Welcome to a three part series, from a former LA Casting insider… newly on the outside (possibly providing prospective), to my fellow outsiders, on what I have learned about this industry and how it relates to LA Casting.
Over six months ago, LA Casting hosted a panel discussion organized by Buckley Sampson, entitled, “What You Don’t Know, You Don’t Know”, about commercial casting. I was a member of this panel, and was astonished by the overwhelmingly positive response following the seminar. My assumption was that every actor who has been around for a bit knows what I consider to be the basics of their profession from the perspective of casting, agents, and their own in relationship with LA Casting. Perhaps the information that I learned in my years at LA Casting and took for granted was not common knowledge. Hence, three installments: Actors, Agents, and Casting Directors.
Let’s go for the gusto and talk about YOU first. The Actor. More specifically, the commercial actor.
There are several kinds of actors out there, the old school actor, the hot shot, the pro, and the newbie.
The “Old-School” Actors
Strengths: By definition, these folks have been around the block and have substantial work under their belts. Their reputations precede them, and their agents/managers talk for them. They have the luxury of showing up (prepared, of course) and often times landing the gig.
Areas of opportunity: Certainly commercially speaking, an actor whether established or not, needs to be up on technology. Old school actors are known for not knowing how to download sides from the Internet in a pinch when someone else can’t take care of it for them. It would also behoove them to know to check their emails for audition times and even know how to receive a text message. Just in case. This is the wave of the future, like it or not. These folks may be the only ones who can get away with a black and white photo and no resume posted online, although I wouldn’t recommend it.
The “Hot Shot” Actors
Strengths: These actors will go all out, and do whatever possible for their careers. This is admirable. They belong to every actor service/organization possible, go to the classes, take the seminars, and are constantly striving to use whatever tool available, to advance their career. These actors have beautiful color photos, thorough resumes, reels online, etc.
Areas of opportunity: These actors may not invest wisely. It is necessary and sometimes frustrating shelling out money into an acting career. What is infuriating is when they’ve been duped. There are a lot of companies that will take advantage of the uninformed “hot shot” actor who will throw money at any chance to become a star. Hot shots, do your research. Make sure the services you belong to are legit (casting directors actually have chosen to receive submissions through a service and actively look at them) and the classes are not a scam. Beware of folks selling “breakdowns”. They usually don’t have the casting director’s permission; The CD is only taking submissions through the service of their choice, and certainly commercially speaking, auditions have usually been given out by the time you get the info. Make sure you are informed before you drop your hard earned money on the promise of being a star… no matter how bad you want it.
The “Newbie” Actors
Strengths: Enthusiasm. Channeled in the right way, these actors can take this a long way. It is a cliché to follow the “you must do something for your acting career every day” slogan, but there is a reason it exists. Having an account on LA Casting is a great start, but there are a lot of things you need to know about how it works (see areas of opportunity). Newbie actors are willing to put in the work to advance their career and don’t fall into the “I am too good to look for my own work” pitfall that actors with bigger egos have.
Areas of opportunity: Ignorance. Here are some basics to start with: If you are an actor seeking representation, you have to have a few decent color photos posted online with a detailed resume. I know the newbie actors have heard not to spend a bunch of cash on photos before finding an agent, because they will just have to get new ones upon gaining representation. Here’s the big BUT – …you won’t perk any agent’s interest if you have crummy photos. When they are looking through LA Casting’s talent scout program, they have the same small thumbnail photo as the casting directors do and it has to grab them… it could be displayed with 99 other actor’s accounts! The newbie must grab everyone’s attention, initially, with one very small photo of themselves. At the very least, newbies, call your friend with a digital camera and head to the park. The newbie also has to have a decent resume posted, even if they don’t have all the experience in the world. Hints: Pay close attention to the training, special skills, and other experience fields of your resume if you don’t have a lot of credits. Commercially this will do something for you. Casting directors, and therefore agents, are constantly looking for actors with special skills or who have experience in another profession. It may seem silly to list stilt walking, cheerleading, Spanish speaker, or accountant on your acting resume, but do it. I also have to stress the importance of submitting yourselves on jobs. With or without an agent, the newbie actor needs to build their credits. If you are submitting yourself, you will get called in. There are projects that cover the spectrum of prestige on LA Casting. If you are faithfully submitting yourself, you will be called in, if you aren’t, take a look at the above suggestions. I assure you there is something about your account that needs to be improved. Now, what you do at the audition is another story…
The “Pro” Actors
Strengths: Pros have balance, knowledge, and they put it into action diligently and consistently. They have an agent who does their job and the pro holds up their end of the bargain as well.
Areas of opportunity: It is hard for even the disciplined person to maintain all that pros do to build and maintain their career. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you should have had new headshots taken 3 months ago, or you went to an audition without looking at the sides. Pick yourself up, give yourself a pep talk, and be dedicated to your craft once again.
No matter which type of actor you are, if you can understand how Agents and Casting Directors look at this business of ours… and more importantly, YOU… then you will be light years ahead of others. We’ll explore their points of view in the next two parts of this article, so be sure to check back.