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Here’s What’s Happening Behind the Scenes After You Leave the Audition Room

Photo Source: Margaux Quayle Cannon

The ins and outs of a casting director’s process can often be a mystery, but I’m here to break it down for you.

As CDs, our job is to collaborate with the filmmakers to bring their project to life by finding the perfect ensemble of actors. Sometimes, projects are simply offered to me directly; other times, I have to do the same dance that you do and audition for the job! I read the script, research the filmmakers, and come up with a few lists of casting ideas to give them a concept of how I’d cast their project. There are so many talented casting directors out there; in the end, it comes down to who you want to spend the next three months with going into war, tied at the hip.

For films, I get a script and break it down by the characters. I sort out which are the leads, and which are the day players. Those determinations are usually made by the size of the role and how long they work in the schedule. Because so many movies are shooting out of town due to various states’ tax incentives, I usually cast only the leads and co-stars out of Los Angeles, New York City, or London. The supporting cast and day players are cast on location. I used to go on location and do the casting myself, but it’s become much more cost-effective to hire a local CD, whom I oversee. They do their auditions in their town and upload them to my website. Similarly, when I’m doing a talent search for a role, I can have up to 10 CDs working in various locations and reporting to me.

When casting leads and co-stars out of the major markets, I go through my database and come up with a list of possibilities: wish lists, reality lists, and thinking-outside-the-box lists. Then I meet with the filmmakers to assess their needs and wants. For the larger, “star” roles for which we want a name, I make lists of suggestions and edit them down based on availability, salary, and interest. From there, we start to make offers to set our lead actors. Simultaneously, we start having auditions for the remaining cast.

To set the auditions process in motion, I send the project’s script out to all of the agents and managers around town to ask for their submissions. Immediately, thousands of ideas flood my inbox, and my staff and I meticulously go through each one to narrow down our possibilities. Actors we’re familiar with and like will go straight to producer sessions, and others whose work we don’t yet know will have a pre-read with my office. In the pre-read, the actor auditions for the role and we work with them to direct them toward what we’re looking for. I like to read opposite the actors so I can get a feel for their process and see if they’re listening to me and truly interacting authentically. These days, we’re solely seeing self-taped auditions. Meanwhile, my office is besieged by agents and managers with pitches and suggestions. (It’s a symbiotic relationship, and we need to maintain good relationships with the agents and managers as much as they do us!)

The audition process can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months. Those we like will get a callback with producers and the director. We also tape all of our sessions and upload them to our website, so the creative team can weigh in.

Depending on the project, between my team, the filmmakers, and studio and network executives, there can be as many as 20 people viewing the auditions.

After auditioning, we narrow down our choices and have final callbacks or tests. For most tests, we negotiate the actors’ deal ahead of time. Business affairs usually does test deals, but the CD usually negotiates the actors’ deals for the project, depending on how big the deal is. We work with the production manager to learn the schedule of the actors and the needs for the deal.

Once we’ve done all the testing, we begin the process of setting the cast in stone, which consists of trying to get 20 people to agree on one ensemble. It’s not just a single person who has the ultimate casting decision, but a group of people coming together. Our job as CDs through that process is to oversee the final selection of talent to make sure the cast comes together in a cohesive, organic, and authentic way.

No project is the same, but as you can see, there are a lot of moving parts! Casting is a team effort; hopefully this gave you a peek behind the casting table’s curtain.

Make sure to check out my online course “How To Audition For Film and Television: Audition Bootcamp”. You can view it on your laptop or your mobile device and your subscription gives you lifetime viewing privileges for this course. I’ll be adding lectures throughout the year.

Warning: I grant permission to share my blog as written with no additions or deletions. Posting my blog is in no way an endorsement of another site unless you obtain my written consent.

How to Market Yourself

Photo Source: Margaux Quayle Cannon

By Marci Liroff

We’re living in a wonderful time for actors. Back in the day when I started out, they’d anxiously call their answering service (this was a live person btw!) to see if they had any messages from their agent for auditions. Essentially, you would have to wait to be asked to the party.

Now, you have the opportunity to market yourself without hiring a publicist. There are so many free and/or inexpensive ways to get your name, and more importantly – your work – in front of casting directors and filmmakers. Here are some essential marketing tools.

Website

Having a website is like owning your own storefront. The basics are: your headshots, resume, and demo reel (you can also use clips). If you don’t have a proper demo reel with professional produced footage, you can use a self-tape but make sure to label it self-tape so as not to be seen as your demo reel, which is isn’t!.

If you don’t have a website yet, make sure to get your domain name as a placeholder to secure it so that no one else gets it. Personally, I stay away from GoDaddy (bad service, expensive, and the former CEO was game hunter). Other domain name sites are Google Domains, Square Space, and Name Cheap.

Social Media

There are many social media platforms to use to promote yourself, but you have to remember the proper social media etiquette. My article from Backstage was written a while ago, but my advice still stands.

Instagram – social media platforms come into fashion and others slide down the popularity list. As of publication of this article, I’d have to say that Instagram and TikTok are the clear leaders in this pack. That said, make sure you’re using these platforms to your advantage and not your detriment.

Twitter – Twitter has many uses. Here again, there’s a right way and a wrong way which will cause people to block you. Do a little research like I did when I started out to find out how to be a superstar on this platform.

Facebook– you can have your own person profile page for friends and family, and also create an acting page so as to provide some privacy along with

LinkedIn – a great way to connect with executives.

YouTube – get your own channel and post your own content. Do not post auditions here unless you’ve gotten clearance from the producers. Remember that their scripts are not ready for publication until after the project has been released. No spoilers please!

Be consistent and use your name for all your social accounts. You want filmmakers and casting directors to remember your name. Once again, if you don’t have accounts yet using your name, secure them now as a placeholder for when you’re ready to make the leap into social media.

