The wonderful casting directors Maya Adrabi and Lindsay Bronson joined us for our November seminar to share some of their wisdom and experience with us. Let’s see what they had to say.
1. Make sure all of the dates work for you.
If you have an audition, then a callback, then an avail, and then you get booked for the job, and then you tell your agent that you have a trip to Europe that week, you’re doing things backwards. When you get an audition, make sure you check all of the dates and make sure that they work for your schedule. If they don’t, tell your agent (or if you submitted yourself, tell casting) and things might still work out for you. But things will certainly not work out for you and your professional relationships if you hold that information until you get booked for a job.
A really good audition makes the casting director, the producer, and the director really happy. You gave a good audition, you got put on avail . . . and then you didn’t get booked. Why?
I can assure you it is nothing that you did wrong. So if it’s nothing you did wrong, what could it be?
The callback is the time the spot takes shape. Many variables come into play.
Here Are Five Reasons Why You Might Not Get Booked
1. The Spot Has A Certain Look
All variations and combinations of looks are considered. During the callback selection process, as the spot takes shape, your look might not quite fit in. I have seen a group of six people chosen and upon final consideration, the creative team noticed everyone was brunette. One person was randomly taken out of the group and replaced with a person with lighter hair. I remember feeling an “ouch” for the person taken out of the group.
The Four Agreements For Actors
“Every human is an artist. The dream of your life is to make beautiful art.” – Don Miguel Ruiz
As I was thinking about this past year, I found as actors we all deep down have one common goal: to make beautiful art. Don Miguel Ruiz’s book, The Four Agreements, came to mind and I felt compelled to share as a beautiful way to start off the new year. By following these simple, yet not so simple, agreements, your life as you know it will transform, you will no longer feel stuck, make excuses or complain; you will live the life of an artist.
1st AGREEMENT: BE IMPECCABLE WITH YOUR WORD
For me, this has been so powerful, not only in how I live life, but how I live the life of an actress. LISTEN to what you are saying and what you are hearing. We truly speak things into existence! Don Miguel Ruiz states that being impeccable is not going against yourself, you don’t blame or judge yourself for anything, and this goes for auditions! We don’t criticize and we don’t gossip! We do our best, we prepare, we get to the audition on time and walk into that room with confidence that we are what they are looking for, and if not, than it wasn’t meant to be . . . this time.
Manchester by the Sea
Kenneth Lonergan’s first film in five years might be his best to date. Manchester by the Sea is a subtle masterpiece about grief, family, and reconnecting with buried emotions. Casey Affleck is terrific and deserving of the early Oscar buzz that his performance is generating, and Lucas Hedges is fantastic, as well. A film that is both tragic and uplifting, Manchester by the Sea is not one to miss.
The film opens with a flashback. Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is on his family’s fishing boat with his nephew Patrick (the young version, played by Ben O’Brien) and his older brother Joe (Kyle Chandler), with Lee and Patrick bonding over shark mythology. Later, we see Lee in his new environment—the somewhat catatonic janitor of an apartment complex in Quincey, MA. Soon he gets a phone call, and we know the news is not good. His brother Joe has passed away due to congestive heart failure, a condition that we learn he has been suffering from for some time now. With this news, Lee winds up in Manchester-by-the-Sea, his hometown, and a place he has not been in a while due to tragic circumstances that unfold in flashback throughout the film.
Lee’s reunion with his hometown is awkward at first, as are his first few encounters with his now 16-year-old nephew Patrick (with a sensational performance by Lucas Hedges, who is reminiscent of a young Matt Damon—a producer on the film, incidentally). Lee soon learns that his brother Joe has tapped Lee to be Patrick’s guardian, a job that Lee is not ready for on many levels. The rest of the film deals primarily with Lee’s relationship to Patrick—can Patrick become a father-figure to a nephew he barely knows while struggling with a smattering of inner demons? Additionally, Patrick navigates his newfound life as he deals with anger issues, girl problems, and an alcoholic mother (played by Gretchen Mol) who he has not seen in years, along with her new—very Christian—husband Jeffrey (Matthew Broderick). Meanwhile, Lee must find inner peace as he reconnects with his pregnant ex-wife Randi (Michelle Williams) and learns how to adjust to a new life he never expected to be living.
