Casting Directors Actors & Agents Adore or Loathe

March 3, 2015 at 8:00 am | Posted in acting, Actors & Agents | Leave a comment
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Dear Distemperant Casting Colleagues,

With all due respect—stop being a bitch. You’re not the heroes of our profession. You aspire to be respected for your contributions to our artistic version of the human resources trade. But you demand bows much like Downton Abbey’s Mr. Barrow connives–but fails–to generate the esteem due Mr. Carson.

You are not the casting director of whom actors and industry adore for their congenial professionalism–the many casting directors who truly champion each actor. Casting heroes including, but not limited to, the freshman of our audition campuses: Michael Cassara to the not-so-relatively new Bob Cline, Scott Wojcik and Joy Dewing, to the long-established vets of casting: Bernie Telsey, Marci Philips, Meredith Tucker, Jonathan Straus, Suzanne Ryan, Kim Mischa, Beth Bowling, Craig Burns, Tara Rubin, Rachel Hoffman, Duncan Stewart, David Vacarri, Liz Lewis, Stephanie Klapper, Stephen DeAngelis, Todd Thaler, Jen Rudin, Cindi Rush, Alison Franck, Rosemarie Tischler, Rosealie Joseph, Andrew Zerman, Jack Bowden, Alan Filderman, and casting director emeritus Joanna Merlin. And then there are the casting heroes who led us by example but sadly are no longer here to guide: Michael Shurtleff, Vinnie Liff, and Mary Colqhoun. Unnamed heroes doesn’t construe that their absence here equates them a casting troll under the audition bridge. There are more casting heroes. So many so that the list would read longer than Michael Caine’s resume. Mea culpa.

But to the casting villains…

As in all trades there’s a small segment within the ranks that causes rancor. Discord between us and the people who without their participation our jobs would not exist or be possible. Blemishes that mar and stereotype our profession. To this distempered lot the entertainment community wishes that you have brighter days ahead so that our days encountering you are brighter. You know who you are.

But… firstly, you are not the casting directors who:

- Set-up online non-union sign-up sheets for open calls, EPAs, or ECCs

- Encourage auditioning actors to “have fun” during their audition

- Have empathy for the actor’s life situation and career challenges

- Say “Thank you” to every actor, and truly shine gratitude for the actor attending your audition

- When making a subjective statement about industry practices and/or talent treat the observation as an opinion; not a carved-in-stone commandment

You may believe yourself among these casting personalities of whom actors & agents respect. Let me clarify the truth. If you still don’t recognize your darkness—of which both actors and talent representatives resent and despair tiptoeing into; some additional reminders as to who you are:

- The casting director who set-up a sting operation snaring actors who received black-market breakdowns. You “auditioned” the actors responding to your fictitious breakdown, and then as each actor stood before you in the audition room you berated and informed the actor that they were now blacklisted—no longer welcome to any audition occurring on the west and east coasts of the U.S. Blacklisted not only by you but by the casting directors who took seriously your faxed and emailed list of “the offenders.”

- The male casting director who openly makes inappropriate comments or advances to male actors, or male employees, yet privately states of gay actors, “I won’t see him. He’s a fag.”

- The casting director I often overheard scream into a phone to agents after the agent’s client passed on a project, “Do you know who I am?! Do you realize who you’re speaking to?!”

- The casting director who texts, emails, or initiates phone calls, or posts biting critiques of auditioning actors online as actors audition

- The casting director who asked the talent rep of a TONY-award winning actress she audition for a reading and when the agent asked for an offer instead you replied, “There are no small actors, only small agents.”

- The casting director who doesn’t greet the actor as the actor enters the audition room

- The non-union producers, the likes of one who allegedly torched three theaters, who treat actors as a necessary evil in order to bulge the producer’s bank account.

- The casting director lording an industry panel before actors who when asked by an actor, “What should I do if I’m late to an audition?” you responded with all seriousness, “Get out of the business.”

I have erred on occasion. We aren’t governed. The only governance we have is ourselves. We must rely on instinct for being gracious. And when we cross the line of rudeness we may do so as I do here to place a mirror before those who may be blind to poor behavior. We are in a profession requiring social skills equal of a concierge, diplomat, or personal shopper. Our duties demand of us hospitality. We are to be courteous to our industry associates not a DMV clerk stereotype.

The varied reasons for your distemper is baggage you carry on your career’s train. For the sake of the passengers who must temporarily board your ride please toss off your junk. You’ll find the travel becomes smoother. Your casting puzzles solved at lower blood pressure rates.

Actors who enter a studio and genuinely respect the casting personnel behind the table are the actors with confidence who
AMYIB_PilotSns_PqRhmove further along in the hiring process. Confident, type-appropriate, talented actors make our jobs pleasant. So be self-ish. Create a comfortable environment in which you can prosper. Smile and warmly welcome actors into your audition studio, and let them have fun. You may find yourself having fun too.

And to the casting heroes named or overlooked; the industry enjoys your fun.

________

ONLY ONCE THIS SPRING! – The BFA / MFA based 4-week master class I share with actors at universities around the country I’m teaching in NYC only once this spring. It’s not hyperbole when I say that past students have increased auditions, received more callbacks, booked more work, and improved the ability for those seeking new representation to secure a new champion. You get my 30 years of casting & directing experience for 4 weeks sharing with you skills for the actor that most actors are unaware of, plus I coach you for building your confidence and skills for gaining more auditions and commanding each audition. At the end of the 4 weeks an agent panel provides helpful feedback on your improvement. 10 actors only per series. INFO HERE

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, 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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