Saturday, March 23, 2013

Some hard truths about casting that all actors should know

Subtitle: I’m wading through resumes and have said WTH more times than I like to admit

Hey guys.  I know, normally I do shows, but today, I want to talk about casting. Because I think it’s important.  And I think it’s important that some of you learn things before you submit to anything, ever again. 

I am not trying to be mean, but here’s the truth.  I have spent the better part of today, like 8 hours at last count, wading through headshots and resumes for 50 audition slots – by the time I’m done, I will have gone through 200 resumes.  For those playing the home game, that's about two and half minutes per resume.  Knowing this tome constraint, there are things that will get you put in the no file immediately, even if you are “perfect” for the role/spot.    (These are all compiled from me and other director friends/casting agents I know). You want to make it easy for us to find what we need and put you in the yes pile.  Trust me, by resume 150, I don’t give a crap anymore.  I’m not going to play hide and seek with the info. 

The number one rule in Casting Notices: READ THEM!  Read all of them.  Make sure you actually fit the role that you are submitting for.  For instance, if you are a man, do NOT submit to an all female Shakespeare play.  If you are 60, do not submit for a part that is looking for 20-30. Let me make this clear – there are companies and casting directors who will permanently black ball you for that shit.  As in, they will no longer take submissions from you at all. 

Number two rule: Once you have read, carefully, the posting, and you are actually right for the part, now you need to read the posting again.  And submit exactly the way they tell you too.  This includes:
·      Send it to the email address listed in the ad (do not get cutesy and send it to someone “higher” in the company, like the artistic director or producer – that’s not cute or brave, it’s stupid.  It also gets you put in the no file)
·      Look at what they ask for, if they tell you to “attach” headshot and resume, that means ATTACH.  That does not mean you send a link to your website where it is posted.
·      If they ask you to embed, embed.  Don’t know how?  Google it.  That’s what the internet is for.
·      Again, let me say this: If you do not do what we ask you to, you will go in the no pile, often without even seeing you.  We don’t want to work with someone who can’t follow instructions. 

While we’re talking about attachments, helpful life hint, casting or no.  Write your resumes in whatever you want.  Save it as a PDF.  Send the PDF to potential employers.  If I can’t open your resume on this end, I won’t bother to tell you, you just won’t get the slot.  PDF files are universal – they open on all operating systems.  Also, PDF’s make the format fixed so that they look EXACTLY the same on my screen as on yours, regardless of operating system. There is no excuse.  Word creates PDF’s for you now by going to “Save As” and selecting it as an option.  No, you cannot alter a PDF (unless you have Acrobat), so keep the word doc, create a new PDF every time you change something.  If you don’t have a computer with word, googledocs (a free online program) does it too.  Or, go to a library.  They have it.   Need help figuring it out?  Ask someone!  Ask google!  Ask your smart computer friend!  Post about it on facebook.  This isn’t computer science and it isn’t coding.  It’s BASIC software knowledge.  Lots of people have it.  You should too.

Do not, under any circumstance, ever, take a cell phone picture of your hard copy resume and send it as a JPG.  That is not a resume.  Also, it is so low on the professional scale. You will not get the audition.  We will, however, joke about it at cocktail parties.

Do not lie on your resume.  You may not get caught every time, but the times your do, you won’t get the part.  And if it’s for me, I won’t work with you period.  And you will be caught in the most unexpected ways.  For instance, I email the people on your resume if I know them to check in with them about you.  It’s a common practice. 

Do list who you’ve really worked with, however.  Three of my audition spots are going to people who worked with people I have worked with and respect.  Yes, all three of them were emailed to confirm first.

Industry standard is one page of resume, from most recent on top, to furthest away on bottom.  I will not sift through a three page resume to find the info I need.  Also, see above about how PDF keeps formatting consistent across all platforms.  If I open it and the columns are off, I will not take the time to figure out what goes where.  These are industry standards for a reason.  Keep your resume like everyone else so we can find the information we need, if we cannot find it quickly, we won’t keep looking.  We have too many others to look at.  Also, don’t be cute and center your resume.  Use column, just like everyone else – see above.  Also also, make sure your resume is an industry standard resume and not a CV or professional.  Again, if I have to hunt for the information, I won't, you just won't be seen.  Links below to what those should look like.

Do not mention a show in your cover letter that isn’t on your resume.  I want to know when you did it and with who.  Even if that means changing your resume for one submission.  If it’s important enough to mention in a cover letter, it’s important enough to be on your resume for that submission.

Do not lie about what you can do in your special skills.  If I cast you believing you have sword fight experience, and you do not…  Suffice to say that the friend that had this happen fired the actor and rehired.  Also, “Shakespeare” is not a special skill – I don’t know what that means – do you do Shakespeare impersonations in your spare time? Wear pumpkin pants all year round?  Do you mean “the ability to speak in verse”?  If so, write that.  In fact, be clear about what your special skills are, do not write nouns and expect us to know.  When in doubt, ask 10 people what the word means, if they all say the same thing, it’s fine. If it’s 10 different answers, try again.

Spoken Word is not a dialect.  It can be a special skill if you like, but no, it’s not a dialect.  (I have actually seen this more than once).

