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Casting Notes #6: Responding to the Casting Notice (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


Responding to the Casting Notice

Welcome back all you wonderful actors! Whether or not you were following along with the past three articles, I’m going to be referring back to “Perfecting Your Casting Notice” and  “Getting the Word Out” especially. Don’t worry about going back to read them just yet. The big thing I want you to remember is actually from Part 2. Do you recall the one good thing it was important for actors to remember?

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

Those actors who don’t take this advice to heart, and I mean all four chambers of the heart, [1] will find they are called in far less frequently. The better a filmmaker has prepped for casting, the more submissions they will get; and the less likely they will have to deal with actors who do not heed this advice. [2]

One fact pointed out whenever Team J does Stonehenge is that the actor’s audition is essentially a job interview. In that light, casting notices are simply specialized job postings; however, just because these postings are specialized doesn’t mean an actor should avoid the same care and attention they might pay to a standard job posting. [3] Many of the submission issues that cropped up during the Broken Continent, make casting that much harder — and are completely avoidable.

I suppose some actors hope that not following direction will be imperceptible, that somehow the casting director won’t notice that it’s taking longer to process that individual submission. In that case, those actors are merely making the experience worse for everyone. But what if the actor’s obstinate refusal to follow the directions is enough to make the casting director sit up and take notice? Now the actor is an exception whom the casting director will be happy not to call in. [4]

I should note that Francis, Kelley, and I (the producers of the Broken Continent) are all actors ourselves. Have we made some of the mistakes we urge you to avoid below? I know I have. Will we follow this advice in submitting? I hope so.

Here are the steps I would recommend actors follow upon reading any casting notice [5]:

  1. Ask yourself if it’s even worth submitting
  2. Research everything
  3. Ask for clarifications
  4. Read what they’re asking for again
  5. Submit your material (error-free)
  6. Move on with your life


Step One: Ask yourself if it’s even worth submitting
Sure, this project may promise fortune, fame, and glory. Sure, you’re applying for a job for a potential employer. But why apply for a job with jerks who won’t value all you bring to the table?

Those of you who’ve read the previous articles in this series know how much we urge filmmakers to put care into their casting notice, related website, and whole casting process. That passion and professionalism should come through in the casting notice — especially because if the project is anything like the type of indie features and webseries we’ve been talking about, “fortune” is likely lacking in the promises above.

So, does the project look interesting? Does it fit into your schedule? Is the compensation what you need right now? Do the filmmakers look like they have it together? What have they done previously? Should you talk to some colleagues about what it’s like working with them? [6]

Throughout this series, I urge filmmakers ensure that they are not dependent on one actor for a role. [7] Likewise, you should not be looking for any one production to answer all your acting prayers. Sure, you’ve read Michael Caine’s book about acting in film; and you’re ready to audition for this role as if it’s one you’ve always been dying to play. But that’s for the audition. For now, you need to look at the casting notice with a critical eye. [8]


Step Two: Research everything
Do they have a website for the project? How about for their production company? Have you seen their former work? Where can you see it? Who worked on it? Can you or should you talk to them? If they mention working under some sort of union agreement, what does that mean? What are the rates? The minimums?  Can you work on it if you’re non-union? Where are they shooting? How will you get there? Will the commute suck? What kind of food are they likely to provide? Are they old enough to know actors don’t subsist on Subway and pizza?

Depending on the level of detail in the casting notice, you may not get solid answers to all of these questions, but it behooves you to ask yourself these questions and more. It all goes back to giving any notice a critical eye. [9]


Step Three: Ask for clarifications
This is a tricky step and one you might want to fold into Step Five (Submitting), but it’s important to think about before you submit.

As you probably know, most of actors are going to submit in the first 48 hours. You probably don’t want to be seen as an unenthusiastic actor and you don’t know how fair they’ll be in calling in if you delay. Maybe they’re assigning audition slots first come, first served. You might as well ‘put your hat in the ring’ as soon as possible, right?

However, some actors have genuine dealbreakers. For example:

  • You’re out of town for a gig. Will the producers accept video auditions for the first round?
  • You’ve don’t want to spend 4 hours commuting round-trip for one day’s work. What are the shooting locations?
  • You are actually based out in Pennsylvania or North Carolina. You’re used to taking jobs all along the East Coast, but will this job actually pay worthwhile rates?

During the submission process we had for The Broken Continent, we had over 500 submissions, and about 6%, or 30 had various clarification questions. Only about 2%, or 10, asked for clarifications prior to submitting their materials. Conscientious casting directors will have time to respond to that percentage of questions, but remember that not all casting directors will feel they have time to be that conscientious.

