There is an image the actor projects the moment he/she enters a Casting Call. In this newsletter, we discuss what a casting agent or director sees in that very moment and how you add or retract from that impression.
Bear these vital points in mind the next time you audition.
Tardiness – Already an imminent problem for Bahamians, the ‘being on time’ factor applies to most every area of our lives. It’s unfortunate that we have a ‘Bahamian time’ that normally implies arriving to or starting an event at least an hour after the time publicized. Oftentimes, the same attitude toward timing carries over into auditioning. Here are some tips addressing this issue of time:
- DO NOT call the casting venue asking if you can attend half an hour after the casting is over because that will be the best time you’re available. There’s normally a 3-4 hour period of casting, but I always notice persons who are there before the casting begins. Being there as early as you can also gives you an advantage over your competition. At the start of the day, the casting director and director are more alert, energized and excited to see the fresh talent coming in. If, however, it’s a ‘weak’ audition day, they would’ve entertained a number of poor auditions and are now drained from the weak or no talent represented. Even if you’re the strongest talent, you show up at the end of the casting when their senses and maybe even tolerance are next to nothing. This may work as an encouragement that you walked in at the last minute, but you cannot bank on that or believe ‘I’ll come when I’m ready because I’m the best’. Who says that you’re the best?
- Being on time also gives you enough time to audition for more than one role. If I’m casting for an ‘Alicia’ and you’re there before anyone else, I may also encourage you to try out for ‘Mary Sue’. If the call ends at 4 p.m though and it’s 3:59, you’re fortunate if you even get to try out for Alicia. The ‘early bird catches the worm’ is still a very relevant adage. At the end of an all day casting, the agent is hungry, tired and thinking of all the good, bad and ugly talent they have to sift through. Bear this in mind when you intentionally catch the last minute of an audition, thinking that you’re the ‘best’.
Your Look - So you weren’t with the early birds but did your best and arrived to the casting halfway through. You don’t know who’s been there, how they did or who’s coming after you. Never mind that, you take a chance of throwing on an old pair of faded jeans or a tacky dress that looks like you’re going to your neighbor’s house rather than a casting call; shoes or sneakers to boot; your hair hasn’t been touched for the day and if you’re a female, you bear absolutely no makeup. You think your natural skin is beautiful and don’t want to cover that important fact up.
If you’re a male – you don’t do anything at all to cover up any pimples but worse, you refuse to grab a towel or napkin to wipe the sweat off your face. You tote a headshot in hand (if you’ve taken the time to produce one) that looks absolutely nothing like how you appear right now, and the first thing you ask is ‘What time is this going to be over?’ followed by an explanation of what you have to do. Oh, the casting agent really cares about that.
Realistically, the agent is probably wishing you’d just go and do whatever it is you have to do and save him/her the headache of auditioning you. Would you cast, or even be interested, in anyone bearing these traits?
- Your face and entire look (wardrobe, hair, teeth, breath) is your intangible comp card. It’s the first and last image the agent sees. You should pay as much attention to detail in that department much like you would in attending a job interview. You should not overdress, but moreover DON’T, and I repeat, DON’T, under dress either.
- Even if you are a working mother attending an audition right after work, or you’re a college student, what’s the harm in carrying an extra bag of suitable clothes to work or school? Even more is expected of you if you are unemployed or pursue acting fulltime. Even if there is a really good reason why you showed up looking like you just heard of this ‘one day only’ casting (if there are other days prepare yourself and attend another day), there’s no excuse for bearing bricks in your eyes or wedges between your teeth. Remember that the camera catches virtually everything. If you’re prone to dry skin, moisturize your face; and if oily skin you bear, travel with napkins or a towel that won’t leave fags all over your face.
- Comb and brush your hair!!! Don’t be afraid to style it modestly if you’re a female and don’t be hesitant, men, to at least get a shape up if not a whole haircut. Trust me. You would not be ‘overdoing’ it by making such efforts. LOOK GROOMED!!!
- Do you dress the part you’re auditioning for? My advice would be ‘no’. If there’s a housekeeper, mechanic, dancer or beggar role needed, do not attend the casting dressed to suit the part. The agent and director would be most impressed if, instead, you brought your change of clothes to the casting and notified them as such. Doing so works twice in your favor. Firstly, the agent thinks that you’re always prepared and that you really want the acting job as opposed to someone just ‘trying out’. Secondly, you would’ve given the agent two images to work with – (a) Whatever role you’re trying for, and of course, (b) Your natural look. ‘B’ is good for them to see because it allows them to envision you for other roles that you did not try out for; just in case you did not land the role you really wanted. Because you went the extra mile, they may call you back anyway for a second chance. If you attend dressed as a mechanic, however, and do not land that role, they may only visualize you the way you dressed and therefore not contact you for the store clerk, bank teller or merchant.
