Tag Archives: castingdirector

The Competitive Edge: To Understand Luck is to Eliminate Stress

Written by Terry Berland for the Networker

You’ve done all the things you can to have command and control over your career. You are a solid actor, you have a well-developed resume, you are comfortable auditioning and you know how to be in a room. (see blog What Hamilton and Commercials Have In Common). Even after doing all you can do to take control, there is one element you have no control over that can work for or against you. That is the element of luck.
After you do everything to create your own luck, let’s look at where this mystical area comes into play. Bringing these areas to light can eliminate the stress of fighting against something you really have no control over.


LUCK COMES INTO PLAY ON THREE LEVELS:
Level 1.
The casting director’s choice of who to audition.
Level 2.
Whom the creative team decides to present as final choices to the client.
Level 3.
Whom the client selects.
To add to the complexity, let me remind you that you are being picked either as an individual or as part of an ensemble.


SIX AREAS WHERE LUCK CAN COME INTO PLAY:
1. General Physical Look
Some examples of physical looks can be referred to as slightly off-beat, pretty, conservative or intellectual.
From the start of the process, after your agent submits you based on a breakdown, the casting director has to begin making choices.  Based on their personal opinion, a casting director chooses the actors most suitable for the part to audition. The first “sweep” typically consists of a broad array of choices. Then they have to start shaping the audition so it is well-rounded with a variety of talent. That means eliminating some actors. You could randomly be in or out. However, someone who was originally eliminated can be reconsidered.
2. Hair Color
Commercially, unless the character calls for a particular hair color, all hair colors are considered in the first round.
An example of luck coming into play is when the casting director looks at the audition they are shaping up and if the audition is leaning towards everyone having dark hair, then they have to vary the look and pull out some talent with dark hair and replace them with light or red hair. The second round of luck comes in at the callback stage. Those actors who were called back go through another subjective selection process by the creative team deciding which talent they will present to the client for the final look of the spot. The third chance for luck comes with client approval. Many times the client does not chose the first choice and they go with the second or third choice because they subjectively feel this person or combination of people will make a better spot.
The same layers of luck come into play with the remaining examples.
3. Ethnicity
The first character breakdown could call for all ethnicities to be considered. Mathematically there are only a certain amount of time slots in a day and casting has to choose this person over that person to appoint to the time slots allotted.
4. Personality traits
In addition to your look, each and every person has an essence that we might call a personality trait. This element also has to fit the character or the ensemble being put together. Some personality traits can be characterized as funny, serious, or intellectual.
5. Being in the right place at the right time 
Recently I was casting a short film. I had just put the breakdown out and was looking over my submission choices. An actor was passing by my office on his way to another casting director’s office, I looked up as we said our “good mornings” and there he was, the very person I was searching for. He looked perfect, had the right essence and acting ability. If he hadn’t passed my office at that moment, I know in this case, I would not have thought of him for this role. I presented him to my client and he booked the film.
6. Shoot dates
The last element of luck would be shoot dates. As the expression goes “as luck may have it” or “when it rains it pours”, you might be booked for something else on the shoot dates. Then there is the other scenario, “book a plane ticket/book a job”. All actors and casting directors seem to say the same thing. Plan a vacation or purchase a plane ticket and that’s when the job comes in.
Knowing we can’t beat luck, the only thing we can do is recognize it and smile at it rather than stress over it.

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.