Confessions of a Casting Director

by | Jan 11, 2024 | Uncategorised | 0 comments

In her book Confessions of a Casting Director Jen Rudin gives actors the tips and tricks of navigating the treacherous waters for meeting agents, getting auditions, and becoming the actor one wants to become. 

Remember, through all the auditions, the good and the not so good, the casting director is on your side. Most of them are, anyway. And casting directors want you to do well. 

First off what does a Casting director do? They act as a liaison between director, actors and their agents/managers, and the production company or studio to get the characters in the script cast. 

They are consultants hired to organise, research, and identify the actors for the play. Movie, or TV show. They present actors to the director and producer and work together as a team to choose the most qualified actors to populate the world of the project. 

During the challenging times of the casting process they often will play the role of a therapist, confidante, diplomat, or mediator, trying to balance the needs of everyone involved.

Every casting director will tell you this: if you want to become a professional actor, you need to invest wisely in your career. An acting career costs money. Prepare to make endless sacrifices, both monetary and emotional. 

The audition process is filled with daily highs and lows, yet the possibility of landing a dream role is what propels actors to keep auditioning. It’s hard not to get carried away in the fantasy but one will likely go on hundreds if not thousands of auditions before one earns a penny. 

Unfortunately no one pays for an actor to go to an audition so look at the acting career as a marathon not a sprint. 

For actors who are starting out the first year will be spent gaining fans, getting into the audition room and building relationships with casting directors, directors and writers. 

Taking classes, vocal coaching, doing showcases whenever one can shows the casting director the actors work. This way the actor doesn’t walk into the audition room with the weight of the world on their shoulders desperate to be hired. 

Instead, an actor should look at each audition as an opportunity to meet someone new to add to their fan base. 

The start up costs to be taken professionally as an actor will include investing in:

  • head shots taken by a professional photographer 
  • Acting lessons – both group and private coaching 
  • Workshops to meet agents and casting directors 
  • Vocal coaching 
  • Dance classes 
  • Subscriptions to the trades including IMDBPro, Stage, Backstage etc.
  • Transportation to get to auditions 
  • And a website 

A head shot is a specific type of modern portrait for today’s branding needs, where the focus of the photograph captures the personality of its subject – You. 

Confidence and accessibility are the Yin and Yang of a good head shot and they must be in balance. Actors should get plenty of sleep before they have their head shot taken. The aim is to have fun, to let go and this will naturally reveal the actors unique spirit. 

Casting directors get disappointed when an actor comes to an audition and look nothing like his or her head shot. So, be sure to update your head shots regularly and please use a professional photographer and let’s not try to save money by taking our own photos, or worse, paying someone with a digital camera, who is unqualified and inexperienced. 

Next – Agents and Managers 

One doesn’t necessarily need an agent or a manager when first starting to audition. But in the long run, obtaining representation should be a goal for all actors who want to seriously pursue a career. 

An agent’s job is to get the actor acting work. Their job is to defend, support and promote the actors interests and to do this a talent agent must be familiar with the actor, to establish the kind of work the actor can and cannot do in order to match the actor with various jobs. 

A good agent might not be able to sign an actor for any of several reasons; for instance, if the agent already has other clients in the same age category, or if the agency is simply not signing anyone new. 

But if they ask the actor to keep in touch, they mean it. Often an agent will want to follow or keep track of an actor over a few years. If the actor starts to generate some buzz from a play or a film that’s garnered some attention, the agent may then be interested in signing. 

Therefore, it’s always good for an actor to keep agents in the loop on what roles they have upcoming or have already performed in. Following up on a regular basis is crucial to keep on an agents radar so that agents can see actors are serious and professional which always adds kudos to an actors repertoire.

If an actor manages to set up a meeting with an agent they should be ready to answer the following questions:

  • which casting directors know you and your work? 
  • And what type of roles do you see yourself auditioning for? 

