.” My answer is not bitterness or smug. My answer is to educate civilians—and immature artists—that a person is more than their current employment. We are not our jobs.

AMYIB_PilotSns_PqRhStop drinking the poisoned Kool-Aid that if unemployed you’re not your career. Unemployment in the arts is as common to the profession as are splinters to a carpenter. The wood smith is no less proficient a carpenter because of the lack of pine slivers piercing their skin. And you are no less an actor because you’re unemployed. If you believe opposite; it’s you who is saying, “I’m not an actor. I’m a fraud.”

My best,
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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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