In general, I would suggest actors go ahead and submit their material per the directions, and include the clarification question(s) in the email. [10] Of course, you want to be diplomatic and make sure you’ve answered all the casting director’s questions and concerns first (see Steps Four and Five below). [11] This allows the casting director to decide whether they’re going to call you in anyway, and then hopefully address your question before the audition (and if they don’t and you are called in, there’s no reason you can’t address it there). [12]

If, on the other hand, it is a high level-of-effort to submit: for example you’re on set away from a computer and your files or whatnot [13], you might want to ask a clarification question first. Just know you’re not guaranteed a response. [14]


Step Four: Read what they’re asking for again
Let’s be honest: you might have skimmed through the casting notice to see if it was interesting, and you might have missed a few important details. If you’ve decided that this casting notice is worth applying to, you’ve researched it to the extent you feel necessary, you’ve asked your clarification questions (or know which ones to ask and when), then, it’s to go through the casting notice again:

  • What do they want submitted? Is it anything other than the usual headshot and resume?
  • What file size do they want the headshot?
  • Which of your headshots (assuming you have different looks) would be best to submit?
  • What file format do they want the resume in?
  • Where do they want the materials sent?
  • Is there anything you should be sure to highlight in your cover letter/email? (For example, in The Broken Continent, several people pointed out their proficiency at stage combat, various accents, etc.)
  • Do you know the casting director or any of the filmmakers? If you can highlight past work with them, let’s be honest, that’s probably going to help your submission stand out. [15]


Step Five: Submit your material (error-free)
Whether it took you all of 5 minutes to speed through the first four staps or an hour, don’t rush this all-important second-to-last step. Remember the principle mentioned at the top:

Whatever you can do to make the casting director’s job easier is a good thing. [16]

Here is where the majority of minor and major gaffes can come in. Not only do they make the casting director’s job that much harder, they are self-inflicted wounds on the part of the actor.

Multiply every little error and annoyance that might be in an actors submission by 100 — or in the case of the Broken Continent — 500. By avoiding common mistakes, you not only improve your chances of being called in, but improve everyone’s chances. Odds are, the filmmakers don’t have nearly as much time as they’d like to spend on casting. The less time they spend riddling out file formats, oversized photos, and incorrect phone numbers is time they can spend reviewing resumes.

To help you — and because there are so many common mistakes — I’ve created a whole other article: An Actor’s Casting Submission Checklist. Read the article. Spread the word. Every cringe-inducing gaffe listed was visited upon us as we went through the many, many Broken Continent submissions; and while I know there will always be error-laden submissions, a few less is always welcome.

Remember, sending an error-filled submission hurts you more than the filmmaker. The worst that can happen to us is we work harder to complete our job. The worse that happen to you is you don’t get a job. We’ll find actors. Why not let it be you?


Step Six: Move on with your life
This step is absolutely, positively vital for your well-being.

Some actors give off an air of experience and confidence. I don’t know how lucrative acting has been for them, but I know they keep getting work, based on their long resume. And more often than not they have a charm and easygoing nature coupled with their acting chops that gives me a clue as to why they keep getting hired.

A trait I find again and again in these actors is the ability to move on from opportunities without feeling they have failed or something is incomplete. And, in fact, they know when to walk away at any point in the process.

This can be hard. Actors, and most people I meet in film and theater, are often a passionate lot. Some projects seem, if not the chance of the lifetime, something that could make you smile with satisfaction for the rest of the year. As long as you’ve done everything you can right now, the choice is out of your hands.

I advocate that filmmakers let actors know when they receive the submission and when casting decisions are made. Hardly anyone does this and there are no repercussions if they do not. It takes a tremendous amount of time to communicate with all the submitting actors after all. [17] You are not guaranteed a response. You are not entitled to a response.

If you’re really keen to get an audition or there’s some other reason you’re genuinely concerned your submission was not received, you get one and only one follow-up. I will not begrudge any actor a simple, “Just wanted to be sure. Did you receive my stuff?” Anything over and above that query is too much and you shouldn’t expect anything other than “Yes, thank you” or “No, please resend.” That’s it. After that, it’s in the black hole of You-might-never-hear-from-them-again-and-that’s-fine.

Besides, there’s another casting notice out there that wants your attention.

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FOOTNOTE # 1: Yes, this is hyperbolae. I will never quiz actors on the four chambers; I’ll know by the quality of the submission. Just in case, you remember left ventricle, right venticle, left atrium, and right atrium from school biology, right?


FOOTNOTE # 2: Ironically and tragically, if you accept the logic that more prepared filmmakers will attract more attention and suffer foolishness less, the converse is more likely: actors who persist in not following directions in casting notices are more likely to be called in by more desperate, less prepared filmmakers; because those filmmakers have less options. For actors and filmmakers, you always want to have options. You always want to be able to say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’


FOOTNOTE # 3: As revealed earlier, we do understand actors may have — gasp — dayjobs.


