Take a Look at a Casting Session

Here we go again. This is the first couple of hours of a casting session I set up. I changed the product name and used different names for the actors to maintain their privacy. Here’s the chart for the casting session: Before

As you can see, it’s five actors at the same time for five different roles. I need all five people to make an audition work. This is a union job, multiple media, and multiple spots, and possibly shooting in LA; therefore, up front, it’s a great paying job (regardless of weather a job is union or non-union, casting sessions are always treated the same). Not sure if this information was conveyed properly to the actors, but when so many actors want a time change or have not told anyone about their availability issues for the audition or shoot date, this is what happens. This is the “frustrating” part that I’m always talking about. Look at this mess.

Here’s the chart for that same casting session AFTER the agents got back to BMC about actors’ time problems: After

How can a casting director do their job properly and offer up a great casting session to our client? I thought if everyone could see this maybe, just maybe, it would make an impact.

Take a Look at a Casting Session

Let’s Try Again

I’m going to keep this post short with the hope that agents, assistants, and actors will go back to last week’s post and really consider the offer I made. I was very serious about the proposal I made to the assistants about spending a day in my office. Sadly, not one person (agent or their assistants) took me up on it and I strongly believe that it will be a huge help to see “the other side”. How can you possibly do the job properly if you have no idea why every loss or time change greatly effects a casting session? I honestly believe that if they could see what a fully prepped casting session is like, it would be such an eye opener. It would bring a lot of clarity as to why we are so strict. Maybe they would approach the situation differently. We’re all working together to try and get a job done; understanding other aspects of the business is important to achieve our goals and work as cohesively as possible.

I tend to know what agents’ clients look like better than they do. We see these actors more than they do, so if an actor has gained or lost weight, aged (which happens to all of us), or cut their hair or changed the color of it, I often find myself telling the agent. There is no set protocol on how often an agent meets with their signed clients. There is also no rule or advice given to an actor on how to let their agent know these things. I know that it is expensive for actors to take new pictures all the time, but maybe even sending a “selfie” would help. Though I do believe that if the only picture on file does not depict the actor’s age, then they should have an updated one. We request pictures very often and I can’t tell you how many times the pictures are 5-10 years old. My office is always telling agents that pictures they send no longer look anything like the actor. When a casting director is relying on picture submissions and the headshot does not depict the way an actor looks now, they may be passed over for an audition they are right for.

All in all, whether you’re an agent, assistant, or actor in this business, we all need to work together, respect each other, and do our absolute best to get all casting sessions done with quality. I really think that these points could help our business run better and make everyone’s lives easier.

Let’s try again.

Let’s Try Again

A Casting Direction Part II

This is not meant for all agents, assistants, but across the board, problems are greater than fewer, so I started writing this blog because every job I was casting was becoming more and more frustrating. I have been doing this for over 30 years and have been very lucky in staying relevant in a field that seems to have gotten very watered down.

I learned my craft very well; I hire people that care about doing the job 100% while staying updated. The only thing I haven’t changed and won’t change is putting out a casting breakdown using an online system. I don’t want somebody else or someone I don’t even know on the other end working on my jobs. There’s nothing rewarding about casting if we just hope to get lucky. We still use paper and pencil and we still talk directly to the agents, union or non-union, to explain what my client is looking for. We are not fans of wasting hundreds of actors’ time in hopes of finding it through quantity. Don’t get me wrong, there are times that I am asked for things that are out of the scope of what I get from our top agents (circus performers, musicians, etc.).

I have been so lucky in being able to continue to work with top directors in the field. I think this is because I still talk to them about each job I get from them. I try not to waste their time with wrong choices and I do my best to make their lives’ easier by following the spec, thinking outside the box a bit, and making sure every session is directed the way they want to see it. It makes it easier to pick callbacks. I have no problem continuing to prep my jobs this way. I think it is the most effective way and agents and actors understand that auditions at Beth Melsky Casting are meaningful.

