The Competitive Edge: How To Make Your Self-Submissions “Likeable” to Casting Directors

likeWhen 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.

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The Competitive Edge: Embracing Surprises Will Make You A Better Actor


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.

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The Competitive Edge: Submissions That Get Noticed


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 . . . 

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The Competitive Edge: If You Think You Have No Power, Think Again


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.

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The Competitive Edge: What Separates the Professionals From the Wannabes

dapper laptop user

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.


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 more

The Competitive Edge: Ad-Libbing in Commercial Auditions


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.


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.

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Trust and Understanding Between Agents and Casting Directors: Avails and Bookings

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 more

The One Important Direction to Listen For


In a commercial audition, the Casting Director or the Session Director gives you directions before you start. The directions will usually be made up of:

  1. The general feel of the spot
  2. The feel of who you are in the spot/attitude
  3. Your relationship to other characters in the spot
  4. A particular facial expression transition they are looking for
  5. Where your eye line should be

It goes without saying that with all of these guidelines, you still have to, and should, make it your own. No one gives you line readings.

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The Competitive Edge: Understanding the Audition Process

There Is More To Being A Successful Actor Than Knowing Technique. As talent, of course, you are focused on your audition technique; how you get the call back and the booking. This blog is not about that. However, knowing and understanding the process will enable you to be a wiser actor which will help you be a more confident actor. Confidence can only add up to feeling more relaxed, resulting in a better audition.

There is a life to a commercial project before you receive your audition time. Understanding this path exists beforehand will be very helpful to you feeling an important part of the casting process.

It starts with the ad agency being hired by the product company (e.g. Pepsi, Apple, Tide) to produce their spots. This is not on a one-to-one basis. There is a very large agreement with the agency to produce a certain amount of spots per year. The agency is responsible for media strategy as well as their buying power. Products usually stay with the ad agency for more

The Competitive Edge: A Good Disposition

Do you have the important trait that will make you stand out?

In my book Breaking Into Commercials I list seven elements that give you the competitive edge.

  • Know The Technique
  • Maintain a Positive Attitude
  • Always Expect The Unexpected
  • Expect to be Put at a Disadvantage
  • Be Flexible
  • Convey a Feeling of Intelligence
  • Give The Feeling That You Have an Unending Well of Creativity.
  • As an actor auditioning, these are common occurrences you come up against every day that you have to come to terms with.

How you deal with these everyday audition occurrences can be frustrating hard work. However, once you understand and control these elements and figure out how to eliminate the frustration, the happier you’ll be and the better you will audition. Not surprising, you will gravitate towards positive situations and opportunities.

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