FOOTNOTE # 4: As will be explained with far greater detail in Part 7, when you’re dealing with these large scale casting, you’ll be getting submissions from 200 or more actors. Imagine if you’re an indie casting director looking at 100 actors and it takes only three minutes to process an actor’s submission on average, assuming the actors are following directions. That’s still 300 minutes or five hours. Now imagine the more likely scenario: that large numbers of actors don’t follow directions in one way or another; or otherwise don’t make it easy to process their submission and review their materials: the average has bumped up to five minutes per actor. That’s 500 minutes or over eight hours, a full day. Casting directors are human and their patience is not inexhaustible. Yes, it’s ultimately their problem if they gloss over a perfectly good actor after trying to riddle out the alien file formats of the previous 10 resumes, but that perfectly good actor loses too. So for the sake of you and your fellow actors, make the casting director’s job as easy as possible. Everyone benefits and everyone includes you.


FOOTNOTE # 5: Any casting notice? Yes: even though this whole series and this advice in particular is based around casting indie features and webseries, using these steps for any casting notice isn’t a bad idea. You might go through the steps at a faster pace, but you should go through them.


FOOTNOTE # 6: Mind you, some of these questions may, and should come up for you repeatedly through the process. Perhaps the casting notice looks good, but the scheduling of the auditions seems sloppy; or you get a weird feeling when you finally audition. You should always learn more about your potential employer if you can. You owe it to yourself. Trust your gut.


FOOTNOTE # 7: The perfect actor for the role might be unavailable, uninterested, or get sick. For filmmakers, who’s your backup? Likewise, for actors, what project are you going to work on if this one doesn’t pan out? Always have a Plan B.


FOOTNOTE # 8: Local actor Sean Pratt, who also conducts classes about the business of acting, has a great workshop about the “Three Magic Questions” actors should ask themselves when considering these issues. If you have a chance to attend that workshop, it’s likely to be worthwhile.


FOOTNOTE # 9: As mentioned elsewhere, this entire series is based on the case study of a web series being cast. Both a web series or an indie feature are often larger time commitments both during production and possibly after (depending on an actor’s zeal and willingness to participate in post-production marketing — something they may feel the need to do out of self-interest if nothing else). For that reason, these notices bear closer scrutiny than, say, a one-day gig (not that they shouldn’t be scrutinized too).

FOOTNOTE # 10: Perhaps this is a dangerous assumption, but we had actors submit via email for The Broken Continent; and we’re assuming email is going to be the dominant method of submission most of the filmmakers will be using for the indie feature and webseries projects we’ve been talking about.

FOOTNOTE # 11: The general tone to strive for is that their project sounds interesting and you’d love the opportunity to audition. Here’s your materials. Oh, and you were wondering about X.

Anybody can have questions about a job (especially if they haven’t given you answers to expected questions in their casting notice — something I urge filmmakers to do in Part 4). As with submitting to any job posting or with any job interview, you don’t necessarily want to lead off with questions about pay, benefits, and so on; however, those questions need to be answered at some point. If the producers can’t answer anything regarding compensation, even pay ranges, during the audition, that’s a big red flag.

I wish it were more definite, but each casting notices will raise different flags with each different actor. You’ll need to assess each casting notice based on what your needs are at the time.


FOOTNOTE # 12: A perfect example of a question you might want to get answered before you head out to audition is: “What’s the pay scale?”

For The Broken Continent, our casting notice mentioned we were planning to shoot under the SAG New Media Agreement. As an actor, this raises two flags for me:

  1. They’re planning to shoot under a SAG-AFTRA agreement, so they’re probably not a signatory yet. When will they know? For a union actor, this is important. Depending on the non-union actor, it might be important too.
  2. The SAG New Media Agreement has no required minimums for pay. In fact, pay can be deferred. What payscale are the producers planning? Are they planning for all the actors will be deferred?

There’s always room for better communication. As mentioned in Footnote # 11 above, the trick is when to try and get those additional answers.


FOOTNOTE # 13: If I were a cold-hearted casting director, I would say that you should be ready to submit the appropriate headshot and resume anytime and anywhere. We all know that isn’t always possible; however, this is probably a good time to mention that if you are out on a shoot or otherwise away from your usual computer, that you have given thought to how you might submit your information to job postings. Alternately, you may need to make peace with the fact that you might miss out on some opportunities.


FOOTNOTE # 14: I’ve said it before and I will say this again, but casting directors across the globe have checked and know this to be true: neither Miss Manner nor any law enforcement agency on Earth can do anything to them should they not respond to an actor’s email, voicemail, or whatnot. The only thing at stake is the filmmakers’ reputation among actors — and as we know, many filmmakers clearly don’t care about that.