Your Conversation – What’s the first thing (question or statement) coming out of your mouth? You will be remembered by it. Most agents do not show what they think about what an auditionee says or ask. They would simply answer the question or may or may not respond to the statement. By the time you’ve closed your mouth, however, they’ve already noted much about you. Either your questions or statements impressed them or turned them off from working with you. There is normally no middle ground, as every detail is taken into account in a casting. Suitable questions to ask, whether privately (just you and the agent) or publicly (in front of your competition) are:
- When are the shooting dates?
- Is the job paying or non-paying?
- If casted, do I have to supply my own wardrobe?
- Are there special needs required for this role, perhaps not mentioned in the casting call?
Questions that relate to the character, the shooting schedule, etc are always good to ask. But don’t over do it trying to impress the agent. You haven’t landed the job as yet, so only ask what’s needed for you to know if auditioning makes sense for you. If the job is ‘non paying’, it would be foolish of you to ask ‘why is it non paying’? There can be any number of reasons why the producer or executive producer isn’t paying for that particular position. If the salary is publicized in the casting call and you feel as though it is too low for someone of your talent and experience, do not ask the receptionist or the agent why the salary is so low. Either you will audition for the role or not. But do not waste anyone’s precious time by asking such questions. I doubt that your remarks will make a huge change in the budget and will only serve as a viable reason not to cast you.
If you did not realize a job was non paying before you showed up to the casting, you are free to leave without bringing any detriment to your image or reputation. If you have already auditioned and then found out it’s a non paying job, simply advise the agent that you are no longer interested in the position as you are only accepting paying jobs at this time. This will save them the headache of considering you for a role (if you auditioned well) and then finding out your status late in the game. And in all your questioning and notifying, be diplomatic about it!
As an agent pops in and out of the waiting room, he or she may also note the conversations you carry on with those around you. This is particular true depending on the type of project being casted for. Your interaction with others, the things you say or imply, may have direct correlation with if you’re casted or not. It would be safe to keep personal beliefs, religious arguments, and convictions regarding the social status of the country and what’s going on around the world to yourself. Whether you’re an ‘Obama’ or ‘Ingraham’ supporter or not may or may not offend the agent. It would be unfair for a role to be denied you because of factors like these but because you simply do not know if the agent is partial or not, try to keep such strong convictions to yourself. Certainly stray from what I call ‘deep’ or ‘inappropriate’ conversations to carry on with strangers at a casting. These include topics of relationships and sex, orientation and the like. In other words, just keep these matters that you deem ‘important’ to yourself. If you must socialize, speak lightly. Remember that those you are speaking to are still your competition, and you never know when something you say can be used against you. Discuss fashion, sports, perhaps other acting jobs you’ve worked on (not disrespecting anyone openly, it IS a small world). Keep it light.
Professionalism – Finally, we come to perhaps one of the most integral factors of being casted – How professional are you? Granted that all of the points mentioned are included in the overall scheme of professionalism, this trait has more to do with your attitude toward the casting, the powers that be and the project you’re trying to land. Everyone loves a ‘personable’ person, but in the midst of your being ‘friendly’ always remember that you are applying and competing for a job. Ask yourself if your last remark was over the edge. How loud do you speak while a casting is going on (even though it’s happening in another room)? Are you too boisterous? Too flamboyant. Are you garnering too much attention to yourself?
- I observe the above because I believe that people in these categories will perform the same on set or in production. Do you treat the casting like just another ‘fling’ or are you taking the opportunity seriously?
- Even at a ‘cold reading’ I normally give the auditionees a few minutes to become familiar with the material they will audition from. This is not a must and not every casting agent does it. However, I do tend to note the auditionees that take time meditating, internalizing and going over those few sheets of paper. I’m intrigued when they have questions about the character based on the dialogue presented. I note those that scoff at the writing or openly critique it, especially not knowing if the writer is in their presence or not. I pay attention to tones, looks and the interest in the voice and face of an auditionee that questions me about a role. While I may inwardly agree, I detest it when an actor remarks, ‘No one talks like this!’ It would be best if an actor professionally and neutrally asks, ‘how much liberty may I have with the lines?’
- Your portfolio - Still in the arena of professionalism, did you bring anything with you to the casting call? Such items may assist an agent in his/her decision making, i.e. a professional headshot (we will discuss this in detail next time), resume, bio, comp card, etc? Travelling with even a small batch of business cards displaying a quality photo of you is a good idea as well. You may use them to network with other actors and their convenient for a casting agent to slide into his wallet. Your package speaks volumes about you, how professional you are and how seriously you take your career.
- Overall, the way you act, speak and relate to those you come in contact with can either be seen as professional or unprofessional, or neither. In the last case, you’ve not made any kind of impression on anyone. In other words, you are quiet forgettable. In the second case, you’ve made an awful impression on those that matter most. You don’t want either of the last two cases to be yours, so pay attention to your demeanor and attitude remembering that first impressions are still lasting ones.
In our next installment, we will discuss The Actor’s Portfolio in detail. Do email any comments or questions you have to
Copyright ©2009 Radel Parks / Sharma Entertainment. Reprinted by permission.
Newer news items:
Older news items: