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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 the Disabled Community Wants to Be Seen

Photo Source: Margaux Quayle Cannon

By Marci Liroff

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act. The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public. The purpose of the law is to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.

Within the acting community, changes are happening every day. The Casting Society of America has been on the forefront of these issues. I spoke to the Equity in Entertainment Committee about their mission. “CSA is focused on amplifying underrepresented actors and empowering our members to cast authentically.  By engaging our members and the acting community alike in training events and discussions, we continue to introduce and advocate for actors in theatre, film, and television. To date, we have held open calls and training events for Performers with Disabilities, Trans and Non-Binary Actors, Native American and Indigenous Actors,  and Middle Eastern, North African, and South Asian, and Senior Actors. Creating a rich fabric of representation across storytelling in all media is of paramount importance to our organization and with the current climate, we are more focused than ever on our upcoming initiatives and collaborations that broaden our relationships with underserved groups.”

Tony Winner Ali Stroker (“Oklahoma”, “The Glee Project”) told the NY Times,

“I promised myself that I would no longer accept jobs where I would have to be carried onstage.”

“That was a boundary I needed to set for myself. My feeling is, ‘If you can’t accommodate me, then you don’t get me.’ I believe I’m worth it.”

Oscar winner Marlee Matlin (“Children of a Lesser God”) spoke to the NY Times as well “On this 30th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act, we must reaffirm the fight for inclusion. We can do this by creating opportunities for people with disabilities in every aspect of the entertainment industry: casting directors, producers, writers, directors.”

I spoke with Keely Cat-Wells, an entrepreneur and disability activist dedicated to making social, systematic and economical change. Currently, Keely has a management company based in Hollywood called C Talent which represents disabled artists.Keely is currently building a major film and TV studio fulfilling the need for studio space in the UK. Zetta Studios will be the world’s first-ever studio to be fully accessible for people with disabilities, that is carbon neutral, and founded by a female.

It seems that accessibility is one of the hurdles day-to-day. How do you navigate?

Yes, there are so many doors a lot of us cannot get into… (Literally!). Being accessible, in every aspect of the word is vital for this industry to be truly inclusive and authentic. The Disability community often asks for the most basic needs and they are rarely met. Designing with us in mind is an ideal. An invitation to the party, then access to the party, and then the resources to throw our own, is the goal. We navigate hurdles with a sense of familiarity in a world that was not made for us. We adapt to our environment and we get on with it – but imagine what we could do if there was true equity!  

What kind of role would you like your clients to play vs. the roles they get offered or audition for?

I would like to see more characters that are disabled not getting a trophy for going to school, leaving the house, or ‘overcoming’ their disability or achieving through their ableist viewed adversity. Please give us storylines where we get applauded for doing something genuinely brilliant. I would like to see roles breaking stereotypes, not re-forcing the ones the world has already painted of us. I don’t believe there are positive or negative depictions just wrong or right depictions. I would like to see disabled characters playing storylines written by people with disabilities. Roles that were not intended for someone with a disability to be played by someone with a disability – where the disability itself is not what makes the person scary, inspirational, or the odd-one-out. Having a disability is a lived-in experience and not a technical skill one can learn.

With all the information out there, do you ever tire of having to educate people as to your disability?

If who I am and if my disability can change the way people think and allow them to have an epiphany or even slightly rethink what disability looks like to them, then I am satisfied. I will never be tired of using my voice, but I am certainly exhausted of those who do not listen. Education is knowledge and knowledge is power. I am privileged to be able to give people first-person knowledge, what they do with it is up to them, but I will not stop using my experience to shape the future of others. Let’s create to create change. 

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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