FOOTNOTE # 15: It never hurts to jog memories. At this point, I’ve seen hundreds and hundreds of area actors. Sorry, but stuff spills out of my memory all the time, so I might forget I’ve seen you. There’s also a great chance I won’t know that you’ve worked with one of the producers on one project or another. Both I and every other casting director you’ll meet are human and cannot connect all the dots instantaneously and repeatedly. Friendly reminders are always fine in these cover letters even if it’s just, “Hey, I’d love for the chance to audition for you again.”

By the way, I reserve the right to remember not only when and where you auditioned, but what you were wearing, what monologue you did, and whether I liked it. I do this for men, women, boys, and girls. I love rattling off the what monologue this actor or that actress did at a Stonehenge five years ago just to make them wonder, “Geez, how much does he remember?” The answer is, of course: nothing and everything.


FOOTNOTE # 16: If an indignant “but–!” is coming to your lips, perhaps you’re thinking of all the times where filmmakers have not been equally considerate of actors. There will be plenty of time to determine if these filmmakers, these potential employers, are clueless clowns who don’t value talented actors. You might be able to pick that up in the casting notice, the auditions themselves, or any of the communications in-between. If you’ve read the other articles in this series, you’ll know I take filmmakers to task on doing everything in their power to make the audition experience pleasant and respectful for actors. You greatest power in dealing with inconsiderate filmmakers is to stop dealing with them — not try and be inconsiderate in return. Life is too short.


FOOTNOTE # 17: The fact that pretty much no other casting directors or production companies communicate with actors to this level is precisely why I do it; and why I advocate other indie filmmakers to do so. The indie filmmaker has limited resources and being extra considerate can pay dividends. I’ll go into more detail on this extra communication in Part 7.

Casting Notes #2: The Top Two “Good Things to Remember” (For Filmmakers and 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 Top Two “Good Things to Remember”

One of my goals for this series is to give people far more in-depth information about casting than I’ve been able to do in interviews and panel discussions in the past. However, I am not ignorant of the attention span of many surfers on the interwebs. So, even though I’ve tried to break the information into many shorter articles, I know that’s not enough (or rather, too much) for some folks.

Therefore, for those people, and for the more patient readers looking for a throughline in the articles ahead, here are the top two “Good Things to Remember About Casting.”

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

We’ll touch on techniques to achieve this and — often more importantly — what to avoid by both action and inaction. None of what we’ll advocate is unethical or even unusual. However, it might burst some actors’ bubbles.

For Filmmakers:
Whatever you can do to respect the actor and make their audition experience more pleasant is a good thing.

Assembling a good cast takes a lot of work — and from what all of us on The Broken Continent team have seen as actors, a lot of filmmakers don’t do that work. We break down a lot of different tactics we used to impress the actors and make the auditions run smoother (and the actors noticed!).

I’d say, “That’s it” but that wouldn’t be true. There’s a whole lot of “how?” and “why” to support those two Good Things. And that’s what we’ll start exploring in Part Three.

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Previous Casting Notes Article | Next Casting Notes Article

Casting Notes #1: The Broken Continent Case Study (For Filmmakers and 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 here, 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.


Next Casting Notes Article


The Broken Continent Case Study

As some of you who follow Team J know — and I certainly hope the followers of Stonehenge Casting on Facebook know — I’ve served as an unofficial casting consultant and official casting director on a number of film and video productions for the past eight years.

Most recently, I had the opportunity to serve as casting director for The Broken Continent, an ambitious, epic fantasy webseries and undoubtedly the largest project I have cast to date. It has 21 principal roles, eight stunt performers, and easily 30 background performers (if fully funded). It requires a wide range of performers and an ensemble that needs to work on multiple levels because of all the relationships, both explicitly in the pilot and planned for the future series.

We discussed the ins and outs of casting on the July 2012 episode of the Tohubohu Producer Podcast, but — perhaps owing to my being very under the weather — I felt there was a lot more I wanted to share.

This series of articles is not simply what we did and why it was so great. On the whole, we were really pleased with how the casting sessions went. However, as with all things, there was some room for improvement. Throughout the articles, I want to share with you not only what our strategy was, but also what worked and what didn’t. And I want to share with you some of our plans for next time.

We hope this Team J blog series will help other independent filmmakers in structuring and running their casting. Francis, Kelley, and I have all been auditioning actors and while I’ll speak for myself, I’d be surprised if they didn’t agree with me when I say, “Not all filmmakers take the same care with casting as they do with shooting.” In fact, many auditions seem to be run in a haphazard fashion that does everyone a disservice — and that’s completely avoidable with more planning. Our solutions don’t amount to a one-size-fits-all prescription. While I believe some of the notes and lessons learned will apply to any casting situation (for instance, The Top Two “Good Things to Remember”), some of our suggestions may apply better to those filmmakers casting for 10 or more roles, such as is often the case for webseries or features.

