Synopsis by Tracy Weisert
I think we are on a wonderful roll with our free Industry Guest Seminars this year! Personally, as a professional actor, I have learned a lot. With veteran casting director Lisa Pantone, my knowledge grew even more!
Lisa has always been one of the most actor-friendly CDs in Los Angeles. When I reviewed the tape of the event to write this article, I was struck by Lisa’s passion for her job as a casting director and for the actors she brings in. She also is a terrific acting coach! Her warmth, humor and serious approach to the work makes the learning sink in…while we have fun.
Lisa started the Seminar by encouraging actors to do theatre and mentioned that she has a difficult time here in Los Angeles. She said, “You would be surprised, especially when it’s slow in town, who shows up for theatre: lots of casting directors. Thank God I know a lot of people! When they know I’m casting theatre, they know it will be an excellent piece – edgy and more New York flavored. Not that I don’t do comedy. I do. When I cast pieces it is for superb writers and directors at the Zephyr or the Geffen or whatever.”
Lisa puts her character breakdowns on LA Casting and Actors Access. “There is no reason why you are not getting out on projects if you are observant. Have your coffee in the morning and go on LA Casting’s Direct Cast or Actors Access and see what we’re working on! You need to get out and do some strong theatre so that people can come and see you. It amazes me when I go to plays I cast and I’m like, ‘Oh my God! Is that so and so?’ Plays get your acting chops going. You don’t have a director or producer saying, “Cut,” and then asking, “Can you say this word this way? Can you say this line this way? Can you look this way?’”
“In theatre, you are stripped naked up on that stage for two hours. It challenges you to get out of yourself and become the character. There is a difference between being an actor in your heart and an actor in your mind. If you have acting in your mind instead of in your heart, you might be thinking, ‘Oh, I know I’m a fabulous actor or actress. I’m going to make a lot of money. I’m going to be the next blah, blah, blah.’”
“It does not work that way. I work with some huge, huge actors and actresses as a private coach. They never think that way. They have this feeling and this urge and this something in them that is driving them, driving them to perform! I work with a lot of children and it’s the same way. They have this need to absorb a story and tell it. There are people in the business – casting directors, some agents and some managers – who are devoted to the whole of the process. In my opinion, without you, there is no me.What would I do? I can’t do all the parts. So my respect for actors and actresses is enormous! My respect for agents and managers is enormous! We all work together, really. When you go to that film, you see everybody’s name on that screen. You see caterers, casting directors, hair and make-up people…. That’s because all of us made that film.”
Lisa then spoke about the importance of actors doing independent films. She did four last year, three of which won awards. Her most recent award was at the Cannes Film Festival for the independent film “Los Bastardos.” “I posted the project and it took me so long to cast. Now, it seems like it’s been seen by everybody in the world!” The actors who did it were “very grateful they took that film. Indie films are a wonderful vehicle. You might not make money, but you are not going to make money by sitting in your house and waiting for the phone to ring! You must be out there. You must be ‘in our world,’ which is what I call it when you’re taking classes or making connections. People say, ‘In this town, it’s who you know.’ It is not! It is how much of an effort you put in to come into our world, so hang out with us and get booked on things.”
“And that is what it is, folks. I am as honest as the day is long and I just tell it like it is. After 20 years, I have been blessed by God to have won several awards, and it makes me cry every time I think of it. I take pride in my work.”
Regarding headshots, Lisa feels that they should be “simple, to the point and not overdone. Change that headshot if you’re not getting called in. I read every postcard when I have an extra couple of hours.”
When you go on commercial auditions, Lisa says to remember that “American commercials are 15, 30 or 60 second stories. Take control of the room.” Also, don’t chat it up with your friends in the lobby. “You can devote 60 seconds to the work. Moms, we don’t want you to tell your kids how to say the lines. Kids speak differently than we do. Every audition you go on is your school.”
Other neat things Lisa said:
“I look for the devoted actor.”
“You need to care for yourselves in this business.”
“Stay in the present.”
“What you say happens to you.”
Lisa was full of wisdom – not only as a casting professional, but as a person. She shared a saying from her Italian father, who told her, “Change the way you look at things and things will change.”
Lisa gave commercial sides to several actors and worked with them up on the stage. It was enlightening to see the acting choices people made, and Lisa’s re-directs were thoughtful and concise.
Lisa also reiterated several times that actors are “storytellers.” She stated, “Don’t just memorize the words. Be storytellers. Know everybody’s lines in the script. Your acting will be so much easier if you do it that way! The writer is looking for storytellers.”
Personally, for this veteran actor that gentle reminder was paramount. With so much emphasis on the “business” end of show business in Hollywood (marketing, networking, etc…), in the end it’s really about the craft of acting. We are the storytellers of show business!
Thank you, Lisa Pantone. You inspired me!