Synopsis by Tracy Weisert
What a joy it was to host one of my favorite people in Hollywood, Commercial Casting Director, Laurie Records, at our free Inside the Industry Seminar on February 27. An enthusiastic actors’ advocate, Laurie’s seminar was filled with Casting Networks’ members who read and follow her wonderful column here in The Networker. In person, she certainly didn’t disappoint! Here is Laurie’s bio-
A former international touring stage actor and acting teacher, Laurie started advising actors in 2004 about the changing commercial world, while working for Casting Networks, Inc. From there, she moved into a 3 year position as a full time Casting Associate where she was in the thick, casting hundreds and hundreds of commercials. Now, Laurie has opened her own casting company, Laurie Records Casting. Some of her jobs over the last handful of months include: National Network Commercials for Toys R Us and Secure Horizons, KIA Soul for the internet, real people casting for National Walmart, Instructional videos for the American Heart Association, PSA for the Surfrider Foundation, Additional Web content for a hit ABC show, a Host for a new travel show on the Ovation Network, Webseries: SOLO the Series, and various commercial spec spots. Laurie continues advising commercial actors of the do’s and don’ts of the industry in her monthly column, “Commercial Actors Should Never…” for Casting Networks, Inc.
Laurie began by saying, “Hi everybody! Oh my gosh! Thank you so much for coming! I was like, ‘nobody’s going to show…it’s raining’, so thank you. I appreciate it.”
Laurie spoke about her experiences with casting National Network Commercials and about starting her own casting company last year. She said, “Obviously commercials are my huge background. I love doing those. I’ve done truly everything! As a new Casting Director on my own in this town, I say ‘yes.’ So if someone comes to me and says to me, ‘will you cast this web series?’, let me take a look at the script. Sure absolutely. This is fantastic! You bet I’ll do that. ‘Will you do this National Network Commercial?’ Yes, of course! Those are fun. Those are swell. That’s right up my alley. I’ve done everything from travel show host to web series to instructional industrial videos to non-union commercials to PSAs. Truly big and small. I have a very interesting background, that I’m not the exclusively National Network Commercial Casting Director, so I only talk to Agents and I only see the best of the best. Of course, again that’s always super fun, but you’ll see me if there is a good project or a new, cool Director or whatever, I’ll be doing spec spots for that Director because I have to get in with them just like you all do. I’m doing the same thing. That is my background.”
Laurie continued, “Some of you may know me as the Commercial Actors Should Never… columnist. [applause] Thank you! That’s so nice! I’ve been writing that the whole time I was a casting associate.”
Laurie said, “I have a cheat sheet (for the seminar points I wanted to cover) I’ve actually thought about this. I didn’t want to half-ass this. You guys are spending the time to come at 10:30 on a Saturday morning, so I would like you to know that I’m taking it seriously and thought about a few things before I came in and winged it.” She then took a poll of the room to know who she was speaking to by asking-
How many of you have representation?
How many of you follow me on Twitter?
How many self submit on projects?
How many of you go out on commercial auditions at least once a week?
How many of you go out commercially and theatrically a few times a month?
How many of you actually knew who you were coming to see today? (“I have a very good point to make about that later.”)
Laurie said, “What do I have to offer? I would like to think that I am an encourager and a bit of an actors’ advocate. I actually like you guys and find you very fun and likable people. Hopefully, you will leave here a little encouraged or a little inspired.”
Laurie continued, “I would like to talk about the ‘overachiever actor’. [laughter] I feel that word has a bad connotation. This is a good thing! Being an overachiever actor, whatever that means to you, is the new standard, so if you want to make it in this town and have success, in my opinion, you need to be an overachiever actor every day. I want to talk about a couple of different areas where I think that you all can be an overachiever actor, then we’ll take questions.”
