The first film that Michael Showalter has directed in over a decade, which stars Sally Field as the eccentric title character, is an incredibly sweet and funny take on an older woman who finds herself in love with her younger coworker. Showalter, who is well known for collaborating with David Wain as an actor and a writer (Wet Hot American Summer, MTV’s The State), proves that he has real chops behind the camera, as well. And Sally Field turns in her best performance in years.read more
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.
Commercials are funny things. The commercial audition is even funnier. Not to say that I don’t take the process very seriously. I do. And you should, too. But we aren’t curing cancer. Often times (certainly in the last few years) commercial auditions call on your comedy skills, ask you to be silly, improvise, or simply to have barrels of fun. Because if you are having fun, we, the audience, likely are too. However, comedic or not, the commercial audition can be a minefield, occasionally leaving an actor to feel embarrassed or bad about their performance as they leave. Sometimes you should feel that way and other times you shouldn’t . . .
Commercial actors should never feel embarrassed about an audition when they shouldn’t be.read more
JayR is a young Aussie actor, with a unique edge. Originally from a small town in Queensland, moved to Sydney to pursue his career. After training at NIDA, JayR booked his first jobs with commercials, short films and guest appearances on popular Australian series. His first big role was in the controversial independent film ‘Drown’ . Drown went on to win numerous awards around the world.
JayR has recently returned from LA where he met with some of the industry’s biggest casting directors. He was then signed and recently wrapped on the 4th season of a critically acclaimed Aussie drama, which will be released early 2016.
Who would you like to have coffee with and why?
Wow, I think it would have to be Quentin Tarantino! I’m obsessed with everything he does and it has always been a dream of mine to work with him. Not only is he ‘one in a million’ when it comes to the movie world, but he also stays true to himself and is not shy of ruffling some feathers, which i’m all about! Also there would be a little vodka in that coffee, chances of him casting me in one of his films goes up?
What has been your biggest WOW moment?
There has actually been a few in the last couple of years, but definitely the biggest stand out would have to be when I was traveling in New York City and I decided to take a class with a few CD’s there. Afterwards, I was called in by one of the CD”s to audition for ‘Penny Dreadful’. I was beside myself and couldn’t believe that I was going to be considered for a role on one of America’s highest rating shows. It was a month of call backs and it got down to the last 3, however it wasn’t my time and missed out. Nevertheless it was an amazing time in my life and I was constantly pinching myself and grateful to even be seen for it.
Representing NYC-based actors a talent agent, based in the Philadelphia area, apparently charges clients a fee as part of representation. The three-figure fee is stated by the agent as “a necessity.” Required so that the actor be included on the agent’s website. A website that until recently highlighted a link to an article in which the agent purports that she has been visited by the Blessed Mother thrice. The homepage of the agency’s website also includes strongly worded admonishments to clients on professional behavior.
For years the Philadelphia agent’s practice has been reported by actors and recently corroborated in an mail exchange between a client of the Philly agent and the agent:read more
Commercial casting director Stuart Stone spoke at our May seminar, bringing his years of experience and some great insights for actors with him. Without further ado, here are the day’s five biggest takeaways.
1. YOU’RE A MARKET
Remember that there’s an entire industry based on making money off of actors. There is no end to what you will be coerced to buy, all in the name of making your career, so make sure you’re being smart about it. And never pay more than $500 for headshots.read more
Hello! And welcome to new series on how to be a cool human being on social media and in auditions by reviewing mistakes a lot of actors make in both arenas. The first and most glaringly obvious is . . .
MUDDLING THE MESSAGE
A lot of actor tweets are just a jungle of hashtags that people have to hack through with a machete to get to the message (if there even is one). If we had a nickel for every time we get tagged in this kind of tweet, we’d have a lot of nickels:
#actors #makingit #setlife #auditions #blessed #bigbrandname @director @castingnetworks @hollywood @castingdirector #livingthedream
Why is that type of tweet a mistake for actors (and on social media in general)? Because a hashtag should be highlighting the main subject of what you’re tweeting about or it should be the punchline to a joke. It should not be sharing the space with 12 other hashtags in a mad grab for whatever attention you can get your hands on, like you’re in one of those money grab booths. It’s time to get back to good old fashioned sentences, my friends.
Because the thing of it is . . . what are we or the casting director supposed to do with that? For Casting Networks’ part, we don’t cast anything. We create the online casting tools. That’s as far as we go in the process. We are a software company and we love being a part of your careers, but we are not filmmakers nor casting directors. The most we can do with that tweet is go, “Uh, cool! Good for you!”
