This week’s post is going to be mostly written by the casting directors and casting assistants that work for me. They all work very hard and have my frustrations, as well as their own. They do not have attitude and work hard to create the best casting sessions along with me and their advice and opinions matter.
Hello everyone! For those of you who do not know me, my name is Ashley and I’ve worked at Beth’s office for over 8 years. I started out at the front desk as a casting assistant, then became a casting director, and now primarily I work in the back office with her (with a made up title I gave myself), helping clients, talking with the agents, and scheduling the seasons. Prior to this, I was working in casting in the wonderful city of Chicago. The reason I’m giving you my background is so you can feel reassured that the advice I’m about to give you is not just a minor pet peeve. It is a misconception that started, who knows when, but for some reason it has continued. Also, it means that out of everything I could have chosen to discuss, I picked this… So it’s probably important.
Actors, please don’t lie or exaggerate on your resume…or really exaggerate your skill set in general. Here is the deal, we work on a lot of jobs that are looking for “real people” or require a specific skill set. Therefore, I spend a great deal of my time looking at your resumes, your “special skills,” and reading the notes provided by you or your agent. While this may feel like a golden opportunity for you to show off some of the tools you have gained through school, classes or life in general, the truth of the matter is if you are not great at something you should not mention it.
Casting directors and directors look at those extra details to see if you qualify for certain characters or for the opportunity to bring something useful or unique to the set. So as much as we appreciate the jokes and the small tidbits about your life, this area is really meant as another extension to sell yourself. You have a valid drivers license or passport? Great! List it here! You went to cirque school and can juggle, walk a tightrope, and tumble, amazing! Every week you write a fairly well known baking blog or teach yoga on the side, all of that is relevant information. You speak 3 other languages? Tell us! But if you tell me you know how to speak another language, I expect you to know how to read it as well. Think about it, if we ask you to speak Spanish, the script will be in Spanish. So if you show up and can’t read the language, you’ve wasted our time, your agents’ time, your own time and you’ve taken a spot away from a person who actually has the skill. If you say you can swim, I fully expect you to be able to prove that by jumping in a pool at callbacks. You say you can ride a horse; you better have ridden for years, because we don’t have time for you to learn to cantor before arriving to set. Anything mentioned is fair game to be asked about on the spot. So if you can only do a Russian accent after 3 days of practice, take it off. It’s better not to include it, and save yourself from an embarrassing situation. (Slightly off topic, if someone tells you that a job requires you to be a legal age, don’t try to fib your way into a session; we require valid forms of ID to audition. If you lie here you may find yourself in a whole bunch of legal trouble and ain’t nobody got time for that.)
The same can be said about the roles you have played. I’ve heard horror stories about actors auditioning for casting directors and claiming they were day players on series when they were actually an extra and the casting director calling them out, because they cast the project. You never want to be that person.
I am really saying this for your benefit, as much as my own. As much as it frustrates me, and your agents, it makes you look foolish. Every job we have we want to give our clients the best possible casting session. We don’t like to waste people’s time and we try our best to bring in only the right people for each role. We don’t believe in open calls, so therefore we rarely take people off the tape. But if someone we have taken the time to schedule, comes in and hasn’t been honest about the level of their abilities, we have no choice but to take them off the link. This always leads to a series of upset phones call between us and the agents trying to figure out what exactly got lost in translation. Needless to say, sometimes a bitter taste is left in our mouths and we cannot help but remember that the next time a job comes around that you might be right for. We understand if mistakes were made, but if it comes down that you were overly confident, it doesn’t bode well for you. So do everyone, and yourself a favor, just be honest! You’ll look good, your agents will look good, and we will look good for the clients. It is a win-win for everyone.
Cooperation is a very important factor for me. I love working with actors and the sense of camaraderie during the audition process in the studio. I always try to make the experience a positive one. One thing that stands out as a pet peeve of mine is when actors do not show up at their scheduled appointment times and are expected to be seen at any time. We schedule each session with a purpose and showing up on time is a lot more important than you would think. When people don’t show up on time, it gets the session running behind. The time wasted waiting on someone to show up has to be made up by rushing the process in the studio which gets frustrating since I enjoy spending time in the studio to ensure a better quality audition. It’s also frustrating when someone shows up demanding to be squeezed in early. I understand life can get in the way and I try to be as accommodating as I can, but these issues should be resolved in advance to avoid upsetting the flow of the session.
At the front desk, we see a lot…I mean, a lot. I’m usually swamped with phone calls, e-mails, and getting all the sessions together. When an actor comes in for an audition, I expect them to treat it like a job interview. That means reading the signs that clearly mark what job is in each studio, knowing what job you’re here for, coming in at your given time, telling your agent when you’re running late, and signing yourself in. I’m always available to help you and happy to do so. But I LOVE when someone is self-efficient and knows what’s going on. If I remember you for being late, all over the place, and unable to sign in for your audition, that will NOT be good for your chances on getting more auditions! Each audition is a chance to pursue your dream, so don’t waste it!
Anyone coming in for an on-camera audition at BMC is required to sign-in on Casting Frontier with a username and password or ID number. You should have this information ready when you get here. If you come in prepared, you will be in and out faster and on your way to your next audition. Everything these days requires a username and password. Your casting sign-in information is just as important as your Facebook and Instagram sign-in information.
I often work on casting projects where we’re required to find real people and real stories. These jobs are labor intensive and time consuming, I am so appreciative of those agents and assistants willing to do the work to help us get the job done quickly and efficiently. It makes all the difference to know we have each others’ support and makes those bookings all the more rewarding.
Now, I’m going to use this week to bring up vacations. Somehow, one-day holidays have become five-day weekends for actors. Christmas has become two weeks down for talent agents and actors leaving from before Thanksgiving, yes Thanksgiving, until one week after New Years. For people that live on salaries like agents, maybe it’s a nice perk, but for casting companies, we don’t make money if we are not casting. Over two weeks down means I can’t cast. No casting means I am paying out lots of money and not bringing any in; my landlord doesn’t waive my rent from mid December to the first week of January. My employees still need to get paid. I am more than happy to be open during any of that time (and I stay open for most of the time), with, of course, being closed for Christmas and New Years.
Every once in a while an emergency job comes in during that time and for the lucky actors that stayed in New York they have a real good chance of booking a job. As a casting company, getting these jobs depends on the phone ringing (we are technically freelance). We never know when the phone is going to ring, so we are ALWAYS ready, waiting, and willing to take the work. We are not a 9-5, five-day per week business anymore. California casting is a six-day per week job. The people that work for me get a very fair amount of vacation time, as well as all legal holidays. So just because the actors drag out holidays, even like a long extended weekend for President’s Day, we still wait by the phone hoping for work and we make ourselves available 24/7, 52 weeks a year. You never know when the phone will stop ringing so “no” is not an option for me. I would rather be able to keep employing people and work is the only way I can do that.
I guess my main point is agents closing too often and actors dragging out the simplest or shortest holidays affects casting companies and independent casting directors greatly. Financially, we cannot say no. I’m just not sure why so many other people can. This weekend is Easter and Passover. Starting from yesterday and up until Tuesday, I’ll be hearing more than less, “They are still out of town.” I guess for the upside to actors born and bred in New York, they don’t have to go home. They are home.