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?”
“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 landline, 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 voicemail 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?”
“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, voicemail 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 voicemail, “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.
Paul Russell’s career as a casting director, director, acting teacher, and former actor has spanned thirty years. He’s worked on projects for major film studios, television networks, and Broadway. Paul’s taught the business of acting and audition technique at NYU, and speaks 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.