For the casting director’s part, there’s zero content in the those hashtag heavy, tag heavy tweets. And really, we love you all, but it doesn’t accomplish anything. Casting directors are not searching the #setlife hashtag for the next big star, so why do you keep using it, except possibly to annoy your non-actor friends or impress your grandmother? Casting directors have thousands of submissions for every single one of their projects and enough on their plates already. No single tweet is going to make you famous. Your talent and consistency in the audition rooms is going to do that over time. The Internet isn’t a 1930s soda shop. And you don’t want to become known to a casting director for being that person who’s constantly tagging them in self-congratulatory tweets. Use your Twitter account as a long-term networking opportunity, instead of a short-term bragging opportunity.
Here’s what we recommend a post-audition tweet look like:
@castingdirector Thanks so much for having me in to read for “Role” through @castingnetworks. Much appreciated!
You see how you’re respecting the casting director by directing it at them alone, showing gratitude, and being discrete about the details of the project, instead of bragging to the world? That’s class. This doesn’t mean you can’t post links to your reel. By all means, feel free to regularly post links to your reels and web videos so that if a casting director does search you out because you read for them, it’s there for the finding. Like this:
Just updated my reel. Check it out! http://youtube.com/user/myname/numbers
Or even better:
Just updated my reel. Check it out on my @CastingNetworks resume! http://lacasting.com/myname
And then you can pin it to your profile so that it’s always there to see! Bam! Permanent access to your resume AND your headshots AND your media. Just don’t randomly tag casting directors in it. It’s like forcing them onto a phone call they never asked to be on. And the rest of your twitter should reflect who you are as a human being. What you’re interested in beyond acting. Because that’s what makes you a whole, complete person and what makes you interesting in the room.
So how does this advice translate to an audition? What is the real world equivalent of covering your auditions with hashtags?
When you get into an audition, you muddle the message by failing to make clear choices with the text, being underprepared, and by being too cloying in the small talk before and after. If you’re trying to shine as Mr. or Ms. Personality before and after, it means you’re not confident enough in your read to land the role with your performance alone and it means you’re probably not being your genuine self either. And that is not a vibe combination you want to be putting out there.
So how do you keep the message clear?
- Don’t try to play a million things at once in your read. Keep your body language relaxed, but controlled.
- Be polite and grounded with everyone in the casting office. That means chilling out and being a professional, knowing there’s no amount of forced charisma outside the audition that’s going to get you the job better than the read in the room, so trust that read and don’t put on an awkward show with everyone you meet.
Remember, having a “voice” as an actor means having a strong point of view and life experience to draw from, it doesn’t mean being loud and braggy. That goes for your presence on social media and in a casting office.
And please, cool it with proclaiming yourself #blessed and #livingthedream. The more you say it, the less true it sounds.
How can you live the high life of the rich and famous while still being merely the broke and struggling? Here are six apps to hack your way into the lap of luxury until you can finally afford that personal assistant to abuse. Living the dream!
1. MEDITATION GURU
Oh, sure. You could financially support your own guru who lives in your pool house year round and personally guides all your meditation sessions toward enlightenment. But you don’t own a pool house and last night you ate half a jar of peanut butter for dinner. Try Headspace instead.
The science behind the benefits of meditation is way the heck in by now, but what a lot of people get caught up in is a spiritual materialism, wherein they’re promised unrealistic benefits as a part of an expensive program. We, as actors, are especially prone to this. It takes a lot of optimism and determination to keep going in a business full of rejection and it’s easy to want to believe in something that promises to ease our burden or make us successful, no matter the cost. From visualization to The Secret, you can’t throw a rock in this world without hitting someone who’s selling the idea of blissful, easy success. Which is why we love this app from Andy Puddicombe over in the UK. By giving an honest account of what meditation is and isn’t, it helps you create a daily habit of meditation with grounded expectations of what is to be gained from it. The only thing blissful here is the bliss of being free from thinking there’s any such thing as bliss.
Visit http://headspace.com to read about the app, check out their terrific blog posts, podcast, user stories, and more. The app gives you 10 free days of meditation coaching and then after that, it’s a small monthly fee ($12.95 or less, if you’re willing to commit to more than a month-by-month basis) to gain access to its extensive library of additional content. As an added bonus, you’ll never have to deal with the embarrassment of finding out your expensive, live-in guru has a sex tape. Is that a thing that’s happened to an actor? Eh, probably.
2. LIFE COACHING
Ah, life coaches. Such a nice idea, but then you find out you’re paying hundreds of dollars to another actor who’s in exactly your position, telling you how to be successful while also living on her ex-boyfriend’s couch until she can afford a new place. Keep out of any such awkward situations by downloading the far more affordable Coach.me app. Starting you off with a whole slate of programs like “Personally Grow,” “Get Fit,” “Be Productive,” and more, the Coach.me app gives you access to a set series of goals to achieve, backed by a community of other people working toward the same goals, with reminders, check-ins, “props,” and weekly targets.
