Friday, April 5, 2013

Interview with Casting Director Paul Russell

We are pleased to bring you another interview with advice from a casting director, this time New York CD Paul Russell. This interview focuses on questions about an extremely helpful article Paul recently posted on his blog entitled “Why Actors Shouldn’t Trust Email.” 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, Temple and the University of the Arts. He also teaches privately in NYC. He writes a column for Back Stage and 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

As a casting director, how do you prefer actors to contact you?

Paul: Succinctly. No gimmicks. To the point, while meeting all the entertainment industry standards and advisories that I and the talent agents offer in ACTING: MAKE IT YOUR BUSINESS. I recently interviewed three talent agents and a colleague casting director for my book’s companion blog “Answers for Actors.” All preferred land-mail from actors. I agree. Having a physical mailing on our desk is much harder to delete than is hundreds of actor e-mails with a single icon click.

Do you read the emails you get from actors?

Paul: Yes and no. I receive several forms of e-mail inquiries from actors. Of the actor e-mails I read:

1. Submissions directly related to a project my office is casting.

2. Actor questions related to ACTING: MAKE IT YOUR BUSINESS or “Answers for Actors.”

Of the e-mails I don’t read:

1. Rambling missives detailing—to a near obsessive compulsive state—an actor’s activities - which are of no interest to me (i.e., how many open calls they’ve attended, call-backs that don’t profit a job, invites to showcases in which they produce, wrote and star). I won’t open large file attachments (some of my colleagues will not open any actor attachments for fear of viruses). I have super-fast Internet. Anything over 5 MBs delays my day as I wait… and wait… and wait… aaaaand wait… for the actor’s attached bulky files to… download. As I teach in my classes, attachments should be under 5 MBs (e-mail servers often dump into spam, e-mail with attachments larger than 5 MBs). An actor should have their headshot and resume in a single PDF labeled as ‘actorname_headshot_resume.PDF.’ Don’t include year, type of resume, or any other descriptors in the file name. You have file folders on your desktop for that. Don’t force us to rename your files for you. And why PDF? Your document will be read universally as it appears on your device(s). Word documents (non PDFs) are often jumbled by e-mail servers and/or the computing platforms of recipients; leaving the-less-than-tech-savvy recipient trying to read the mess believing the sender (you, the actor) are a techno-twit who can’t type. The best format for an actor e-mail would be to have the resume and picture within the body of the e-mail. The headshot does not have to be full-sized. A 100 pixel x 100 pixel reduction of your photo will do just fine. People make dating decisions online viewing smaller pics than that. Why do I or my colleagues need to have an actor’s full 8x10 inch photo hogging the body of the e-mail? It’s absurd! When such happens we’re often forced to scroll around the image in a vain attempt to see more than an actor’s earlobe or eye.

What inspired you to create a blog for actors?

Paul: My publisher, Random House, had a strict word limit for my book. There was much more I wanted to share with actors in order to help them better their journeys. Plus, with my companion blog “Answers for Actors,” I can comment on immediate issues while having a direct dialogue with actors.

In what ways have you seen casting change over the years?

Paul: The digital revolution has quickened the already hyper-activity of casting while making the process less personal. Rare is the occasion that I speak to talent agents on the phone or to actors directly while setting up audition appointments as when I first began casting. I miss that connectivity. Text is too passive. But, the digital revolution has also opened up casting to more unrepresented actors, if the casting personnel in charge of a project are willing to accept unsolicited submissions or solicited submissions via Actors’ Access from those same actors. Far too many of my colleagues still put themselves on a pedestal. As I often say about my work as a casting director; “I’m just glorified human resources.” My job is to solve puzzles. Having more actors access me makes the solution come easier. My snobbish casting colleagues tend to be short-sighted in that regard.

You have worked in film, TV and theatre, which type of these projects is the most challenging to cast?

Paul: Each has their own challenges. Regional or developmental theater has creatives wanting top-tier talent but often top-tier talent doesn’t want to work for basement wages or for free (although a thousand a week salary regionally would be welcomed by my bank account). Casting of this type often involves much diplomacy and advocacy on my part on behalf of the project… plus some arm twisting. With film, my experience has been mostly limited to major studio endeavors. The pressure from executives and creatives to corral top-tier talent is ever pervasive. This can be frustrating when I’m aware of great actors who don’t have marquee value. Television can be burn-out city. On the programs I worked my work day often began at 6 AM with a near midnight end. At one CBS hit I toiled—upon daily arrival I would often have messages from the writing staff who overnight wrote in a new character for an upcoming episode. They needed actors to be seen for casting by 11 AM that day. And sometimes the writers would be vague, “Get us a doctor.” No age. No gender. No defining characteristics or traits. Occasionally while the actors were on route to the audition, the character would change. Once, a doctor changed to a repairman for a candy vending machine. I don’t know what the writers were smoking that morning.

If you could give actors one piece of advice before they audition for you what would that be?

Paul: Those behind the casting table are no different than you. They’re doing a job as are you, burdened by similar worries and anxieties while wondering if earlier that morning they locked the front door at home.

FRANCO L. BARBERIS signs with Hartman Entertainment

FRANCO's recent appearances include: TOSH.O, THE JAY LENO SHOW, and JOHN BENJAMIN HAS A VAN. Film credits include: CLEANING UP and ALLISIN WONDERLYN.

Michael Taylor signs with Hartman Entertainment.

MICHAEL TAYLOR's recent Film credits include: "AmericanAsian", "Model Kill", "The Devil Next Door", and "Saving Face".

Booking: PERCEPTION - Ad Astra Mgt.

