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Tag: Acting Tips (Page 1 of 3)

Reminders Regarding Online Stonehenge Audition Videos

Summer shooting season is here — and we’ve been hearing from many actors that they’ve been contacted by filmmakers thanks to their audition videos being on the Stonehenge Auditions YouTube channel.

We’re taking this occasion to remind actors about how the videos work.

Stonehenge Audition Videos are Publicly Available
We know it’s probably obvious since they’re on YouTube, but yes, your audition video can be seen by pretty much anyone. It’s public.

Having the videos be publicly available is, in fact, why we’re still doing Stonehenge Auditions. It has served as a resource for the DC-area filmmaking community and beyond. We hear from actors getting contacted not only by local filmmakers, but ones in Richmond, Philadelphia, and New York. While there’s no guarantee any project will be good, bad, or weird, enough actors have contacted us about good projects for us to keep on posting videos.

You May Ask to Update or Remove Your Video at Any Time
As per the video release actors sign when attending Stonehenge Auditions, actors may contact us at any time to remove their video from the YouTube channel.

You can also ask for us to update your contact information listed with the video. We highly recommend you list the email address you use for your professional acting work versus a personal email address. You may also want to list your agent’s email address and phone number, if that’s applicable.

We can usually make these changes within one business day.

Always Research Filmmakers & Production Companies
The barrier to having some sort of online presence is lower than ever, so if you get contacted by producers, look ’em up!

Whether it’s a website for their company, the particular project, or even a reel of their previous work, it can be informative. Even student filmmakers may have online examples of their work.

If anything strikes you as odd or raises a flag, go with your instincts — and always ask questions. In Team J’s Casting Notes series, we have an article specifically about responding to casting notices. The section on researching and asking questions holds true when producers reach out to you as well.

Here’s hoping your summer is productive and creative!

Bjorn Munson Speaking at WIFV Talent Roundtable, 2/26

Head Jabberwock Bjorn Munson will be speaking at this month’s Women in Film & Video (WIFV) Talent Roundtable.

WIFV has a series of monthly roundtables, we’re actually holding the Stonehenge Auditions at two of them in March: Session One on March 5th during the Narrative Directors’ Roundtable and Session Two on March 29th for that month’s talent roundtable.

He’ll go over things to keep in mind when doing a mass audition as well as follow-up steps and submitting to casting notices.

For those of you with memories like an elephant, you may remember this sounds similar to a talk he gave in 2016. It is.

But if you didn’t attend two years ago, we hope it will help you as an actor learn more about navigating the indie world. If you’re an actor who’s gotten the lottery results for Session One or are hoping to get an audition slot for Session Two, this should be particularly useful.

The event is free for WIFV members and $10 for non-members. You can learn more and register at their event link.

How do I Register for Stonehenge Auditions 2017?!?

Stonehenge Auditions 2017 aka the sixteenth edition of the in-person mass auditions for film and video will be in Washington, DC on Monday, March 20th (hint: this link goes to the event information page, including an extensive actor FAQ and producer FAQ).

However, if you want to be direct like John Wick, this is the tactical page for you.

First things first: are you an actor or a producer?

PRODUCER?
If you’re a producer –by which we mean producer, casting director, or anyone looking to hire actors– you register for the in-person event on the WIFV website, just like last year.

Producer Registration is now open on the WIFV website and will remain open until noon on Friday, March 17th (i.e. the Friday before the Monday event).

Once you have registered for the in-person event, we’ll contact you about getting set up on Stonehenge Casting (we also have an article about getting producer access on Stonehenge Casting).

ACTOR?
All actors register for Stonehenge Auditions 2017 by going through Stonehenge Casting, not through WIFV.

If you’re an actor, DO go ahead and create or update your free profile on Stonehenge Casting. Remember, your profile needs to be 100% complete to be eligible for the lottery.

Registering for Stonehenge Auditions 2017, by which we mean the lottery to get a slot, is the same process as submitting to any other project on Stonehenge Casting (here’s the link to the article in case you’d missed it).

Specifically, you’ll want to go to the “Projects” tab once you log in. Then click on the project that looks something like this:

Note, there may be other projects at the time you register, but the name will be "Stonehenge XV Actor Registration."

Actor registration opens on Monday, February 13th and closes on Saturday, March 4th. It really doesn’t matter if you register early or not, as long as your profile is complete. Remember, if you register and your profile is incomplete, you won’t be eligible for the lottery. Take your time. Besides the FAQ on Stonehenge Casting, you can also take a look at the Stonehenge Casting How-Tos on this blog, including one about getting your profile baseline to 100% as well as how to get all your measurements.

When you register, please follow the listed directions.

That means in the “ROLE” field you don’t put any information on roles you might wish to play. You put conflicts (if any) you have during the audition times of 10am to 6pm on Monday, March 20th. We’ll do our best to schedule auditions based on those notes.

By reading the directions, you also know you do not put anything in the video audition field.

SC_S15_roles_and_video

Even if you’ve already submitted: Make sure your profile is 100% Complete
This is a requirement to be eligible for the Stonehenge Auditions lottery and the one most actors are missing.

There’s a handy bar that displays at the right of each page of the actor/performer profile.

Completion Percentage

The completion percentage is different from the required fields and does not mean you need to fill out every last field in the profile.

As mentioned in the submission instructions, the Stonehenge Casting FAQ about Completion percentage lists all the fields you need to fill out to make your profile 100%. Again, those are:

Basic Information

  • First Name
  • Last Name
  • Screen/Stage Name (Yes OR No)

Projects and Preferences

  • Logline
  • Types of Work
  • Types of Compensation

Contact Information

  • Email
  • Telephone
  • Telephone Type
  • ZIP code
  • State
  • City

Appearance

  • Height
  • Weight
  • Hair Color
  • Eye Color
  • Races or Ethnicities
  • Age Range
  • ALL Measurements (put N/A in any that don’t apply to you)

Vocal & Language Skills

  • Not required for completion percentage

Physical & Athletic Skills

  • Not required for completion percentage

Union Status & Availability

  • Willing to work background (Yes OR No)

Special Information

  • Car available for background (Yes OR No)
  • Dog available for background (Yes OR No) Special Skills (Yes OR No)

(Can you tell producers sometimes use our site for background performers?)

Attachments and Links

  • Headshot
  • Resume
  • Demo Reel (Yes OR No)

The two sections actors seem to be missing the most are their logline (which has a how-to article) and their measurements: ALL TWELVE of their measurements.

Wrapping up
Remember, if you’re an actor or a producer, we have a page all about Stonehenge Auditions 2017, including links to an extensive Actor FAQ and Producer FAQ.

Thanks for reading and we hope to see you at the Henge.

How do I Register for Stonehenge XV?!?

Stonehenge XV aka the fifteenth edition of the in-person mass auditions for film and video will be in Washington, DC on Monday, April 4th (hint: this link goes to the event information page, including an extensive actor FAQ and producer FAQ).

However, if you’re laser-focused on registering, this is the page for you.

First things first: are you an actor or a producer?

PRODUCER?
If you’re a producer –by which we mean producer, casting director, or anyone looking to hire actors– you register for the in-person event on the WIFV website, just like you did for Stonehenge XIV.

Producer Registration is now open on the WIFV website and will remain open until noon on Sunday at April 3rd (i.e. the day before the event).

Once you have registered for the in-person event, we’ll contact you about getting set up on Stonehenge Casting (we also have an article about getting producer access on Stonehenge Casting).

ACTOR?
All actors register for Stonehenge XV by going through Stonehenge Casting, not through WIFV.

If you’re an actor, DO go ahead and create or update your free profile on Stonehenge Casting. Remember, your profile needs to be 100% complete to be eligible for the lottery.

