THE CONSCIOUS ACTOR
by Casting Director, Terry Berland
Who gets selected to come in to audition and why?
I’m sure you ask yourself many times why you weren’t given an audition for a breakdown you know is going on around town that you are sure you are right for.
There are many reasons, some clear-cut and some subjective. Let’s start with the clear-cut reasons. If the spot calls for comedy, your resume will be taken into consideration in addition to your look. When you are working in a competitive market, there are many people with strong resumes vying for the spot. For comedy, we’ll look at your resume for comedic television, knowing to land a part on a particular TV show you need good timing. Improv and comedy training and/or involvement with an on-going troupe is another good indication of your ability, as well as comedic theatre or films. Attaching a demo to your submission that shows comedy gives you another competitive edge, as we can easily take a look. The same scenario can be applied for drama.
The stronger resumes will get priority consideration. Remember with 30 seconds to a minute of copy, we can schedule about 50 people for the entire day. We realistically can receive 1500 submissions. After making our choices, sadly because of lack of time, not everyone who is good will get an appointment. As we are informed talent are not available, we will replace with someone we have “waiting in the wings”. So please, to be fair to the casting director and other talent, if you are not available, let us know with plenty of time to replace.
If your resume is not as strong as you would like it to be, don’t be discouraged. As your acting career is a process, you should always be working on building your resume. In an interview with an actor, I asked where they felt their strength lay. Their answer was comedy. I pointed out that their resume did not have one comedic thing on it. It does you no good if your area of strength is not reflected on your resume. My advice is to build your resume to reflect your strength.
Your resume will evolve as your career evolves. For instance, you might start out with strong stage credits. Stage is a great foundation for everything and is impressive because of the commitment it takes for rehearsals and the run itself. The type of show and the part you play also reflects who you are as an actor. It goes without saying there are different skills for musicals, drama and comedy. You will have evolving interests and goals throughout your career. You might start out with theatre and at a later time evolve to film and/or television. The most obvious examples to look at are celebrities. Notice they may have started out in theatre, moved to film and then want back for a theatre “fix”, to again return to film work. Some are now moving in and out of television projects. Think of the careers of Al Pacino, John Lithgow, Kathy Bates and Melissa Leo, to name a few.
Another reason you may have not been chosen is because the breakdown has changed a bit. We might not put out a new breakdown because we know the submissions we already have received will cover our needs. For instance, recently I worked on a breakdown which included an “attractive women with dark medium length hair, who looked between 35 and 45 years old”. Behind the scenes the description of the actor was changed to include “she must have dark eyes”. There was no need to change the breakdown, as dark eyed women were already submitted. However, if you are the actor who has blue eyes, you could be confused or distraught as to why you didn’t get the appointment.
The breakdown character descriptions brings us into the subjective conversation which is not as clear cut and a little more complicated. I once was given a breakdown for “a women who looked between 25 and 32, lived in a city and was successful in business. In addition, she needed to look artistic, live in a walk-up as opposed to a high-rise elevator building and would ride a bike to work rather than hail a taxi.” I look at your headshot and I get a “feel” for you. Each casting director’s eye is rather different. Thank goodness, otherwise the same people would be called in all the time. I have my own taste (which by the way, I think is the best) and other people have their taste that, of course, they think is the best. Even in my office, my associate and I make the picks and we’ll disagree on some. We discuss whom we disagree on, bend and give in to our differences. If we are insisting on a certain person we’ll discuss why, and agree or disagree on giving the person an appointment.
Assuming the resume meets our needs, the why or why not’s become subjective about a look or a “feel” that reflects the essence of the person. If we are looking for a certain ability/special skill, a little trick to possibly bring yourself to our attention and stand out from the hundreds upon hundreds of submissions, is to write an honest note attached to the submission.
Your photo of course should capture qualities of your personality. Four photos at the most should be sufficient.
You can’t outguess what we’ll be looking for so just know your strongest qualities.
Breakdowns vary, which makes this business so interesting. Some examples of breakdowns are people who look upscale, working class, sensitive, helpless, hopeful, artistic, strong willed, the underdog, the winner, slick, a photographer, producer or director with an artistic feel, non commercial or aspirational. Sensitive, not sensitive, passive, aggressive or passive/aggressive. Additional examples; looks like they live downtown, uptown, Silver Lake, Beverly Hills, New York City, rural, suburban or urban. Are you smiling yet?
So my actor friends, know thy self, don’t try to be everything to everyone and enjoy what you are doing.
Terry Berland is an award-winning casting director for on-camera, television, voice-over, and hosting. Her casting awards include Clio, The Houston International Film Festival, Art Director's Club, Addy, and the International Film and Television Festival. Her former casting staff position for Madison Avenue giant BBDO/NY has lent to her deep understanding and involvement in the advertising industry. She is known throughout the country for her talent development and is the co-author of the how-to industry book,"Breaking Into Commercials".
Original article located here: http://castingnetworks.com/newsletter/newshome/newshome.htm#featured/feature2/201102
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