by Casting Director, Laurie Records
…complain about the costs of doing business.
When giving my two cents in this column, I set the bar high. I know this. Actors are human and can’t be expected to be perfect, always…but I write with that as the goal. I admit it. With that in mind let’s address a potentially controversial pet peeve of some in the industry – the actor complaining about the costs of doing business as an actor… Ready? let’s just go there:
Commercial actors should never complain about the costs of doing business.
Complaining, in general, is unattractive in all walks of life. When an actor complains about the business costs of being an actor in the presence of an industry professional (whether verbally or in writing) it can range from annoying to damaging to your reputation. No one likes a complainer. It’s negative, it’s unprofessional, and sends the message that you are unsuccessful or new (it isn’t often you hear “successful” or seasoned actors complain about the costs of headshots, classes, or posting photos online). As you know, I am not a big fan of simply saying, “DON’T” without any further explanation. My goal is to give you some things you can feel really good about, at least in the realm of the online revolution, that could ease the pain and illuminate the silver lining.
Many of you reading this column were not around for the days of sending hardcopy submissions to a Commercial Casting Director. Let it be said now, that I am speaking in generalities, but you’ll get the picture. Once upon a time, the commercial breakdown (role by role descriptions of what was needed for the job) would be faxed to the agents. The agents would pull headshots and resumes (which you provided) off the wall, package them up and send them via messenger to the Casting Director’s office. The Casting Director would literally have a shopping cart full of envelopes of submissions, one from each agency. The Casting Director (each having their own system, of course) would typically open the envelopes from the top agencies first, putting photos in a yes, no, or maybe pile. Depending on the job, time, role demands, style of the Casting Director… perhaps ALL envelopes were opened, perhaps only a few… starting with the most prestigious or favorite agencies ending with C-list envelopes when desperate. When seeking representation, actors would send 1 or 2 black and white headshots via snail mail to the agents in town. There was no formal system for actors to self submit on jobs, so general, unsolicited submissions to Casting Directors would be mailed as well. If an actor wanted anyone to see their reel, they would include a DVD along with the submission. Talk about expensive!
How things have changed….
Hardcopy headshots and resumes: It would get real boring real fast if I started calculating how much money actors used to spend to get their stacks of headshots and resumes printed every year. I assure you, even with prices 10 years ago, it would be more than you are paying per year to have your photos posted with your favorite online service. Without a doubt. The money spent on postage is also significantly less. Your photos are now in color! The online revolution helped bring that evolution along. You also can have multiple photos posted. A handful of different photos all going to a Casting Director/Agent in a submission really didn’t happen years ago. No more commercial and theatrical shots only… you now have many (if you so choose) gorgeous color photos being sent to a Casting Director or Agent from whom you are seeking representation, freely and with wild abandon, thanks to the online revolution. These are all really good things for you as an actor… for LESS money than was spent years ago, and you get so much more. Great, but there’s more!
You are saving the environment: The landfills are emptier now that you pay to have your photos posted online. Seriously. Hardcopies all end up in the dumpster. And, no creep is crawling in the dumpster to get your info to stalk you.
Self-submissions: The online submission world has really put some additional power into the actor’s hand. Especially the unrepresented actor. Casting Directors can easily put their jobs out to actors and you can easily submit. This didn’t exist in such a simple and organized way, as it is now that online submission companies are being used by the industry.
DVD’s of your reel: just don’t exist anymore. Or it shouldn’t. Posting your reel is not only cheaper than burning DVDs, printing labels and mailing them off… I feel like it’s more likely that your work will be watched, now that it’s posted online. It’s just too easy for industry professionals to resist. You have the option to post clips vs. a full edited reel, which Casting Directors love because we can choose exactly what we want to see and it’s fast. You also have the option to post skill clips (video of you performing your special skills… simply AWESOME commercially), which practically guarantees you a call when the CD is looking for some very specific skills. There is no question that you can do the skill, when there’s video to prove it. We all know actors lie, especially about skills. Clips remove the gamble of calling you in.
Emailing submissions: Unheard of once upon a time, you now have the opportunity to email your headshots and resume and video clips to whomever you want, as many times as you want. That is not to be overlooked or underestimated.
Leveling the playing field: I have saved the best to last… I am glad you are still reading. Because you now pay X amount of dollars a year to post your photos and resume online, instead of X+++ in hardcopies, envelopes, resume printing, postage, etc. THE PLAYING FIELD HAS BEEN LEVELED IN MANY WAYS. In the days of hardcopy submissions, the envelope with your submission from your B or C list agent… or even your SELF SUBMISSION may have never been opened. Today your photo is likely squashed between two A-lister submissions… and YOUR FACE IS SEEN. You, a new actor, with a small agency, with a few credits on your resume are right next to the hot shots. Your headshot and resume are seen more often and by more people than ever before. This is great news for the newer actors at the beginning of the journey. Honestly, bad news for the actors represented by the big agencies, as they have lost a bit of an edge. Again, I remind you, typically it’s the newer, more “unsuccessful” actor who is the one complaining. Backwards in this situation? Absolutely.
I have given you the silver lining. Take it. Run with it. Stop complaining… at least within earshot of an industry pro.
Laurie Records, Casting Director