The Competitive Edge: Submissions That Get Noticed

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Don’t miss an important element on your submission that could get you an audition.

There are many ways a casting director makes their choices as to whom to bring in for the audition. First, I’ll mention the obvious ones, and then I’ll talk about the one that stands out to me as not so obvious and not used enough.

The obvious things a casting director looks for to choose you to come in to the audition are . . .

  1. Your photo.
  2. Things we’ve seen you in in the past.
  3. Your resume.
  4. Your training.
  5. Your special skills.

. . . and the One Big Thing That Grabs A Casting Director’s Attention . . . 

The note section. Use the note section to grab our attention, which seventy-five percent of agents and actors submitting directly don‘t do. Add a note to your submission to highlight some special skill. In breakdowns, when we are looking for any kind of special skill, we ask for notes. Agents and talent are not paying much attention to this, so we even cry out our request by putting it in caps: NOTE YOUR SPECIAL SKILL.

Agents Who Don’t Put Notes On Submissions

I’ve called agents who don’t add a note to ask why they didn’t note the special skill as requested. Their answer is, “It’s listed on the resume. I would not have submitted them if they didn’t have the special skill.” Yes, that makes sense and is the logical thinking of a good, responsible agent. But things have changed in the fast-paced industry with the number of submissions easily reaching 4,000 and more.

The New Effective Way Of Submitting Vs. The Old Way Of Submitting

With electronic submissions, there are many more agents and managers submitting who I’ll call “click happy.” It just takes a click to submit a photo; some people really go at it with very little thought behind it. “Throw the spaghetti on the wall, and see what sticks.” When we call the agent’s office to question why many wrong people have been submitted, some of the answers we get are actually “Oh, my intern worked on those submissions” or “Oh, I guess I didn’t read that piece of information.”

The end result of having to weed through an excessive number of submissions, whether they are off-target or on-target, results in lot of exasperation with the ones that are off-target, and just not enough time overall go through everything.

Looking At Notes Helps A Casting Director Weed Through Submissions

A solution on the casting end is to first ask for notes, and then scan all submissions and look for those notes. I am not talking about notes that are permanently on a submission. For instance, I was looking for a good comedic actor with an authentic sounding Boston accent. A permanent submission note of “Great dramatic actor” clearly had noting to do with this breakdown, and shows lack of thought and attention to the specifics of the breakdown.

Examples Of Effective Notes To Put On Your Submissions

Make your note very specific. Here are some examples of good notes.

If the breakdown calls for:

  • A Boston Accent, note: “Born and raised in Boston.”
  • Good Jogger, note: “Jogs two miles three times a week.”
  • Good Tennis Player, note: “Was on college tennis team.”
  • Good at Improv, note: “Advanced Groundling.”
  • Drives a Motor Cycle: “Motorcycle License, owns a motorcycle.”
  • Speaks Spanish Fluently, note: “Speaks Spanish fluently.”
  • Real Photographer: “Special event photographer,” or “Owns two Nikons.”

Some of the notes are obvious and just repeat what we have asked for, but it will make your submission stand out, rather than requiring us to read through 4,000 resumes and hopefully get to yours.

The most important thing is to really be honest. You will be doing yourself and us a really big favor.


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Any reproduction or usage of this article on other websites must be credited to Terry Berland, Casting Director and linked back to here.

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Terry Berland is an award-winning casting director for on-camera, television, voiceover, and hosting. Her casting awards include Clio, The Houston International Film Festival, Art Director’s Club, Addy, and the International Film and Television Festival. Her former casting staff position for Madison Avenue giant BBDO/NY has contributed to her deep understanding and involvement in the advertising industry. She is known throughout the country for her talent development, and is the co-author of the how-to industry book,”Breaking Into Commercials.”

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