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Casting Advice

Actors Effectively Exploiting Social Networks

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Actors Effectively Exploiting Social Networks
I found a wonderful status on Facebook recently:

"Christopher ******** TODAY - Auditioning for a role on 'Law & Order: SVU' & auditioning with CD Jamie Schulman (Jen Euston Casting) & CD Jessica Kelly (Chrystie Street Casting) THURSDAY - auditioning with Agent Holly Vegter (Hartig-Hilepo Agency)"

One day later it was followed by an updated status:

"Christopher ******** got a callback for 'L&O:SVU'! Just finished auditioning with CD Jonathan Strauss who loved my work. He wants me to go back today @ 4:15 to audition with the Director of this episode of 'L&O:SVU.' Then I will be meeting & auditioning with CD's Jessica Kelly (Chrystie Street Casting) & Jamie Schulman (Jen Euston Casting)."

Finally! An actor, among the thousands who have befriended me as a "networking receptacle" using their Facebook status for something other than telling me:

– My cat is in heat and so am I.
– I hate life and people. You should too!
– I just took this quiz to find out that my personality for religious sects is: Amish.

People (i.e., bitter career-barren actors) have written me nasty notes stating that I utilize Facebook as a marketing tool for He is the author of my book. My reply?  "Why, yes. Yes, I do. I'm also marketing my career as both a director and casting director plus dispensing casting and career information on my time at no cost to actors. Got a problem with that?"

I once did reply to a mean-spirited missive from an actor (I've never met) who first befriended me with intent to market himself as he complained about my merchandising:

"Facebook is a marketing tool for all. Know that our office daily receives unsolicited inquiries and requests from actors via the postal system, email, and social sites to attend their shows (after our normal hours of work), seek representation (of which we do not do since we are not a talent agency), provide employment (of which we're happy to offer access if the actor is avail, willing and correct for a project). Everyone is selling something."

What I really wanted to reply was, "You friended me. Stop bitching and market yourself."

And here's something I don't openly share (until now); I'm not thrilled with having to be a self-described "marketing whore." I vehemently hate selling myself. But when it comes to survival, we all have to have a bit of the selling slut in each of us. Online social networks have become a modern medium for everyone to sell their wares with the least amount of cost for the most return.

In my NYU and private classes I often instruct my students to watch what I do on Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace and excel past me. Some do; others remain timid. It's timidity that keeps one from advancing.

Joining a Facebook or MySpace group that is administered by a casting office, producer, director, theater, or an actor collective is not actively marketing oneself. It's passive and lazy. Befriending same and expecting the person you networked to suddenly look upon you as brilliant for your talent just because you're on their friend list will garner little more than electronic crickets.

Like Christopher, put in your status something of use. Provide career advancing information to the person(s) you're networking. Let the people from whom you want notice know that others are noticing you for your talents and/or achievements.

I recently had a student who exploited Facebook well with the release of his film "The Graduates." For weeks he would put in his status, links to trailers for the film, plus announce screenings and praise for his performance. A few of his friends may have tired of the promotion, but what kind of friends were they if they didn't support and encourage his achievement?

If you've joined an online social network you should be seeking out directors, writers, producers, agents and casting directors. And not just the household/industry name names... go for the up-and-comers. They're the ones who need you as much you need them.

Find industry people who have friends in common with you. Strangers are more apt to electronically accept a virtual friend if they see there are a number of mutual friends between themselves and the person inviting the online friendship. They'll ignore the ignore button for fear that they may offend someone whom they may have met but can't recall. It's that fear, doubt and potential for embarrassment that is the Achilles heel to a stranger's friend list.

If you're not comfortable with networking online; that's ok. You're leaving open vacancies to be filled. Thousands of other people are taking your place and their fearlessness to network is putting them ahead of you in this journey that is life.

Again, I hate promoting myself. Always have and probably forever will. But I've learned to deal with my squeamishness of selling out of necessity (medical bills, rent, food, etc.). If I didn't get a reality check I wouldn't have worked on Broadway, wouldn't have done films for 20th Century Fox, gone would be my directing credits, and never would my book have been published by Random House. I also would not have been able to share my insights here with you. My fear would have left my life empty.

And it did for awhile at the beginning of my career to which I have great regret. What I missed can never be recovered. For I'll never know what opportunities I let pass me by for my being passive. What's passing you by?

The choice is yours. If you don't market yourself who will? You're the owner and operator of what is essentially your business—acting. Use effectively the social network tools provided. Ignore them and they'll ignore you.


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. 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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