I’m also not going to go through the SAG-AFTRA agreements. A 20-part series seems long as it is, and I suspect fellow indie filmmakers will really want an in-depth dissection of the various paperwork you’ll need to fill out to be a union signatory.

Speaking of scope, you’ll notice that I’ve labeled each and every article in this series “For Filmmakers and Actors” or “For Filmmakers” or “For Actors.” Note that I did not say “only” I know some of you will read over both, and you should feel free to do so. I work as both an actor and as a producer, so I think both sets of information are good to share.

It’s important to give credit where credit is due. It’s the casting director’s job to make the rest of the creative team’s job hard in picking who to finally cast. However, the casting director is not and should not be the final decision maker. For this project, writer/director Francis Abbey had the ultimate choice, ably aided by producer Kelley Slagle (who was also invaluable in helping process the actor submissions). Not only that, we think you’ll find your support team during the casting process is invaluable, and here we were supported well by Tamieka Chavis, Ann Rowe, Meredith Sims, and Brooks Tegler.

Finally, here’s the Table of Contents of all the planned articles. I’m trying to break them up into nice digestible chunks for all you nice people on the interwebs. They are more or less sequential and you can feel free to hop around the articles. However, you may want to at least skim all the articles before starting your casting (you’ll want to have found an audition space before creating your casting notice, for instance).
(Links will become active as articles are posted)

Casting Notes and Lessons Learned from The Broken Continent
1. The Broken Continent Case Study (For Filmmakers and Actors)
2. The Top Two “Good Things to Remember” (For Filmmakers and Actors)
3. The Importance of Expanding your Circle (For Filmmakers)
4. Perfecting Your Casting Notice (For Filmmakers)
5. Getting the Word Out (For Filmmakers)
6. Responding to the Casting Notice (For Actors)
6a. An Actor’s Submission Checklist (For Actors)
7. Processing all the Actor Submissions (For Filmmakers)
8. Deciding Who to Call In (For Filmmakers)
9. Finding the Right Audition Space (For Filmmakers)
10. Organizing the Audition Space (For Filmmakers)
11. Conducting the Auditions (For Filmmakers)
12. The Audition: For Actors, it’s Time to Play (For Actors)
13. Determining and Conducting Callbacks (For Filmmakers)
14. The Bonus Round: Fight Auditions (For Filmmakers)
15. Don’t Mind Me: Casting Background Performers (For Filmmakers)
16. Making the Final Casting Decisions (For Filmmakers)
17. Letting Actors Know the Final Decisions (For Filmmakers)
18. The Reaction (For Actors)
19. The Aftermath (For Filmmakers and Actors)
20. Final Thoughts (For Filmmakers and Actors)

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Next Casting Notes Article

Learn more about Casting Dos and Don’ts this Wednesday, 3/14

Members of the Team J mailing list will already know this, but since we’ve launched the brand, spanking new website, we figured we should put it here too!

Team J’s  own Bjorn Munson and the Actors’ Center’s Martha Karl this coming Wednesday, March 14th, for DC Film Salon’s discussion all about casting.

Moderated by Jackie Steven, the pair will review casting dos and don’ts from the angles of both the actor and the filmmaker. Bjorn is hoping to touch on the following topics:

  • How to craft a better casting notice
  • Where to place your casting notice
  • Where to hold your casting call here in the DMV
  • What types of casting calls there are and when to use them
  • How to structure your casting call
  • How to follow up with the actors
  • SAG contracts

and

  • The two most important facts to remember about casting

As with other DC Film Salon events, both Bjorn and Martha will be answering questions from the group, and there’s an hour of networking at 6 before the main discussion at 7.  So, go ahead and make plans for this Ides of March Eve and join us at the Gibson Guitar Room right near the Verizon Center this coming Wednesday, March, 14th. You can learn more about the event and get tickets via the Eventbrite page.

Stonehenge Actor Tip: The Best Headshot, Period

Ready for some tough love? Welcome to the second in a series of tips for actors attending Stonehenge. You’ll find these blog entries are a bit snarkier than the exhaustive FAQ even though they contain a lot of the same information. Why are we doing this? Well, some of you actors seem to be doing your best to make Stonehenge a horrible experience for yourselves. We don’t condone this. So, if you want to avoid some of these pitfalls, read on.

Now that we’ve mentioned easy resume problems to avoid, we’d like to address a common question:

What’s the right headshot?