Registering for Stonehenge XV, by which we mean the lottery to get a slot, is the same process as submitting to any other project on Stonehenge Casting (here’s the link to the article in case you’d missed it).

Specifically, you’ll want to go to the “Projects” tab once you log in. Then click on the project that looks suspiciously like this:

Note, there may be other projects at the time you register, but the name will be "Stonehenge XV Actor Registration."

Don’t see the link? That means actor registration isn’t open yet. Actor registration opens on Monday, March 7th and closes on Saturday, March 19th. It really doesn’t matter if you register early or not, as long as your profile is complete. Remember, if you register and your profile is incomplete, you won’t be eligible for the lottery. Take your time.

When you register, please follow the listed directions.

That means in the “ROLE” field you don’t put any information on roles you might wish to play. You put conflicts (if any) you have during the audition times of 10am to 6pm on Monday, April 4th. We’ll do our best to schedule auditions based on those notes.

By reading the directions, you also know you do not put anything in the video audition field.

SC_S15_roles_and_video

Wrapping up
Remember, if you’re an actor or a producer, we have a page all about Stonehenge XV, including links to an extensive Actor FAQ and Producer FAQ.

Thanks for reading and we hope to see you at the Henge.

Casting Notes #12: The Audition – For Actors, it’s Time to Play (For Actors)

This 20-part series, written by Team J’s Bjorn Munson, covers the lessons learned during the casting of The Broken Continent web series pilot in 2012. You can find the full Table of Contents in Part 1.

This series is meant to help other independent filmmakers, primarily those who are casting a large ensemble (10+ speaking parts, multiple background actors, etc.). Individual articles may be useful to production companies looking to cast other work such as commercials. There are also a number of articles specifically for actors on how to better submit for auditions, do the auditions, and deal with the statistically inevitable rejections.

The lessons learned have been applied to Team J’s Stonehenge Casting service, an online tool for producers to find actors and actors to find work.


Previous Casting Notes Article | Next Casting Notes Article


The Audition – For Actors, it’s Time to Play

Welcome back, actors!

If you’ve skimmed any of the filmmaker articles, you’ve hopefully picked up on this theme: you want to make the boring parts of casting easily repeatable so you can focus on the fun parts.

The same idea applies to you. There are plenty of classes and workshops you can take about how to audition well. Apart from some general audition strategy, we won’t focus too much on the creative side of the audition. You can take classes and get coaching for that. We will, however, cover what to expect in the audition room — along with some concrete actions you can take before then.

For those of you who are fans of lists, there’s 15 steps to remember: [1]

Before the Audition Day

  1. Do your research – reconfirm this audition is worth it
  2. Plan your trip
  3. Organize your clothes

At the Audition Site

  1. Check-in
  2. Freshen up (as needed)
  3. Review what you planned to review
  4. Make sure you’re breathing

In the Audition Room

  1. Seriously: make sure you’re breathing
  2. Ace the preliminaries
  3. Take the stage
  4. Make strong choices
  5. Make adjustments
  6. Exit graciously

After the Audition

  1. Let go
  2. Follow-up (if applicable)

Before the Audition Day

As mentioned several times throughout this series, an audition is a job interview albeit a specialized type of job interview. Therefore, all the regular preparation for job interviews applies, to whit:

1. Do your research – reconfirm this audition is worth it
This is admittedly a step that should already be completed, but there might be new information to research and, in turn, that new research means you need to re-evaluate the audition.

If you followed the steps outlined in Part 6, about responding to the casting notice, you’ve done the work. If you’re at this point, you decided this project was worthy for submission. But if they’ve reached out to you for an audition, they may have provided some additional information about the project.  Most often, this means the script.

As mentioned in Part 6, there’s several points during the process where you might get a better idea of the filmmakers and the project. And it’s entirely possible that you decide that this project might not be a good one to work on or these filmmakers might not be good to work with. Every actor is going to have a different threshold and this threshold will undoubtedly change over the course of one’s career.

And let’s be honest: sometimes you get the sides prior to the audition and they’re underwhelming (to say the least). I’ve noticed consistently employed actors do have a high tolerance for underwhelming scripts, because often the script itself is not offensive, the actors know they can rock the part, and they have bills to pay. [2] However, I have seen enough scripts to know that there are instances where the script is offensive or the actor is simply not comfortable with the part.

In that case, my favorite tactic, often employed by actors when discovering a political ad they’re up for may espouse views they can’t stomach, is to have a “scheduling conflict.” Most filmmakers won’t begrudge you being unable to audition because you have “booked a paying gig since submitting” and if you don’t inquire about re-scheduling the audition, odds are it ends there.  If you don’t know the filmmakers well, but believe you may want to work with them again, this is a good way to hedge your bets — and generally, there’s no advantage in burning bridges. [3] If you do know the filmmakers and have rapport with them, you might feel comfortable saying that the script isn’t a fit, but this is usually the exception. [4] Additionally, if you learn something more about what they’re paying and it isn’t up to the threshold you know you want or need, you should feel free to send a quick, polite message, especially if it’s a project you’d otherwise want to work on. Your rates are thus — and best of luck with the project. [5] Note that if you’re not consistently getting booked at those rates, you’re better off having a “scheduling conflict.”

If you decide not to audition after being contacted to come in and audition, the one thing I would not do is not send any communication. That goes double if you’ve confirmed the audition time and don’t show up. That we do remember. [6]

2. Plan your trip
This is exactly like any other job interview. You want to know:

  • How you’re going to get there
  • How long it’s going to take to get there, including a buffer for traffic, etc., ending with
  • An arrival time ideally 5 minutes before your interview time.

This ideal is for your prospective employer: from multiple articles to anecdotes to personal experience, we don’t want to deal with you way before your scheduled audition time. Five minute before is perfect in our minds: not too far before and not late. Definitely not late. If you personally want to aim for 10 minutes beforehand, because of any prep you want to do — or simply to do a pit stop before going into the audition, feel free. If you’ve skimmed the other articles in this series, you’ll realize filmmakers should have a waiting area with friendly check-in staff who don’t mind too much if you’re early (provided it’s not the first audition of the day and you never expect that means you get to audition earlier).

3. Organize your clothes
The night before the audition, make sure your preferred wardrobe is clean and ready to go.

As should be echoed with any other audition prep class or article, with the rarest of exceptions, please don’t go in costume. [7] Your wardrobe should be emblematic of you and the character you’re going after.

We saw many actors take this to heart for the Broken Continent. Many of the people auditioning for the lords wore suit jackets with button-down shirts. Those auditioning for the queen often had dresses. Simple and emblematic. There’s no one-to-one and there’s no one right answer regarding your audition wardrobe. You’re presenting yourself as a candidate for a particular role: what’s going to help that? You can’t forget yourself or the character in that answer. [8]

At the same time, it’s easy to over-think this. If you’re spending more than 5 minutes riddling this out, go with something you’re comfortable in that doesn’t look bad. We cast plenty of people who showed up in jeans (fake gasp!).

At the Audition Site

Once you get to the audition site and before the audition, there’s four things to keep in mind, two of them optional.

1. Check-in
Obviously not optional: you want to be sure the casting people know you’re there. Ask any logistics questions you need and confirm that you have the right number and format of headshots & resumes. If you’re going to freshen up, feel free to let them know that too. The check-in staff are hopefully friendly, but they also might have many actors asking them questions. Re-assuring them that you haven’t disappeared (or indicating where you might have disappeared to) can’t hurt.

2. Freshen up (as needed)
While this is an optional step and –depending on how soon your audition is– potentially not an option, it’s not a bad idea. After checking in, go ahead and take a pit stop, check your makeup, and make sure your threads are in order. Also, if there’s any possibility at all for there to be anything in your teeth, it will be there if you don’t check.

3. Review what you planned to review
Highly optional, but if part of your process is to review the facts of the production or the script so you can be nimble with questions and choices in the audition room, go ahead and do so.