Manchester by the Sea is a remarkable film. The subtle script and filmmaking by auteur Kenneth Lonergan (who both wrote and directed) is breathtaking. Often, the drama happens offscreen, but what we experience as an audience is profound. One example of this is the three framed photographs that Lee possesses. We see them first in a flashback at Lee’s place in Quincey, as Lee packs them up and puts them away in a blanket. We then see them in his bedroom in Manchester-by-the-Sea as he places them out on his nightstand. Finally, we see Patrick discover the photographs in Lee’s room. We never actually see the photographs, but we can easily deduce what is in each of them, allowing us to be active participants in the storytelling. Lonergan does a fantastic job of giving us just enough information, letting the story unfold in a methodical yet spellbinding way, from beginning to end.
Casey Affleck is getting a lot of attention for his performance as Lee Chandler, and it is all deserved. Affleck runs the gamut of emotions throughout the film. This really is one of the best and most nuanced characters written in quite some time, and Affleck is up to the challenge. He navigates extraordinarily tragic circumstances in the film—the death of his brother being just the tip of the iceberg—and Affleck manages to breathe life into a flawed but redeemable protagonist. Near the beginning of the film, we see Lee handle the tenants of his building as he deals with their plumbing issues. Affleck is subdued and does not have many lines throughout this montage, but we experience a hidden depth beneath it all—a depth that is explored throughout the rest of the film. Lee has complicated relationships in the film—relationships with his older brother, his nephew, his ex-wife, his hometown. Affleck manages to find the truth in his performance, and he will undoubtedly be nominated for the Best Actor Oscar for it.
Manchester by the Sea is one of the best films of 2016, without a doubt. Casey Affleck is spectacular, as is the rest of the cast, and Kenneth Lonergan creates his best film in years, outdoing even his classic 2000 film You Can Count On Me. You have to be in the right mood to see it—it is difficult to watch at times, and your heart breaks more than once throughout—but this is simply a must-see film. See it in the theater before awards season if you can.
When the political reality fails to mend polarizing views in a country, art can step in and do the job. An actor’s performance can help create bridges of understanding between opposing forces and give way to common ground. Actors don’t require passports to perform their magic. Their work can radiate across the globe reaching millions of people with just one click. Actors, you are part of a profession that tackles differences in a creative way. Performances have the potential to touch people’s hearts and open their minds. It is only through having an open mind that different ideas can be exchanged and mulled over peacefully. This idea is as relevant today as it was thousands of years ago when Aristotle said, ”It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
Not only do actors help create open minds in their viewers, but they use their open minds as a tool to break out of their comfort zones in order to get at the core of a character they are portraying. Maybe the character is unlike anyone they have ever known, or perhaps is extremely unlikeable. The actor’s challenge is to find some shred of humanity that they can relate to and build from there. They must see a piece of themselves in their character in order to deliver an authentic and moving performance. I’m sure you have all experienced goose bumps while watching a great performance in a play or on a screen. I know I have. You can’t fake that kind of visceral reaction.
I love theatre. All kinds of theatre. Sometimes I like to shake things up and take a break from the traditional 99 seat theatre ( . . . or 2000 seat, whatever) with a world premiere or revival of a classic to check out one of the many sketch/comedy/improv venues Los Angeles has to offer. There’s something about the team effort and collaboration that I love. You never quite know what you’re going to see and I find that exciting. Sometimes my socks are blown off and other times I’m mildly amused, but I’m usually glad I got my tail in a seat for an hour.
TMI at the Acme Comedy Theatre in Hollywood should be added to the list if it isn’t on yours already. The show was created in 2012 by Second City folks to counter a politically minded show filled with topics from around the world that affect us all. Therefore, TMI was created to provide the stories we actually want, but don’t need, and certainly don’t want to admit to it. Sounds kind of nice, doesn’t it? They say it’s a cross between TMZ and SNL from the 70’s and 90’s (poor, poor 80’s) and that seems about right to me. Over the four years it’s been running, there have been 150-ish shows, 80-ish writers, 130-ish actors, and 140-ish celebrity guest stars! That kind of history and man/woman power is reason alone to check it out, or check it out again.
Things have changed in the industry over the years. One significant thing is the way in which information is passed on. When I started casting (mid 2006), associates wore headsets with a pesky wire connected to the phone because we were constantly taking and receiving calls. And this was AFTER Casting Networks came to town and casting directors had been emailing audition notices for a handful of years. I believe we were still calling out callbacks. For sure we were calling out avails and bookings. Lots of phone talk was happening that just isn’t as much any more. This little fact makes that emailed audition notice more and more important.
