My Biggest Career Regret

My biggest career regret doesn’t actually involve Casting. (Lord knows I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my career, but those all feel like true lessons and growth experiences, not regrets.) I think about this particular story often because when I was faced with a clear choice, I made the objectively wrong decision and the pain […]

Tales from the Audition Room: Part 4

Back when I was 22 yrs old, (which was yesterday, obviously,) I cast my very first ultra low budget feature. The producer was a friend of mine and the script was an interesting psychological thriller, being directed by the writer, (who was also 22 yrs old, and fresh out of film school.) We held auditions […]

Tales from the Audition Room: Part 3

Several years ago, we were casting a pilot with well-known producers and a big name director. It was an ensemble cast, but there was a leading man role that you could assume would be offered out based on his description, (40s, male, former hero and “leader of the pack” type,) story line and the people […]

The Social Media Conundrum for Actors

The Social Media Conundrum

By now, you all know how hugely helpful social media can be for any artist.

But you are also well aware of the downside to being so available online.

As actors, you’ve been told repeatedly that you MUST have a social media presence. The more followers, likes, views, retweets, etc., the better. It is an exhausting time suck, and yet completely exhilarating when a post goes viral, a Casting Director comments on your video, or a favorite celebrity follows you back.

The social media conundrum is that we all CRAVE more connections, but the more eyes we have on our posts, the less privacy (and time) we have, and the greater the chances of it going all wrong.

Below are a basic set of rules to follow when looking to create an active social media presence:

Who is your audience? If this goes viral, how will it impact you (good and bad)? Is it unnecessarily mean/harsh/posted in rage/haste? Did you research the topic you’re posting on? Did you fully read the article you’re re-posting (and double-check the published date?) Neglecting to consider these questions (and more) could result in emotional pain, embarrassment or worse, for you and/or the subject of your post. 

For example: Just as one of my shows was premiering, an actor who was a Facebook friend posted about how he hated said new show. The comments were filled with other people snarking their agreement. Of course, EVERYONE is entitled to their opinion (it is art, after all,) and it wasn’t remotely a personal attack on me or anyone else affiliated with the show… but I saw it. It was in my timeline; I couldn’t miss it. And while that hasn’t stopped me from working with the original post-er of that thread, I still remember it many years later. (And frankly, it still bums me out.)

  • ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL.

You do not need to curate your Instagram to look like Emma Watson’s. You do not need to tweet the way Sarah Cooper does. Honor YOUR unique perspective, your voice, your communication style.

Actors will often be told exactly how they should post online. But if that’s not your communication style or how you like to make connections online, there is no need to put yourself in an uncomfortable position. Here’s your test: before you post or DM, are you feeling nervous, embarrassed or weird? Follow that instinct and adjust as needed.

  • SOME CASTING DIRECTOR’S DON’T LIKE SOCIAL MEDIA.

Everyone is different. Some CD’s may welcome you to DM them or tag them, others will hate it. Some of us prefer to use our social media for personal things, others are a mix. Do a little research before you engage with a Casting Director on any platform.

Story time: On Twitter, an actor posted their clip and @-ed like 10 of us Casting Directors. One of the Casting Directors, who is very active on Twitter, wrote back “Is this how we’re doing things now? I hate it.” Just because a CD uses their social media platform does not mean they like to receive actor materials in that space. My DMs are impossible to keep up with and I don’t mind being tagged in things on Instagram, but I really don’t love it on Twitter. Again… one size does not fit all. Do a little digging on the person you’re trying to communicate with; it may be incredibly clear from their other posts how they feel about those interactions.

  • BE PASSIONATE.

Want to use your profile to uplift a candidate or issue? Want to write a long thread on your wonderful grandmother? GO FOR IT. It is YOUR platform. Use your voice and be passionate. Understand, however, that not everyone will agree with you, so keep Rule #1 in mind, too.

  • THINK TWICE BEFORE YOU POST AN IMAGE OR CLIP.

You’re putting these things out ON THE INTERNET. They may become fair game for people to grab and use. Remember that before you post video of your work, pic of your latest art piece, or photos of other people (especially kids that aren’t yours.) Make sure you have permission from the people in your pic, don’t post anything that you signed an NDA for, and be aware of copyrights.

