Category Archives: Casting Director

FIVE REASONS YOU MAY NOT BOOK THE JOB

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.
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You might look too upscale, not upscale enough, too pretty, not pretty enough, etc. You can’t change how the creatives decide how their spot should look.
2. The Spot Has A Certain Feel
As the spot comes alive at the callback, the creative team sees more clearly what is going to work for the feel they want. The essence of your personality might not work. You might feel too humorous, not humorous enough, too serious, not serous enough, or too intellectual. I’ve even seen an actor with a wonderful performance lose the job during final consideration because one person on the creative team felt he did not feel “trustworthy” enough. The “feel” of who you are is your essence, and you can’t change your essence. You have no control over the feel of a spot.
3. Character Relationships In a Spot
When a group is being put together, you might not gel well with the other person they definitely want. You may gel well, but someone else gels better or differently.
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Chemistry comes into play during mixing and matching of people being considered. Sometimes you will actually be asked to stay to be mixed and matched. If you are not asked to stay, the creative team actually mixes and matches by shuffling around the size cards. They discuss the different feel of people together. You can’t change chemistry between people.
4. Change In Direction
There is always the chance that the direction of the spot, or your particular character is changed. You have no control over the ad agency or director making these changes.
5. Luck Of The Draw
Everyone is unique. Put two really good actor’s performances toe to toe in front of the creatives for them to choose, and they can only choose one.
All you can do is give your best performance, be knowledgeable about how the system works and feel fortunate you got to audition, got the call back and most importantly know that even though you didn’t get booked, you pleased everyone. Really know you will be remembered for the next opportunity.

How to Get Your Submissions Noticed

By Terry Berland – Written for The Networker

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 . . .

The Note Section

Use the note section to grab our attention, which seventy-five percent of agents and actors submitting directly don‘t do. Add a note to your submission to highlight some special skill. In breakdowns, when we are looking for any kind of special skill, we ask for notes. Agents and talent are not paying much attention to this, so we even cry out our request by putting it in caps: NOTE YOUR SPECIAL SKILL.

Agents Who Don’t Put Notes On Submissions

I’ve called agents who don’t add a note to ask why they didn’t note the special skill as requested. Their answer is, “It’s listed on the resume. I would not have submitted them if they didn’t have the special skill.” Yes, that makes sense and is the logical thinking of a good, responsible agent. But things have changed in the fast-paced industry with the number of submissions easily reaching 4,000 and more.

The New Effective Way Of Submitting Vs. The Old Way Of Submitting

With electronic submissions, there are many more agents and managers submitting who I’ll call “click happy.” It just takes a click to submit a photo; some people really go at it with very little thought behind it. “Throw the spaghetti on the wall, and see what sticks.” When we call the agent’s office to question why many wrong people have been submitted, some of the answers we get are actually “Oh, my intern worked on those submissions” or “Oh, I guess I didn’t read that piece of information.” The end result of having to weed through an excessive number of submissions, whether they are off-target or on-target, results in lot of exasperation with the ones that are off-target, and just not enough time overall go through everything.

Looking At Notes Helps A Casting Director Weed Through Submissions

A solution on the casting end is to first ask for notes, and then scan all submissions and look for those notes. I am not talking about notes that are permanently on a submission. For instance, I was looking for a good comedic actor with an authentic sounding Boston accent. A permanent submission note of “Great dramatic actor” clearly had noting to do with this breakdown, and shows lack of thought and attention to the specifics of the breakdown.

Examples Of Effective Notes To Put On Your Submissions

Make your note very specific. Here are some examples of good notes.

If the breakdown calls for:

  • A Boston Accent, note: “Born and raised in Boston.”
  • Good Jogger, note: “Jogs two miles three times a week.”
  • Good Tennis Player, note: “Was on college tennis team.”
  • Good at Improv, note: “Advanced Groundling.”
  • Drives a Motor Cycle: “Motorcycle License, owns a motorcycle.”
  • Speaks Spanish Fluently, note: “Speaks Spanish fluently.”
  • Real Photographer: “Special event photographer,” or “Owns two Nikons.”

Some of the notes are obvious and just repeat what we have asked for, but it will make your submission stand out, rather than requiring us to read through 4,000 resumes and hopefully get to yours.

The most important thing is to really be honest. You will be doing yourself and us a really big favor.

If You Think You Have No Power Think Again

By Terry Berland – Written for The Networker

Power-Cloud

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.