From a logistical standpoint, the right headshot should be the industry standard 8″ x 10″ (though Stonehenge does accept 8 1/2″ x 11″ or letter-sized headshots). You should also have enough of them properly secured to your resume (which we already covered).

“But what about aesthetics?” you ask. “What’s the right type of headshot–the best headshot–that’ll make me look good?”

As it happens, we have an answer to that too.

Moreover, this answer will never change. Princes come, princes go, and all that. This answer was true 30 years ago. It’s true now. It will be true far, far into the future.

Ready?

The best headshot is the one that looks like you look, everyday.

Yes, we see you out there saying, “but, but–” Hold on.

‘Good’ in this case means “recognizable” as in “ah, that’s the person who auditioned for me yesterday.” It does not mean, “My lord, that is the most attractive example of the human race I have ever seen.”

Nevertheless, too many of you fall into the glamor shot trap. Oh you may do it unconsciously, but it’s clear you take special care with your headshot. That’s fine. Headshots should be special, but they should look like you.

Unless you ensure that every day and every audition, you have the same glamazon or pretty boy look painstakingly achieved in that headshot, that headshot will not look like you look every day. And before you say, “Oh, of course I can repeat that” we know the truth. Whomever you got to do your hair and makeup for your photo shoot–even if it was you being extra careful–that person didn’t show up helping you prep for Stonehenge.

Every Stonehenge, dozens of you bear no resemblance to your headshot whatsoever. We can go along with it while you’re auditioning. We can note the difference between the person in the headshot and the person acting in front of us. But when we’re back in the comfort of our production offices looking at headshots trying to jog our memories about who to call in? Headshots that don’t look like you don’t help.

And by “don’t help,” we mean “don’t help you get hired.”

Is the definition of ‘good’ beginning to become apparent?

And guess what? It’s not as easy as taking some candid snapshot of yourself.

Because ‘everyday’ does not mean ordinary. It does not mean “blah.” The headshot is the 1/125th second audition after all.

As filmmakers, we want to see someone who is interesting, presentable, has energy in their expression, energy in their eyes, is telling a story, and is capable of telling our story. We want to see someone who is familiar and unique at the same time.

Because that’s who we want to hire.

That ‘familiar and unique’ would seem to be a contradiction doesn’t matter. We find people every audition who are familiar and unique, because you yourself are unique–even if you’re a twin. Mister Rogers had it right. You are special–and you can get a headshot that shows that.

Let’s repeat and amplify that: every single one of you reading this right now can have a fantastic headshot. (statistically speaking, some of you reading this probably do have great headshots and are just nervous).

So how do you do this? Go back to basics. This is a job interview. You want to be presentable and you want people to recognize you. This isn’t your friends and relatives identifying you. Imagine one of the casting directors had to pick you out of a lineup using only your headshot. They should be able to do it quickly.

You do not want them to say, “Oh, how long ago was this shot?”

You do not want them to say, “So, did you do the airbrushing?”

Makeup is fine. The last time we checked, women (and some men) do wear makeup everyday. There’s a place for comp cards (aka z cards). It isn’t Stonehenge. Remember, you can always show a different look on your resume side.

That also goes for you character actors who want to show some dramatic look. Let’s see the everyday you, the one that’s most likely auditioning, and on the resume side we can see you with the eye patch, beard, and dueling scar (for women, this is doubly true).

Remember, we’re going on about this because we want you to get called back in–and one of the number one complaints we hear from filmmakers is that actors do not look like their headshots.

You don’t have to have that problem.

###

P.S. Photocopying your headshot is cheap and looks cheap. Remember, this is a job interview.

P.P.S. No one is going to curse you for your black and white headshot, but color is so much more affordable these days–and that’s what most of us plan to shoot in. While you’re asking your peers for good photographers, ask where you can get good color duplication.

Stonehenge Actor Tip: Make the Resume a Non-issue

Ready for some tough love? Welcome to the first in a series of tips for actors attending Stonehenge. You’ll find these blog entries are a bit snarkier than the exhaustive FAQ even though they contain a lot of the same information. Why are we doing this? Well, some of you actors seem to be doing your best to make Stonehenge a horrible experience for yourselves. We don’t condone this. So, if you want to avoid some of these pitfalls, read on.

Since many actors can find Stonehenge–or any mass audition–a stressful experience, actors should avoid anything that would stress them further.

Issues about your resume can be very stressful. Luckily, resume problems should be completely avoidable.

First off, make sure you have enough resumes. For the past few years, we’ve asked that you plan on bringing at least 50 resumes. That’s “at least 50” as in “more than 50,” not “well, maybe I’ll only need 20 or so.”