Just like good test-taking behavior, this is meant to be reviewing, not cramming. This should be relaxed or at least a way to focus your energy.

4. Make sure you’re breathing
Speaking of energy, this is not an optional step. It’s okay to be anxious. It’s not okay if that gets in the way of delivering the audition you’re capable of. Whatever methods you use to get in the groove, focus, and get less anxious, make sure to employ them. Breathe. Listen to music. Simply freshening up and reviewing the script often works for many actors, which is why we mention them, but you’d be surprised at how many actors I notice at Stonehenge forget to breathe.

And remember, everyone in the audition room wants you to succeed.

In the Audition Room

Here’s where there’s plenty of workshops and acting coaches who will be happy to help your with your craft. Nevertheless, there’s several parts to an audition you should be expecting and be prepared for.

1. Seriously: make sure you’re breathing
You may have just left the waiting area remembering that everyone in this room wants you to succeed. Now you’re meeting them and –depending on how they look or react– maybe you’re anxious again. Stay cool, stay breathing. [9]

2. Ace the preliminaries
It’s not uncommon for the auditors to ask you some questions about you and your resume before doing the audition. This is as much part of your job interview as the audition, so expect it and embrace it and don’t try and rush past because you want to “get down to business.” And just like with a regular job interview, you should be ready to speak about every single credit you have listed. What was that show like? How was it like to work with that director? Did you do any stage combat in this play? All of those are fair game. And by the way, this should go without saying, but all your credits and all your classes and education you list? They should be real. Don’t embellish and don’t make things up. [10] As with any other job interview, accentuate the positive.

If you have questions, something that’s keeping you from fully committing to a choice in your read, ask them! For the Broken Continent, we had a whole new fantasy world with its own rules of magic and plenty of unusual names to pronounce. As long as your question is focused on performance and clarity, the writer or director will probably enjoy clarifying it. Save your logistics questions like schedules for at the end of the auditions.

If you don’t have any questions, no problem! And if they ask, you can say so, ready to jump in.

3. Take the stage
Take your time to find your mark and connect whomever’s operating the camera: they’re your ally too (in terms of our case study, that camera operator could be the DP for all you know).

Just like the beginning of movie, your audience will forgive a slow start, so take those seconds that seem like minutes. Soon enough, the minutes will seem like seconds.

4. Make strong choices
There’s no way to phrase this in such a way to address all scripts and situations. However, after seeing literally thousands of auditions, I know when an actor has committed to a choice and when they’re unsure. A fully inhabited choice that’s in no way what we’re looking for is still more interesting than a half-hearted one. And it tells us you can commit to a character. Whether we find a match with you and the character you’re auditioning for is where the adjustments come in.

5. Make adjustments
If you take nothing else away, know this: your job is not to “nail the audition.”

Look at the title of this article. Look at it again.

“It’s time to play” was not chosen at random.

You’re working your craft and talent to bring that character to life with a freshness and immediacy that rings true.

Do you think you did that? Looking at the faces of the auditors, do you think they think you did that?

Cool! Now let’s try something else.

Because maybe the truth you brought to life is one they don’t want in this scene. Or maybe they want to see how much you can do the same thing, but make the character more noble. Or sleazy.

Playing is, after all, what you’re trying to get paid to do. Even if you’re going to punch a card on camera, you’re going to do it in a style that serves the script.

On set, when you’re going into hour 13, perhaps you can admit you’re feeling “kind of beat,” but right now, you want to be game for trying adjustments as long as they want to keep you in the room. Odds are, you’re learning a bit more about the director too.

6. Exit graciously
Eventually, playtime will be over. Perhaps all the auditors look each other and nod and you realize the audition is done, or one of them –clearly in the role of ‘bad cop’– says they need to move on to keep on schedule. Remember, that’s not a bad thing, so long as they’ve seen enough to call you back. [11]

At this point, they will probably thank you and hopefully give you some details about the project — possibly a summary of what has been provided before. They might also ask you if you have any questions. Just like at the top of the audition, it’s okay not to have any questions, but in that case, you ought to have at least one question:

Who’s the best person to contact if I have questions?
It’s probably going to be the casting director or, more generally, the casting firm. In any case, it’s worth knowing. [12]

When are you looking to make your casting decisions?
You can phrase this a number of different ways, but it’s best to ask in general terms. This is because most filmmakers are absolutely horrible at closing the loop on casting (as will be explained more in Part 18). If you’re not cast, more often than not, you usually just don’t hear from them. However, phrasing it in such a way that it’s not “When are ya gonna let me know?” means the filmmakers have space to say things like:

  • “We want to have our cast about a week or so before our shoot in September”
  • “We want to have our cast lined up by the end of this month”
  • “If we want to call you back, you’re hear from us in the next two weeks.”

In all of those cases, they don’t have to say exactly when they might contact you — or even if they might contact you (which they likely won’t). However, you now have a much better idea when you’re out of the running. This is a heck of a lot more certainty than you’d get from just hoping they’ll contact you.

After these and any other questions are answered, it’s time to thank them for the opportunity to audition and exit, stage left, right, or up center as the audition room geography dictates. Give a cheerful goodbye to the check-in staff  too [13] and proceed to let it go (see below).

Bear in mind, these two questions –and any others you might have– are only valid if you’ve decided you are hoping to be called back and get the part. If you’ve gotten red flags during the audition or during the casting process, you can cheerfully say you don’t have any questions, thank them for the opportunity, and move on.

After the Audition

Both of these steps will be covered in depth in Part 18 (The Reaction) and Part 19 (The Aftermath) respectively, but are worth mentioning briefly here.

1. Let go
I know it may seem too “zen” and definitely counter-intuitive, but even though I keep on saying this is a job interview, there are two points where thinking about “getting the job” is not productive. First, you need to not concentrate about “getting the job” aka “nailing it” in the audition room. Second, you need to not worry about “getting the job” after you’re done auditioning.

On the level of an actor practicing his or her craft, you want to leave all notions of “getting the job” before you even enter the audition room: because it does not help you get the job. In a 2012 video, actor Bryan Cranston expertly articulates this notion, which supports the ideas of play and being truthful.

Once you’ve done that, you’re done. Just like Michael Caine says in his book: you need to approach this as the part you’ve been dying to play all your life. But once the opportunity is done, which it is for all intents and purposes at the end of that first audition, you’ve got to move on.

Now, from a practical level of managing your schedule, you may not entirely be able to let it go if you think you might be booked (that’s where the notes about schedule come in), but on a psyche-preserving level, you have to enjoy the moment and then not expect anything. Even if your bills need to be paid by booking gigs, you need to move on to the next gig.

So engage in whatever celebratory ritual you want after auditioning, but move on. To paraphrase a certain Disney tune, the success or failure of one audition shouldn’t bother you, anyway.

(Additional considerations for letting go will be explored in Part 18).

2. Follow-up (if applicable)
If the filmmakers are ones who you really want to work with in the future, whether it’s based on the volume of projects they do or the type of projects they do, keep tabs on them and let them keep up to date on what you’re up to.

With Social Media today, it’s not uncommon for production companies and individual theaters to have pages you can like or Twitter feeds to follow. And on the low-tech side of things, if you have a mailing address, you can send them postcards from shows you’re in. All that, and other tactics (including how to do more effective networking) will be explored in Part 19.

For the next few articles, we’re going to switch back to a focus on filmmakers going through callbacks, casting background performers, and the special considerations for fight auditions.

###

Previous Casting Notes Article | Next Casting Notes Article



FOOTNOTE #1: As you’ll see, we expand on both letting go and following up later in the series.


