Tracy WeisertSynopsis by Tracy Weisert

Delightful, fun, engaging and smart casting director Francene Selkirk was our guest speaker at Casting Networks’ free Inside the Industry Seminar December 11.  Francene has always been a favorite casting director of mine as she has always been one of our best actors’ advocates in Los Angeles.  She loves actors!

Francene enthusiastically began, “Hello!  Nice to have you all here… on a Saturday, almost Christmas time.  I’ll tell you a couple of things about myself, then we can take questions and I have some things to show you that I think might help you.  First of all, I am extremely pro-actor.  I am a Screen Actors Guild member myself. I was an actress practically my whole life.  Originally from New York, I came out here to do acting and I got behind the scenes and did production.  I was a PA, a production manager, then a producer doing commercials.  I raised a family and then had a very fortunate moment with a director who I had produced for.  He said, ‘You should cast for me.’  It turned out that I used to go up to the talent on the set while he was the director and fixing lights and stuff and say to the actors, ‘So what he really means……’  [Laughter] I didn’t want to direct the scene but I could see they were dying to have some ‘actor-talk.’  I had no idea that I was being watched.”

Francene added, “I love this business.  I do adore it and I love actors.  You can ask anybody who has ever come into my place.  It’s a very homey atmosphere.  Occasionally, I am on the phone and you cannot tell I’m on the phone because I have one of those headsets and at the door people are waving, dogs are coming in and babies are coming in, so sometimes I can’t talk to you because I am trying to do business.  I have been extremely, extremely fortunate. I am still working as a casting director after like 17 or 18 years.  I can’t even tell you how grateful I am.”

Francene continued, “I’m not here to ‘sell you’ on LA Casting because you are all LA Casting members I would assume.  Unless I have a difficult part, I would say exclusively, I use LA Casting in commercials.  If I need like wheelchair athletes or ballerinas or something that I am not getting in [submissions], I will go Direct Cast, but otherwise, you will not see my breakdowns.  It’s just a hard fact.  Not to scare you but I get between 1000-2500 submissions per role and that’s having your agents being selective.  Occasionally it’s 4000 if it’s something like I did yesterday, I put something out, ’21-40 year old men and women’ in two separate categories. There were about 4000 in each one of those.

So what can you do for your career, not just to get into my office but any casting directors office?  Well…you can have a great picture.”  Francene then passed out many pages of example actors’ headshot submissions for the audience to see.  She said, “So I could not get my printer to print a hundred [submission headshots] per page like we see it and this is double the size of what I look at.  You can see why color pops.  I’m talking about pictures because LA Casting is about you and submitting your pictures or your agent submitting your pictures and honestly, do you have to be beautiful?  I mean, you’re all beautiful.  We know that.  You’re God’s children. Do you have to be ‘Hollywood beautiful’?  Absolutely not!  I mostly cast character people.  Or real with character.  That’s how I usually type up my breakdowns.  Sometimes if I say, ‘from skinny to overweight’ or I don’t even say things about peoples’ weight.  I only say things about peoples’ weight if they are asking for a bigger person or a smaller person or if it’s with food.  [laughter]  Usually with food, the client does not want anyone overweight.  It isn’t my opinion.  It just is, so you just have to accept certain things like if you have an accent.  There are limitations, but it still doesn’t mean you can’t have a career.  You have to create your career and know how to sell yourself.  I’m hoping that’s why you are here today is to get a little insight as to what’s going on.”

With ‘personality slates’ in auditions Francene gave us some tips as what not to mention-

  • No politics
  • No acting
  • No religion
  • No sex
  • No addictions
  • “Have three things you can talk about on a dime that you can carry around about yourself.  Example- Collecting, being a chef, etc… Brief and concise.  Be confident and know when to stop.  Directors want to see your personality.”

Francene said, “You have got to take a commercial class if you want to do this seriously.  You can book a commercial.  Why can’t it be you?  I can book every single person in this audience in a commercial.  You just want to be knowledgeable.  You want to have your s*** together.  So what that means to me is when you come in?  I had a nervous stomach when I was performing, so I was like in a mess.  I’m so glad that I am not doing that anymore.  I respect you highly because it’s stress.  You don’t want to go in uneducated.  If I had have known what I know now, I really feel like I would’ve pursued it a little more, but it just made me too nervous.  So you go in, you sign-in and find out what you’re supposed to do.  Occasionally you will get an assistant, camera operator or the casting director who will give you extra information and go in, do your best job and get out and let it go.  Let it go!  Sometimes, they don’t have a callback for weeks.  Sometimes, they have a callback right away.  Make a note of what you wore that day because you’ll want to know that for the callback.  There are two schools of thought of whether you should wear the same outfit.  Should you wear the same clothes?  I think so.  Then they can look at the Polaroid that they got the first time or the thing in the camera that we take now for LA Casting and say, ‘Oh!  That’s the purple shirt girl or guy.  Okay.  I remember who they are now.’  But I have had agencies say, ‘Why are they wearing the same shirt?’  [Laughter]  It’s like, ‘Because we asked them to!”

