Casting director Jeff Gerrard was kind enough to join us for our pre-holiday seminar on December 17th. Considering the fact that LA starts to look like a ghost town as the holidays approach, we were very grateful to get him.
1. Social Media: The New Normal?
He wasn’t terribly happy to give the answer and no one in the audience was happy to hear the answer, but the fact is that yes, in some cases your social media presence is taken into account when casting. It’s just the reality of the changing age, so get savvy with those profiles, people. However, don’t just start following a bunch of people, so that they’ll follow you back. This drives me nuts. If you follow 10,000 people, then no, I am not following you back.
The personable and, as confirmed by one of our Twitter followers, funny casting director Tim Harrington joined us for our August seminar to impart some more wisdom for our talented users. Let’s cut to the chase and get to that wisdom.
1. What do you regret not doing in the past? Okay, now do those things.
It’s easy to sit and wonder “what if” all the live-long day, but it’s not at all productive. Sit down and take stock of all the things you regret doing not doing, then make a plan of action to do those things going forward. This sounds really simple, but it kind of blew my mind. Maybe because I’m dumb? Who’s to say.
2. Breathing Is Key
Getting into your car to go to the audition? Take a mindful breath. Parked at the audition? Take a mindful breath. Just signed in at the audition? Take a mindful breath. Basically, at every step you’re experiencing some nervous energy, go ahead and take a mindful breath in and out. It’s going to focus your energy and help to keep you in the right headspace.
3. Acting is through the eyes.
If your eyes don’t seem connected to your thoughts or feelings, you’re going to have trouble. And please, no forehead/eyebrow acting – that’s where your forehead and eyebrows are working in tandem, trying to do all the emotional work and communication by being unwatchable in how much they’re moving.
4. Conversation: conducive to improv. Technical: adhere to the script.
Most auditions indicate whether or not you should feel free to embellish or play loose with the script, but if it hasn’t been indicated, let the copy be your guide. If it’s casual and conversational, you can probably insert your own personality and ad-lib a bit. But if it’s super technical and instructional, just go with the script.
5. Interview audition? Think anecdote, not story.
Have an audition where they’re just going down the line and asking questions? When they get to you, it’s good to have something with kind of a middle, beginning, and end, but think anecdote not story. Otherwise, it’s not going to leave the camera op a good place to interrupt you and it will create kind of an awkward energy. You don’t want to ramble, leaving the camera op wanting to pull out an umbrella and float away.
The charming and funny casting director Danielle Eskinazi joined us in May to talk about everything from casting decisions to what you should do with your hair to social media to what you should do with your hair to age type to what you should do with your hair, PLUS . . . what you should do with your hair. Seriously, this month’s seminar had question after question about hair, from what ended up being an inexplicably high number of people, the answers to which can’t even be included here, because they were specifically about their hair. Anyway, here are some great takeaways that aren’t about hair!
1. Casting decisions are mysterious and unknowable.
Don’t bother wondering why you do or don’t get cast. Client decisions are mysterious and inscrutable. If you drive home wondering if you should have done this or that, or when you don’t get a callback wonder if it was your outfit or scene partner, or when you don’t book it after being on avail start to wonder if you should change your entire face and body and identity and state and occupation – don’t. Casting sort of lives and dies on people’s gut feelings and are probably a mystery to the decision makers themselves. And you should find that comforting, instead of feeling like you’re basing your whole life on a piece of driftwood that’s sitting in a soggy marsh of instability, the ultimate fate of which is determined by an inscrutable god. Ha ha ha ha – acting is fun!
Casting director Laurie Records, longtime friend of Casting Networks, joined us for our April seminar. Besides having the coolest hair I’ve seen this side of Crystal Gale (shoutout to my fellow ’80s babies), she also had a lot of great advice for actors.
1. You will book the job for who you are.
You can’t cover up or alter your true essence. That’s what comes across to everyone you meet and you will book something because of that. Commercials are less about a character you’re playing than they are about who you are. That sentence is rubbish, structurally speaking, but true nonetheless.read more
Guys. Guys. Guys. For real.
You have got to stop sharing the details of an audition or booking on social media before it has aired. We get complaint after complaint from casting directors about actors doing this. Casting directors warn you against doing this at every CNI Seminar, our pinned post on Twitter warns you against doing this, and I regularly remind you about it. But you know why I’m writing about it again now? Because a casting director just expressed their frustration to us about this. Again. And while we can’t police the Internet, we can at least explain to you why this is bad form, and go into the correct way to promote yourself on social media. Keep in mind that while I use Twitter in my examples below, this applies to all social media platforms: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine, Snapchat, Tumblr, blogs, your website, everything.