  • CREATE A PROFESSIONAL ACCOUNT.

If you’d rather have a private account so you can post pictures of your family to users you know, then have a separate private and professional account. If you decide to have professional accounts on multiple platforms, have the username be consistent. If it’s meant to promote your business and work, consistency will help us find you.

For example, I’m @ericabreamcast on both Insta and Twitter. This makes my life easier (not having to remember which handle is which,) and if people google my username, both platforms come up. Easy for me and my audience.

  • IF YOU DON’T WANT TO BE ON SOCIAL MEDIA, YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE ON SOCIAL MEDIA.

Social media can be an AMAZING tool to connect with others in the industry. It can also be a dark place, a time suck, and a distraction from being present with friends and family. If you choose not to be on social media, THAT’S FINE. If you choose to only have one platform… TOTALLY COOL. If you choose to have profiles but only to follow/gain information, not to post, THAT’S ALL GOOD TOO! If you feel your social media time is taking away from the time spent on your craft, GO ON A SOCIAL MEDIA HIATUS!

The good news is that (for the most part,) the massive wave of casting social media “stars” has passed. It’s not gone entirely, but it has become clear over the years that a lot of those wonderful social media entertainers are not necessarily theatrically trained. (Some are! But most are not.) And after multiple reports of people buying followers, a lot of producers don’t let that number have too much sway.

Do some projects care that you have some sort of social media presence? Sure. If a project is lower budget and your high follower number provides some easy, cheap publicity, that’s a win. But not every project is like that. And if you book a huge project, they’ll likely make you join some sort of social media for promotional purposes and then you’ll gain followers organically.

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Whatever you choose to do, actors, be MINDFUL of what you are putting out onto the interwebs. 

Not every studio, producer or CD will care about what you post on social media. But some will. And as we’ve all seen, it’s very easy to dredge up old posts. So before you hit TWEET/SEND/POST, ask yourself this: would you say these things to someone’s face? If you’re not brave enough to speak the words you type in a real-life setting, then think twice about posting it online.

Tales from the Audition Room: Part 1

Several years ago, I was part of the casting team for a cable comedy pilot. The script was brilliant, the dialogue was fast, very intelligent and required a set of actors who could handle it, all the while having great chemistry with each other.

Enter: the greatest mix-and-match of my career.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, a mix-and-match is when Casting assembles a group of finalist actors for different roles and auditions them interchangeably to see who might have chemistry with each other. During these sessions, an actor could read with one other actor or several to see where the yummiest chemistry may lie. (This is different than a CHEMISTRY read where one actor is already set, and we’re looking to see who has the best mojo with that specific person.)

The writer had created a scene specifically for these two characters to audition with, and WELCOMED improvisation. (Not super common.) The scene was already VERY funny, so frankly, it was a little hard to imagine how improv could actually IMPROVE it.

We started the mix-and-match session, and had about four or five actors for each role. We paired them up and began reading the groups. Now, these actors had to read in a TINY casting office (typical) that was CHOCK FULL of producers. It was immediately hot and stuffy, and the scene lasted around five minutes per group, (which doesn’t sound like much, but five minutes of dialogue can feel like a lifetime if a pair doesn’t work.)

The first group read/improvised, and MAN, they were funny. The second group went, and somehow were even funnier. We went through all of the pairs, with each group proving to be even more hilarious than the last. I was running the camera for this session and convulsing with silent laughter. I’m pretty sure I shed a few laugh-tears, too. The creativity, (hilarious) vulgarity and chemistry oozing out of these actors was mind-blowing.

After going through one round of pairs, we began to mix them up. This went on for a LONG TIME. None of us had anticipated every partnership having SO much chemistry. Every new pair came in, paid no attention to how hot and noticeably sweaty they were, or how exhausted (and probably starving,) they may have felt. They came in with a new partner and somehow raised the bar on their previous reads/improv. EVERY. SINGLE. GROUP. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

I’ll always remember that mix-and-match as the hardest I’ve ever laughed during an audition process, but more than that, how unbelievably open-minded and hard-working these actors were to AUDITION (not screen test, not shoot a scene, but AUDITION,) so many times in a single morning, without a hint of complaint, and how they gave more and more with each read.