FOOTNOTE #2: I think you’ll find that ‘industrial’ and training projects often have scripts written by committee which also must be approved after a legal review –a process that often does to the flavor of the script what freeze-drying does to the flavor of food. There is good money to be made by actors who can bring that text to life– and having met some of the original scribes of that material (who are not fans of the required “freeze-drying”), I know they thank you for it.


FOOTNOTE #3:  I’ve seen plenty of scripts that have stereotypes of women and ethnic groups that range from tired to incendiary. The sad truth is that the filmmakers who most need to “board the Clue Bus” are the ones least likely to think they even need a ticket. For that reason, I urge actors to resist the temptation to set the filmmakers straight. Odds are they are not open to a teachable moment. You time and energy are better spent finding the next project to submit to.


FOOTNOTE #4: As discussed earlier in the series, I specifically reached out to actors whom I thought would be good for certain parts. One actor, whom I’d worked with over 10 years previously was someone whose bread-and-butter are classical works and well-realized period characters. As I often tell young filmmakers, you want a variety of ages and looks in your film to implicitly sell the wideness of your world and was certain he could do it for Broken Continent. After I jogged his memory, he appreciated me reaching out –what actor doesn’t like being sought out specifically?– but after a few days he wrote back stating that he really felt the script and type of project wasn’t a good fit. I was bummed to be sure — but I was also sure that if he ignored his feeling, it could lead to a bad audition and wasted time on all our parts. But note it took both of us being able to step back and consider what was the best overall that made this approach work. It’s very easy for things to go badly.


FOOTNOTE #5: You have to be able to do this in a just-the-facts manner and stay pleasant. There could be good and bad reasons for filmmakers to not be able to have a budget to afford your fee. Actors aren’t the only creatives who are well served by just-the-facts negotiation versus emotional battling as Quinn McDonald wrote in a recent blog post:  http://quinncreative.wordpress.com/2014/10/25/growing-without-pushing/.


FOOTNOTE #6: In his excellent video about audition etiquette, Sean Pratt mentions that actors who don’t follow up after being specifically contacted to audition end up on The List of Actors We Don’t Follow Up With Again. This is 100% true. Actors who attended the in-person Stonehenge auditions may remember how we codified this with the “Mud List.” Because hundreds of actors tried to get the scant 120 guaranteed slots, an actor with a guaranteed slot who didn’t show and didn’t let us know couldn’t appear at another Stonehenge for three years (at one point, about 9 events). Once that was instituted, people got much better about canceling. And yes, issues with less-than-communicative actors for the Broken Continent and other projects I cast have lead me to create another Mud List. Life is short and casting deadlines are shorter.


FOOTNOTE #7: For the Broken Continent, one of the actors showed up in full armor. Needless to say, this made an impression and he did wind up getting a part. However, this still ranks as an exception for wearing a full-on costume to an audition. The reason here is that the gentleman in question not only worked on the Broken Continent as an actor, but he helped get similarly well-armored colleagues to appear in the web series AND helped make some of the armor we used. If you are a zealous re-enactor (e.g. Civil Way, WWII) with expertise in and access to the types of costumes the filmmakers might need, you might consider it. We make no promises.


FOOTNOTE #8: One of the actors auditioning for a lord delivered a fine audition and had a great wardrobe choice to complement it. He showed up well-dressed with nice pants, a suit jacket, and a calculatedly untied bow tie. He knew what he was doing with his costume choice, we knew what he was doing with his costume choice, and he knew that we knew what he was doing. It completely fit his rakish read of the character and his overall tone: perfectly presenting what he would bring to the part and the project. That’s an actor you want to work with.


FOOTNOTE #9: Remember, you might be catching them just after a particularly dispiriting audition OR while one of them realizes they really should have gone to the bathroom OR as the post-lunch sleepiness might be setting in. You’re bound to by hypersensitive at this point, but remember, you can’t control how they are feeling or what happened before. You can only control you.


FOOTNOTE #10: I say it should go without saying, but I have had the distinct displeasure of catching someone lying on their resume a couple times during auditions. It’s rare, but just like when it happens with a regular job: you never forget that person — and not in a good way.


FOOTNOTE #11: I’m sure there are examples of the production team feeling they have the perfect actor for a particular role after the first round and then they offer the part then and there. However, if producers are following the same casting format as the case study, then they are wisely not making any casting decisions until after callbacks. This is because almost no role is cast in a vacuum: you need to play off whomever is cast in the roles that interact with that character. Unless you’re one of the stars that is key to the project being funded, then the producers will consider this (and if you are one of the stars integral to the project’s funding, why are you auditioning? Everyone else is auditioning in part to be a fit for you).


FOOTNOTE #12: Incidentally, if this question completely confuses them or clearly annoys them: that’s a red flag for you (and yes, I mention this from my experience as an actor). At best, they clearly aren’t interested in you for the role and, at worst, they’re so disorganized, they haven’t really worked how they’ll deal with actors as they move into production (which, if you think about it, is an important HR/logistics question). Besides which, the best filmmakers you want to work with can provide a general email address that works just as well for the people they do want to hear from or work with in the future as it does for the people they’re not so keen on. And they’re also wise enough not to burn bridges. As I’ll explain in Part 18, there’s any number of reasons why you might not get a part. Good filmmakers might be absolutely sure you’re not the right choice for this part, but they may be equally sure they want to work with you in the future.


FOOTNOTE #13: Your goodbye to the “check-in” staff is not only an easy way to leave a good impression, but it might tell them that the auditors are free. Frequently, the check-in staff needs to ask the auditors a question during the day, but they obviously don’t want to interrupt an audition. If they see you and know you’re done, this might now be the time for them to get an answer from the auditors.

Stonehenge Casting: Why You Need to Resize Your Headshot

We’re thrilled that over 1,000 of you all have joined Stonehenge Casting since it launched on April 1st this year… and we fully expect to see some of you in the upcoming season of House of Cards.

However, we understand that several actors are having trouble with resizing their headshot. For that, we’ve added a handy guide for how to re-size your headshot. However, more troubling are some anecdotes of actors not wanting to re-size their headshots or thinking it’s “not their job.”

The only casting directors who don’t appreciate the smaller headshot size emailed to them are:

  1. Dead.
  2. In a coma (medically induced or otherwise).
  3. Being far too nice — which ends the first time their email is jammed full of inconsiderate actors sending multiple 5mb headshots (or if they ever try and open your headshot on a mobile device).

Guess how many headshots are getting emailed to the fine folks trying to cast you in House of Cards?

So here’s the tough love portion: If you are an actor, your job, now and for the rest of recorded time, is to know how to resize your headshot or find someone who can.

We’re well into the 21st century and further still into the age of computers. Analog isn’t coming back. As with any other job in the modern economy, actors have to be reasonably tech-savvy. Your age is no excuse. Your dislike of technology is no excuse. For every actor who thinks they don’t need to know this, there are at least 10 –if not dozens– who are happy to learn.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because we said it last year.

All of those tips on submitting have a common theme: making the casting director’s job easier. Resizing your headshot is just one step you can take in removing unnecessary barriers from you getting the acting job you want.

If you have to have a friend or relative help you with resizing your headshot, go right ahead, but don’t forget: you’re the one who’s responsible for making it happen.

Stonehenge Casting How-to: How to Resize Your Headshot

For Stonehenge Casting, other casting sites, and even responding to casting notices by email, you’ll need to upload or send your headshot.

For that, your beautiful original headshot, perhaps 5mb or larger, simply won’t do. Resizing it should be simple (grammar police will point out it probably should be “re-size,” but they seem to have been overruled by the denizens of the internet, so we’re going with the flow).

Option A) Use whatever you use now for photos

If you’re like the vast majority of Americans, you haven’t seen a roll of actual film –much less used one– in ages. So what do you use to send the family some pictures or upload something to Facebook, etc.? Whatever you use, check and see if there’s a “resize” button or menu option. Go for 50% of the originals size OR 600 pixels or less in width. Either resulting file size should be good to upload (but hey, check the file size to be sure) .