There’s even access to a paid human coach if you so desire, but don’t look at us if it turns out to be another couch surfer who’s mainly living on ramen too.
Visit http://coach.me to find out more.
3. ANXIETY MANAGEMENT
If there’s one thing widely known about actors, it’s that we’re very emotional creatures who typically love to nurture and be nurtured. Enter SAM, an anxiety management tool that’s completely free to download and use. It assists you in monitoring your anxious thoughts (say, ahem, ones you’re having before an audition) and put them into their proper context using the principles behind cognitive behavioral therapy. You can rate your immediate anxiety, log your anxious thoughts, and track them over time. Plus it provides prompts to help you address typical anxious thoughts and practice self-care. It also gives you access to a community of other people doing the same. It’s a robust little app that provides guidance in daily life when you can’t have a therapist with you at all times.
As it warns on the app, however, it is certainly not a substitution for therapy if that’s what you’re in need of. As the Dos Equis guy might say in this situation, “Stay realistic, my friends.” But this is certainly a good alternative to having a direct line to some expensive Manhattan therapist who has his own talk show and line of “superfood” vitamins
Visit http://sam-app.org.uk/ for more info.
4. LAUNDRY SERVICE
Ugh, doing one’s own laundry is time consuming and dumb. For those of us who are crazy busy and don’t have their own personal assistant to scream at for not getting the salad dressing on the side as specifically requested, this is a great app that provides a laundry pick-up/delivery service. This one, however, is a little on the pricey/treat yo self side, which is not me right now. It’s like $5 a shirt for dry cleaning, y’all. It’s like the step just before having your own personal assistant to berate. I’ll just have to dream about this one for the time being.
Visit http://getwashio.com for more info. Major cities only right now.
5. DOG WALKING
Again, if only you had some personal assistant to be a diva to. Then you could make him or her walk your precious purse dog while you’re talking to your publicist about the horrible thing you said on The Tonight Show and figuring out how you’re going to walk that one back. If only! Instead, you’ll have to settle for Rover, an app that allows you to schedule an insured dog walker within 20 seconds while, instead of giving your imaginary publicist a migraine, you are sitting through three different auditions all over town where everyone looks just like you. Oh, well. At least you can distract yourself by looking at the photos of your dog that the dogwalker sends you during the walk. That’s something, right?
And the benefit of Rover is that they also offer dog boarding, dog sitting, and housesitting. And don’t worry, you’ll get that personal assistant someday. And they will hate working for you. They’ll start a Twitter account just to chronicle the horrible things you say to them. Now doesn’t that make you feel better?
Visit Rover for more info: https://www.rover.com/dog-walking/
ED. NOTE: This dog walking recommendation was updated with the Rover info, after we were made aware they’d acquired Zingy, the previously listed company. And they offer so much more and in many more cities!
6. MONEY MANAGEMENT
Business managers. A must have for the wealthy. But they’re also prone to stealing your money, jetting off to Brazil, and buying mansions from Hitler’s poolboy (anyone remember The Money Pit? yeah, that’s part of the plot of The Money Pit, you guys).
You know what would never steal your money, because it’s not sentient . . . yet? You guessed it, an app. Level Money happens to be my personal favorite of the budgeting apps out there. With a variety of tools to tell you what you can spend in a day/week/month, sock away, and budget, it covers everything you need to do with your finances while also having a great user interface and good lookin’ charts. And it won’t steal your money. It will, however, rise up with Skynet to destroy the human race once it is sentient. That’s just what computer programs do. Don’t worry about it.
So leave the corrupt business managers of the world to buy their Hitler’s pool boy mansions (seriously, The Money Pit, I am not making that up) and visit https://levelmoney.com/ for more info.
Amey René Morris is a casting director in Los Angeles and Seattle. She helped cast the pilots for Jane the Virgin and Modern Family, as well as numerous TV commercials, independent films, music videos, and more. For a more extensive breakdown of her experience, check out her IMDB page.
Here now are five lessons from the great seminar she gave for our users:
1. Don’t Make Excuses & Don’t Apologize
This is a biggie. Don’t do it. Not for your lateness, not for your lack of preparation, not for your performance. Oftentimes, the people in the room aren’t aware anything was even wrong, so don’t go helpfully pointing it out to them. Come in with poise and professionalism and let what you do speak for itself. Don’t diminish yourself by putting your own insecurities out into the world.
