Thursday, February 04, 2010

Notes From the Other Side

You have no idea how many things I've learn now having to work on the other side of the Camera.

I have been very fortunated to have the opportunity to cast for many great materials. (regardless of the budget, size of the production, etc)

And through the process, I have learned a whole about the mistakes that Actors made. Mistakes that I made as an Actor!!

So, I thought I'd share some of my experiences...

1) Submission

The Breakdown Services is probably the oldest, and legit tool in US that is used by Casting Directors, Talent Agents & Managers, and Actors.

The Casting Directors and Talent Agents use the "Breakdown Express" function to submit a casting breakdown, or to submit their clients to a breakdown.

Actors use the Actors Access function to submit themselves to breakdowns that are released to public.

As an Actor, I check Actors Access at least 4 times a day. First thing in the Morning, Lunch Time, late Afternoon, and 6:00pm. So I made sure I don't miss any roles that fits me.

And sometimes, there are Multiple Roles within the same Project that fits me. And I'd clicked through all of them and submitted myself.


BIG MISTAKE. Actors, Do not Double / Triple Submit yourself!!

Recently, I posted a breakdown for an off-Off Broadway Show that I'm casting. I usually leave the breakdown online for about a week, then I would go back to check on the talent submissions.

Through the submissions, I would look at each talent's headshot, resume, union status, and special skills to see this particular person would be a good match. Then I would select the matching talents on the website, and send out an email to invite them to the audition.

For a particular role, there are 364 submissions. I look edthrough each one of the submission to filter out the talents who are not suitable for the project (and character). I mean, I had two men submitted for the role of a Madame... Also have a lot of Equity Actors submitting to my Non-Equity show.

I consider myself have pretty decent memory. But going through 364 headshots and resumes and their names - My brain went into over-load mode.

Then for the following character, I had about 120 submissions, but 30 of them are from the same actor who submitted to the previous role. And they used a different headshot this time.

So in addition to filtering out New actor submissions, I also have to double-check to see if I've already contacted a 'repeat' customer in the previous submission.

Can you imagine what I had to go through for the rest of the characters?

If an Actor wants to be considered for multiple roles, he/she can specify that in the submission note.

2) Cover Note

Personally, I do read them. Yes. I Do.

There are actors who would spend a little time and briefly describe why he/she qualifies for this particular role.

From Stage Combat, Weapon Training, Accents, or had done a Similar role. It all helped me to feel more comfortable in bringing in a Talent to meet the Director.

As an I actor, I never done it. I just click, leave the note section blank, and that was it. Hoping that my headshot would work its magic.

But honestly, a cover note can really change someone's mind. A headshot can only go so far - We like to know if a talent is really interested in the project, or WHY he/she is interested to audition. Is it the character, the story, or is it something that relates to him/her personally....? There are so many things to write about.

And made them personal. Make them brief.

I have read so many generic cover notes about the person's previous productions, the review in the paper, and day player / guest star roles. But all these information I can get from the Resume...

3) Generic Cover Note

Someone must have passed my breakdowns to a different source. Because after I scheduled 90 actors for the auditions, I got 20+ submissions in the email. I welcome anyone who is interested in the production.
Many of the submissions are from really young talent, and they have beautifully written cover note. Seriously, so nice, so proper, and they really specify on why they are qualified for the character. All these girls got an audition invite from me.

Yet, I have gotten a few... with the 'generic cover note'

Here are some examples:

"I would like to be considered for your future project"

If you don't specify the project, or name of the role you're interested in, I don't know what to do with your headshot & resume. I don't know what you want.

"I would like to be included in your database"

My database is my brain.
If I never seen your work, or have seen you in an audition environment, most likely, you're not going to be in my database.
But I do keep all the headshot & resumes emailed to me - I just needed a really good reason to go back to review them. (The 'future project' has to be a perfect match.)


I got people who sent me their pictures (not even headshot), no resumes. No cover note, just the word "submission" in the email subject.
Tell me, what would you do?
Does this person know that aside from the Off-Off Broadway show, I'm also casting two short films? What does this person want?

"Hello. My name is.... And I'm a recent graduate from.... I have done this... done that... and I know this Casting Director...and that Casting Director... and got called in many times by the following Casting Directors....."

After the first glance, I know this is a cover letter more suitable for an Agent Submission. When an actor who is looking for representation, the best way to catch an Agent's attention, is how much relationship this Actor has with the Casting Professionals. AKA, "Name Drop" Bomb.

So I knew this is a generic copy-and-paste cover note. I don't feel this person is sincere about the project.
From a casting point of view, I rather know how this person feel about the project, and why this person is interested in submitting. And at least, be specific which character interests you.

Oh, one thing about the "Name Drop" Bomb - This person listed 15 major Theater Casting Directors in New York. And I know 10 of them only work with Actors through talent Agents and Managers.
This actor's resume doesn't reflect any of the productions that were cast by these Casting Offices. In addition, this actor doesn't have a legit representation.

How am I suppose to take this person seriously? I'm not saying if this person was not being honest. But when you name-drop, you gotta have something to back-it up.

4) Read the Breakdown

I couldn't believe that I have submitted to LA breakdowns before. Now thinking back, I was either very desperate, or I wasn't thinking.

I have gotten calls inviting me to an audition, only to realize that the location is in Los Angeles. I wasted my time, I wasted their time.

I have also gotten calls like "Hi Wayne, we would like to book you on this date...." and I would reply "Sorry, I'm actually... Not available..."
then the person asked "Then why did you submit to the breakdown?"

I was a retard, that was why.

So my advice is always read the breakdown, to make sure if you are truely available. Make sure you review the following informaiton before you submit.

Type of Casting (TV, Film, Commercial or Theater)
Audition Date (If you are available to audition)
Production Date (If cast, if you are available to perform)
Location (If you are local, or if commuting will be an issue)
Character Descritpion (Make sure you are a good match for the role)

When casting, I always try to provide as much details about the production before invite anyone to an audition.

If you are out side of Los Angeles, and wants to submit to a LA breakdown, in the cover note, make sure you indicate your current location, and willing-ness to travel at your own expenses. Or suggest sending an audition tape and will travel if invited to a callback.

Uh, that's it for now. Phew.

1 comment:

Laura said...

solid advice