Option B) Resize it on a PC with Paint

Okay, if you’re on this page, odds are, Option A isn’t working for you, so if you’re like most people, you have a PC with some variety of Windows. One of the built-in apps they have is called “Paint.” To resize your photo:

1) Open the “Paint” application (for Windows Vista and Windows 7 computers, click on the Windows icon in the bottom-left of your screen and type “paint” into the search box. None of us are here at Team J are hip or foolhardy enough to have a Windows 8 machine).

2) Open the image you want to resize. (You may want to be sure to make a copy of the headshot first, so you don’t overwrite your beautiful original).

3) Note the current size of the image. In Paint, you should see the width and height in pixels (e.g, “1024 x 746px”) as well as the file size (e.g., “Size: 826.1KB”) on the bottom edge of the window.

4) Click the “resize” button and a “Resize and Skew” box will pop up (located under the “Home” tab on the ribbon on the top of the application, in the second box from the left marked “image”).

5) Make sure the checkbox “Maintain Aspect Ratio” is checked (It should be checked by default, but if the checkbox isn’t checked, your re-sizing will look awful).

6) You can resize by “Percentage” or by “Pixels.” Paint usually defaults to “Percentage,” but we suggest switching to Pixels.

7) In the “Horizontal” field, replace whatever the number is with “600” (the original number is usually well over “1000”). No matter what size your original is, this usually makes the resized image small enough.

8) Click “OK” on the “Resize and Skew” box, this will bring you back to the main window.

9) Select “Save As” from the menu items and save the image with a new title such as “yourname_headshot_small” (Unless your name is, in fact, Your Name, please go ahead and put your first and last name).

10) Check the bottom edge of the window. The width and height in pixels should now be “600 x [some number]px” and the file size should be much smaller, possibly under 200KB.

11) Rejoice in the knowledge that you now have a headshot that is perfect for emailing or uploading onto web sites.

 Option C) Update it on a Mac with Preview

Let’s say you do have a Mac. One of the nifty built-in apps they have is called Preview, which is used to view photos and PDFs. You can also resize your headshot.

1) Open the Preview application (It should be on the row of apps on the bottom of your screen by default… or you can look for it in the Applications folder, you know, the folder with the non-scarlet ‘A’ on it).

2) From the top menu, select “Menu” then select “Open.” Browse and open your beautiful, original headshot.

3) Once you’ve opened said headshot, select “Tools” and the “Adjust Size” from the top menu. A window should pop up.

4) Make sure that the “scale proportionately” checkbox is checked and note the “Resulting Size” box (which presumably indicates your headshot is over 1mb)

5) Enter “600” in the “width” field. The height field should automatically be updated

6) Confirm that the resulting size in the “resulting size” box is indeed under 1mb

7) Select “Save As” from the menu items and save the image with a new title such as “yourname_headshot_small” (Unless your name is, in fact, Your Name, please go ahead and put your first and last name).

8) Rejoice in the knowledge that you now have a headshot that is perfect for emailing or uploading onto web sites. Also, you did it in slightly less steps than the PC user, but that could be our explanation.

Option D) Just Google It

If any of the options above don’t fit –or if you’re tempted to contact us for tech support– type “resize photo” or “resize image” into Google. You will get no end of search results including tutorials, software to download, and even online tools that will resize your image through your browser. We cannot recommend or guarantee any of these solutions, but it does give you plenty of options.

In conclusion…

Get help from a tech-savvy friend or relative. But remember, you and no one else is ultimately responsible for re-sizing your headshot.

(If you need some tough love as to why, feel free to read more.)

Stonehenge Casting: Actors, Get Ready for your Update

Now that version 0.2 of Stonehenge Casting is online, we thought we’d take a moment and mention: if you’re actor with a profile at SC, your job isn’t over yet. Regular updates from you are part of the plan.

Producers are using Stonehenge Casting as their online filing cabinet. After over a dozen Stonehenge auditions, many producers confessed to us that they didn’t do the best job of keeping all the collected print headshots and resumes organized pristinely.

Yes, we know some actors would prefer spending their money on headshot duplication or overpriced printer ink, but producers have told us that being able to organize your profiles into e-folders is very convenient. And luckily, it’s convenient for you as well.

You see, whenver you update your profile, it’s not only updated for one producer, it’s updated for them all, in whatever folders they have you in.

From the Stonehenge Casting FAQ, you’ll know we suggest updating your profile on a regular basis, really whenever you are changing your resume or headshot. However, as we’re expanding the searchable fields within Stonehenge Casting, you’ll find you may want or need to update your information after each release.

In fact, some of you might be getting emails from our staff in the coming weeks about just that.

While we can’t promise we’ll always examine each actor’s profile in turn (there’s close to 1,000 of you now), we’ll do our best to point out how to improve your profile to show up more accurately in searches. It helps you and it helps the producers.

But it all starts with you periodically updating your profile, just as you update your headshot and resume from time to time. In fact, as we add features to Stonehenge Casting, you’ll find you’ll want and may even need to tweak your profile.

So take note whenever there’s an update to the site. That’s an excellent time to give your profile a once over.

Book Review: To Be or Wanna Be by Sean Pratt

(Note: Team J chief Bjorn Munson has had the opportunity to read a new book by a local author.  We’re including it here as it might be of interest to regular Stonehenge attendees, so don’t expect book reviews to become a regular feature.)

I’m not sure what this bodes for the local theater and film community, but I’ve now read two new books in as many months from established members of the community. Both are very informative for their respective audiences.

The first, Jon Gann’s Behind the Screens: Programmers Reveal How Festivals Really Work, was discussed — along with many topics related to film festivals — in episode 19 of the Tohubohu Producer Podcast. If you’re a filmmaker who plans to submit your work to film festivals (which means just about any filmmaker wanting to find an audience): listen to Jon Gann on the podcast for free… and then go ahead and read a copy of the book anyway. Your future films will benefit.

The second is: To Be or Wanna Be: The Top Ten Differences Between a Successful Actor and a Starving Artist. The book comes from veteran actor and acting coach Sean Pratt. Many people who already know about his website and series of seminars about “The Business of the Biz” will find the style of the book familiar (and for those uninitiated, yes, he does refer to the film and theater industry as “The Biz”).

But I digress. The book itself continues in the same vein of practical advice borne of personal experience that’s evident on Sean Pratt’s website. He lays out 10 key differences in mindset between the successfully working actor and the actor continually failing to find success. This isn’t simply “work smarter, not harder.” It goes into an actor’s attitude and specific tactics: in other words touching on both the “how” and the “why” to make your career gain ground.

As with many non-fiction tomes aimed at self-improvement, this isn’t quite a handbook nor a manifesto. It’s aimed at actors, especially actors who are just beginning their career, feel stalled in their career, or both. Not only does it come in at a svelte 130 pages (really a few less), it’s a remarkably fast read — and it’s clearly designed for any one of its chapters to be reread as a standalone refresher.

In fact, its structure reminded me of many of the “[Topic] for Dummies” books in the way this book used each chapter to introduce a concept, cite an example, and then provide examples on how to promote good habits. However, the light tone and repetitive structure should not be misconstrued as making this book superficial. Indeed, as I indicated above, I think this structure helps in making the book a fast read and an easy one to return to were someone feeling they needed an acting career “tune-up.”

One aspect of the book which I did not expect was how autobiographical it was: each of the differences is explained, followed by an episode from Sean Pratt’s own career that illustrates the concept being discussed. If you don’t like authors inserting themselves into their topics, then you don’t know actors or this genre of non-fiction book. While not all of his anecdotes work equally well, none were distracting — and they all served to remind readers that Sean Pratt is not simply advocating these tactics, he has tested them.