In March, we had the very charming and knowledgable Karen Ryan of Canvas Casting speak at our seminar. She had some great stuff to tell everyone and you’re welcome to comb through our live tweet of the day by searching the hashtag #cniseminar (where you’ll find all previous seminar tweets too). But Karen has a lovely Irish accent, so tweets are a pretty poor substitute for the real thing. That said, here are five great takeaways from the day.
1. Set Your Commercial Scene
Yes, commercial auditions are short and there isn’t much time to show off your acting chops. But you know what you can do? Set your scene with the subtle actions you would normally do in the situation of the spot. Are you supposed to be an office worker at their desk? Type the way you would actually type, with the expression you’d actually have. I’m doing that now and if I turn my attention on myself, I seem to be weirdly biting my bottom lip and I look perturbed. Why do I look perturbed? I don’t know, but it could have something to do with the fact that Prince died today. More importantly though, those are two things I could use to be a more believable actor in my audition. I had an acting teacher who once advised me to pick one thing in a room and decide that thing is the camera. How does that make you behave and what kinds of normal actions would it catch you doing?
Now and then, people will reach out on Twitter to point out a role breakdown they feel doesn’t belong on our site, one which personally offends them. It can range from looking for “real life hot homeless dudes” to “super hot girl next door who will be in her bra the entire movie.” Blech. I get it. Some project notices are a bummer. You can feel angry for even having had to read it. I’ve gotten plenty of these too and rolled my eyes so hard I gave myself a headache. Even in reputable projects that have the potential to pay a lot of money, my role usually contains the phrases “character faces please!” or “not too attractive!” Or chew on this: you know how they sometimes bring in real couples for commercial auditions? I wasn’t called back to play my actual, real life boyfriend’s girlfriend. In fact, he booked it. A woman who wasn’t me was cast as his girlfriend instead. Oh. My. God. So yeah, the industry is not an ideal world; it’s full of unrealistic beauty standards, sexist attitudes, and less than tasteful projects.
Every casting site out there has this problem because we are the medium. We are the messenger. We are a software company working to create an accessible, technology-driven platform to connect casting directors, agents, independent filmmakers, and actors. Each casting site is trying to do it better than the other and part and parcel with that is creating the space for as many opportunities for our users as possible. To enter into project approval/disapproval from a subjective standpoint of taste would be to offer less opportunity.
Colleen Wainwright started out as a commercial copywriter, transitioned into being a commercial actor, and then transitioned again into being someone who writes about those things for your benefit. She’s like a self-help/self-empowerment guru who seems like she’s your good friend and has been writing for CNI’s blog for longer than it’s been called a blog. You know, back in the days when there were newsletters.
The topic she brought to this month’s seminar was “12 Ways to Make 2016 Your Best Year Yet.” Now, you’d think I’d just give you the 12 things, but you know what? Maybe this will teach you to actually come to the seminar. You’re still only getting five takeaways. Deal with it. (Also, just kidding, she wrote them all up here.)
To Move Forward, You Have to Know Where You Are
We had acting teacher and kind person extraordinaire Kimberly Jürgen at our September seminar and she had some great advice to give us, tackling auditions more from an acting angle rather than a casting angle. Here now is your top 5 recap!
Your Type Is Your Default State
Think of your type as the state you wake up in, not what you’re layering on after your morning coffee. While we like to think we can control how we’re perceived, the human brain is very powerful. It’s so powerful, it’s reading the tiniest of cues as to your true essence, cues that you don’t even realize you’re giving. So you can put on that sexy vamp outfit or style your hair like a heartless Wall Street brah all you like, but if deep down you’re a big ol’ prudish sweetheart, it’s going to shine through anyway. Save everyone the time and take the button-up sweetheart headshots, so that you’re spending your time wisely. Save the other types for when your career has already been established and you’re trying to distance yourself from Disney or whatever.read more
Casting director Arlene Schuster-Goss of ASG Casting came to distribute pearls of wisdom at our August seminar. Having been in Los Angeles since the ’80s and starting ASG Casting in the early ’90s (have you guessed what ASG stands for yet?), she had a ton of great tips to share with us. Below are the day’s five biggest takeaways.
1. Everyone’s Budgets Have Been Cut