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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
Casting Directors don’t love receiving unsolicited self-tapes.
My first instinct when I receive an unsolicited self-tape is to sigh and shake my head in frustration. I value an actor’s time and effort, ESPECIALLY the effort involved in self-taping. And to receive a tape from someone who is often not right, (which is why I didn’t request them in the first place,) bums me out HARD.
Here are a few ways an unsolicited self-tape could backfire:
- The material is super secret. Anyone who reads has to sign an NDA and have watermarked sides. Therefore if you just get a copy of the material and send in an unrequested tape, we’re wondering who the schmuck was who broke the rules… another actor? A coach? An agent? Hard for us to appreciate your read if we have to figure out how wide-spread the leak is.
- While YOU might think you are absolutely PERFECT for a role… that may not actually be the case. Either we had to leave something out of the breakdown description (due to secrecy) that makes you not quite right, or the role has evolved and the characteristics you think you fit, no longer apply.
- The role might already be cast. Or worse, it’s been cut.
- You miss out on critical information, such as: when we need your tape, backstory information, which scenes to read, whether or not an accent is needed, any direction, etc. When we request self-tapes, we give out a lot of intel. Without that, you’re kind of shooting in the dark.
- If we’re not expecting it, it could easily get buried in our emails and never opened. Truthfully, Casting will PROBABLY watch any tape that comes in, whether or not we asked for it. But you will be much more set up for success if the request originates from us.
Actors will get material from their reps, from a class, from a coach, from a friend who urges them to tape even though Casting hasn’t requested them. Your best course of action when this happens is to have your reps ask Casting if it’s ok for you to tape. If we think it’ll be a waste of your time, we’ll say so. If we’re open to it, we’ll say yes and give you ALL of the information you need. Win-win.
Think of it this way: Casting would be incredibly annoyed and/or turn you away if you crashed one of their live auditions. However, if we’ve invited you to our session, we’re looking forward to your read.
Treat self-taping the way you would an in-person appointment.
Show up when asked.
Auditions: When Excuses Take Over Your Read…
- “I just got the material.”
- “My reps didn’t send me the full script.”
- “I have three auditions today, so I’m not off-book.”
- “Normally I coach, but this appointment was too last minute, so…”
- “I was camping and didn’t have internet, so I just looked at this for the first time this morning. What exactly is this project, anyway?”
Casting Directors have heard every excuse imaginable when it comes to why an actor isn’t prepared for their audition. Actors will use it to preface what we are about to see, which makes us assume a combination of the following:
- “This read will be subpar.”
- “I’m going to have to give them a crapload of backstory before we can even start.”
- “I will likely not get them to the performance I want, no matter what, since they don’t know the lines well enough.”
- “This will likely be a waste of both of our time.”
When you start your read with an excuse, not only are you putting the CD on edge, but you’re also saying to yourself, “This isn’t going to be very good.”
Truthfully, we KNOW that there are extenuating circumstances as to why you may not be FULLY prepared for this read. We know you’re human beings, with lives and families and jobs/classes/auditions. (And 2020 update: we know there’s a global pandemic and everything changes by the moment.)
We also know when your appointment went out, so unless we sent you that audition within the last 12 hours (or less,) we DO expect you to have figured out a way to become prepared. And if it was so utterly impossible to do so, did your reps try to move your appointment? (Sometimes we can’t allow you to change your day/time, but we are always aware of when the request has come in… or if it hasn’t.)
On the reverse, when we knowingly give an actor very little time to prepare and they come in, bounding with energy and ready to play without a word of how much time they had with the sides, we are utterly delighted. Inevitably, those actors will get the callbacks/jobs, even if they’re up against people who have twice the resume. They come in open-minded, ready to do the best they absolutely can without fear or hesitation, and guess what… IT WORKS.
So the next time you’re sensing the urge to preface your read with an excuse, curb the feeling… trust Casting to guide you, and focus on being there in the moment, listening and having fun.
Not every audition goes perfectly. Actors have good days and bad days, (you are human, after all.) How often do you find yourself thinking, “That was crap. I KNOW I could’ve done better. I can’t believe I…”
Far too regularly, we see actors dwelling on what they consider a “bad read.” While it’s ok to (briefly) rehash and learn from mistakes, this cycle of shame can too easily affect your confidence and be carried from one audition to another.
Casting Directors often see self-doubt follow actors into the audition rooms. It looks like this:
- An actor comes in, a little sheepishly because they’re not sure why they’re reading for a role, (either they feel they’re not good enough/never going to get it, or based on the sides or other people in the waiting room, feel that they aren’t right.) They walk in, literally questioning us as to why they’re there. Those actors AUTOMATICALLY give a sub-par read. Their heart isn’t in it.