So is this book for every actor? Maybe not. As I indicated above, it should be very useful for actors beginning their career and those who feel stalled. That’s plenty of people.

I should also add that every actor who attends Stonehenge should read up on Difference # 8: about personal branding. I’m serious. Please read it: especially all of you just out of college or otherwise starting out in “the Biz.” Those of you who follow that advice will get many more callbacks. (Those who don’t are the ones who make me cry silently inside every Stonehenge as they launch into a horribly inappropriate monologue).

Difference # 9 about being the CEO of your own acting enterprise may seem cliche to some, but really is useful to bear in mind.

If I needed to be persnickety in my overall appraisal of the book, I would say that I would have liked to see more artistry in the graphical design, perhaps utilizing some symbols or other artifice to reinforce the repetition in the chapter structure — even a sidebar to break up the design. Nevertheless, the layout itself is solid and workmanlike, avoiding many pitfalls that plague small press titles.

My personal preference would also be for more in-depth chapters, but that isn’t necessarily the purpose of this book and I suppose a slim instructional book such as this might be in line with another sentiment of screen and stage: leave the audience wanting more.

###

To Be or Wanna Be: The Top Ten Differences Between a Successful Actor and a Starving Artist can be found, as the link suggests, at Amazon.com.

Bonus Casting Notes (#6a): An Actor’s Casting Submission Checklist

This 20-part series, written by Team J’s Bjorn Munson, covers the lessons learned during the casting of The Broken Continent web series pilot in 2012. You can find the full Table of Contents in Part 1.

This series is meant to help other independent filmmakers, primarily those who are casting a large ensemble (10+ speaking parts, multiple background actors, etc.). Individual articles may be useful to production companies looking to cast other work such as commercials. There are also a number of articles specifically for actors on how to better submit for auditions, do the auditions, and deal with the statistically inevitable rejections.

The lessons learned have been applied to Team J’s Stonehenge Casting service, an online tool for producers to find actors and actors to find work.

P.S. This is actually a bonus entry in the 20-part series, but for many of you actors, it may well be the most valuable one.


Previous Casting Notes Article | Next Casting Notes Article


An Actor’s Casting Submission Checklist

As mentioned in Part 6, Responding to the Casting Notice, there are so many little details to mention about submitting the headshot/resume itself, I decided that it’d be best to separate out this not-so-little annotated checklist as its own article.

Let’s keep it simple: Read over the checklist. If you answer anything other than “Yes” to all the checklist questions below, you’re not doing it right.

“Not doing it right” may not be damaging enough to cause you not to be called in, but it does not help you by any stretch of the imagination. And not only do we casting directors have good imaginations, we’ve seen plenty of actors who can follow directions and keep things simple. All we need is enough actors following directions to submit… and we will work to achieve that end. [1]

Don’t forget the principle raised in Part 2:

Whatever you can do to make the casting director’s job easier is a good thing.

So, read through the checklist [2], and if you’re not sure why you need to answer ‘yes,’ read the gory details below for each entry:

  1. Is everything spelled correctly?
  2. Does your headshot resemble how you look right now?
  3. Does your headshot list your name?
  4. Is your name the same on your headshot and resume?
  5. Do you have your height and weight listed on the resume?
  6. Have you listed one and only one phone number?
  7. Does that phone number work? Is the voicemail working?
  8. Have you listed one and only one email address?
  9. Does that email address work? Is there enough space in the mailbox?
  10. If you’re emailing your headshot, have you resized it to the size they’re asking for?
  11. If you’re emailing your resume, is it in a file format they asked for?
  12. Is your resume just your acting resume?
  13. Are you sending a headshot and resume as requested and not just assuming we’ll go visit some website?
  14. Do you know what you are submitting for (and is that reflected in the email/cover letter)?
  15. Do you know what role you’d like to read for (and is that reflected in the email/cover letter)?
  16. Are you embracing “less is more” in your email/cover letter?

1) Is everything spelled correctly?
Pretty basic, but absolutely essential: make sure you go over the resume even after a spellcheck. Better yet, do what you’re always advised to do with any other resume: have a friend look it over. Easily avoidable spelling errors show a lack of focus. You should know the names of everything you’re listing.

This includes not only spelling your skills correctly (I am always amused to learn someone can speak ‘Spanihs’), but also the names of roles and plays (and playwrights! — it’s Sam Shepard, not Shepherd). If you’ve been in work in the area and misspell the name of a director or production company I know, that’s not a dealbreaker, but it doesn’t help you either.

Note: This also means your phone number and email address are spelled correctly.

2) Does your headshot resemble how you look right now?
For film and video work, this might be one of the key reasons you’ll be called in: don’t underestimate its importance. This actually goes back to an earlier Team J article about “The Best Headshot, Period.” Your headshot needs to look like you really do look, right now.

Not only is headshot accuracy important for being called in, in many cases it can be critical for being called back: because if we can’t remember you among a sea of headshots when we’re staring right at your headshot, you’ve lost the part.

Note that changes in facial hair and hair length are more forgiveable than drastic differences in your age or weight. [3] If your headshot shows none of the wrinkles you have abundantly in person OR if your headshot shows the slim you of several years ago compared to the full-figured you now, you have metaphorically shot yourself in the face. It doesn’t matter why you haven’t gotten around to getting new headshots, you’ve now attached at least a tinge of dishonestly about you in the casting director’s mind.

3) Does your headshot list your name?
It’s a little thing. It only takes a few seconds to check the resume, but multiply those seconds by 100 — or in the case of Broken Continent, 550.

Also, when we’re looking at your headshots physically, it becomes so much faster. [4]

4) Is your name the same on your headshot and resume?
I hope most of you answered a quizzical, “Yes. Why wouldn’t it be?” Sadly, I encounter this issue far more than I’d like, and it is not, as near as I can figure, because the actor in question is recently married.

The reason appears to be because the actor is “experimenting” with different possible stage names, and forgets to end the experiment before submitting their headshot and resume.

The two major culprits of this are:

  1. Different last names
  2. Unnecessary and inconsistent use of middle names

Your name, whether an invented stage name or a plain ol’ version of your name is your brand. Be consistent.

For example, if you’re John Smith, then sure, make it John A. Smith — or just adopt the stage name of Aloysius Smith if you like (because of course, that must be what the ‘A’ stands for, right?). However, If you’re John Snuffleupagus, there’s no reason to have a stage name of John Aloysius Snuffleupagus. Casting director sentimentality fades quickly once you’re looking at resume # 207. Less is more.

Okay, “less is more” holds true unless you’ve decided to style yourself with just one name. That’s just a red flag.

Also, unless you’re a Barrymore or your parents are also actors, there’s no reason to be listed with suffixes such as “III” or “Jr.”

There’s also no reason to list any academic degrees, certifications, or other letters after your name. We can read about that in your education.

Please explore variations of your stage name on your own time. Yes, casting directors can eventually figure out who the heck you are, but that time is better spent on considering who to call in. I admit I only have anecdotal evidence, but I will say the people with ever changing names are never as good as the actors who know who they are. [5]

Extra credit: Make sure your email address is the same as your stage name. More on email addresses below.

5) Do you have height and weight listed on the resume?
You have a little leeway here, especially as to weight. We know it can flucuate, but here’s the deal: if you put your weight on your resume, we won’t carp if we don’t notice.

Yes, you could carp, but then you’d be silly for choosing a profession that concerns itself, at least partly, on appearance. [6]. List the weight.

There’s no reason not to list height. We know what heels are. We know they come in different sizes. We know many men are shorter than 6′ 3″. Just list your height.

The big problem comes when your headshot does not fully reveal your body type, and with obnoxious consistency, both with The Broken Continent and otherwise, the people with misleading headshots “forgot” to put their height and weight.