She said, “My first topic is NETWORKING. Being an overachiever actor on networking. What can actors do to network? We know that networking is important. Everybody talks about it. That word gets thrown around like crazy! The ‘standard’ has been that actors can send out mailings, go to Casting Director workshops, they can make cookies and bring them to a Casting Director on Christmas. Send out your headshot. Mail it to every Casting Director in town. That was the standard when I first came to town once upon a time. That’s all I ever heard actors could do. Now, you all are so lucky, right now, to be actors because there are so many more opportunities for you to get to know industry professionals, not even just Casting Directors. I mean, Directors and Producers. I will talk about a couple of ways that I find effective. Before you roll your eyes, hear me out. Because I already mentioned it, social networking is a ridiculous opportunity for actors. If you are not taking advantage of it, you are missing out. As someone who came kicking and screaming into social networking, [it was] not my thing. I never had a Facebook page, forget it! Twitter? That’s stupid! Please…I was so private and please don’t make me put my picture up. You still probably won’t see any pictures of me. Lord have mercy, don’t make me have a Facebook page. I was told by several Casting Directors because I used to assist them at LA Casting so they do know me, ‘Ohhhh…just you wait! You’re going to get a Facebook page, etc…’ I said, ‘No please, no’…so now I do! And the education that I got from actors about the things you people do to get into my line of vision, to get on my radar and really, isn’t that what it’s all about? Yes it is! If I like you as a person and if I think you’re a cool person…when I put a job out, you all have heard these horror stories, there are a thousand submissions for every role. I get to call in whomever I want to call in. I will never call you in if you’re not right for the role but if you are, I still have a bazillion choices. If it’s someone who is on my radar who I think is a positive, fantastic actor that I see “tweeting” everyday or who has told me about their show on Facebook or whatever, I’m going to call you in. I’m not going to call you in if you’re not right. If I have choices between people that I know who I’ve called in before or people’s work I’ve seen, I’ll call you in. You are not too old, you are not too anything…you are missing out if you are not social networking with Directors, with Casting Directors, Producers, Agents…they are everywhere! There are Agents all over Twitter, Facebook or whatever who are very free with helping actors out, answering actors’ questions and giving really fantastic advise. With Facebook, say who you are. Just say, ‘Hey Laurie, I’m an actor.”
Laurie said, “Another one of my favorites and again, I’m being educated by you the actors, is those actors who send out a monthly newsletter. There are email services out there that are very affordable. I personally don’t respond, but it doesn’t mean I don’t look at it. When you are social networking, don’t miss any opportunity. So what I think is interesting is when…let’s just say an actor emails me about my column that I wrote and they have a question about it. The actor does not leave their full name, there is no link to their pictures and resume. I just got your email, I have no idea who you are and you’re not giving me any information. I will have to become a detective to figure out who you are. You’ve got to make it easy on us. I would also suggest you don’t attach your picture and resume. Send a link. You all have online accounts because you’re all on LA Casting. You know that you can send a link to your LA casting account, right? If you don’t know that, call them because it’s possible. Don’t miss the opportunity to put your face and resume in front of a Casting Director, Director or Producer or whoever it is you’re talking to. If you have Facebook or Twitter, don’t use ‘Tinkerbell’ as your name. Use your full name! [laughter] It happens all the time!”
Other items Laurie covered with actors’ questions were-
Preparation as a commercial actor-
Put yourself on tape and see what you look like.
Work on your slate- “Be warm, trustworthy, likable and confident. When you’re under 18, say your age in your slate.”
With auditions that are interviews- “It’s not about your words. The Director is looking for your thought process and warmth. Practice your interview for a friend.”
Practice commercial copy with cue cards.
Google commercials and download old commercial copy.
Preparation for auditions-
“Check to see if there are sides online and download them.”
“If you are lucky enough to know who the Director is, get online and watch their reels. Are they quirky or beautiful?”
“Wardrobe-the more specific it is, the more important it is.” Example-A cop uniform-‘You practically guarantee yourself a callback.”
With medical commercial copy-“When you memorize it, you stand out,” but cautioned “Commercial copy changes all the time!”
“Have a system for yourself to check your email and voicemail regularly.” Laurie then spoke of 1st choice actors losing bookings because “they will go with the backup actor” if they can’t get a hold of an actor.
“Never, ever brag about not watching television and commercials.”
“My sessions start at 10:30AM. Don’t give me grief if you choose to come early.” Laurie also said that “there is a myth about coming whenever!” She also shocked the roomful of actors when she stated that with auditions, she counts on a 25% no show rate and if it’s raining, a 50% no show rate by actors (there was a group gasp after that!).
“LISTEN to the Sessions Directors or you are missing important clues.” [about the spot]
“I caution you not to hang out with bitter actors. Don’t lie with dogs. Don’t ‘stew’ with other actors in a packed [casting] waiting room. Folks, I cannot tell you the crazy, frustrated things actors say in the waiting room. Zen out and find a way to Kumbaya.”
Lastly, Laurie said-
“Never underestimate the value and power of being a likeable, nice person…everywhere! In life! In the lobby, at yoga class or at the restaurant.”
“Create your own opportunities.”
What a wonderful and informative way to spend a rainy Saturday morning. Thank you Laurie Records!