Know The Specific Acting Technique

All the advice I’m giving you will be based on the fact that you have to know how to act. In addition, you have to know a specific acting technique for whatever venue you are acting in, be that commercial, voiceover, film, television, or theatre. You should be working out in an acting class on an on-going basis, striving to be the best actor you can be, bringing out the true, authentic, honest you.

Now we can look at how your thoughts can be more empowering.

Negative Thought: The casting director has power over me.
Powerful Thought: That casting director is nothing without good actors. I am part of the collaborative team in casting this commercial, voiceover, TV show, film, or theatre piece.

Let me remind you, you can make or break a casting director.

Negative Thought:  Am I making the right choice? I’m worried I made the wrong choice.
Powerful Thought: Yay, I am being given the chance to create. Neutral is not a choice. If I stay neutral, no personality comes out. It’s my choice. I am really part of this creative process.

Reassure yourself that there is no guaranteed right choice. Remind yourself, if there was one right choice, they would have given you that choice to act out.

Acting coaches are hired by celebrities to make choices and work with the actor on their choices for a particular piece. I can assure you, even those coaches hope they made the choice that’s going to result in their client being cast. They also are not sure if they made the right choice.

But what’s the alternative?

No choice – no chance. Giving them no choice gives you no chance to be considered.

Negative Thought: You walk into the call back room and the voice in your head has a lot to say, mainly second guessing what they want. Every choice you’ve made flies out of your head.
Powerful Thought: Use the “I have to make a choice” scenario. Remind yourself you are in the midst of a creative process. They don’t exactly know what they want. “They are counting on me.”

The Callback Nerves

Negative Thought: You walk into the callback room where there are lots of clients and think  “I’m nervous. Who are these people? Will they like me?”
Powerful Thought: These decision makers in the room are human beings who have jobs. They are each there for a particular purpose. One being, their opinion counts as to who will be booked. Some do not have as much say and are more responsible for working on locations or wardrobe or responsible for bringing everything in on budget. However, all are answering to their client’s needs to the best of their ability.

Other powerful thoughts to use if the people in the room make you nervous:
I am so glad I don’t have a 9 to 5 job, pushing papers.
I am so grateful I can be artistic and creative.
I am so grateful I have a survival job that enables me to audition.

Negative Thought: I’m worried that I won’t get the job.
Powerful Thought: One person gets the job for various reasons, some of which are nonsensical or at the very least have nothing to do with my acting ability. I know I gave a really good audition. Even if I don’t get this one, I know this casting director, producer, or director will keep me in mind for other things.

Here’s the one you hear all the time: don’t take it personally. As long as you know your acting is top notch, you are constantly working out and under the guidance of a good acting teacher in whatever venue, I can assure you the rest is a process that is part of the crazy job of acting.

The suggestions in this blog will be more effective if you add power thoughts of your own to each situation.

Ad-Libbing in Commercial Auditions

Written for The Networker by Terry Berland

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.

New SAG-AFTRA Contract

New contract allows ad-libbing to occur at commercial auditions and sessions

SAG-AFTRA NEW CONTRACT HAS CHANGED AUDITION RULES REGARDING AD LIBBING

With styles changing through the years to be more real, looser, and less tightly stylized, the creativity needed in comedy spots and performances became harder and harder to finesse around the archaic contractual improvisation rules. The union has acknowledged that fact and the new contract does allow ad-libbing at commercial auditions and sessions. Payment is, however, still required for a creative session call – for devising dialogue or action not suggested by a script, storyboard, or by specific direction.

MORE CREATIVE AUDITIONS FOR COMEDIC ACTORS

We are thrilled to be able to be more creative with you in regard to comedic performance and give you the chance to comically show your stuff. After all, the creative team already has the dialogue that is amusing, now they need to find a comedic personality. Comedic personalities live in distinctive expressions and ways of saying things that is unique to each individual. That means adding some of the talent’s own words, changing rhythms, making side comments and/or riffing.

We are looking forward to more creatively working with talent. Free at last.

Has The Trust And Understanding Of The Agent And Casting Director Been Corroded?

Written by Terry Berland for the Networker

Is the Trust and Understanding between Agents and Casting Directors Gone?

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 CCDA (Commercial Casting Director Association), which I am a member of, and the ATA (Association of Talent Agencies) 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.

