Friday, February 5, 2010

10 free casting tips for Actors

As one of the many, many hats I wear in my professional life, "casting director" is among them. It's true. I've been the casting director for Shakespeare Orange County since 2006. What does this mean? Well, it means that every February I spend hours upon hours sorting through electronic and carbon headshots and resumes, looking for actors to potentially fit the roles we need in our upcoming season. I'm also an actor, which makes things even MORE interesting.

Every February, I become increasingly frustrated at the lack of respect actors show when submitting themselves for jobs. I would argue that this is one of the reasons that actors are continually labeled as whores; they submit themselves for anything and everything, regardless of project, training, appropriateness for role, fuckability ... okay, I'm kidding with that last one ... mostly.

So as a casting director who's spent three years in the muddy, mired, and murky depths of the casting world, here, my dear actors, are some tips.

1. HEADSHOTS: Know the difference between a Film/TV headshot and a Theatrical headshot, and submit the appropriate headshot for the appropriate genre. DO NOT send theatre directors "silly," moody, themed, costumed, backlit, downlit, self-taken headshots. Contrary to popular belief, we do NOT appreciate them. Yes, I've been sent ALL of these. I will only use them for teaching purposes so that my students can laugh at you, and learn what NOT to spend money on.

2. KNOW YOUR SUBMISSIONS: Know what you're submitting yourself for. Don't just blindly send your headshot and resume if you haven't even read what the project is for. Know the company and the name of the casting director of each submission, because when they call you to set up an audition, and you reply with, "Which one is this again?" The casting director will take great offense to that, remember YOUR name, and make your auditions hell, just because we can. Is that evil? No. It's justice. If I'm going to bother to spend my precious time looking at your headshot/resume, when I have a pile of hundreds, and you can't bother to remember who you've submitted yourself for?! SHAME! SHAME I SAY! Remember: Casting Directors HATE having their time wasted. HATE. IT.

3. TRAINING: DON'T LIE:  Hopefully your acting teachers through the years have warned you with horror stories of dumb actors who have lied to get jobs, and the hell-fire consequences of such an action. Bottom Line: DO NOT LIE. EVER. It's a small world, and even smaller if you're in theatre. It WILL get back around, and you will have mud all over your whorish self.

4. FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT: Want to audition for Shakespeare, but don't have the training? Take classes. Work at it. Research companies in your area. But please, oh, PLEASE - do NOT submit yourself for King Lear when the last time you saw any Shakespeare was Romeo & Juliet in your high school English class. Just because you've done X number of commercials, and Y number of films, and Z number of Neil Simon plays at your hometown community theater, does not qualify you to speak Shakespeare. It doesn't mean you're doomed. Just work at it.

5. IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS: When submitting yourself to jobs on sites like Actor's Access, one of the best things you can do for yourself, and help stand out, is to write a note to the casting director. I swear, this works. Writing a note also means that you need to have the above steps 1, 2, and 3 firmly in place. However, be short, to the point, gracious, and well-spoken in your note. Be professional. This: "I have lots of shakespeare experience" will not fly. Or, "Theatricall trained in Shakespeare. I'd love to audition for thee." That's a direct quote, folks. Can you find what's wrong with that note, class?

6. SPELL CHECK: I can't tell you how many resumes I've read with misspelled character names, play titles, director names - it's just embarrassing and is a strong mark against your credibility.

7. REFERENCES: Don't reference someone that the casting director doesn't know. Another way to put this is, only reference people that you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the casting director knows. If you drop a name, and the casting director has to try to figure out if they know who you're talking about - consider time wasted, and an annoyed casting director. It also just makes you look like a brown-nosing, poor name dropper. And no one likes a name dropper, poor or otherwise.

8. CREDITS: High school theatre does NOT count as a resume credit. Let me repeat this, just so we're clear:


9. RESEARCH: This step goes hand in hand with step #2. Not only should you know what you're submitting for, but you should know what play/character it is you're submitting for. 31 Men submitted themselves for the role of Regan in King Lear. What's wrong with that? Regan is a female role. Maybe 2 of the men who submitted themselves for Regan did it on purpose, from what I can glean. And about 5 of the men that I had tagged for actual male roles, have now been untagged because they clearly don't know what the hell they're doing. I, of all people, am not opposed to cross-gender casting. I make my acting career off of playing men. But I'm an anomaly. And I don't SUBMIT myself for male roles, unless requested to do so.

10. USE THE GOLDEN RULE: Always. Put yourself in the shoes of the person casting you. We actually ARE hoping you are the right actor/model/singer/dancer for the role; it would make our lives so much easier. But please, oh please, don't give us a reason to exclude you - because we will. We see hundreds, if not thousands of headshots/resumes, and with so much volume it's easy to exclude someone for any of the offences above.

a frazzled casting director
This blog post is brought to you by:

Actor's Access
Red Robin
My own frustrated brain


Lira said...

First off, totally love how different this blog is from mine and the tips I gave about auditioning for a webseries. Theater is a whole 'nother beast and LA actors get rusty on what good theater submitting etiquette is.
I will say, however, that I probably submit myself about 10-15 times a day, 5 days a week, and if you called me in for an audition I WOULD say, "what is this for again?" because I honestly can't remember them all. Then I'd say, "Wait, POLAR BEAR's LOVE SONG!? Awesome!!! Hii!!! How've you been??!" and then I'd say, "Yeah, no thanks. I suck at Shakespeare."

QueenFee said...

LOVED it, Polar Bear!!

Radical Bradacal said...

My stipulation, re: submissions, is for Theatre only. I will be the first to admit that I know next to nothing about film/tv/commercials. It seems like maybe they're really just looking at your face. Theatre is so much more personal - which is both a good and a bad thing. Now I'm going to go back and re-read your casting tips!

Radical Bradacal said...

Thanks Queen Fee! :D

Lira said...

What I miss about Theater auditions too, is how it's about the TALENT. If you can move and bounce around like a 14 year old Juliet but are 29, and are the BEST ACTRESS who auditioned, done! Oh, how I miss that.

Phoenix said...

Nice. I'm about to write an Examiner article on what not to do in casting...some of these I will definitely be writing about.

Ugh. So sorry, hon.