Synopsis by Tracy Weisert
I first met our October guest speaker, casting director Jeff Hardwick at a roller skating rink in the valley! About 9 years ago, the Commercial Casting Directors Association (CCDA) had sponsored the “Skate-o-rama” to benefit a deserving young heart patient. They raised a lot of money and everybody had a ball!
Fast forward to our October 27 Industry Seminar. Jeff was a very warm, enthusiastic and informative guest speaker! Equally, the seminar was very interactive with enthusiastic participants as well.
Jeff started as a manager in New Jersey for child actors, then he moved to Los Angeles and was a manager here for seven years. He has been a casting director for the past nine years. He had just finished casting six commercials when he spoke to us.
When a savvy actor asked, “What is it primarily that makes you decide on a particular person?” Jeff responded, “Great! First off, it’s a confidence that they have. What I am always thinking about is how are they going to be on the set? Can they take direction? What I will do, if time allows and what I’ve seen many of the good, really good directors do….even if you nail it perfectly on that first take- I’m going to throw something at you. I want to see if you listen. How I’m going to take you there, whatever it is you’re going to be doing, is not the way it’s going to be shot but I just want to know that you’re not “a one take wonder” [group laughter]…and there’s a lot of those out there we could hit on! Whatever it is we’re doing, might be the exact niche that you have but many times, you show up on set, whether it be commercial or film or TV and something changes. There are a lot of chefs in the kitchen, especially with TV and commercials. Anybody ever go to a show taping? You ever see those little huddles they do after a take? [group laughter] All the writers get together changing it around…..`I’ve got a great idea!’ You’d better make sure you can listen and adjust with them. So, same thing commercially. Commercially, you’ve got ad execs, you’ve got the writers, you’ve got everybody there pretending they know what they’re doing. A great director is a traffic cop on a commercial (Jeff then mimicked what the director would do). So, what I’m looking for is the prepared (actor) and all the other things but also that you have some versatility, that you listen and you take direction. It always goes back to listening. It really does.”
Another attendee asked, how often should we check in with our agents? Jeff said, “Well, there is something about ‘out of sight, out of mind’ but then again, less is more.’ If you have an open door policy (with your agency) and I hope you do, the best thing in the world for you to do is stop in, give a wave if they’re on the phone and just move forward. Believe it or not, five seconds of a hello is the same as five minutes.”
Jeff also spoke about how now with LA Casting, there is less need for hard copy headshots by our agents for submission, so we actors don’t have the excuse of dropping by our agents as often with more headshots.
Additionally, Jeff stressed the importance for every actor to know improv. “If you don’t know improv, you are in big trouble. When you go in for commercials, you’re making something from nothing.” Jeff then spoke again about listening to the direction in the group explanation before the audition. “There is always one actor with that glazed over look thinking, ‘It’s only a commercial.’ I say that this business is like any other. Confidence! It’s your room. You’ve got to empower yourselves.”
Jeff concluded that it takes believing in ourselves as actors and people, confidence and hustle to succeed as professional actors in Los Angeles. He then stated, “There’s somebody landing at LAX right this minute and they think they will go on and audition on Monday.”
Thank you Jeff Hardwick!