I don't like covering material in this column that I've previously touched upon in my book—mainly because I want to explore new insights here. But there's been a question from a reader ("Virginia") sitting in the answering queue for so long that it was about to file for divorce from my laptop, citing abandonment.
Virginia's query? Should represented actors—that is, those lucky enough to have an agent and/or manager—attend EPAs?
Why? Well not to rehash material about which I wrote several lengthy pages prior in that Random House pile of pulp and print, I will expand here with additional insights.
For those not familiar with what are EPAs, the initials are audition short-hand for Equity Principal Auditions—a.k.a. Everyone Packs Auditions. It's Actors' Equity version of an open-call that is open to any member of Equity. (But never dare call it an 'open call' to an AEA administrator unless you enjoy a curt verbal rebuke laced with pomposity.)
Now why should agented AEA actors attend EPAs? First and foremost, a talent rep cannot get everyone they submitted for a project into the casting office for each specific potential of employ. They, like you, are fighting a numbers game. In casting we have a finite amount of audition slots. Talent reps have many clients. The task of fitting large groups of actors into a tiny audition schedule dictated by minimalist budget is like trying to put John Goodman into a Speedo—not pretty.
A second but nonetheless a lesser-in-importance reason for represented actors attending EPAs is that there are many actors with agents who have never been seen by a particular casting office or director. If you as an actor are type appropriate and available for the project in which EPAs are being held, then by all means you should get your artistic arse into that call!
Since the Bush Legacy tossed our economy into the trash—leaving, as is an ugly American antebellum custom, a black man to clean-up after—I have noticed a large increase in represented actors from the "better" agencies attending the calls. Desperation has finally pushed people to promoting their careers as they always should have been doing well before our near drop-off into the Bush Abyss. And judging by current economic indicators the forecast does not look we'll be emerging from these dark waters of an economy in decline.
Now those familiar with the EPA system may be asking themselves, "Should I attend only Required EPAs, or Non-Required EPAs?" Yes and yes. If you have the time; do both. Staying home constantly updating your profile pic on Facebook, Tweeting on Twitter your most recent caffeine intake, or watching videos on YouTube is not doing anything to further your career. (Plus, we all know that nearly every actor has an iPhone and can do those all so important online activities nearly anywhere, anytime.)
So in short, yes, "Virginia," if you are represented there are EPAs you should attend. Why let the competition advance while you sit idly by with an upturned nose at opportunity? We never know what each connection made in our lives will bring. An audition brings connections. It's networking. Either with other actors and, of course, the most obvious networking connection—people who hire actors.
Get out there and be seen. I have cast and know of represented actors who have been cast from EPAs. When I hear an actor whine "EPAs are a waste of time," I reply that an audition—no matter what it's called—is what you make of it. If you think it's a waste of time then it's you who made it such because you're walking into that audition studio with a defeatist attitude. Your returns reflect what you give.
Now go and audition before a proactive peer of yours progresses beyond your apathy for EPAs.
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.