Commercial actors should never neglect to read their audition notice . . . carefully.
Why carefully? Well, there are several reasons. There are times a casting director may use the system (by sending an audition or callback notice) to convey info or ask talent to do things other than attend an actual callback/audition.
Most artists have little trouble coming up with visions of what they want from their lives and careers, and actors are no exception. Usually, there are some pretty ambitious goals on a given actor’s to-do list, including (but not limited to) acquiring “A-list representation,” landing a series lead, and winning a small (but weighty) statuette. While these are all wonderful things, too often items like these fall under the category of “visions” rather than actionable goals. And while there is absolutely nothing wrong with having a vision—or seven—calling it a goal can create a lot of frustration and heartache.
This point hit me hard recently as I sat down to do my annual list of accomplishments and disappointments, the first—and for my money, greatest—of the exercises in my favorite goal-setting book (see “Book of the Month” below). While there were still many more on the “plus” side than the “minus”, daily lettering project aside, this year’s pluses were the unsexiest bunch of accomplishments I’ve racked up in 10+ years of using some form of this system.
Have you ever been on set and realised how much waste there is; that perhaps you should be making more of a conscious effort to recycle? Being green when it comes to media production is never straightforward but there are ways you can help the environment – both obvious and not so obvious. Ad Green is a new initiative set up by Jo Coombes specifically for commercial production. Casting Networks speaks with Jo to find out more about Ad Green, where it came from and her hopes for the future.
Casting Networks: What was the moment where you first stepped back and realised how incredibly wasteful and un-green the commercial industry was?
Jo Coombes: I first came to the realisation that I didn’t like what I was contributing to at the start of 2014. I’d read some scary articles about climate change, and couldn’t help but think I was contributing, simply by doing a job I loved – production managing advertising shoots. The amount of waste we create in the name of being creative is obscene, but at the time I wasn’t sure what I could do about it. It wasn’t until a few months later when the niggling feeling got too much that I decided I should find out what related industries were up to, and whether we could apply what they’d learned to advertising production.
Having spoken to Aaron Matthews who runs BAFTA’s Albert initiative, which works across film and TV in the UK, I knew there were things we could be doing but weren’t, such as on set recycling, and asking more of our caterers and studios. The next step was how to apply that and start spreading the word.
Overcoming fear was a big thing – would people want to hear me bang on about being more environmentally friendly? What if the things I thought we should try didn’t work? How could I talk to the director, agency or even the client about the issue? In the end I realised I needed to be confident in what I’d learned from related industries and what I’d tested on my own shoots, and start shouting it from the rooftops. After about a year developing how I should ‘present’ AdGreen to production companies, crew and suppliers, it evolved into what you see today, which is predominantly a website of case studies and tools, designed to inspire and empower best practice. The APA have also been a big support, making sure their members are aware of what’s available, and including details of how to get started, along with our checklist, in the files section of their website.
CNI: How does AdGreen aim to make the commercial industry greener and what kind of response have you been getting from the industry? Plans for the future?
JC: Since setting up the current site, I’ve been joined by some collaborators who are helping with various plans for the future – it’s nice not to be working alone anymore! Together we’ve created a strong community through social media, which has been a great place to share experiences of what’s possible (and what’s not), promote our events (AdGreen presented a session at the APA Masterclass earlier this year as well as a seminar for production companies over the summer), and connect with related organisations around the world. We’re starting to spread our wings now too, reaching out to agencies and defining how we can help them to ask for sustainable production practices to be commonplace. Ideally we will have a best practice policy that everyone in our industry works to and is aware of, from clients to agencies, production companies, freelancers and suppliers.
At the start of any production, one of the most paper-heavy tasks is casting. Knowing that Casting Networks has a paperless solution – that some of our favourite casting studios and directors are working with – is great. I’ve seen it in action, and it saves not just paper, but time too. When it comes to being on set, there are things everyone attending can do: bring a water bottle, and if you’re a tea and coffee fan, bring your own Thermos or Keep Cup. I have it on good authority that hot drinks taste better this way than from a polystyrene cup! If paper call sheets have been printed, opt to view it digitally rather than picking one up when you grab breakfast. Can you take public transport or could you ask for a hybrid car to bring you to set? These are small steps, but telling others why you are taking them will have the biggest impact of all. Spreading the word is so vital!
