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 […]
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 […]
Pilot season is in full swing. 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 […]
I asked my actor friends what they felt was the biggest hurdle when self-taping, and the number one response was this…
Finding a reader.
And while finding a reader for your self-tape can be frustrating, it can also be a major benefit of self-taping. You can choose someone who will give you something, whether it be chemistry, timing, direct-ability or just flexibility… when you walk into a Casting office, your reader is your reader and they are often 1. not actors and 2. cranky about getting direction from you.
Here are some tips to help you get over the reader hurdle (listed from best option to least favorable):
1. Find an actor pal to read with you. (Obviously.) In fact, do yourself a favor and have a “self-taping group” of actor pals. This way, you aren’t stuck if your usual reader isn’t available to help out. Find your tribe, start a group text chain and use each other, as needed.
- One caveat here: don’t let your actor pals over-direct you. The nice thing about having an actor opposite you is that they can provide you with some real perspective. But at the end of the day, it is YOUR audition. Listen their feedback, but YOU need to decide whether or not to incorporate their notes.
2. If you can’t get a reader in person, use Skype, FaceTime, Zoom, etc. Even if there’s a slight internet lag, you’ll have someone with whom you can connect. Don’t worry about the slightly tinny/mechanical quality of their voice. It’s not ideal, but in 2020, we’re all very used to the sound.
3. Find an able-bodied non-actor who can take some direction. Maybe your neighbor is a writer who understands timing or perhaps your roommate did theatre in high school, or your mom is an avid reader… as long as they can follow the dialogue and incorporate feedback from you, they’ll more than suffice. (Hot tip: summarize the scene, and then give them a few minutes to look it over so they aren’t reading it totally cold.)
- What you don’t want in a non-actor is someone who has an overly thick accent/doesn’t really understand what they’re saying, can’t pace it up/slow it down, or is a child, (unless the scene is written between your character and a kid.)
4. Use a rehearsal app to “read with yourself.” This is a worst case scenario because it eliminates the possibility of spontaneity. The forced/planned timing involved in using these apps tend to make your beats either rushed or overly drawn out. These apps are terrific for REHEARSING/LEARNING your lines, not performing the scene. Use these as an absolute last resort.
And the I-HAVE-TO-MENTION-IT-BUT-PLEASE-FOR-THE-LOVE-OF-MIKE-DON’T-EVER-DO-THIS:
5. Don’t read with anyone. If you just say your lines and pause in silence when the other dialogue is supposed to be read, that’s not a performance. That is just saying/reading lines. This will never make a successful audition. Ever. Seriously. The best thing that could possibly come from a read like this, is that you hear from casting that we want you to do it again, but this time with a reader. But it’s more likely that we won’t be able to see enough of a performance to request another take.
Creating your “self-tape tribe” is the key to finding a reader.
Whether your group consists of friends or coaches or family members… or all of the above… having a go-to list will relieve the anxiety around finding a reader when you’re on a tight deadline.
And don’t forget to give what you want to get back! Be as ready/willing/able to be another actor’s reader as your pals are to be yours.
Hartley and I are excited (read: nervous, eager, bittersweet, enthused, and ALL of the other emotions,) to announce that our little family is moving east! By mid-December, we will be living in Asheville, North Carolina, near Hartley’s family.
While we will be quite blue to be physically far from our LA friends, (who are like family,) and our wonderful co-workers, we are eager to start this new chapter with our little man. (Adorable photos included, so you can see our motivation.)
I’ll be transitioning to local/regional casting, while still doing online coaching and consultations for any actor, no matter where they are based. I will also be teaching audition technique and other classes whenever and wherever possible. (In fact, I’m doing a series of classes in Atlanta during January. More on that soon!)
For my LA actor/agent/manager friends, please don’t hesitate to reach out for any of the aforementioned needs. I may be a few time zones away, but I’ll be ready, willing and able to help when you’re looking for guidance.
For my Southeast actor/agent/manager friends… I’m comin’ in hot!
(And special thank you to the friends and family who have been unbelievably supportive in regards to this decision. It was not an easy choice, so we are grateful for the love and encouragement we’ve received from those we hold dear.)
Actors, here are a few rules of thumb when producing scenes SPECIFICALLY for your demo reel:
Make it look like it’s from a real project.
- Don’t shoot a scene with the camera ONLY on you. Sure, it’s YOUR reel, but if you don’t show your scene partner/the setting you’re in, it feels more like a taped audition than something that’s been produced. (And PLEASE use more than just a medium shot. No director in their right mind shoots an entire scene from one focal length.)
Spend the time/money to make it look and sound good.
- Use a quality camera, real lights and mics and then edit carefully and make sure you mix your sound. Nothing screams “FAKE SCENE” more than one of these elements being subpar.
- These people will have a role on YOUR reel. They need to be solid and giving, not drawing all of the attention.
Choose or write a scene that highlights YOUR character.
- This should be common sense, but I’ve seen many a clip where the actor clearly wanted to play a specific character or moment and didn’t pay attention to the other elements in the scene, namely that the other character had the better arc. Again, if too much attention is focused on your scene partner(s), then this activity is moot.
If you choose to write a scene, be VERY honest with yourself about your writing skills.
- An original scene is the best choice when shooting material for your reel. However not everyone can write dialogue. If you are the scribe, get feedback from your peers before filming your work. If you’re questioning your writing abilities, try to partner with a writer to craft a scene for you.
- Also… E.D.I.T. Of all the original scenes I’ve watched, (if you follow me you know I’ve seen A LOT,) 98% of them could use a good edit. Less is more.
If you are choosing previously produced material, do not choose any famous or well known scenes.
- Sure, Robin Williams’ monologue from GOOD WILL HUNTING is magnificent, but do you REALLY want to be compared to Robin Williams? Obscurity is your friend here. Dig deep for something that won’t warrant a juxtaposition.
The long and the short of it is this: if you are going to create content for your reel, take time and spend some effort (and if needed, some cash,) to do it right.
Today is a dark day. As I type this, the death toll in Las Vegas’ mass shooting is 59 souls, and climbing. Citizens in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico are struggling to recover from massive hurricane damage. Mexico is reeling from a major earthquake. Catalonians were beaten for trying to enter a polling location… These days, it’s hard not to be touched by calamity.
When tragedies strike, it’s difficult to know which way is up, let alone how you should proceed with your daily life.
The world doesn’t stop when these horrific events occur. As we’ve all seen, the only things that shut down the entertainment industry are Christmas and a writer’s strike.
So, what should you do when you have an audition scheduled on a day when you are struggling to deal with one of life’s catastrophes? (And by “catastrophe”, I’m not talking about sitting in traffic on the 405…)
Reschedule your audition. Plain and simple.
We often see actors come in to our offices, who are grappling with a major personal issue; they got a bad diagnosis, they just had to put their dog to sleep, or like today, they’re waiting to hear from a loved one who was too near a violent event. We’ve even had actors show up to read after getting into a car accident on their way to see us. They assume that they have one shot, and do their best to buck up and be a professional. Folks, there are no brownie points for “showing up anyway.”
There is no world where an actor, who is dealing with physical or emotional trauma, can give any sort of a decent audition. And we don’t expect them to. In fact, when we recognize that the actor is struggling with something personal, we shoo them out of our offices to go deal with it.
You are human beings. If something catastrophic is happening in your life, we want you to take a moment to acknowledge and process it. We will either see you another day, look at a self-tape, or read you for another part down the road. Mark my words, you will not blow your chance with a casting office by being up front about this. If you simply cannot focus on your audition because you are dealing with or waiting on some sort of life-changing news, we will ALWAYS understand.
Let me say that again: if you need to reschedule your appointment so you can process or deal with a major life event, we will be glad to accommodate you to the best of our abilities. Without question. Every time.
If you ultimately decide that you can and would prefer to pour your energy into your audition, (and be VERY honest with yourself about this,) then follow the words of a beloved princess: