Recently, we were casting some co-stars for one of our shows. It was a long day of sessions (three and a half hours in the morning, three and a half in the afternoon,) reading 60+ actors for 5 or 6 different roles. (Side note: this is the benefit of not having producers in the room; […]
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 […]
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 […]
You’re reading the trades every day, seeing what’s been picked up and drooling over the auditions that are surely coming your way ANY SECOND. Or maybe they’ll come tomorrow. Or you know, it’s Friday at 6pm, so they will probably call on Monday. Ok, it’s Monday at noon, and you’re refreshing your email every five seconds, waiting for word of an audition, ANY audition… WHERE ARE MY AUDITIONS?!?!
You get the picture.
It’s easy to go a little bananas during pilot season. You know that this is the time of year that auditions rain down like manna from heaven. And you hear about your fellow actors and how they’re getting three auditions per day, (and complaining about it, to be sure.) You also know that you’re good enough to compete against any of them, so why aren’t you getting out?
There could be a few reasons, but first, I guarantee that it’s not because your reps aren’t submitting or pitching you. They’re submitting and pitching their brains out. (Remember, if you don’t make money, they don’t. Pilot season is just as important for them as it is for you.) They often call and email to pitch, even when casting specifically tells them not to, and at all hours of the day. All. Hours. Of. The. Day. I promise you, they are trying their damnedest to get you an opportunity on as many pilots as possible.
So here are a few other road blocks that may be keeping you from getting a series regular audition:
Your reel is old and/or doesn’t show you off that well. You have 20 headshots up on your profile, and we can’t tell which of them are current, (and maybe none of them truly portray who you are.) Your website is impossible for us to navigate through to find what we need. You’re using a self-tape in place of a reel, and unfortunately, it’s just not compelling material. If we are unfamiliar with you and none of these things are working in your favor, the audition gods will not smile upon you.
2. Casting doesn’t think you’re right for the character or world:
Based on the breakdown, you believe that you are clearly SO RIGHT for this particular role, and somehow you still can’t get an audition. Remember, trust Casting. We know this project intimately. We are also serving this script, these producers’ collective vision, and this network’s commercial and artistic desires. We have a VERY good idea of who and what we need. We may adore you, but if you’re not right for whatever reason, we’re not going to waste your time or ours. (Mind you, things change quickly during pilot season. So while you could be “not right” on Monday, by Friday, you’re exactly what we need. Or vice versa. See #5 for more on this.)
Your rep may have called and/or emailed to pitch you RIGHT when we got caught up in a session/conference call/meeting/bathroom break/other deadline, and their pitch got lost in an avalanche of message slips or a deluge of emails that we can’t bring ourselves to look at until the next morning, when inevitably, something else pulls our attention and another day goes by without us seeing their pitch. It’s not because we don’t like you or your rep, it’s because there are literally 8,000 other things that have to happen at that exact moment. (Don’t worry: your reps will continue to call and email until we look at their pitches.)
4. Timing again:
We’ve actually already selected you as someone we want to read, but we can only see so many people in a day, and your appointment will go out when our uber-talented, but overworked/underpaid staff can find a slot for you. Be patient.
5. Casting SAID they would read you, but the role you are most right for is being offered out/is changing/is no longer a regular:
If an offer is out for a role, we try not to read people simultaneously (particularly if it looks like the offer person is engaging.) We will only audition that role if we are in a time crunch (or the offer person is unlikely to be interested,) and we need to have another great option. If a character is changing or sides are about to change or the prods have MENTIONED that they THINK they MIGHT want to change the character or sides, then we put a pause on that role and focus our attention on everything else. This will put people in a bit of limbo, but I promise that Casting is working their butts off to get clarity as quickly as possible. If a role changes from a regular to a guest star, then it’s priority is down graded. We will pick up reading people for it after some of our regs are set.
This may not be your year to book a pilot. Plain and simple.