2. You’re the Homeowner; She’s the Real Estate Agent
Amey René gave us our new favorite actor/casting director analogy. Think of yourself as a homeowner putting their house up for sale. Sure, you get a real estate agent to show you to potential buyers, but you’ve got work to do as well. You’ve got to know what type of home you’re selling, you have to be familiar with the market, you have to be realistic about your range, you have to stage the home appropriately, and you have to fix up the yard. Your job is to make yourself as great an option as possible, her job is to show you off as a great find. Don’t just leave the orange shag carpeting and expect her to be able to sell that. You’ve got to get to those hardwood floors underneath. Everyone loves hardwood floors. Okay, I’m driving this into the ground. You get it.
3. Trust Your Look
What this means is that you should look like yourself in your photos. This is advice that gets said again and again by casting directors, which unfortunately means that not all of you are following this. Your headshot shoot is not the time to play make believe and dress up. It’s the time to capture who you really are and what you really look like, so that when casting directors are calling you in, they’re getting exactly who they expected and need for the role. This isn’t Glamour Shots and you’re not me in the fifth grade. Unless you are, in which case whoaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh how are you reading this right now, 10-year-old me?!
Also, don’t go crazy on the number of photos you have on your Casting Networks profile. A few photos will get the job done. As long as you have a few photos showcasing different expressions and looks, you’re good. More than that and you start to give the impression that what you really want to do for a living is take pretty pictures. Go start a fashion blog if that’s what you want. And then send me a link to it, so that I can read it every day. Kthxbai.
4. The Camera Is Your Friend in Commercial Acting
We mean this almost literally. Say your lines as if you were saying them casually to your friend without being overtly presentational. Commercials are looking for you to be yourself and to be friendly. So unless you’re being directed specifically to be anything else, treat the copy as if you were talking to a buddy of yours.
5. Self-Taping Is About Simplicity
Technology is doing all the amazing work, so when you’re self-taping, keep it simple. Nothing distracting in the background, try to light it reasonably, and get a friend to read opposite you. You probably don’t need to go to a studio. Your phone is probably amazing enough. It’s 2015. Phones are good at everything now, except maybe being a phone. Just make sure you record it landscape style, not portrait. That’s wide, not tall.
And look out for our announcement about our next seminar, coming up on May 30. The day after my birthday! Bring me presents! Just kidding, don’t do that. That would be weird.
Speaking at this Saturday’s seminar is casting director Amey René Morris! Famous around these parts for us using both her first and middle name religiously.
Amey René has credits that span TV, features, web series, Internet stuff, and commercials. Based in Los Angeles with an office in Seattle, she lists her expertise as “searching out new, undiscovered talent.” Like Gina Rodriguez on “Jane the Virgin.” You’re all watching “Jane the Virgin,” right? If so, congratulations, you’re doing it right. If not, WHY NOT? It’s like “Gilmore Girls” crossed with a telenovela by way of the narration from “Arrested Development.” It’s great. Amey René’s other TV credits include Emmy & Golden Globe Award winning “Modern Family,” so she’s pretty much got good TV on lockdown.
On the feature side, she did the Washington casting for the upcoming film “Captain Fantastic,” directed by Matt Ross and starring Viggo Mortensen. Other recent film credits include “Laggies,” directed by Lynn Shelton and starring Keira Knightley, Chloe Grace Moretz, and Sam Rockwell and “Lucky Them,” directed by Megan Griffiths and starring Toni Collette and Thomas Haden Church.
(Quick note: I could not remember the names of the male stars of those movies on my own. I had to look it up. My brain was like, “Chin Guy, Sam Whatshisface, and Dude From Wings.” Sexist brain problems, you guys.)
On the commercial and Internet side of things, Amey René has done the casting for the Web Series “Rocketmen” and for national commercial campaigns including NIKE “Never Finished” with Richard Sherman, MICROSOFT, Toyota, Nissan, and UPS. She also worked on the Internet videos for the Thug Kitchen cookbook and “Goldieblox vs. the Big Sister Machine.” If you’re not familiar with Thug Kitchen, you best get familiar. If you love eating right and swearing, Thug Kitchen is for you. And the video Amey René cast for it is all kinds of delightful: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ar7g_26QWu0
But that’s not all! Most recently, she finished casting for the feature film “Hickey” and is working on three other features that will shoot in 2015. So we’re all appreciative that she’s taking time out of her busy schedule to come talk to us and you about commercial and theatrical casting. The seminar is coming a bit early this month, April 18th instead of the last Saturday of the month, so if you have a ticket, be sure you show up on the right day. Personally, I host the damn thing and I only found out about the date change this morning, because apparently I don’t look at the whiteboard in the Marketing office where Erin helpfully posts this information for exactly this reason.
Lindsay Katai is a writer/performer/debtor who has worked at Casting Networks since 2010.