What do I mean misleading? I mean really, really close-in headshots that hide the fact you’ve put on more than a few pounds since age 15. As if films never need heavyset actors. Sorry, you’re not competing with the inegnue waifs. List height and weight.

Theater is more forgiving of this, but film and video often have specific needs. Are all of them fair? No. Do you have any control over that? Nope. Accept that, as an actor, you are going to be judged, labeled, and typed. So go ahead and list your height and weight. [6]

6) Have you listed one and only one phone number?
For Broken Continent submissions, a few people did not list a phone number. I can think of a number of scenarios where an actor would choose to do this, [7] but none of them are convenient for casting directors.

We want a number where we can contact you and at least get a voicemail with the expectation we’ll hear back from you within one business day — unless it’s shorter notice than that. [8]

In view of this requirement, actors listing two phone numbers (or, on a couple occasions, three ) make things more complicated. The time spent tracking down an actor could be sent making several more calls. This does not make the casting director’s job remotely easier.

Some folks might allow for a leeway regarding listing an additional number for an agent, but I say no. Why not just put the agent’s number on there? [9] Mind you, I’d expect them to be responsive as well. Several actors I wanted to call in never got called in because their agents never gave them the message.

Then there are the people who apparently don’t want to be too reachable and don’t list their phone number at all. Get a burner phone to be your answering service if you must or figure out something nice and fancy via VoIP and/or Google. I don’t care. But have a phone number we can call and leave a message. [10]

7) Does that phone number work? Is the voicemail working?
I have tried to call in people who decided to boldly feature no email address and a disconnected phone number. In other instances I need to cast a role within 24 hours, so a phone call is preferable.

Then there’s the cases where the actor’s voicemail is full. We do not stop to think, “Wow, what an in-demand actor this is!” We look to the next name on our list to call.

For extra credit, make sure that your voicemail greeting:

  1. Actually identifies you by name so we don’t worry we misdialled
  2. Identifies you by the same name as the name on your resume
  3. Is short and friendly

8) Have you listed one and only one email address?
I can understand why someone might be tempted to put more than one phone number. Here, I have no sympathy. None.

In fact, there’s no reason in this day and age not to have a dedicated webmail acting address that forwards to your main address, such as buddysmith-actor@nifty-webmail.com. Of course, if you can do buddy@buddysmith.com that’s great too, but usually involves some hosting fees at least. Since you can get a distinct and easy-to-identify email address for free, do it! [11]

Extra credit: Only send information from that one email address. I know this may be hard if you’re trying to be sure to shoot off a resume during work hours or whenever you may not have direct access to your actor email account, but it opens up the door to the casting director or a casting assistant replying to the “wrong” address.

9) Does that email address work? Is there enough space in the mailbox?
Your email is ready to receive. I will not get bouncebacks because you misspelled it on your resume or your mailbox is full. You’re going to make sure of that because you know that I could just as easily move on to the next actor whose email address does work.

10) If you’re emailing your headshot, have you resized it to the size they’re asking for? 
Most likely, you’re getting your headshots as big electronic files in excess of 4mb that you can print out on demand or take to your favorite place to get beautiful 8″ x 10″ copies.

When you’re emailing a headshot, we’re not planning to print it out. If we call you in, we’ll get your print version. For now, we want a headshot that shows us what you really look like, and one that we can view not only on a computer, but our mobile devices. Besides downloading huge honkin’ headshots eating up our data plans, it takes longer. If you’re trying to review actor submissions in a hurry, this takes extra time for each. huge. headshot. [12]

Do you really want to add potential cost and inconvenience to the casting director who now already knows you can’t follow directions?

If you are an actor, your job, now and for the rest of recorded time is to know how to resize your headshot or find someone who can. This is non-negotiable. It is an actor requirement just like needing to dress appropriately for auditions, memorizing lines, and not getting lunch all over your costume (unless called for in the part).

The actors who glibly imagine they are above such sordid technical details have relegated themselves to a place of special dishonor in the casting director’s minds. [13]

If the filmmakers are foolish enough to not ask for a headshot size, have an under 200k headshot ready to go.

11) If you’re emailing your resume, is it in a file format they asked for?
Again, following directions means you are far, far more likely to keep things simple for casting directors. The less trouble they have opening your resume means they have more time to study your roles and consider whether they want to call you in. The more trouble they opening a resume is rarely worth it.

I don’t care how cool you think Macs are: iWorks is not a standard application and you should not expect casting directors to be able to open anything with a .pages extensions.

If the filmmakers do not specify, it is hard to go wrong with a PDF. Granted, you should make sure that your PDF is well under 500k and hopefully under 200k. It helps not to have the PDF include your 5mb headshot too. We can deal with the two files. Really.

Runners up include .doc and .docx. They do not include .rtf, .txt., .odf or any other “open source” extension. [14] Google Docs can open .doc. OpenOffice can open .doc. PDF is better to preserve your crafty formatting, but .doc will work.

12) Is your resume just your acting resume?
Dancers, musicians, and assorted variety artists (e.g. clowns, jugglers, sword swallowers, etc.)  get a little bit of leeway here as those are related performers.

Furthermore, there’s no problem with highlighting your different acting work on stage, film, voiceover, and even modeling or commercials. People have to start out somewhere and it may take a while before you can have the fun of putting “selected list” or whatnot next to your headers. [15]

However, here are credits that, when I am looking for actors, I do not want nor care to see on an actor’s resume:

  • Writing credits
  • Directing credits
  • Stage manager credits [16]
  • Production crew credits of any kind [17]
  • Art gallery opening listings (really, this happened)
  • Anything other than acting credits

Why? Because we sent out a casting notice and we’re looking to hire actors. Actors, not jack-of-all-trades. Those resumes that try and pack in those extraneous credits do not look impressive. They look unfocused. Besides, you can always note some significant other experiences in your “Special Skills” section, or even mention you have additional targeted resumes at their request. [17] (Hint: they may not request it).

13) Are you sending a headshot and resume as requested and not just assuming we’ll go visit some website?
If for some reason the casting director is asking you to submit/upload to a particular website or mentioning they’re only looking at actors on some website, I suppose this step is moot. However, most casting directors are going to want you to email them your headshot and resume.

For the Broken Continent, as mentioned in previous articles in this series, we arranged for all the headshots and resumes to go to one web-based email address. This meant that all three of the producers, the core creative team, could view the submissions. That’s what we wanted. That’s why we asked for it. Now we had a repository of all the actors who submitted in our webmail. A quick search by name meant their files would come up. Easy and convenient.

Nevertheless, we got several submissions that simply pointed to some website or another. I’m sure the actors thought this saved time — and it did for them. For us, it meant an exception. We needed to go — and in some case create an account — to view the page. More time spent and it interupted our webmail-based groove.

Oh wait, it didn’t. We focused on the actors following directions.

14) Do you know what you are submitting for (and is that reflected in the email/cover letter)?
It may sound basic, but it really helps to know what you’ve applied for. You’re not applying for some film gig, you’re applying for that particular film gig. You’ve followed the steps in Part 6 and can speak to what research you’ve found in the project.

We’re hoping to pick actors with care. We hope the actors who are submitting are picking us with some care. Remember, indie projects need a healthy dose of passion. I can’t say I always see that passion in submissions, but I certainly pick up on a lack of it. I don’t want to cast someone who wants an acting gig, any acting gig at all, which leads to….

15) Do you know what role you’d like to read for (and is that reflected in the email/cover letter)?
The Broken Continent has over 40 roles to cast. Way too many actors responded with some variant of:

“I’m interested in all the roles that might fit me.” [18]

I suppose some people might feel stating a role you’re interested in smacks of presumptuousness, but that puzzles me. These are actors we’re talking about, not wallpaper. They should be interested in something, show excitement, and have passion. If you were applying for another job, wouldn’t you mention something about why you thought you’d be good at that particular job or perhaps why that particular job caught your eye? Of course you would!

