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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 to Become an Actor Later in Life

Photo Source: Margaux Quayle Cannon

By Marci Liroff

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.

Reaching out to my Twitter followers to find out what they want to know is one of the best ways to connect to my community. This week’s column answers two great questions I received recently:

1. What is the best way to get back into the industry later in life?
Surprisingly, it is very similar to when you were first starting out, except that you already have the basic foundational acting skills and you probably have a lot of old connections. Now is the time for a refresher course. You wouldn’t run a marathon after having hung up your sneakers 20 years ago, would you? Get yourself back to a weekly acting class and warm up those old muscles. While in class, you can network with the students to see if they can refer you to their agent or manager.

If you have good relationships with your old representatives, reach out to them to make them aware you’re in the game again and see if they want to jump back into business with you. Get all of your materials up to date. You’ll need to update your headshot and résumé and upload your reel and clips online in order to subscribe to submission platforms like Actor’s Access and Backstage. As you build new credits, switch them in for your reel’s older footage, which may no longer be relevant.

Then, register with film schools in your area so that when they are casting student projects, they will call you in to audition. Join a theater group.

Reach out to the casting directors who used to hire you to alert them to your re-entry into the biz.

It may feel overwhelming sometimes, but taking it step by step will make it easier.

2. Where do you find new actors, and how do they stay on your radar?
I think about the good old days when I would pore over the Academy Players Directory looking for new faces, and it makes me laugh. Times have changed! I still miss those giant books, but I wouldn’t go back.

Most people I know in the casting field will say they are working all the time. A good CD always has her eyes and ears peeled to discover new talent who can move us with a great performance. When I’m watching television, for instance, I always look up actors I see who are new and interesting and immediately add them to my database. When reading a magazine or newspaper, if an article on a new actor pops up, I rip it out and put it in my “to file” pile. I’m constantly going to theater, screenings, and film festivals; I visit acting classes; I scour YouTube and Instagram. Agents and managers constantly call me to take general meetings with their new clients.

In terms of staying on my radar, if you’re going to send out postcards or email blasts, make sure you have something to say. Don’t just send out a notice with your picture and contact info. It should include your latest work and an action item, such as “Watch me on the latest episode of [fill in the blank] on Tuesday at 9 p.m.” or “Come see me in ‘Man of La Mancha’ at San Diego’s famous Old Globe Theatre.” 

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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