Actors at work, focusing on what really matters
THE MOST POWERFUL WEAPON YOU HAVE GOING FOR YOU
When I am a guest at an informational event for actors, the questions are inevitably geared towards all kinds of do’s-and-don’t’s regarding how talent can ultimately get auditions, excel in their career, and be likable to casting directors—some of which include the questions listed below.
Popular Questions and Do’s and Don’t’s
What makes up a good, professional headshot?
What does a casting director look for on a resume?
What makes up a good reel?
Don’t be late for your audition.
Let casting know if you are not showing up.
Don’t wear cologne or perfume.
Read the instructions.
Happy New Year.
There are certain things I don’t write about because I think the information is too elementary, but throughout the year some recurring mistakes jolted me into thinking I should relay this information to you, so I decided to start out the year more cut-and-dry, relaying seven steps that can make a positive difference in your acting career.
1. Include a photo and resume in your e-mail communications.
When you are connecting with someone, whether it be a thank you, a question, or any kind of communication, include a photo, resume, or a link to your website. The most seamless way to do this is to have a website and include the link to your website after your name.
A casting director is only human and does not always remember exactly who you are. It can take up three times to remember.
2. Make your handwriting legible in your written communications.
I appreciate the time, thought, and business organizational skills it takes to write a thank you card. Many times I receive these cards and I cannot understand the talent’s signature. I don’t know who the heck I got the thank you from. Not a good situation.
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.
When I am a guest speaker, this question inevitably comes up: “Do you like self-submissions?”
This question doesn’t make sense to me, because if we (casting directors) put the breakdown out directly to actors, then of course we are expecting and looking forward to self-submissions. What I think the actor might really be asking is, how do we feel about getting a double submission both from the agent and talent?
If you want to submit, not knowing whether your agent submitted you, is a conversation between you and your agent. If I put a breakdown out to include self-submits, I understand and tolerate possible double submissions.
That said, what I can guide you on is how to send self-submissions that are “likeable.”
If a Note is Requested, Place a Note on Your Submission.
For instance, if we are looking for someone who does yoga very well and your entire resume is full of yoga, write a note on your submission about your yoga experience. We will be sure to look at your submission.
You can certainly apply the old adage, “The only constant is change,” to your everyday acting career. Change can cause surprise, upset, and agitation, or it can stimulate you and give you good “war stories.”
If you are more comfortable with predictability, then acting is probably not for you. Acting requires bravery. You can’t take a class, course, or workshop in how to deal with surprise. Recently, I was giving direction to a bunch of actors who were waiting to go into my casting call back session. Since the direction had changed from when the job first started, I gave my apologies. The seasoned actors I was speaking to had a good laugh and they said, “we love surprises.” It brought up an interesting conversation about actors loving the element of surprise.
These seasoned actors, well into their sixties, found the element of surprise a positive and not a negative. With glee, they were telling me many stories of surprises. They wore these stories as badges of courage. If you like surprises it will certainly make your acting life easier.
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 . . .
- Your photo.
- Things we’ve seen you in in the past.
- Your resume.
- Your training.
- Your special skills.
. . . and the One Big Thing That Grabs A Casting Director’s Attention . . .
Since you are the seller, and not the buyer, you have to find a way to stay positive. You may think you are in a less desirable position than the buyer. Let’s turn the tables in your direction. Maybe you would feel more empowered if you really thought about the fact that the casting director, producer, or director who are doing the “buying” (finding the right actor) do not have a commercial, film, or whatever else they are casting until they find the right talent.
Some actors walk into a casting room jazzed, excited to be there, and ready to create. Their attitude is “Give me a few minutes and I’ll give you what I got.” They bounce out of the room happy and go on to whatever comes along next, while other people are nervous and self-sabotaging in the audition and after.
Let’s look at ways to turn your negative thoughts that sabotage you into thoughts that empower you.
How many times do we hear “Everything depends on the casting. This piece is actor driven. The cast will make or break this spot?” It amazes me that the right person can be picked for a commercial from a one minute audition, followed by a five or ten minute call back.
THE AUDITION PROCESS IS SHORT
In that eleven minutes, the creatives see your acting, feel the essence of who you are, and know enough to book you. They are then banking on you, fully depending on you to come through and do a good job acting on the day of the shoot.read more
I’m not sure if actors really know of the “treading on thin ice” conditions casting used to have to work under to stay within the union’s improvising rules, in order to avoid fines every time we needed comedic actors to show a degree of creativity.
HOW CASTING DIRECTORS ASKED FOR AD LIBBING IN THE PAST
The Union contracts had always forbid casting to ask actors to improvise in auditions. Improvisation was considered a creative contribution to the spot, which it was thought should come with additional compensation. Unfortunately, this limited the actor from giving a full comedic performance and casting from finding truly unique individuals. To comply with this rule, casting directors and actors were forced to eliminate a certain degree of creativity by avoiding asking actors to improvise around scripted commercials. Casting would have to use certain language (wink, wink) that became a well known invitation to improvise, without actually using the word “improv.” On occasion, casting directors were reported to the union, which resulted in clients and casting being fined for entering the forbidden area of creativity set by the union.
Has the trust and understanding between agents and casting directors eroded?
The quick answer is NO.
Casting Directors and Agents
Everyday, your auditions, avails, and bookings are based on the communication between Commercial Casting Directors and Commercial Agents. We don’t talk to each other much any more, due to e-mails, and we don’t see each other face to face either.
From the astute recognition that tensions, contention, and misunderstanding between agents and casting directors were building up and the relationship was breaking down, recently the Commercial Casting Director Association (CCDA), which I am a member of, and the Association of Talent Agencies (ATA) had a meeting with a huge turnout to meet face-to-face and discuss issues that are misunderstood between the two groups.
The meeting was informative and friendly. It started out with plenty of time to meet and greet each other and then continued on to a facilitated discussion group.read more