Jo’s Top tips!
If anyone out there is looking to get greener on their shoots, the AdGreen site is a great place to start.
Hear from other production staff about what they’ve achieved.
Use our checklist for both your office and your shoot, check out our printable signage, rehoming suggestions and tips for going paperless in our resources section.
Allay your fears by reading the FAQs, or failing all of that, just join our community on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to keep up to date.
After another stellar run JB Shorts 16 came to a close on November 12th. But not before one last performance to leave everyone gasping for air and clawing at their sides to stop them from splitting.
JB 16 was cast by Michelle Smith and played out at a brand new bigger venue at 53 Two, which is fast becoming a mecca for Manchester’s finest fringe theatre. It’s fair to say we at Casting Networks enjoyed the show, as always, and could not be more proud to continue supporting the event!
The night began with ‘Magaluf‘, written by Sarah McDonald Hughes, in which we were taken on a farcical journey with Chloe (Amy Lythgoe) and Sinead (Hollie-Jay-Bowes) on their stereotypical teen holiday. I was constantly reminded of a two-handed, modern day ‘Bouncers and Shakers’ due to the non-stop laughs and fast pace of the piece. A well directed, wonderful piece of theatre and a brilliant choice to open the show.
Second on, and the first of two classics of British literature broken down in to fifteen minutes of pure entertainment, was ‘Toil and Trouble‘ written by Trevor Suthers. A truly original take on the story of a certain Scottish King who for our own sakes is named ‘MacMeth’ (Peter Ash). Three terrifyingly hilarious ‘hags’ steal the stage for fifteen minutes in the forms of ‘Mammy’, ‘Granny’ and ‘Fanny’ (Maria O’Hare, Jenny Gregson and Jennifer Bray). Constant cleverly written filth throughout and an energy on the stage that clearly stemmed from the great direction of Sue Jenkins meant there was no respite for the aching jaws of the audience.
Guiding us into the interval was ‘In My Shoes‘ written by Dave Simpson. You’d be forgiven for wondering how on Earth they could keep up the same levels in every performance, surely there will be a slower paced piece at some point? Not this one! Alyx Tole’s creative direction earned the first standing ovation of the evening with a superbly done Freaky Friday style’ body swap. Peter and Carol (Murray Taylor and Judy Holt) swap not only their entire outfits on stage but even manage to swap hair; the beautifully, and comically, executed set piece together with great use of music kept me tittering throughout the break.
Moving in to the second Act with ‘A Grand Malaise and a Small Cappuccino‘ written by Justin Moorhouse. I felt this portion of the evening had a much needed serious edge. Not that it wasn’t very cleverly written and kept each of us chuckling throughout, which it did, but the subject matter was that of benefit thieves. The serious issue was mirrored by the more realistic character of Angela (Rosina Carbone). However, with clever direction from Rupert Hill and a very entertaining performance from Lee Toomes, as ‘Martin’, the audience was treated to laughter but also were also given a stimulating reminder of the moral difficulties that be fall your every day social worker.
The penultimate display ‘Rebrand‘ came to us from the established mind of another JB veteran, James Quinn, however this time in collaboration with Aileen Quinn. The two writers find a way to provoke independent thought about a very serious topic, War, whilst still engaging the audience and keeping with the tone of the night. When Geoff (Toby Hadoke), Stephanie (Danielle Henry) and Emma (Amy Gavin) debate how they can rebrand to make War popular among the public again, as in the good old days, what could the answer be? Team GB to the rescue… right? Exceedingly accomplished performances all round, with direction to match: a classic JB piece.
How to finish off an evening of this magnitude and keep with the pace, comedy and quality of the night? Enter JB legends Peter Kerry and Lindsay Williams joined by direction from the talented Joyce Branagh and their mind-blowing ‘Wuthering Heights at Hurricane Speed by Emily Bronte‘. The title says everything that need be said about content however mere words can’t describe exactly what happened during that ‘precise’ fifteen minutes. An incredible pace throughout kept up by this four person cast of Verity Henry, Amy Drake, Richard Weston and, the star of the show for me, Robin Simpson. Each cast member took on countless different roles, sometimes switching on stage, in a breathtaking, Brechtian style performance that capped a top quality evening.
JB Shorts, you’ve done it again!
Thank you Dave, Diane and James