Booked: PERCEPTION Episode #208 "Neuropositive"
Role: Angie Ford
Represented By: Ad Astra Mgt.
Casting Director: Mary Jo Slater

Booking: SULLIVAN AND SON - Sharon Rose Infinite Talent Agency / Ad Astra Mgmt.

Booked: SULLIVAN AND SON Episode #203 "Running Mates"
Role: Voter
Represented By: Sharon Rose Infinite Talent Agency / Ad Astra Mgmt.
Casting Director: Julie Ashton

Booking: JESSIE - Park Noack Agency

Booked: JESSIE Episodes #227 and 228 ("Jessie Movie")
Role: Chaplain
Represented By: Park Noack Agency
Casting Director: Sheryl Levine
Additional Notes: This role (Chaplain) is a guest-starring role in "Jessie". Merrick McCartha is represented for tv and film by Adam Park at Park Noack Agency and managed across the board by Oliver Carnay at International Artists PR & Talent Management.

Booking: BUTTERFLY DUST - 3GManagement

Booked: BUTTERFLY DUST (Short)
Role: Sarah
Represented By: 3GManagement
Casting Director: Anthony Bushman
Additional Notes: Congrats Alexis on your booking. Wonderful strong actress, great with drama. Awesome talent with huge emotional range. Excellent abilities with great power and depth. Excellent talent with great appeal and style. Can be charming with great strength. Just a truly gifted talent. Congrats Alexis on your booking.

Booking: TORO - 3GManagement/Flick Commercial Agency

Booked: TORO
Role: Wife
Represented By: 3GManagement/Flick Commercial Agency
Casting Director: Mary Claire Sweeters
Additional Notes: A very strong actress with awesome credits to her name with many Guest Star roles. She always makes the most awesome choices, seen in WITHOUT A TRACE and GREY'S ANATOMY. Also had a major Guest Star role in the pilot "Bird Dog" and Guest Star role in "Rules of Engagement". Huge emotional range and great amount of depth. Very strong/bold and charming. Congrats on your booking. Below is a link to some of her other work.

Booking: 5 HOUR ENERGY DRINK - 3GManagement

Booked: 5 Hour Energy Drink
Role: Spokesperson
Represented By: 3GManagement
Casting Director: James J Levine
Additional Notes: We want to congratulate Robert on his booking. He is a very strong actor with great resume. Starred in many MOW's. Guest Star on many projects and has a huge range to draw from. Series regular on a few shows. Excellent talent who makes every role come life in a very real way. Awesome choices very real and strong. Just filmed a Guest Star on "Deadtime Stories", Guest role on "Criminal Minds".


Represented By: 3GManagement/Media Artist Group
Casting Director: Natalie Avital
Additional Notes: Congrats Nancy on your booking. She is truly an excellent actress with great depth and wonderful emotional range. Awesome drama choices. Truly can bring life to any role with great strengths and vulnerabilities. Just seen on "Criminal Minds". Soon to be seen on "Castle". She has lots of power and style.

Booking: TRUE BLOOD - 3GManagement/BKI Talent Agency

CATHRYN DE PRUME Episode #605, "F*ck the Pain Away"
Represented By: 3GManagement/BKI Talent Agency
Casting Director: Junie Lowry Johnson, Libby Goldstein
Additional Notes: A very strong actress with awesome credits to her name with many Guest Star roles. She always makes the most awesome choices, seen in WITHOUT A TRACE and GREY'S ANATOMY. Also had a major Guest Star role in the pilot "Bird Dog" and Guest Star role in "Rules of Engagement". Huge emotional range and great amount of depth. Very strong/bold and charming. We want to congratulate Cathryn on this booking.

Booking: TRUE BLOOD - 3GManagement/Aqua Talent

Booked: TRUE BLOOD Episode #605, "F*ck the Pain Away"
Represented By: 3GManagement/Aqua Talent
Casting Director: Junie Lowry Johnson, Libby Goldstein
Additional Notes: Truly a wonderful dramatic actress with very strong comic abilities as well. Great comic timing and energy. Has a special appeal. She always makes very good choices in her acting style. Really just an all around awesome actress. Well trained and has a depth emotional range. Last seen on "Shake It Up". Congrats on this booking Danielle we are so happy for you.

Booking: SLEEPY HOLLOW - 3GManagement

Represented By: 3GManagement
Casting Director: Mackey/Sandrich Casting
Additional Notes: We are so happy for Patrick booking. Patrick has great IMDB credits to his name. Truly a very gifted actor, he has a huge range of emotions and great timing and choices. Will be seen in the upcoming HBO series "To Appomattox". Very powerful dramatic talent. Patrick is in excellent shape with great amount of strength and power. Was also in Gods and Generals, and Gettysburg. He has strong comedy chops as well making him an awesome all around talent.

Booking: ANATOMY OF VIOLENCE - 3GManagement

Role: FBI Breechman
Represented By: 3GManagement
Casting Director: Michael Testa
Additional Notes: Congrats Ryan on this booking. A truly great actor with a large emotional range to draw from. Makes very good choices all around strong actor. Has a lot of depth in his work. Wonderful comic abilities and just an all around a wonderful talent. Strong Sketch Comedy and Improv background. Lead on many of the "Funny Or Die" videos.

Booking: REPLACER - 3GManagement/Susan Nathe

Role: Principal
Represented By: 3GManagement/Susan Nathe
Casting Director: RMB Casting
Additional Notes: Excellent character talent and wonderful all around actor. Awesome dramatic as well as comic abilities. Truly has a very huge range of emotions to draw from. Groundlings and UCB...excellent Improv talent and Sketch Comedy. Over all wonderful talent. Congrats Marshall on your booking.