While the number of filmmakers varies per henge, but 60+ filmmakers is usual–so no, they are not all going to share that one copy of your resume during the event. They’re also going to want their take their own copy of your resume back to their office at the end of the day because they just might want to cast you later!

This may seem obvious, but at least 2 or more actors have to cancel every single Stonehenge because they don’t have enough resumes. Some actors even show up with too few resumes somehow hoping reality will not intervene. If you don’t have enough resumes, YOU DON’T AUDITION.

Oh, and it might also seem obvious, but you need to have the same amount of headshots as resumes, which brings us to our second point:

Make sure the headshots are securely attached to the resumes.

The easiest way to do this is have the resumes professionally printed on the back of your industry standard 8″x10″ headshot. Not surprisingly, these sorts of resumes look very professional. We do still take 8 1/2″ x 11″ headshots that are secure stapled in all four corners to the resume as well as resumes trimmed down and stapled securely in all four corners of 8″ x 10″ resumes. Extra business cards, photos, comp cards or other doo-dads stapled onto this are not allowed.

Please don’t write in to say you’ve used Gorilla Glue or to accuse us of being in the pockets of the staple lobby. We’ve been doing it this way for several years because we’ve found it allows for the fastest collating–which you veterans of Stonehenge know we need to do very fast. Sorry glue partisans, too many actors before you have done a horrible job gluing for henges past. They’ve spoiled what is theoretically an okay resume assembling solution, so that solution is out.

And in case you’re thinking you can be the exception to any of these draconian resume formatting particulars, check the FAQ again. Yes, just like if you don’t have the right number of headshots, if your headshots are not properly formatted, YOU DON’T AUDITION.

We’ll get into the perfect headshot in the next Acting Tip. For right now, let’s stay on the resume side. No matter how many credits you might have, the most important information to list is your contact information. That’s right. Every Stonehenge, we have actors forget to list their phone numbers and email addresses on their resumes. Remember actors, you’re there at Stonehenge because you want the filmmakers to hire you. Don’t make it difficult for them!

While we’re mentioning email addresses, just as it’s good to have a headshot that actually looks like you, having an email address that has more than a passing resemblance to your name saves casting directors no end of headaches. Leave the inscrutable email handles back in the 90s where they belong.

As to format, we’ve had a couple filmmakers opine on how there should be one standard format that all actors use. However, this will happen about the same time that all the filmmakers agree on the best film ever.

We will say that it doesn’t hurt to consider highlighting both your film roles as well as special skills that are applicable to film and video (i.e., that precision-driving course you took probably won’t be needed on stage, but for film…). As with any resume, you want to tailor it to the potential employer.

If you’re a beginning actor, don’t be concerned that you have few credits. You are, after all, a beginning actor and you’re not going after the same part as the 20-year veteran or recent MFA grad. However, you, like any actor, can use the simple steps to make your resume be a non-issue. Again, that is:

a) Make sure you have enough headshot/resumes.

b) Make sure said headshot resumes are formatted correctly.

c) Have your contact information on your resume.

Make sense? Okay see you this Friday for tips on how to have the perfect headshot… and of course, see you at the Henge!

Last notes for Stonehenge Actors before Sunday

Emails to all 192 actors for Stonehenge were sent Thursday morning, the number of headshots/resumes you need to bring is 24, and we’re looking forward to seeing you all on Sunday in Baltimore.

However, we know things come up at the last minute (inclduing paying gigs) and some actors will not be able to make it. If you can’t make it–for any reason–please send us a quick email at stonehenge@teamjabberwocky.com.

For anyone with a guaranteed slot, this a must. Otherwise, as listed on the website, those actors who don’t show–and don’t let us know–won’t get to audition for three years’ worth of henges. Most actors, including those with standby slots, opt to go for the good karma and shoot us an email at stonehenge@teamjabberwocky.com. It usually gives someone on the waitlist a chance and also makes the event run smoother, so why not?

Finally, we’re happy to remind actors we will once again be taping auditions for Stonehenge and posting them on our YouTube channel (cunningly located at www.youtube.com/user/StonehengeAuditions). The collected auditions have gotten over 30,000 views and we have a growing list of local production companies as subscribers. Details about the free service and release are at http://tinyurl.com/2q43dv.

Thanks for reading and we’ll see you at the Henge!

Reminder for Actors attending Stonehenge this Sunday!

All 192 actors are being sent an email Thursday with their audition time and other important information.

If you have not received an email by Thursday evening, and do not find it lurking in an overzealous spam filter, shoot us an email at stonehenge*at*teamjabberwocky*dot*com.

Two important points noted in the email:

1) You will need 21 copies of your headshot and resume, properly formatted.

2) If you want us to tape you, you need to sign the video release.
(Release is at: http://tinyurl.com/5z7kyl. Explanation is at: http://tinyurl.com/2q43dv.)