Now, to overcome some of these things:
1. Don’t compare your career to anyone else’s, ever: everyone succeeds in different ways, at different times. When your friend (who is not unlike you, type-wise,) tells you about their 10 pilot auditions, do not assume you should have the same. You are unique people, individual actors with dissimilar backgrounds and likely different reps. You are apples and oranges. Take a breath and try to be excited for your friend.
2. Update your materials: it may be too late for this pilot season, but if your reps give you that feedback, make that your priority number one.
3. Practice patience: do yoga, meditate, breathe, nap. This is a life skill that most of us don’t have. Now is a good time to work on it.
4. Change your focus: sitting around, pining for an audition will almost never result in one. Get your butt to class, pick up that script you’ve been writing, read a book, take your dog for a walk. Do ANYTHING other than twiddling your thumbs, waiting for an audition notice to come in.
5. Remember that other projects are casting right now: there are a gazillion series still in production, movies, shorts, web series, theatre… make yourself (emotionally and physically) available to those projects. Booking them can be just as rewarding.
Focus on being a good, professional actor, and do everything in your power to achieve THAT goal. (Go to class, read, do theatre, etc.)
If you do, the auditions (and bookings) will come, guaranteed.
One of the major complaints I hear regarding self-tapes, is that actors often feel like they’re acting in a vacuum.
Endless questions plague you…
- “This character should clearly have a Southern accent, right?”
- “Should I show the action in this scene? Do they want to see me fall?”
- “This scene could totally be ironic and sarcastic, OR it could be heartfelt and genuine… should I do it the way it’s written, or the way I think it should be done?”
- “How far should I go with movement/props/wardrobe?”
- “The other character in this scene is obviously her brother… or is it her ex?”
- “If I turn my phone vertically for the slate, will I be disqualified?”
- “Why couldn’t they just have seen me in person?! I have so many questions!”
In terms of your character work and prep, self-tapes should be treated no differently than live auditions.
You can (and should!) use the following information to help inform your choices:
- The breakdown header: there is a wealth of information provided when you see who is involved in a particular project. (I ranted more about this topic in a previous post.) Header info is a great source when thinking of appropriate tonal choices.
- If you were given multiple scenes, each section will represent an important character aspect, trait or turn. We’re not giving you gobs of pages to test your memorization skills. Re-read the breakdown before you scan through your material, and look for different facets of the character in each scene.
- Any notes from Casting: if there’s a certain note that will undoubtedly be helpful to your taping process, we will provide it. (Why would we want you to audition without pertinent info? Who does that help?) If we want you to do an accent, or wear something specific, or treat the other character as your brother, even though he’s your ex, then we will tell you. If we don’t give you those kinds of notes, just use your instincts to make choices based on what you see on the page.
- When in doubt, use the material as your guide. Don’t assume that the stage direction or character description included therein is a ruse. This is not the SATs; the writer is not trying to trick you.
- Remember that we are hiring you as an ACTOR. Not as an editor, a cinematographer, a HMU artist, a set decorator, a stunt performer, etc. Make smart, simple choices on those things and let the focus be on YOU and YOUR PERFORMANCE.
And please hear my endless drumbeat on slates:
YOUR SLATE IS FOR INFORMATION. Stop stressing about it. The information is hugely helpful to us, but it is not a performance and we are not looking for it to look beautiful. Info = important; your messy house = not.
If ultimately you STILL feel concerned or in the dark about something, don’t be afraid to ask!
You can have your reps reach out to Casting with your questions, or you can have them ask if it’s ok for you to call/email directly. The Casting team may not realize that there is something vague about the material. Again, we will never PURPOSELY leave out information that would have a significant impact on your choices.
Remember to trust your instincts (and the writers/Casting team,) trust your script analysis skills, and prepare your self-tape scenes the same way you would any other audition piece.
If you will all indulge me in a non-advice-related blogpost… last night, my partner-in-crime, Cara and I were awarded an Artios from the CSA for our work in Los Angeles theatre. It was a moment I had dreamed about since the beginning of my career. And frankly, when I stepped up to the podium to make a speech, I went brain dead.
So I’d like to take a minute to properly thank some people who have had an incredible impact on the woman and Casting Director I am today.
In no particular order:
1. Our theatre family at The Blank: Cara and I have volunteered our services to this theatre company for many years and it has always been a creatively and emotionally gratifying experience. That they allow us to come play with them every year for the Young Playwrights Festival is truly a gift. Without their collaboration and trust, we wouldn’t have won this award. Thank you Daniel Henning, Bree Pavey, Heather Provost, Sarah Bauer, Stephen Moffatt and all of the other wonderful YPF producers, actors, writers and directors who have given us the freedom to be wildly creative.
2. My husband, Hartley: gosh, I am grateful to have this man as my partner, (and father to my child.) He is unbelievably supportive of my career, and especially of the work I do at the Blank. When he is seated next to me in a black box theater, my heart is beyond full.
3. My Blank casting partner-in-crime, Cara: this woman has grown from my intern, to my co-worker, to my confidant, partner, and forever friend. I am so grateful to share this honor with her. Carica Casting 4 Life.
4. My casting family: I have been lucky to work with some incredible people over the course of my career. Last night, I was cheered on, bolstered and honored to be with several of them when our names were announced. These wonderful women and men have taught me many things about casting, and also about how to be a true friend. Without them, I wouldn’t be the Casting Director I am today. To April Webster, Alyssa Weisberg, Cara Chute Rosenbaum, Angela Young, Ramani Leah, Jessica Sherman, Beth Ryne, Becky Silverman, Lisa Zambetti, Kim and Chuck McCollum, Chris Redondo, Mike Page, Brittainy Roberts… thank you for your friendship, your inspiration and your endless support. It means the WORLD to me.
5. My parents: my Mom and Dad have had my back from Day One. (Likewise, my big sister is my number one cheerleader. Amanda, you are the greatest big sister a girl could ever ask for.) My parents have always had faith in me and in my chosen profession (even during the unemployed times…) They have cheered me on every step of the way. They have talked me through professional crises, and reminded me of who I am and what I am capable of. They instilled in me a love of the arts and of artists. They have provided me with incredible examples of character, professionalism and the value of honesty. I am so proud to be their daughter. Mom and Dad, from the bottom of my heart, thank you, thank you, thank you. I love you all.
6. My son: he is my lucky charm. Being his mother is the greatest job I’ll ever have.
Ok! Back to audition advice next week. Thanks for indulging me.
Happy New Year! Here’s hoping you’ve rung in 2018 in a happy, healthy fashion.
Now that we’re decently into the new year, let me state for the record (and for the sanity of every Casting Director who is about to start on a pilot,) THERE IS STILL A “PILOT SEASON.”
“But Erica, pilots are cast year-round!”
Yes, this is true. Ever since cable/streaming started producing original content, pilots are indeed cast year-round. Even the networks will sometimes cast “off-season” for their summer series or mid-season shows. And while you could potentially audition for a pilot in say, June, or October, traditional pilot season still exists and is thriving.
From now-ish until mid-April, the big five networks (CBS, ABC, NBC, FOX, CW,) are casting and producing the pilots that they will share with their advertisers at the upfronts in May. These are the potential new fall/mid-season shows for 2018. And guess what! Even some cable pilots will be cast during this time. (They try to avoid it, but if this is how the production-calendar-cookie crumbles, then so be it.)
DOZENS of pilots will be produced, a few will be picked up; some will be re-tooled/re-cast, and some will never make it past test screenings. So don’t let ANYBODY tell you that pilot season is no longer “a thing.” For those of us Casting folks (and agents/managers/executives/producers,) who work on pilots during this time of year, it is an insult to our 100+ hour work-week to assume that this time of year is no longer “happening.”
So buck up, friends. Pilot season is moments away!