Synopsis by Tracy Weisert
What a joy it was to have casting director Francene Selkirk as our guest speaker on December 8th, but we also had her coaching partner Judy Kain as our guest speaker as well. A dynamic duo! It was a great way to round out a year of valuable seminars! Two savvy guests and our monthly Casting Networks’ members’ Inside the Industry Seminars are free!
An enthusiastic room full of proactive actors delayed their Christmas shopping to learn from these two seasoned professionals. Several actors also got up on stage to read in mock auditions and were given helpful redirects. It was a terrific & interactive morning!
Here are Francene and Judy’s biographies-
Francene Selkirk began in real people casting and her background in Avant Garde Theatre has given Francene a competitive edge in discovering interesting characters in the extensive talent pool and a keen eye for improv/comedy skills.
Her work with director Tom Kuntz (DGA-Director of the Year) has earned her world-wide recognition, particularly with the OLD SPICE – the man your man could smell like, campaign. The list of memorable commercials cast by FSC is extensive: DIRECTV campaign…Don’t have a grandson with a dog collar, et al, WHITE GOLD “Got Milk” campaign, the Cleo-winning CareerBuilder.com campaign, FreeCreditScore.com NEW BAND SEARCH, etc. In addition, Francene was honored to have been bestowed the Commercial Casting Director of the Year by the Talent Managers Association in 2011.
Judy Kain has been acting for the last 37 years in Film, TV and commercials. She has been teaching acting for the last 12 years at Zydeco Studios and all over the world.
Francene began by saying, “I’m from Astoria, Queens (New York) and it’s so interesting to be in a position where people want to know the information that you have… or want to come and audition for you. I’m very proud and honored and I feel like I work really hard. I was an actress. I actually did all the jobs on the set that I could get my hands on. I did not know that it would lead to casting. [She laughed] Who am I? [Audience laughter] I’ve worked in commercials for about 20 years and I love my job. I cast some television sometimes. I get a lucky little thing coming my way and I do it but I have to say, my passion is commercials. I never would have thought that. I was a theatre gal. I did plays for a million years and never knew that commercials would end up being my forte. Every week I Taft-Hartley people. As you can see, I’m pretty accessible. I like actors, I help actors and I try to get more money for actors. I’m still a SAG member for like 30-something years and I love this business.”
Francene continued, “This is a really interesting business. As actors, you don’t really know what goes on behind the scenes and how I get my jobs. How do you get in to the casting offices? The most important thing I could suggest doing for yourselves is doing things like this, going to classes, knowing who you are andknowing what your type is.
LA Casting has changed my life and I’m not joking. We used to open up envelopes (with actors’ headshots in them) for four hours a day, put them in piles in the characters and then handwrite them down, then call (agents) on the phone and by 6:00PM, we were screaming because you could barely get your calls out and get actors in on time. Sometimes it was all verbal. Sometimes we didn’t have time (to put out a breakdown) and we would just call agents. I’m really grateful because it’s opened up for me, I think I work all the time because I don’t only just use certain agents. This will maybe answer some of your questions. I don’t just say use the top 10 agents and what are the top 10 agents? [Francene then mentioned several agents but we are unable to print them] Then there are the boutique agencies. What LA Casting has done for me is, I can now do a casting in 20 minutes. I can actually type it out, send it out and within five minutes, there are submissions. If I’m really in a ‘jam-jam’ like I’m sweating and crying, [laughter] I can put out a casting seriously in 20 minutes and get people to my office in an hour. I don’t tell that to production companies because I know I need a full prep day and I do. Most of the time, there are anywhere from 5 to 20 characters that you have to prep. We (casting) are already doing our job through LA Casting. Yes, there are other places. Any commercial casting, 99% or maybe 100% of the time, is found on LA Casting. There are a couple of (casting) people who use a different system. For theatrical, I use LA Casting and I use Breakdown. LA Casting is the fastest and the smartest and if they need to make some changes, we tell them!”
Francene added, “Before I introduce Judy, I want to say how I get jobs. In commercials, it’s all word of mouth. I mean I have a website, I have a resume where I put everything on there and my videos and I am not one of those people who is waiting around for work. I’m shaking the trees… ’Hey, what’s going on?’ Advertising agencies or production companies will put me ‘on hold’ at this point. It’s 20 years doing commercials and it’s cool. It really is. I’ve raised my kids. They’re out of the house and I’m still enjoying the process. Now, I can be in a hotel room in Las Vegas and be prepping if I wanted to… I would never do that but…[laughter] I mean it’s really cool. I could be in Italy and casting for you guys….
Back to me getting jobs. They send me storyboards, the talent specs, how it runs and we type it up and we put it out on LA Casting, it goes out and agents submit. Sometimes we open it up to Casting Billboard. I have to say, unless it’s something I can’t find with agents, I don’t open it up because I already get 2500 submissions per role by agents, so unless I’m looking for wheelchair athletes, someone who speaks a certain language that the agents don’t even know that you speak or if you have a special skill that is really hard to find, I’m mostly sending it to agents. That’s one of your jobs. Get yourself eventually in the union, get yourself up onto the website so that we can find you and get yourself an agent. There is a whole controversy regarding agents vs. managers. I mean if you don’t have a commercial agent, I will open it up to managers, I definitely do that but if both are submitted, I will go with the agent.”