I recently had a client tell me it was so nice getting a casting tape of quality. It showed we knew how to do our job. This is, once again, where technology and less work have affected the process that I have worked so hard to continue. I want people to understand from first call to last call, I am involved and everything matters. I give an actor an audition and I will always know if they can’t make it, don’t make it, or can’t follow through on it. My staff tells me everything and I want to know everything. What I continue to struggle with is the lack of understanding by agents and their assistants. Not every loss is easily replaceable. I am the one who selects the actors for auditions. They are not a dime a dozen and should respect each audition they get.

I find that actors love to e-mail their responses about an audition. If they can’t make it, need a time change, or have a problem with their availability on e-mail creates of chain of five e-mails. Do you realize how much faster things would get done if you just picked up the phone? This is how I believe the process should be handled:

  1. I schedule an actor.
  2. My office picks up the phone and calls the agent or agent’s assistant and gives the appointment along with the callback and shoot information.
  3. We give enough information to the agent that we have to ask why the actor is unavailable if it’s not just a confirmed appointment. Many a time, the answer is, “I don’t know, they didn’t say why in the e-mail.” Next, the agent or agent’s assistant has to call the actor to find out what the issue is. Sometimes, by the time they get them on the phone, it’s too late. If the agent or agent’s assistant simply had a conversation with the actor, they would have been able to receive the information immediately without waiting for an e-mail response. If more agents did this, instead of e-mail, I would be able to evaluate my losses, run a smoother and better casting session, and, ultimately, do my job more efficiently.

I could go on forever with situations about how e-mail has delayed the process of prepping casting sessions. You would be surprised by how much faster things would get done if simple conversations like this could be handled via phone.

Ten years ago, there were way more auditions for actors and getting a session confirmed up was so much easier because the agents’ assistants communicated verbally with the actors. Now, an agent receives an e-mail with very little information and the assistants leave it as okay and lose the appointment. Agents need to book actors in order to make money and so little effort is made to get actors to auditions. Half the time, the actor doesn’t even know the name of the assistant they are talking to or hearing from and; therefore, see no need in explaining why they are unavailable.

Quite a few times, I get on the phone with the agent (who knows nothing about the situation) and, with my begging, they call the actor and, in many cases, can work it out.

My office and our work techniques are not broken but we are struggling with what is happening on the other end of the phone. We follow up on every e-mail from an agent or assistant. If I had my way, it would all be a phone call first, then it can be followed up with e-mail confirmations.

How can you possibly form relationships over e-mail? The assistants had no introduction to the actors (or casting directors for that matter) that they are trying to get to an audition. The actors have no idea who they are talking to and the assistants don’t have much of an idea who they are talking to either. As an assistant, if I didn’t know the actor, I would feel awkward in insisting on them making an audition. Agents should check on every appointment for each casting director or company. They should know how many people they lost, why, and pick up the phone themselves.

I really feel that if we could get the casting session process back on track then actors would understand that, even though the volume of auditions is not what it used to be, every audition matters. It’s like anything else – when you’re treated as a number and not a person it affects an actor’s actions and behavior. My top agents should be able to have more information on the actors they have taken the time to represent and make them feel as though they matter.

Maybe every agent’s assistant should spend a day at BMC’s office to see how it works from out side and how important a great casting session is. If they could see the whole picture, maybe they would understand things that they can’t really understand now from their end. This is an offer. My casting assistants would love it so that way when we’re busy, we wouldn’t all want to be ripping the hair out of our heads by noon. Respect earns respect. It’s very hard to do a great job when you don’t really understand the job.

If the agents and their assistants knew how to deal with actors then maybe the actors would understand why it is so important to be accountable for every audition. When I set up a session, I take a step back and say, “yeah this is going to be a great session if I can get half of these actors to show.” BMC takes casting very seriously. We do not want to cast for five days on one character. Yeah, I make more money on five days of casting but I’d rather nail it in one day, show how much we care, and get repeat business.

I truly feel this is the answer to straightening out a very frustrated casting company. It doesn’t start with the actors; it starts with the agents, then to their well-trained assistants, then to the actors. Think about it.

A Casting Direction Part II