Francene added, “You want to be as skilled as you can coming to these auditions.  What are you going to do at these auditions?  Are you just going to do what’s on the page?  It doesn’t mean you have to be a broad actor.  It means, what can I add?  What’s happened before in the scene and what happens at the end of the scene?  That’s your job.  That’s your skill.  A film or stage class is very different from a commercial class.  You may want to be an actor, but you may not love how you look in a commercial class.  Too bad.  That’s what you have and you have to love it.  You have to love it.  You have to find the right hair.  Get that style going.  It doesn’t have to be conservative, but if you have purple hair, there are not that many parts for you in commercials.  It’s just a fact.  Any ethnicity?  I cast all ethnicities, all the time.  Almost on every job.  ALL ages.  For those of you who are older, we are desperately looking for older people who can act, so you need to get an agent.  You have to have an agent.  Everybody in this room, raise your hand if you don’t have an agent.  That’s okay, but you should get an agent.  I can’t skill you in getting an agent because I send people to agents and I have a pretty good reputation and they still don’t take them.  You just have to keep going and keep trying.  There is something on LA Casting if you are on Direct Cast where you click a button or something where agents can view your picture.  Why not?  Do it.  They may schedule you and then say that you need better pictures.  If an agent says to take pictures, they usually know what they are doing although occasionally it comes up where I don’t agree with a picture.  I’ll call an agent and say, ‘Hey, I think that person’s second or third picture I think was better, for me personally.  But I am just one person, so I would pick them better with that   picture.’  If I have time, I’ll do that.”

With headshots-

  • ‘Your main picture is your ‘money shot.’ I should be able to see five careers [you can play] in one shot.’
  • ‘A really good headshot is having a secret behind your eyes.”
  • ‘You don’t have to be all smiley commercially and I hate a side picture.’
  • ‘Your picture gets you in, but does not get you the job.’

With auditions-

  • Francene reminded us to always call our agent if we cannot come to an audition.  “If you can’t make it, we understand.  You’re human.  I never hold it against an actor when they can’t make it to an audition.”  (…unless they have not called and been a ‘no show’.)
  • “Be honorable.  Don’t audition if you have a wedding the day of the shoot.  The good actors come in, look at the shoot date and say, ‘It’s my brother’s wedding.’”
  • “The new trend is not to have profiles.  [during a slate]  I don’t do it.”
  • “If you are from another country, be able to do a Standard American Accent. “
  • “Improv? Yes!  I’m not saying to improv away the script.  What improv sets you up for is the confidence to run into the scene, get in there and do the best job you can.  Improvising to me means making it more rich.  It teaches you technique for having confidence, I think, and you may even find that you’re funny.  You don’t all have to be funny in commercials.  Not all my commercials are funny.  Sometimes it’s the spokesperson or the guy standing there drinking coffee.”

Also-

  • “I will definitely look at reels especially if it is comedy or dramatic.”
  • “I look at everything and yes, I go through my postcards when you have something to say.”
  • “I am fortunate to get a lot of national network spots.”

Francene said, “Hopefully what I am teaching you is to trust yourself.  Doing a great job [in an audition] means being skilled.  Any person in this room can book a job.”

Francene’s additional pointers for actors:
1. The Audition starts when you get a call or email from your agent. Be prepared…Get the script, know the shoot dates, the casting director that you are going in for, have the right wardrobe, give yourself enough driving time to get there on time, know where to park, etc.

2. Being a Professional actor starts before you get any auditions

  • Having a good picture
  • Having the right agent who “gets” you
  • Being on LA Casting to have your agent submit you..or if you have no agent then using “Direct Cast” to submit yourself
  • Take classes from Commercial, Scene study, Improv, Cold Reading etc… “Get your Game on” and Be skilled…
  • Being Pro-active

Casting Directors want you to do a great job . The skilled actor makes us look good. It is a job interview…

Pet Peeves

  • Not being prepared
  • Needy/desperate…
  • Not Listening… In and outside the audition room
  • Don’t come in to the casting office complaining about the parking…Don’t assume that you are allowed to park where ever you want…
  • Actors don’t take everything so personally…We run a tight business with a lot of pressure from our clients…We all want to continue working.

Francene teaches a commercial class along with Judy Kain.  Contact Francene at Shooting From the Hip Casting.

Follow Tracy on Twitter- @TracyWeisertLA
Email Tracy, or find her on IMDB

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