An actor should be able to answer these questions confidently and clearly, so actors need to be sure to prepare their answers ahead of time. 

Also, when meeting up with agents here are a few suggestions to follow:

  • be yourself 
  • Do your research ahead of time so you know how many clients the agency represents and some of their well know clients 
  • Know your career goals and what you feel you can add to the equation. It’s always easier for representation to service a client when each client, actor, and agent has clear goals in mind. 
  • Smile, keep calm, and be confident. 

Next. When it comes to auditions here are some do’ and don’ts:

  • Make sure to bring pen, highlighter, extra head shots, CV’s a hair brush and some water. 
  • If you arrive early, Do use the extra minutes to do final vocal warm ups and any extra primping in the toilets. You want to look your best for the auditions. 
  • Do research the people who are in the audition room. Use IMDBPro to look up their credits and what projects they’ve worked on in the past 
  • Do learn the script the way it is written. Don’t paraphrase or add in any extra words. It’s insulting to the writer, especially if they’re in the audition room. 
  • Do make the acting adjustments if the casting director or director suggests one. This means they like you and want to see if you can do it a different way. They need to see that you have the skills to think quickly and make changes on the spot. 
  • Do practice reading aloud every day so that you can be on your game if the casting director asks you to read a different scene on the spot. 
  • Do remember that the waiting room is a public space. Save gossip for later with friends. 
  • Don’t vocalise in the waiting room or in the stairwell. 
  • Don’t tell the casting director you’re sick, contagious, or have a miserable cold. Sometimes the best auditions are the ones when you don’t feel your best but somehow tap into a magical energy from deep inside 
  • Don’t shake hands in the audition room unless someone from the creative team offers to first. 
  • Don’t wear a costume to an auditions unless requested to. It’s better to wear something that merely suggests the character. Use your good judgement. 

Remember an audition is not an acting class. The easiest way to break down an audition scene is to ask some basic questions and make clear the acting choices. 

Find out what’s the problem in the scene? what’s the solution? What does the character want? What does the grammar and punctuation say?

Make a choice with the scenes before the audition. And remember, it’s just an auditions, not life or death. 

One last point for auditions – prior to the audition have a cup of coffee and find your personality. 

Figure out what you need to do to arrive at your scheduled appointment time with your personality intact. Whatever else happened that day, leave it at the door and walk into your auditions with a positive attitude, a big smile and whole lot of confidence. 

Another great tip for actors is to approach casting directors with the aim of being an audition readers. It’s great for the actor who’s auditioning because they have a scene partner to feed them the other lines in the scene. 

It’s also a great way to get to know the casting director and spend the day watching other actors audition. Many aspects of the audition process get demystified in the best possible way. And spending a few hours as an audition reader is like taking a master class in audition technique. 

It’s well worth considering if an actor is just starting out, feels like they could get some practice and get to know and network with people in the industry. 

Webisodes

As artists we want to be part of something creative. So when friends, colleagues are doing things that they believe in, it’s sexy. It’s sexy when people are passionate about something. 

Whether it’s filming shorts, sketches or even webisodes which I believe is the way forward, it can help an actor not just work their acting muscle but also be able to put their work online for the world to see. 

Many actors are creating their own content and posting it online as a creative outlet in order to increase acting opportunities and even get platforms or channels to show an interest. 

They are distributed through video sharing sites such as Vimeo or Youtube and while there is no set standard for length, most webisodes are relatively short, ranging from three to fifteen minutes in length. 

Advertisers are putting more money into Youtube than TV. This will provide more work for actors in forms like web series and original programming. So get involved in this trend early by creating your own webisodes. 

Creative people are making interesting, new content and producing webisodes every day, and this trend will only continue. Fans stay loyal with webisodes that are honest well written and well shot. 

Be the smart and creative actor who takes initiative and creates their own content. Thanks to sites like Kickstarter, Indigogo and now being able to shoot on iPhones there’s never been a better time to grab these opportunities and become a creative actor. 

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