The meeting started out with plenty of time to meet and greet each other and then continued on to a facilitated group discussion. It turned out the biggest feeling of contention and misunderstanding of agents toward Casting Directors was around the subject of avails.

Understanding Avails

The Agent Point of View on Avails

Agent’s perturbed feelings towards the casting process came from them not understanding the inner workings of how casting receives their breakdown information, including timing and avails. When we put you on avail for an on-camera commercial if you also have a career in print, VO, film, television and theatre there are a number of other agents and/or a manger that has to OK/clear the avail dates. It can get rather complex. The agents were feeling that putting talent on avail was being taken lightly and thought of frivolously on the part of casting. The big question was “Why do so many people have to be put on avail?” “Why is an avail so important to you, anyway?”

The Importance of Avails

Avails are very important because at the time you are put on avail, you are being presented/sold to approximately eight layers of people to agree on your being booked. The people are the Ad Agency Producer, Writer, Art Director, Creative Supervisor, Creative Director, Account Executive, Director at the production company, and finally the Client.(More Info) It would be stupid if our team choose you and went through the approval process and then you were not available for the shoot. The availability includes final check of shoot dates and conflict if there is one. Would any other business “sell” someone or hire someone and go through many layers of an approval process without knowing the person is available for the job? Of course not! The selection process of talent follows the same set of organizational rules as any other business who goes through a selection and hiring process.

Actors and Avails

Usually, for multi-character spots three people are put on avail for each character. There is a first choice and two back ups. When we put out the avails we do not tell the agent who is first and who is backup. The reason is that many times the first choice is not chosen by the client; the second or third choice ends up being the pick. So if there are ten characters and three people are put on avail for each character, then there are thirty people put on avail for that commercial, but actually only three people per character.

Meeting Resolution

The agents walked away from the meeting understanding the process behind the selection and avail process. Then of course the contentious subject came up regarding releasing the avails. YES, we (casting) should release your avail. It is disrespectful and thoughtless if we do not. There are times that I know my office releases avails through emails to individual agents and also a general release through the breakdown service we use. We do get calls from the agent’s office, sometimes a week later, asking if the person is released yet. I don’t know where the communication breaks down. But it does sometimes.

I think the important thing for you is to understand avails and know that commercial agents and casting directors are meeting face to face in the spirit of a better working relationship getting YOU the talent out on auditions, giving you avails and final bookings as smoothly as possible.


THE SELECTION PROCESS OF BOOKING TALENT

More About The Creative Team.
There are eight people who are involved in the selection of booking process.

  • The Producer is responsible for putting together and keeping together all the elements that make up the production of a commercial. These elements include budgeting, selecting the director, coordinating the decisions of all the people involved, and making sure the production is on schedule, including the editing of the final spot.
  • The Art Director visually conceives the spot and makes it come alive through drawings and visuals. In short, he/she is responsible for the way the commercial will look. He works very closely with the writer.
  • The Writer puts the message into words and has to be in total alignment with the Art Director.
  • The Creative Supervisor oversees the activities of the art director, writer and producer.
  • The Creative Director sets the tone of the entire ad agency.
  • The Director is hired to direct and enhance the creativity of the spot. He has to work closely with the producer, writer and art director to stay within their guidelines of final acceptance of the client.
  • The Account Executive serves at the Ad Agency as the liaison between the client and the agency. It is their ongoing responsibility to talk directly to the client making sure the client is happy.
  • The Client are the executives who represent the product being advertised such as Apple Computer, Pepsi or VW.

What is the one most 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. Out of this list, do you know what is the one important piece of direction the director will be concentrated on while watching your audition?

If your answer is #4, you are right.

The transition is the most important acting direction. How you execute a transition shows who you are and how you feel.

Here is a perfect example of a casting I did for Fruit Of The Loom. Two guys are BBQ’ing. They are standing next to each other chit chatting, shooting the breeze, when they hear a thunderous sound in the distance coming closer and closer. Suddenly there is a crashing sound and horses jump over the hedges into their yard. Standing in front of them are men on horses who, by the way, are wearing Fruit Of The Loom. An everyday occurrence, right? The transitional direction was as follows: You should subtly look at each other when you hear the thunderous sound, you look towards where the sound is coming from and at the moment of the horses jump over the hedges,  look away from each other to the horsemen and back to each other.

The director is going to intently be looking at the monitor specifically looking for your transition from happily chit chatting/shooting the breeze to the transition of:  1) Something in your face showing a recognition of an unusual sound coming from the distance, 2) Looking at your friend for some kinds of common confirmation, and 3) Looking at the horsemen now standing in front of you.

When you are listening to the list of directions given to you, know how to pick out the important piece of performance direction that is included in what might be a long list of general directions. Listen carefully when the session director starts talking about transitional looks. Transitions of facial expressions are very important to be able to do, and they are usually subtle. Oxymoron of the day…Sharpen up on subtle.

There Is More To Being A Successful Actor Than Knowing Technique.

(Blog written By Terry Berland for Casting Networks/The Networker)

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 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 (such as 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 years.

At the ad agency, there are tiers of creatives. The writer and art director create and pitch their ideas to a supervisor who agrees on which spots will be produced.

The Production Company
When the spot is ready to be produced, there is a system between the ad agencies and production companies whereby production companies are invited to bid for projects based on the interest of the ad agency in a particular director. The director is hired to enhance the concept of the spot.

The Casting Director
The production company will then contact the casting director to first figure out the budget that they feel will “win” the bid or figure out how to produce the job within budget after they are awarded the job . At that point I as a casting director spend time helping to figure out this budget regarding the number of prep and casting days and studio costs. This can be a quick process or sometimes that take hours and hours doing and re-doing budgets to meet the production companies needs.

The Prep Of The Breakdown
The Casting Director (moi) is then awarded the job and it is time to put the breakdown out. We first have to figure out mathematically how we will fit the number of characters into the number of days we have been alloted to cast.

Then casting has to put in place the staff to prep the job. This team consists of the session runner who runs the outside of the casting room, the inside-office staff to set up the schedules, maintain drops outs and re-scheduling requests and put in place the audition director who is inside the room actually directing you.

After the breakdown goes out to you there are hours and hours, usually well into the night and weekends, of prep that I and all other casting directors do. As I am prepping, many of you receive calls from me at night or over the weekend asking you something about your skill or your demo.

Casting Studio Involvement
At the same time we are availing and booking the casting studio rooms, the casting studios are juggling the availability of these rooms. Studies are constantly being put on avails, released and then booked. When you come to our facility, Castaway Studios, or any other, you always see a studio manager. It is the job of that studio manager to juggle the facilitation of the studios and keep the place running smoothly. This of course includes maintaining equipment and internet service to handle the large volume of usage.

The Talent Seals The Deal
The next time you receive your audition and walk into the casting for your audition, stop a moment and remember all the elements that went into the important moment of you being there. Now we are counting on you when you sign in and enter the casting room to give us a great audition. You are part of the process!! http://www.berlandcasting.com/oc/

Starting your career as a casting director

As with the most of the entertainment jobs, if you want to become a casting director, the path is not that easy. You have to start at low and aim high. You may have to struggle a lot before you get the desired position. However, there are no specific qualifications you need to get into the field; just having the right personal skills will work.

Let’s have a look at few important aspects

Education

There is no formal education that can help you in the industry. However, those that attend theatre and film arts classes or have studied business management have an edge over others. As a casting director, you have to well verse with the negotiation skills and also understand the complexities of working with union employees.

You can take acting classes to understand the acting process and recognizing the talent for better auditioning procedure.

Experience

Being a part of entertainment industry means that you have to start at the bottom. Look for an internship with the casting agencies or work under a casting director. Initially, you may have to work even as a low-level helper.

Experience is a must as no one will hire until your resume highlights work experience. Everybody looks for a professional not the one they have train prior giving work.

Networking is important

Make connections that can help you with your career. Your networking can help you create a niche for yourself in the industry. Also, it helps you to quickly and easily find the right actors for the roles.

Your personality

For the job you will need to have:

  • Excellent communications skills. You have to work with both insiders and outsiders. Your abilities will define the way you will be loved by the actors as well the directors.
  • Negotiation skills
  • Organizational qualities to make sure the project go on smoothly.
  • You have to be a perfectionist to make sure everything falls right on the place.
  • Patience

If you are looking to get entry into the profession, search for casting director workshops. There are many institutes that offer professional courses for aspiring candidates. Search for them online. Make sure the institute you choose is reputable, experienced and have a niche in the area. Inquire about the curriculum and then take your decision.

Berland Casting offers casting director workshops, Los Angeles. If you are interested in joining any of our workshops, get in touch with us. We will be happy to help you.