Hello actors, friends, dreamers, doers! As a very fun and different treat before the end of the year, my fantastic Mama and I have collaborated on something special for y’all: Check out our interview all about MOMtras! (CLICK HERE TO WATCH!) What’s a “MOMtra” you ask? It’s a highly-personalized mantra, meant to help you quell […]
Repeat after me: “Casting Directors and Actors are COLLABORATORS. (Not enemies.)” Recently, one of my Casting colleagues lamented that she wished actors knew how hard we work for them. It made me realize… there’s a whole mountain of activity we Casting Directors do that actors (and other industry folk) really aren’t privy to. NOTE: This […]
Repeat after me: “Casting Directors and Actors are COLLABORATORS. (Not enemies.)”
Recently, one of my Casting colleagues lamented that she wished actors knew how hard we work for them. It made me realize… there’s a whole mountain of activity we Casting Directors do that actors (and other industry folk) really aren’t privy to.
So here is a brief list, specific to the things Casting Directors (and their hard-working staff) do to help actors get the job.
By no means is it limited to the below, nor do we do all of these things on a daily basis. This list also doesn’t include the obvious: run auditions, watch tapes, provide direction, etc.
Without further ado… Casting loves you. Let us count the ways.
Before your audition, Casting Directors:
- Advocate for more roles to be open to gender-identity, ethnicity, physical ability, etc.
- Provide other deeply talented, realistic options when our wide-eyed, passionate director says they want Anthony Hopkins to do a scale role.
- Keep files of actors FOREVER (online, hard copy, in our brains, etc.) And keep tabs on our favorite people.
- Strenuously recommend fewer pages of sides for the first rounds of auditions.
- Scrutinize your materials over and over via endless pitches (phone calls/emails/texts at all hours,) from your reps. We allow ourselves to be open-minded to these ideas, but clear in our concept so no one’s time is wasted.
- Set expectations and discuss process with our team to make sure you get enough time with (and info about) the material.
In/Around/After your audition, Casting Directors:
- Edit your reel/self-tape/audition clips to best present you to producers.
- Pull photos of you from the internet that are character/world appropriate to replace a generic headshot (and help folks with their imagination.)
- Make collages of you with other cast members for the sake of family resemblance. Also to help our team see the full puzzle.
- Re-style you in the audition room, (change your hair, remove your jewelry, have you put on our jacket, etc.) to better reflect the character.
- Download your tapes and reels. Upload your tapes and reels. Sync or flip clips. Check that the video plays. Re-order your scenes so the first clip up is the strongest. Follow up on the info you left out of your slate. Etc. Repeat – all day, every day.
- GUSH about you to our producers and to your reps.
- Liaise between studio/network execs, our producers and your reps CONSTANTLY. This is to make sure everyone is looped in on interest and availability, and nobody loses an opportunity or an actor they love.
- Provide constructive, workshop-like notes for re-tapes when the director says, “Just have them tape again,” and leaves it at that.
- Make sure you have all the information possible to succeed when you go in to meet/read. This includes, but is not limited to: parking instructions, all producer names/titles, word pronunciations, a page of terminology and references when you can’t have a full script, a phone call/audition/meeting with us beforehand to answer questions and so you know you have an advocate in the room.
- Tuck our feelings away when we are having a super shitty day, because we know that you feed off of our energy in the room.
- Show up on a Saturday because we KNOW you are the right person and that’s the only day you have available to read/meet.
Outside the Casting office, Casting Directors:
- Write blog posts/tweet/do panels/teach classes to help demystify the process. Casting Directors want you to have confidence when you go to audition.
- Look up flights online to prove to our line producer that there IS a way to get you to set in time.
- Educate ourselves on union rules and contracts so actors are never put in an uncomfortable or unsafe position.
- Work with our production and your other project to make sure you can logistically work on both projects. And that both shoots are protected from flight delays/weather issues/etc.
- Push production for more money for you. (We don’t always win this one, but we do try!)
- Don’t mention the things on this list because it’s part of our job and we don’t think of any of this as out of the ordinary.
**Photo courtesy of one very special post-pilot season affair, hosted by the always-wonderful Yesi Ramirez, where a bunch of us stressed Casting Directors and staff got to let loose and show off our goofy sides.**
Let’s talk about rejection. [Insert sad trombone noise.]
You all know that if you’re an artist, rejection is part of the gig. And even though you may be FULLY aware of that fact, every “no” from Casting can still feel personal. At best, rejection will (always) sting a little, and at worst, will feel utterly crushing.
Now that we’re through pilot season, (AKA the time of year when “no” is most heavily employed,) let me help put those feelings into perspective:
“No” is not failure; it’s simply, “Not this time.”
My brilliant mother has been my #1 cheerleader and emotional guide as I’ve faced rejection in my career. (And just like you, I’ve endured PLENTY. Casting and actors are not that different. Solidarity, people.) She recently wrote an article wherein she says, “Rejection isn’t because someone doesn’t like you. It’s because they like something/someone else.” (Emphasis mine.)
When it comes to industry rejection, this is WHOLLY accurate. If you aren’t cast in a role, it’s because the team liked somebody else more. And someday, if you work at your craft and behave professionally, YOU will be the somebody else they like more. In the meantime, you’ll face rejection. And in that, you’re never alone. Only one person can be cast per role. That is a single, solitary “yes” to a heaping pile of “no’s.”
The best way to manage the underlying negativity of an artist’s path is to hold on to a little perspective.
I’ve had actors reach out to me, concerned that they’ve been pinned/released for the same Casting office multiple times. They’re worried that because they aren’t having those pins turn into bookings that they MUST be doing something wrong, and surely the Casting office will eventually stop seeing them. But realistically, EVERY pin is a major victory. Their perspective has gotten skewed by the feeling of rejection. Celebrate all the victories (big and small) you achieve while on your path, because those are the yes’s you need to keep coming back to this crazy business.
I’ll finish with this:
Last year, Dave Annable did a pilot. The pilot got picked up to series (yay!) but Annable did not (womp womp.) He wrote a (now famously) thoughtful post about it wherein he celebrates the achievement of so many and forces himself to move on. Here’s a brief snippet, but make sure you read the full post for a true lesson of grace while facing massive disappointment:
“Learning to deal with failure is one of the most important lessons you’ll deal with in your life. Guess what? Failure is mandatory. It’s growth. It’ll never stop. It’s where all the good shit happens that makes you a better person when you are open to seeing the right perspective.”
Hold on to that perspective, my friends. It’s all part of the job.
It’s a stressful time of year. Many of us cling to whatever form of sanity (read: chocolate) to help us survive until mid-April. But as you all know, the more we let anxiety and stress into our bodies, the harder it is to function.
Here are a few helpful mantras or mindsets to aid your sanity this pilot season, and beyond.
Remember these buzzwords: ENCOURAGEMENT, ENTHUSIASM, PASSION, TEAMWORK, GRATITUDE.
And here’s how you can apply them, (these are just a few examples. There are MANY ways you can connect these phrases to your careers and lives):
1. ENCOURAGEMENT MANTRA: “Casting WANTS me to be the one!”
- Seriously, we are ON YOUR SIDE. If you are the one, that means that A. You’ve validated our creative choice to see you in the first place, and B. Our job is done (at least on that character.) Walk in to every Casting office and remember (no matter how cranky we are,) we are ROOTING FOR YOU. Feel the love, y’all.
2. ENTHUSIASM MANTRA: “I love a challenge!”
- Pilot season is hard, the audition process (any time of year!) can be stressful, things move quickly, sides change at the last minute, self-tapes are due in a matter of hours, etc. Prepare for these opportunities as if you’re running towards a hurdle; put your heart and energy into it and then fly, my friends. The immediate moment after can feel like a MAJOR “fuck yeah!! I did it!”
3. PASSION MANTRA: “Every audition is an opportunity for me to do what I love.”
- Sure, auditioning isn’t always the best part of being an actor, but every chance you get to sink your teeth into a new script, embody a new character and perform or workshop a scene is a big win. Enjoy the ride, my friends.
4. TEAMWORK MANTRA: “Every Casting office that sees me sets the course for a new relationship or strengthens an old one.”
- It’s a business of relationship folks! If you go into a room or send in a tape and nail that read while behaving/communicating professionally, you will UNDOUBTEDLY audition for that Casting team again. Strengthen the connection, make Casting fall in love with your talent and attitude, and you will be back before you know it.
5. GRATITUDE MANTRA: “I’m grateful I have a strong team that works hard to get me these opportunities.”
- In signing you, your reps have said “yes, I believe in your talent.” They’re working hard, doing their part to provide opportunities so you can go shine. Remember to acknowledge them in your heart, AND out loud.