- We don’t give the actor a note, and they assume it’s because they did a terrible job on their first take. They walk out of our office with their head down, sulking, no matter how much we tell them that they did a good job.
- We DO give the actor a note, but they’re so in their head about screwing up that they’ve stopped trusting themselves (and us,) and are unable to take the direction. Those actors get so frustrated with themselves that they leave looking utterly disgusted.
Casting Directors know the difference between someone who is having a bad day, someone who just isn’t this character, and someone who is green and not yet ready for that kind of role. We also know that if someone walks into our office with a crappy attitude, it doesn’t matter how good they are or how long their resume is, we’re never going to get the read we want from them. There’s an emotional wall standing between the actor and success at that point, and we can’t break it down in the five minutes we have together.
But as I said, you ARE human. Inevitably, you will fall into a negative mindset at certain points in your career. If the self-doubt monster gets the better of you, acknowledge it. BREATHE. Toss your sides in the recycle bin and MOVE ON. Dwelling will only keep the cycle going and it will absolutely affect your future auditions.
So in the words of a particular ice princess, LET IT GO. Trust your abilities and your Casting Directors, keep working on your craft, and look ahead to the next one.
Arguably, one of the most difficult parts of self-taping is choosing which take(s) to send to Casting.
Which is the best take? Should I send more than one to show my range? This one has a great beginning but this one has a great moment in the middle, and this one shows I can do an accent but I don’t flub the line in this take, and and and…
You have my sympathy on this. Trying to be objective when you’re staring at yourself on video is neither easy nor pleasant.
There is no science to this, I’m afraid. I can’t give you a fail-proof method to guide you. BUT! There are ways to make the process easier for yourself.
Here are some do’s and don’t’s to assist you in choosing a take:
DO as much character prep as you can before you ever step foot in front of a camera. That way, you’ll know what you’re aiming to accomplish.
DO NOT “work it out” in front of the camera. This is the equivalent to throwing sh*t at the wall and seeing what sticks. You’ll be there forever and end up with too many options. (And you’ll have a very cranky reader.)
DO limit the number of takes you do. I like to say no more than three takes before you watch those to see if you got it (you probably did) or if there’s something missing.
DO NOT stop yourself if you’re really vibing at the end of a take. Start again immediately without futzing with your camera.
DO listen to your body. When things go really right, you FEEL it. Trust that instinct.
DO NOT let your reader/coach/taper pressure you when to stop, when to do another take, or which takes to send. This is YOUR audition. You know this character better than they do. Listen to their feedback and reasoning, but the decision is ultimately yours.
DO trust that you can get it done in one or two takes! You do it ALL THE TIME in live auditions. You can do it for your self-tapes, too. Prep the same way you would if you were going in the room and you’ll get it done quicker and with more clarity.
Ok! Now, you’ve got a take that is really great. But there’s another take that’s pretty good, and another that’s pretty different and shows some range, so…
Should you send more than one take??
You have to follow your gut on this one. If you have a take that you feel great about, given your performance and everything you know about the project/tone/character, then that’s absolutely the one to send.
If you are thinking about sending a second take, consider these questions:
- Does it still fit the tone of the piece? The biggest issue we see when actors send a second “different” take is that one take fits what we’re looking for and the second take might as well be for a different project, because the energy is just TOOMUCH. If you’re TRYING to do something different, you’re schmacting. And we can see it from a mile away.
- Have you made choices that are different and interesting but still truthful and that fit within the world? Oftentimes, the second take is a near carbon-copy of the first. To help guide you, think about the things you CAN change vs. the things you CANNOT.
- Is an accent, wardrobe piece or a prop the only thing that’s different? If that’s the only change, we don’t need that take unless we specifically ask for it, which leads me to…
A few reasons Casting may ask you to send multiple takes:
- It’s a small/short scene and we’d like to see what you provide some options on the character/moment.
- Accents. We’d like to see a take WITH an accent and WITHOUT an accent.
- We don’t have the benefit of time, so we’d like you to do the scene with two different sets of directions (as opposed to having you adjust and re-tape later.)
Remember: if you only send one take and Casting wants to see you do something else, we can always ask you to re-tape (pending time.)
We don’t envy you having to make these selects. It’s not easy. But if you’ve done your homework, grounded yourself in the truth of the moment/character and trusted your instincts, you will make the take-choosing process easier.