Synopsis by Tracy Weisert
Casting Networks’ September Inside the Industry Seminar began like no other when commercial casting director Danielle Eskinazi stated from her vantage point on the stage, “It’s like a Town Hall meeting! I have all your pictures, (headshots) so watch out! First of all, I want to take a picture (of the audience) for Twitter. [laughter] Everybody smile! Beautiful, beautiful!” It was a fun ice breaker!
Here is Danielle’s bio-
Danielle Eskinazi is an award-winning casting director with an eye for talent and a sixth sense when it comes to spotting substance beneath the surface. With over two decades casting films, television, theater, and commercials, Danielle has cast such known talent as David Bowie, Rosanna Arquette, and Woody Harrelson, while also launching the careers of now-successful actors including Hank Azaria and Milla Jovovich. She is highly respected in the business for her creativity, integrity, and ability to draw out audition-nailing performances.
After several years of casting films, Danielle dove into the fast paced world of commercials. Today Danielle Eskinazi Casting has cast over 3,000 national and regional spots and is known for finding edgy, interesting, and talented actors to suit her directors¹ and clients’ needs.
Danielle has been nominated for the Talent Managers Association prestigious Seymour Heller Award for Best Commercial Casting Director of 2009, and was a runner up twice for Favorite Commercial Casting Director in Back Stage West.
She has been sharing her insights by teaching workshops at such venues as the Stella Adler Theater, and speaking on panels including one at the SAG Foundation, which was aired internationally. Danielle is also affiliated with the AFI Women’s Program, helping first-time directors cast their shorts.
Danielle’s latest venture is Actvice, an online service she created to give immediate and invaluable feedback on audition rehearsals, monologues, scenes, reels, and/or headshots.
Danielle then began, “I’m Danielle Eskinazi. Nice to meet you guys! Thanks for coming out on a Saturday! I’ve been casting for about eighteen years and I love what I do. I started out in film. I did film for about eight years. I worked with Risa Bramon and Billy Hopkins, and then I went to commercials which I love the best. I don’t have anything prepared to be honest with you, so we’re going to talk. I would love to do like a half hour Q & A, then go through pictures with you. If you guys have any questions about casting commercials, theatrical, whatever you need, I’m here for you….really nothing? You guys know it all!???!”
Here are a few highlights of the seminar-
When an actor asked about the need for hard copy commercial & theatrical headshots any longer with the advent of LA Casting and other online casting sites, Danielle stated, “It’s such a crossover now. I see so many more theatrical shots which I like better. It’s not like the 1980s where you’re pumping gas or ‘I’m a nurse’ (in a headshot). I like them so much better because they are more real for me. The smiling ones are great too.”
Then an actor whom she recognized from Twitter asked how he could get in to see her if he hadn’t been called in through his agent but said that he had found her on Twitter, Danielle replied, “Well, I’ve seen you on Twitter but now, I would totally call you in because I know what you look like. I would have your agent obviously have more of a connection with me as opposed to you doing all the work all the time. I mean Twitter is awesome! I have met so many directors and I have gotten jobs from Twitter by just engaging. Not ever asking. That’s Twitter etiquette…..’Hey, what are you working on?’ We’re not allowed to say because of social media, so I would do is have your agent or manager get in touch with me. It’s all about relationships.”
On the percentage of importance on an actor’s “talent” versus their “look” at a callback-
- “On callbacks, I would say 80% talent because the look is great because that’s what they called you in on in the first place but when you’re in a room with a director and they direct you and you’re not taking direction, they are not going to hire you if you are going to be difficult on the set. Taking improv is really, really really important especially in commercials and film. The director will throw something at you and we don’t want you to go, ‘That’s not on the copy!’ [laughter] You have to be really, really on it.”
When an actor asked if Danielle put her breakdowns out to everyone or only to her ‘top’ agencies, Danielle said, “I would never do that. I have directors for 10 or 15 years that have worked with me and if I brought them the same people, I would not have a job. This is why I do these things and a lot of workshops to meet new people and I bring them in. I have files, so I call from A to Z. It takes a little longer but it’s worth it.”
Danielle surprised the audience when an actor with a French accent asked a question about Twitter and Facebook and she answered in French! Going back to English, regarding Twitter, she replied, “You have to be on it a lot. Facebook is great but you can say something and then walk away for three days. Twitter is a constant thing and that’s how you engage with people. To me, it’s like a cocktail party with a lot of producers, directors, casting directors, and actors. You all come in and say something and they repeat you or we Tweet you and you engage. You always have your IMDB, your 8X10s and your reel on the Twitter profile. It’s really important because sometimes I talk to people and I think they are hilarious. They are funny and you talk to them every day and you start to get to know them like friends… which is a little frightening…your ‘imaginary’ friends. Then I’ll look at someone and then I’m like ‘This girl is funny…she’s an actor’ and I’ll look at her IMDB or look her reel, so always have that on there. It’s very, very important. It’s a job. You have a job. I have a job. Just because you go on a few auditions a day or week or whatever, there’s more to that. You have to keep proactive all the time. I’ve been doing this for twenty years and there is not once, that I have not sent a reel out every week. That’s my thing. There a million new casting directors that want to work! I want to work. I want to keep my directors, so it’s a nine-to-five job all the time. Always be proactive.”
There were mentions by the audience of other social media & professional networking sites like Linkedin and Danielle said, “Between Twitter and Facebook, I don’t have time for my life, you know what I mean? I’ll accept people but I can’t engage. Then there’s Yelp and then there’s Google….You have to really pick the thing that’s going to work for you and Twitter really worked for me. I engage with people all the time. Directors talk to me. A production company called me the next day and put me on avail for a job. That’s how it works. “
When a lovely African American actress asked a question about her different hairstyles and ability to achieve different “looks” by wearing various wigs, Danielle responded, “Be yourself…..but with a wig! I’ll put a wig on to get a job!” [laughter]
When asked about crashing, Danielle said one of my very favorite things that I’ve ever heard a casting director say! She said, “I run a really, really tight office. Sometimes I have 3 or 4 jobs going on and crashers are the worst! What crashers do is take away from the people who have appointments. I mean, you don’t crash a dentist’s office! [laughter] Don’t crash! It makes you look bad. It makes your agent look bad. The only way I can say it is if you want to come in a drop off a picture in the box and say ‘Hey’ if I’m not busy but if I’m on the phone or the computer I may say, ‘Hey! See ya!’ because I love you guys and the community of acting. I love everything that goes along with it but there’s also a certain amount of respect you have as well.”
When Danielle looked at everyone’s hard copy headshots, many of her comments were regarding tighter cropping because our headshots are thumbnail sized now online and to have more simple headshots. “The more natural the better. Let me see who you are first, then its all wardrobe.”
- Hard copy headshots? “The need for them has definitely diminished but always have them.” Also, “A Xeroxed headshot is never, ever okay.”
- “Get new headshots every 4 to 6 months. I know that that is expensive at times. The thing is too when I see your pictures on LA Casting, just make sure that it looks like you… [laughter]…..because what happens is I see the picture and at the bottom I see 12 other ones (on an actors’ profile) and by the 12th one, I’m not interested anymore. Keep it short. Keep 4 or 5 different ones but try to keep it as much as what you look like now.”
- “The picture is everything!”
- Quirky headshots? “Not for a child.”
An actor asked Danielle if she would see less experienced actors or ones with “light” IMDB (Internet Movie Database-www.imdb.com) credits, would she “discount” them, she said, “No, nothing discounts anything. I believe in meeting new people. I consider everybody. I think everybody has a fair chance. The only thing that will stop you is if you are really, really, really green and you’ve never auditioned before and you come into a casting director (before you are ready). I would really get more work on yourself before you do that. A lot of casting directors won’t see someone that was horrible at an audition again unless they go back to class and workshops and really work it. So just make sure you are on your mark when you meet a new casting director.”
An actor with 15+ years of Second City improv training mentioned that when he self-submits, adds his improv training to the “notes” section yet still does not get called in, Danielle answered, “This is how it goes. You get submitted and I look at your picture. If you’re not right, I’m not going to look at the improv thing. Your picture is everything! You want to get past the first step. Once you get past the first step, then I call you in and look at the improv stuff and then call you in but you’ve got to look the part or else the director is going to go, ‘Why?’
Danielle spoke more about the importance of improv training for actors and when asked about the different “levels” of improv talent, she said,
“It’s who you are as a person and how you interact with people. There are some fantastic level 12 artists but they are not great with other actors. It just depends on how you are. You can be at level 1 and be amazing. The fact that you’re studying…….it’s like a dancer. You can dance for 15 or 20 years and know all the steps but if you are a natural dancer, you’re going to do better.”
When an actor asked what her “pet peeves” were, Danielle replied, “My pet peeves are actually really simple. You come in on time. You know your script/dialogue. You are with the actors. You don’t talk above the actors when you are working with them and try to use ‘buttons’. Buttons to me are really great because it definitely separates you from the other actors. You guys know what buttons are, right? Buttons are little tiny things that are not in the script at the end or in the middle that you put in….it’s a look, an eyeroll, the way you walk away. Anything that separates you from everybody else that they are not going to do because it’s ‘your’ button. “
Danielle continued, “What I don’t like is (actors) coming in late. Also, someone came in the other day for a Miller Lite commercial I was doing. There was a little bit of dialogue for some people and my lobby person asked if they had seen the sides and the actor said, ‘That’s okay. I’ll get it when I’m inside.’ (the audition room.) No! These are the things that drive me crazy! This is your job. This is what you do. This is what you want to become. This is your goal….your livelihood. Just be prepared. That’s all I ask. That’s all the other casting directors ask as well. So that’s it.
Danielle closed with, “It’s simple. Just come in, do your job and leave. That’s the main thing. That’s one thing I wanted to talk with you about. Some people come in, do their audition and say, ‘Oh that was so bad…..I was so bad and they take that to their next audition. Leave it behind. What you’re doing is blocking yourself from your next audition. Just leave it. Commercials are commercials. Film is film. As long as you’re doing this, you’ll get auditions but just leave it behind and don’t block for the future. That’s really, really important.
Check out Danielle’s website: www.actvice.com