Post cards and email campaigns

Many actors are still using postcards to send to casting directors to alert them to upcoming projects that they’ve been in. My unofficial poll concluded that most CDs throw them in the trash. Postcards have morphed into email campaigns.

Sending an email blast newsletter to CDs and filmmakers is a good idea but keep them to a minimum.

You don’t want to be clogging your potential employers’ inboxes with emails every week. If you haven’t used it before, check out Mailchimp for future campaigns.

Business cards

Business cards are still a good way to make a lasting connection once you’ve met someone. Remember that it’s not just you giving them your card, you are receiving their card as well. Make sure to follow up on that connection. You can print your headshot on the card along with a QR code to lead them to your website.

Email signature

Your email address should have your name in it – not a silly random name. Be professional – remember this is a business after all. You can get a free email signature account at WiseStamp.

Picture and resume

These are the most basic tools that you must have. Remember that your photo will most likely be viewed online on someone’s device or a small screen. Your thumbnail has to really pop so make sure it’s cropped correctly and features just your face. Your headshot should show us your essence – it’s you on your best day. Pick the right photographer for you through word of mouth, seeing their portfolio, and chatting with them ahead of time. Your resume must be accurate, formatted correctly, and updated regularly.

Subscribe to the various audition platforms:

These are but a few of the “must do’s” to subscribe to:

Actors Access, Breakdown, Casting Networks, IMDbPro

Work begets work

At the end of the day, the old adage that “work begets work” is true. When you’re starting out this is never truer. When I see a great performance I want to hire that actor, or at least bring them in for a chance to get a job.

 One of the most important elements in all of this is to always remember that you will find greater success by giving than receiving. When approaching a filmmaker you should have the attitude of “how can I make your life easier and richer”,  rather than, “What can you do for me?”

Make sure to check out my online course “How To Audition For Film and Television: Audition Bootcamp”. You can view it on your laptop or your mobile device and your subscription gives you lifetime viewing privileges for this course. I’ll be adding lectures throughout the year.

Warning: I grant permission to share my blog as written with no additions or deletions. Posting my blog is in no way an endorsement of another site unless you obtain my written consent.

How Actors Should Use Instagram – According to Casting Directors

By Marci Liroff

Photo Source: Margaux Quayle Cannon
In light of the pandemic, I am offering special pricing for my private coaching (remotely of course!) You can buy a steeply reduced package now and use it later (must be used before the end of 2020) Check out the info here.

With Instagram running lead on social media these days, let’s take a deep dive into how an actor can best use the platform.

There is much discussion and debate over whether to have just one account or to have a personal account (otherwise known as a “Finstagram,” or “Fake Instagram”) and a separate account for professional actor business. Whether you have one or multiple accounts all depends on what you want to share with the public. Some choose to keep their personal account private, for friends and family and not for public viewing, and have a second, public account for career- and industry-related posts. Or you can just do it all from one public account (like Reese Witherspoon and Demi Moore appear to do, for example).

First and foremost, social media is all about great content. So, what makes great content? That’s subjective, of course. I like to see a nice mix of work photos along with life photos. Not “lifestyle” photos like those sponsored posts you’d see on an influencer account; I mean real-life photos of friends, family, colleagues, and the kids (once they’re old enough and the family has agreed their image can be shared), behind-the-scenes photos (#BTS), images and perhaps quotes that move and inspire you, and things that are generally cool and uplifting to share with the public.

A good example of an actor who nails this balance is Lacey Chabert (@thereallacey) of “Mean Girls” and “Lost in Space” fame. Chabert consistently has an interesting IG feed filled with photos of herself on set, clips of projects she’s starring in, her baby girl, and her friends and family. It doesn’t feel like she’s trying to sell something to her followers—she’s just sharing a small peek into her life.

When it comes to engaging others on Instagram, I don’t like when someone tags me to get me to look at their feed.

Unless we have a relationship, don’t tag me; to be honest, I’ll just block you.

I also think it’s very strange (and stalkerish!) when someone likes about 100 of my photos all at once. Again, this is a lame attempt to get me to look at their feed, and there’s usually nothing worthwhile to see on the other end. Don’t do it. 

To gauge other casting pros’ opinions on Instagram etiquette for actors, I spoke with a few of my casting colleagues. Here’s what they had to say:

Rachel Imbriglio (“9-1-1,” “Light as a Feather”): “What they should not do is make an off-topic comment about themselves on a casting person’s IG posts. If they want to follow, great.”

Joy Dewing (“Rent” and “Kinky Boots” national tours): “Put your goddamn contact info on there! I’m not gonna slide into your DMs with an appointment!”

Cara Chute Rosenbaum (“American Crime Story,” “The Mindy Project”): “Be specific and purposeful about tagging. If you’re going to tag a CD in something, it should be content they can watch or a picture with info about the shows you’re in, how to reach you, etc.—not just photos of you hanging out looking cute. And make sure that the CD you are tagging is someone who engages with or allows themselves to be contacted or tagged on social media. If it’s a CD with a private account, respect that boundary!”

Tineka Becker (“X-Men: Apocalypse”): “Keep in mind that we often don’t have time to catch IG stories or live feeds before they disappear, so make sure you’re posting to your feed as well. I much prefer posts where I can see your personality (i.e., videos or candid photos of you experiencing life) as opposed to selfie after selfie after modeling shot after selfie.”

Make sure to check out my online course “How To Audition For Film and Television: Audition Bootcamp”. You can view it on your laptop or your mobile device and your subscription gives you lifetime viewing privileges for this course. I’ll be adding lectures throughout the year.

Warning: I grant permission to share my blog as written with no additions or deletions. Posting my blog is in no way an endorsement of another site unless you obtain my written consent.

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