Let’s talk a little about headshots.  A headshot should be the best, believable, version of you.  It is important that they are clear, professional looking, and look like you.  A headshot IS NOT A GLAMOUR SHOT.  Seriously, it’s really not.  I need a clean and clear representation of the person likely to walk into my casting room.   Also, if I cannot see ALL of your face, it’s not a headshot.  Also, industry standard is a color picture.  Sepia is not ok.  Also also, do not use a picture you took of yourself on a computer - not only are most of them not very flattering, the lack of professionalism makes me unlikely to call you into an audition.

Let’s talk about how to do that.  Find a photographer – no, it doesn’t have to be expensive (though we all know it can be), but you need someone who can frame shots and use light levels etc. Do not let a makeup artist do your make in a way that doesn’t look like you or that you cannot replicate.  Look through your proofs.  Ask the photographer which 2 she/he think are the best picture.  Mark them.  Ask your friends and family which proofs look most like you.  Mark them.  Decide which one you like best.  Mark them.  Once you are down to like 10 or less, ask a director you’ve worked with, or your casting director friend, or a trusted teacher (or more than one, more than one is good) which of the small number is best.  Then ask why.  And LISTEN to the reasons they say they like what they do.  You do not have to agree.  It’s your life and your photo, but they will often tell you things you didn’t think of. 

Here’s why this is so important.  My number one pet peeve in casting is headshots that don’t look like the actor.  I will not cast you on principle.  Even if you are perfect for the role.  Hell, sometimes, I won’t even let you in my room to audition because the person I asked to audition is in the picture, and NOT in the room.  (Just so you’re clear, this is not just my number one.  I asked 10 of my casting type people friends for their top 5, this came up as #1 on all 10 lists)

If your look changes dramatically and you haven’t had the time or money to get new shots – send me your professional shot AND a good snap (which can be taken by a friend) of the new look with a note: “Hey, I just got my hair cut (dyed whatever goes here) and haven’t had new pictures taken yet.  So I’m sending you my headshot and a picture of the new look.  Thanks!”  Trust me when I say that will actually get you in the door to audition.  A shot of you with brown hair when you are now blonde gets you turned away at the door.  (This is the time snap shots are appropriate, not as the only headshot you send me) Also, get new headshots every 2 to 3 years even you don’t change your hair.  You really do look differently for casting purposes.  And finally, if you physically change or have changed something on your face – your headshot MUST represent this!  I once had a girl who had a perfect headshot walk into my room with a scar across her cheek.  Suffice to say, she did not get the role.

When writing the cover letter or email, if you request a part you would be perfect for, be aware, you not only may not get the role, but you may not be cast or even auditioned period.  Case in point, the show I am currently casting, the lead is already cast, which means there are at least 10 women not getting an audition because they only wanted that part.  Also, in this show, there are no single parts, everyone is more than one character.  Which means that I am less likely to use someone who wants a role rather tells me they want work.  Again, that is your choice based on where you are in your career – I understand why people do it, and I respect it – I am just telling you what happens on the other side. And yes, there is a difference in “I would love to play XXX, but would love to read for anything else too.” And  “I would love to play XXX.”   Also, again, read the casting notice.  If the casting notice asks for the info say it. 

If you do not get the audition, do no re-submit.  The same people are likely to be looking at your stuff, and you are still unlikely to get the audition.  Also, now we're annoyed because we had to tell you no twice.

For the record, there are always stories about how so and so did it different, broke out of the mold and got a part etc.  Here's a hint, those stories (some of which *are* true, most of which are probably exaggerated), at least the true ones, are about SUPREMELY talented people, or people with connections in the first place.  Those people aren't normal.  Chances are pretty good that those people aren't you.  Sorry to burst that bubble.

Look.  I know, that was long, and harsh, and no sugar coating.  But all this information is out already there.  If acting is what you want to pursue professionally, then find out how.  Don't make assumptions, ask: ask a friend who is in the industry, ask google, ask a professor - it is your (the actor's) responsibility to make sure you are doing things correctly, it is not my (the director or casting director - especially when I have come across your things because you have sent it to me for an audition) responsibility to tell you you have done it wrong and need to change it.  Because man, I so don't have time for that crap.  As a result, if you want the part, you shouldn't either. I know it sucks for you, I know it's hard. Please bear in mind that you, likely, do not send out as many submissions as we read.  Do what we ask, you are more likely to be seen and cast that way.  

And anyone has any others, please let me know in the comments below.  

Please note. I make no money from this blog whatsoever.  I have compiled this advice from myself, who casts 3-4 shows a year, and several friends who work at varying levels of casting.  I have put this information out there because of the sheer volume of head shots and resumes that I know I, and my friends, receive that do not follow basic protocol.  I want the pool of actors that we all receive to be better, so we can see more and better people, instead of being turned off from basic mistakes. Please take it for what it is.  And if you don't believe me, there are links right below me to professionals casting directors saying the same thing.  

Also, it's not just me.  This is a blog post from a CD in the DC area.  Same advice. 

And some more advice from about resumes.

Let's talk about resumes.  Another talk about resumes.  Resumes, resumes, resumes. 


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