So the trick here is to first have actually read the casting notice carefully, and second, decide on a role you might be good for, but third, leave the door open for any other roles the casting director might want you for. [19]

Accentuate the positive. If you don’t want to do background, you don’t have to say, “Frankly, I won’t do background” in your email. But if you do think it’d be fun to be background in a project, say so. We needed to scramble to find additional background actors for The Broken Continent and when I looked through the emails, those people were some of the first we called in.

16) Are you embracing “less is more” in your email/cover letter?
Ah, but not so fast. Yes, you can only benefit by addressing questions 14 and 15 above, but you need to do so economically.

About 2%, or 10 submissions we received had tomes. We don’t want tomes. We don’t have time to read tomes [20].

Give us enough to answer our casting notice, ask any clarification questions (if needed), and be on your merry way. If all goes well, there will be a far greater dialogue during the audition.

###

FOOTNOTE # 1: In case you hadn’t picked up on some of the tone already, this is indeed “tough love” time. My goal is not only to reduce annoying submissions to casting directors, but also to help actors get a better chance of being called in. Everyone benefits here.

FOOTNOTE # 2: Remember, for the types of projects we’re talking about in this series: indie features and webseries, we’re looking to get at least 100 and probably over 200 submissions. A given role needs only one actor and we’re looking to have at least 10 candidates per role.

FOOTNOTE # 3: However, men should always try and have a clean-shaven and bearded headshot. In fact, I’d suggest having the current facial hair style as the main headshot (the one we’ll most likely look at first) and the alternate as an inset in the resume. I know this isn’t always possible, given when you need to grow a beard and when the audition is. Casting directors understand, but again, make it easier for us if at all possible. You will benefit from the thoughtfulness.

The equivalent for women is hair length. I already know many women who have headshots with their different wigs and extensions as the case may be. It always helps to have the headshot be your current “default” hair length and color. For the right project, we can always find the right hair and wig people, but we need to know (this goes double for shorter-term commercial projects).

FOOTNOTE 4: Yes, I know I am a former 20-something white guy, but seriously, all you 20-something white guys begin to look alike. Names help.

FOOTNOTE # 5: I knew one actor who changed not only their first name, but their last name constantly, so that, at last count, I had seen at least seven variations of a very thin resume under different names. The time spent being creative with their name would have been far better spent making creative acting choices.

FOOTNOTE # 6: I know that there are many stereotypes and prejudices when it comes to appearance in casting. That’s worthy of another article or series of articles in itself. However, the bottom line is that film projects are going to be concerned about appearances and audiences, rightly or wrongly, respond to a certain visual shorthand. That shorthand can change over time and with each project. Good casting directors will always offer their filmmakers options in terms of casting looks. You’ll never be able to assume what the casting director is looking for with 100% accuracy, but you can be very self-aware of what you look like, and hopefully some of the default “types” you might be labelled with. You can always say no to any part. This goes back to choosing whether to submit to a project at all.

FOOTNOTE # 7: Maybe responsibilities at the home or office mean you’re trying to filter most queries through email. Maybe you want to save on cell phone minutes. Maybe you don’t want phone calls from random strangers. I don’t know what to tell you besides: it’s insanely inconvenient and the overwhelming majority of actors have embraced modern telecommunications.

FOOTNOTE # 8: In my experience, casting directors are very clear — and should be — when they make these time-sensitive calls. If your dayjob or other responsibilities preclude you from being able to have a phone number that’s virtually available most of your working hours, you simply have to accept that you might miss urgent jobs. Remember, “urgent” doesn’t necessarily mean “important.”

FOOTNOTE # 9: I would not list both your number and your agent’s number. Given the choice, I can’t think of any indie filmmaker who’d prefer to talk to someone’s manager or agent over the actor themselves. If you need the agent to safeguard your time for projects you’re really looking for, then just list ’em from the get go.

FOOTNOTE # 10: You can always not answer a phone number you don’t recognize. Heck, I don’t answer my phone sometimes if it’s a number I do recognize as food, sleep, and family time may take precedence.

FOOTNOTE # 11: And make sure it actually has some element of your name in it. The best option is first.last@mail.com, or perhaps firstlast@mail.com. Leave the creative and esoteric email addresses back in the 1990s where they belong. I’ll see your creativity in the audition.

FOOTNOTE # 12: And you just made me upset all the fans of pristine sentences. Have you no shame?

FOOTNOTE # 13: Yeah, I know this won’t change anytime fast. Easily 20% of submissions for The Broken Continent, or at least 100, had some oversized attachments. I’m sure some of the actors were thinking they we simply must be mistaken, we needed to see every pore on their face, even on our mobile devices.

As one of the other producers pointed out: “If they can’t get that right, what else are they going to get wrong?” We don’t want to find out.

FOOTNOTE # 14: Yes, yes I know “.odf” stands for Open Document Format — emphasis on ‘open’ –and I’ve read up on how it connects to the work of the OASIS consortium and the ISO/IEC 26300:2006 international standard.  You know how many other casting directors have read that? None of them. If you find yourself morose at an unkind world that refuses to embrace truly open source solutions in computing, do what I do in such instances and read some XKCD. But first, send your dang resume in PDF or .doc form.

FOOTNOTE # 15: Smart actors tailor their resumes (and headshots) to the project at hand, and often have a theatrically slanted resume, one with more emphasis on film, and so on. It can be tricky and may not always be possible for all submissions, but changing up the resume to better fit the casting notice is almost always worth it (assuming you’ve correctly identified what they want).

FOOTNOTE # 16: Yes, yes, I know actors and stage managers co-exist in the same theater union, but it’s still gloriously irrelevant on an acting resume.

FOOTNOTE # 17: We know people do more than one thing (even though many multi-talented people I meet seem to be under the delusion that they are the only one). If you have significant skills in, say, carpentry, photography, or other areas that might ordinarily be jobs filled on a film set, feel free to put them in your “special skills” section, which is a perfect “And I also can do this besides acting” section.

In fact, you may wish to put “Stage technician resume available on request” or “Film Production resume available on request” on your acting resume — and have that resume on you when you audition (assuming you wouldn’t mind being considered for some position like that).

But first, you need to address what they’re asking for in the casting notice, which is actors.

Oh, and for all future casting notices, I’m going to say we have a composer, whether or not we have one.

FOOTNOTE # 18: You know, any of the male characters. Or female characters. Or, really anything. It’s not my choice.

What?!? Good actors make choices. They make choices all the time. Sure, you’re not the casting director, but the casting director wants to hire actors. Actors are passionate people who make good choices and elevate the project by the nuance and skill of those choices. We need engaged actors. Otherwise, we’d just videotape the director and writer talking about the film.

FOOTNOTE # 19: Is this a minefield? Yes, but it’s really not that hard. Directors want to see you make your own choices, but be open to taking direction: the former because they want you to transform the text and their direction into something greater than the sum of its parts. The latter because you’re not going to get it right 100% of the time (in part because you’re not looking at the big picture as the director hopefully is).

So, with that in mind, it’s fine to say that you’re interested in this part or that part, but hey, whatever works. Or say that you would love to audition for any part they thought was suitable, but were really interested in so-and-so.

If you picked roles we never would have thought of for you, well, maybe we’ll ask you to read for it, maybe not, but we’ve learned more about your choices. Do you have a solid handle on your type? Good or bad for you, that’s vital for us.

FOOTNOTE # 20: Again, realize that any of these indie feature projects or webseries are going to get 100 to 200 submissions. We don’t have the time to read essays. Besides which, if I wanted to read a tome, there’s some Dostoyevsky novels I’ve been meaning to get to.

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