I have no memory of how we chose actors from that group who we wanted to test. But I CAN recall EVERY actor from that mix-and-match. Even though only two of them ended up booking the series roles, we found guest star roles that season for at least a few others. To this day, all ten of those actors are forever highlighted in my memory as people I want to work with, no matter the project or role.

Welcome to the Audition Room

Casting Directors are on your side (seriously.)

CASTING LOVES YOU!

I like to include this hashtag in my social media posts because there seems to be an underlying sense that Casting Directors are an enemy of the actor. Truth time: outside of your family, we are your BIGGEST supporters.

The audition room (virtual or live) can be an intimidating place. Sometimes the CD isn’t always warm and fluffy, but that does not diminish the fact that Casting wants you to succeed.

With that in mind, here are TEN things to remember about us kindly Casting folks:

1. We WANT you to be “the one.” If you are invited to read, whether it be in person or via self-tape, we are envisioning you as a real option for that role. Nothing is more satisfying to a Casting Director than an actor who absolutely nails an audition/redirect, because it validates our creative genius [brushes dust off shoulders] and it means our work on that role is done.

2. We’ve selected you out of THOUSANDS of submissions. If you’ve made it in to the audition room, we already like you. (See #1.) We’ve culled down our choices from hundreds or thousands down to very few. We have to be a fan to give you one of those coveted spots. Walk into the room (or tape) with the confidence of knowing that Casting digs your work.

3. We have bad days, too. There are many aspects to a Casting Director’s job, and (shockingly) not all of them are fun. Beyond being creative and engaging with actors in the audition room, we are also up against crazy deadlines, we have producers/directors/executives all of whom might have a differing opinion on a character, we are constantly needing information from or in tough negotiations with reps, and on top of that, we are human beings with our own personal shit. Forgive us if we aren’t overly friendly when you walk into the room. We’ve got a lot on our plates.

4. If we request a self-tape instead of a live audition, it doesn’t make us any less interested in you. There are only so many hours in the day to read people and watch tapes. As such, we don’t throw out self-tape requests willy-nilly. If your rep doesn’t get you in live, but DOES get you a self-tape request, it means that we are interested to see your take on the role. Take it as a good sign (see #2.)

5. We all enjoy and appreciate actors. There is no way you can get into casting without loving actors. We love what you are capable of, and we love that you are fearless in pursuit of truth and beauty. We may not always be able to match your abundant energy, but that doesn’t mean we dislike being around you.

6. If we’re passionate about an actor for a role, we will work our BUTTS off until everyone else sees it, too. I’ve edited reels, spent hours looking for and ripping additional footage, put together photo collages, re-read actors multiple times to get an EXACT take… And I’m sure every Casting Director you meet will have similar stories of the hurdles they’ve jumped to get an actor hired.

7. If we aren’t in the room for your read, assume there’s a good reason. Casting Directors are constantly being pulled in 18 different directions at once. We’ve got conference calls, and emails, and deals in process, and self-tapes coming in, and oh yeah, sometimes we need to use the restroom. Also, occasionally, we just need a break from the audition room. If it’s your turn to read and the CD steps out and has a member of their staff read you instead, it is by no means a sign of disrespect or disinterest. We do this because we trust our staff to guide you, and we trust you to be make strong choices, and to be open-minded and professional. We will gladly watch your tape after the session.

8. If you only get one take, don’t assume it’s because we hated what you did. Hey, guess what? Sometimes you nail it on the first take. Sometimes we find you very interesting, but just not right. Both of these are reasons why we might not have you read a scene again.

9. When you are in our audition room, Casting is not your parents/therapists/spouses/acting coaches. We may adore you and even be real/social friends, but when you come to audition, we want to see you work. We are there to guide you through the material, not coach you on career obstacles or coddle you when you mess up. Remember, we have crazy deadlines and likely a waiting room full of people. We care about you, but when you’re in our room, we want to keep things (warmly) professional.

10. Do good work, and we will find you. These days, because there are so many mediums (TV, film, shorts, web series, theatre, etc.) actors are always seem concerned that they will never be seen or discovered. If you are doing strong, exciting work, then somehow, someway, we will see it. If you build it, we will come. Every time.

Pilot Season - What Does it Mean When Casting Says or Does...

Pilot Season Anxiety: What Does It Mean When…?

As you all know by now (either from experience, or because I’ve said it a million times,) pilot season is wild.

Things move SO quickly, and sometimes Casting will say or do something that makes zero sense to you, but because you have five other auditions to prep, you roll with it without ever getting clarification.

Here are a (very) few of the weirder terms and experiences you might encounter this pilot season, and what they could mean for you:

1. You’re “Going on tape with Casting, for prods,” or “On tape for prods,” or “With Casting, on tape,” et al.

Each office has a different way of describing this kind of session, but generally speaking, it means that you will be in the room with at least one member of the Casting team and you will be taped. Unless otherwise mentioned, assume neither producers nor director will be present. This often corresponds to…

2. “We’re doing everything off tape.”

Pilot season moves QUICKLY. If a pilot was picked up later, or if it shoots out of town, or there’s script work to be done, or a seven-hour location scout, or… there could be a million reasons why the producers would prefer to watch all of the auditions off of tape. (I haven’t had a true “producer session” since 2014!) If that’s the case, there will be no such thing as pre-reads or producer sessions, everything will just be with Casting and a camera. (Gives all of you self-tapers an equal chance!) It is possible that either the director and/or producers will want to be in the room with some of the final selections at the end, but assume that if you want to be in the mix, you’ll be going in to read with just Casting.

3. “He/She/They have been sent to producers.”

This simply means that your tape(s) have been sent in a link to our producers/director for them to view, and we are awaiting their feedback. It also means that out of a gazillion reads, the Casting team is highlighting your audition. Thumbs up.

4. You’ve been “Pinned.”

Casting and/or prods saw you and LOVED you. But it’s too early for them to do anything about this particular role, so Casting “pins” you. All this means is that Casting wants to keep tabs on you. They don’t want to lose you to another show/production without knowing when a potential conflict comes up.

  • A pin is not necessarily the final step before a test or offer. You could be pinned after your first audition, but then have to go in again for a callback (or two), or chemistry read. A pin is a good thing, but it is by no means a guarantee of a booking.

5. Casting wants to read you, again… for the third time.

Are there new sides? Are there different people in the room? Is there a particular note? Sometimes these variables change, and sometimes Casting is just championing the hell out of you so that the producers will agree to put you in the mix. Which leads us to…

6. You’re in “the mix.”

Casting loves you, producers and/or director dig you, but they are not ready to start a test deal, so you are in the mix. This essentially means that you are on a short list of favorites for that particular role. At any point, you can fall out of the mix, but being in it is a big positive. (This could also refer to being considered, as in, “if they want to be in the mix, they need to make their appointment today, otherwise we’re out of time.”)

7. You’re testing against three other people.

This means that there are four actors who the creatives (producers/director/Casting) have selected to make deals with, to show to the studio/network, as their final choices for that particular role. Way to go! However, it is possible that the studio/network choose none of you, so don’t start calculating your odds based on the number of people you’re testing against.

8. It’s noon and Casting wants to read you today at 3pm.

We’re out of time, and we’re hoping you’re our Hail Mary. We don’t expect you to be totally memorized, but we do expect you to make it in and have a good attitude.

9. You’re a comedy person, and Casting wants to read you for a drama.

We know you’re funny. We don’t want you to turn that totally off. Your timing and humor is what makes you interesting and different for this role. It might not always work, but if Casting is game to try, show up with confidence.

10. We’re out of time for immigration.

If you are a non-American actor, you will know what this means. The show is shooting in the US and we need a certain amount of time to get a visa for foreign actors. If you are non-American and don’t already have a greencard or a valid 01 visa, because we have to sponsor your work papers, we will only be able to consider you up to a certain date before that role shoots.

11. Casting is just making lists for that character.

The role is likely to be offered out. That said, there have been many times where the plan was to make an offer, but after seeing a few auditions, Casting/the producers find someone who just NAILED the read. If you get called in for a role that you’ve been told is “probably going to be offered out,” don’t assume it’s a waste of time. Casting wants to see you because they believe you have a strong shot of winning it in the room.

Are there other terms or scenarios that have you like:

Tweet at me, and I’ll address your questions.