Then Judy introduced herself, “I’m Judy Kain. I’ve been acting for 37 years in this town. I’ve been making my living acting. Yay! I’ve been teaching commercials with Francene for 12 years now and love it! Our main goal in the classes is to really instill confidence in you because confidence books jobs and to get your personality into the spot and into the copy. All that is taught through many weeks of technique. We have been very, very successful. People take our class and go on to book, book, book, and nothing makes us happier than when an actor emails us and says, ‘I just booked my first job’ or ‘I just booked my sixth job’ or whatever. It’s just fantastic. It’s very satisfying. We would love to get some people up and do a couple of techniques.”
In this brief overview, some of the things they covered were-
An actor asked Francene, “What do you look for when an actor walks in the room?’’ She responded, “That is a really good question because people say that all the time. First of all, I’m ONE person. Then there is the director and then there is the advertising agency and this could be a TV show or whatever. You can’t go into an audition and thinking, ‘What are they looking for’ and ‘What can I give them?’ is the second part of that. That’s why you have to accept who you are and be a confident and skilled actor and come in and say, ‘I’m going to come in and do the best job that I can’ and not ‘What are they looking for.’
Judy added, “A lot of times it is the great question of the actor, ‘What do they want? How can I be a round peg and fit into this square hole because I’m really a round peg and I think they want a square peg. It’s never going to happen. First of all, they may know what they want, they may have put out a spec of what they want but they change their mind. They change their mind when youcome in with a good solid choice and your great personality and they go ‘Wow! That’s it!’ You change their minds.”
Throughout the seminar, Judy and Francene also looked at actors’ hardcopy headshots, gave helpful advice and also passed around several printed out screenshots of Casting Networks’ submission pages with 25 actor headshots per page for attendees to see what they see when casting.
Francene said, “Know your type and that’s what we push all the time, not just in the classes. If I look at a picture, I’m looking at a group of a 100 on a page and they are this big. (thumbnail sized) And honestly, look at the ones that pop. It’s not anymore about being beautiful. We’re all beautiful. It’s about knowing your type, so that I look at you and think, ‘Oh, that’s a truck driver’ or ‘Oh, that’s a housewife’ or ‘Oh, that’s a wife.’ It’s not style anymore. When people get to the class and they show me their new picture… and their hair (Francene did a blowing back motion with her hands)…I say, ‘You know what I think? Send it home to your parents.’ [laughter] I can’t relate to that person. I want the person who showed up today. The person who’s got a little bit of hair out of place. That’s the kind of casting that I do. The trend is more real. More relaxed. It’s really about your essence and your personality coming through in a shot. It’s not about having a perfect smile in commercials. That’s just not the way it is anymore.”
She went on, “One other thing about photographers that we find: there are some great photographers looking to build their resumes, so they’ll take inexpensive pictures. That’s good… that’s good because then you’ll find your place and they’ll get some good pictures hopefully, but a lot of them will want to do ‘artsy-fartsy’ pictures. [laughter] You know, a lot of times when you have a yellow background, it’s going to make things look yellow. You’re so anxious to get going, that you’ll let them tell you what to do. This is your career. This is your life, so no one should be telling you what to do. You should be able to access. After looking at pictures, you’re seeing pictures everywhere—in people’s portfolios and you Google ‘photographers in LA’ or go onto LA Casting and look at their photographers that post. See what’s going on. We’ll show you why I would pick, one over the other.”
Headshots and Types continued-
- “You need to know the five types that you play.”
- “We’re always looking for quirky, funny and interesting.”
- “Say something in your picture.” An example of impressions with one actress’ headshot- “She is a lawyer or art gallery owner, she drives some authority with a bit of a secret, she might scold you.”
- Judy also advised, “Blue looks good on most people.”
- “You have to put what you want us to see and grab us fast.”
- Even if the scene is with a noted actor, Judy said, “I would put myself first. They’ve already seen Anthony Hopkins act.”
- Have three things that you can talk about in an audition. Example- Your hobbies, your travels, etc.… anything but acting. With your stories, Judy advised that the more specific, detailed and descriptive the better. “Keep everything as if you just did it yesterday.”
- “In a personality slate, we don’t want to scare the advertising agency!”
Judy’s last ‘words of wisdom’ to the roomful of actors were, “Have fun. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Do the work and then let it go and have fun.”
Francene agreed with that adding, “Yes, I’ve learned from my point of view that everybody has insecurities. Everybody walks around with, ‘How do I please?’ ‘What do they want?’ ‘What are the right clothes?’ ‘Should I have the glasses?‘ ‘Which is the right picture?’ It’s an endless stream of chat. I don’t want to get spiritual on you, but you really have to find your path and love yourselves enough to know that my ‘type’ is working. Watch television. See other people that might look like you. I don’t mean that you want to be like them. I just mean that everybody is getting chosen. In commercials, you’re probably more apt to get an audition for commercial casting directors than ever in a theatrical office. You know what I mean because we get to see tons of folks. I basically want you to come in, sign in and look at the script or if there is no script, find out where you’re supposed to be and what you’re supposed to do. Get in there, do a good job and get out. How do you do a good job? You study. You don’t have to chit-chat with everybody in the waiting room. Okay, here’s my word of wisdom, ‘Do not sabotage yourself.’”
In addition, in the spirit of the holidays, Santa Claus came early to one lucky recipient when Judy & Francene gave the terrific door prize of their six or eight week class! How generous! Thank you both for a wonderful closing seminar to 2012!
To check out Judy & Francene’s commercial classes- www.keepitrealacting.com