For all other questions, check the Actor FAQ at:
http://www.teamjabberwocky.com/actor_info.html

Thanks and see you Sunday!

Stonehenge Policy Changes

As many of you know, actor and filmmaker registration for Stonehenge is now open at www.goteamj.com/stonehenge.html. On May 18th, the mass audition for film and video projects will be in Baltimore, MD.

We’re excited to be expanding to a new city and hope you’ll join us. Mass auditions are the precision skydiving of audition forms: it’s very stressful and we at Team J do our best to make sure it’s a positive experience for actors. Many of us _are_ actors, after all.

But…

This past Stonehenge in March, we had some issues with actors not only not showing (the worst in three years), but also not showing up with the right number of headshots and not having the headshots properly formatted. Then there’s the actors who, upon getting randomly assigned a standby slot in the lottery, felt that being on standby was “insulting” and “not worth” their time.

Clearly it’s time for some tough love.

Over 350 actors registered for the last Stonehenge and we have every expectation that over 300 will register for this one. So if you’re one of the lucky few who gets a guaranteed or standby space, you know these things:

*Number of Headshots*
If you’re registering for this Stonehenge, you plan on having AT LEAST 50 copies of your headshot and resume by May 18th if not already. You know that “at least” means “possibly more.” You remember that you will be given the exact number of headshots/resumes to bring in the confirmation email sent a couple days before the event. You understand that if you do not have the correct number of headshots/resumes upon check-in, YOU WILL NOT AUDITION and the resumes you have brought WILL NOT BE DISTRIBUTED.

*Format of Headshots*
Headshots and resumes will be either 8″ x 10″ or 8 1/2″ x 11″ – that’s it. They should either be printed on both sides –  or the headshot should be secured to the resume with four neat staples on each of the four corners. You understand that if your headshot/resumes are incorrectly formatted YOU WILL NOT AUDITION and the resumes you have brought WILL NOT BE DISTRIBUTED.

*Standby Spaces*
You know that many folks with Standby spaces get to audition thanks to cancellations. Sometimes you find out with the confirmation email sent a couple days before the event. Sometimes you find out at the event itself. You know that we won’t begrudge you giving up your slot for any reason. We don’t even need to know the reason, we just want to know you won’t be there.

Why do you know all these things? Because you know that there are over 100 actors cursing the cold randomness of not being selected by the lottery. If you’re not going to be prepared, stand aside so one of your fellow actors can audition.

Thanks for reading and we hope to see many of you in Baltimore!

Sincerely,
Team J

P.S. This is just highlighting important policy changes, actors registering should definitely check out the Actor’s FAQ at: www.goteamj.com/actor_info.html

Actors: Reminders for this Saturday’s Stonehenge

Note: All of this is covered on some level in the Actor FAQ, which is on the website.

This does not replace the second confirmation email you will receive at the end of this week.

#1: Let us Know if you Won’t Show.

We’re looking forward to seeing you all this Saturday, however, statistically speaking, we won’t.

Many of you won’t show up.

We understand there are numerous reasons why you may not be able to make it to the audition this Saturday and that’s fine. In fact, we hope it’s for some great reason like you’ve got a paid gig somewhere. The key thing is, whether you have a guaranteed space or a standby space, let us know if you won’t show. A quick email to stonehenge@teamjabberwocky.com and you make another actor’s day.

Remember, if you have a guaranteed space, do not show up and DO NOT CANCEL, you will be on our mud list. That means you don’t
get to audition at any Stonehenge for at least the next three years. If you
have a standby space, we still want to know if you have to cancel. We will make a note of it if you do not show and don’t let us know. Over 500 actors tried to sign up for 192 spaces. If you’re not going to use your space, let us know.

#2: It’s okay to be late

There’s any number of good reasons why you might be late. The Metro may be swamped with people off to see the cherry blossoms. Parking may be abysmal. We want you there in one piece ready to audition. Don’t stress about things you can’t control.

Mind you, it’s not great to be late. First off, you’ve lost your space. You need to be there fifteen minutes before your audition time. That’s when we call that audition time. If you’re not there at the check-in desk when we call, odds are you’ve lost your space. We don’t judge, we just move on.

If you are late, we will try and fit you into a standby space and, at the very least, distribute your headshots and resumes. However, it’s best not to be late.

#3: Have the right number of headshots

You will get the exact number of headshots/resumes needed in the second
confirmation email later this week. The number will also be listed on the Team J blog (this blog) around that same time.

Make sure you’ve counted your headshots beforehand so you’re handing us the correct number. Extras usually find their way to the trash.

Thanks for reading. We look forward to seeing you Saturday.

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