Why You Didn’t Get the Part

question-marks22-2You study the script, you memorize the sides and give a laser-focused audition. There’s  palpable chemistry with every actor you’re paired with during callbacks. You leave the audition feeling the role is yours. A day goes by without any word from casting, followed by another two days, and then a week.

Depressed, and maybe even a little angry, you call your rep and beg him/her to get feedback on why you didn’t get the part. Your agent or manager might make the call and ask, but s/he will usually water down the response to save your sanity. Because it will make you insane.

I’ve been told a lot of crazy reasons for why a director/producer/network exec won’t hire an actor. Below is an unfiltered list of the dumbest and strangest.

“Too on the nose.” Usually said by theater directors.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“The actor has already shown us what they’ll do with the role. S/he’s right, but it means           I won’t be able to direct them.”

I believe this is based on a mixture of director ego and a lack of trust toward actors in general. A lot of really good actors lose parts this way.

Ugly Shoes

“I don’t like their shoes.”

“I don’t like their shoes.” Said to me with a straight face by a network executive.

“Not sexy enough.” Unfortunately, I hear this one often.

“Too sexy! I would be thinking about having sex with them all the time and wouldn’t be able to concentrate on directing them.”

“He reminds me of my cousin, Danny. I hate that guy.”

“She looks like a Giant Panda.”

giant_panda_2004-03-2-2

Giant Panda

“Then why give her a callback?” I asked.

“I like pandas,” the head of casting at a major network said.

“But not enough to cast one?” I asked.

“No.”

“I passed by her on the way to the bathroom and she seems bitchy.”

“He bumped my car in the parking lot.” No damage, no alarm, but no role for that actor, either.

“Handshake was too hard.”

“He’s gay.”

“The character is homosexual,” I point out.

“But I don’t want to cast a real one” was the response.

C&H

They belong together

“They look like a couple.”

“They’re supposed to, they’re soul mates.,” I said.

“But I don’t want them to look like they belong together, so I need the girl to be plainer. Like, if she were missing a tooth.”

If the director had told me that before casting began, I would’ve put “toothless” in the breakdowns.

“I want to use Former Big Name Actor.”

“He’s twice the age of the character,” I said.

“I know, but he’s my friend.”

Nudity not required

Nudity not required

“She won’t do nudity.”

“The role doesn’t require it,” I said, confused.

“Yeah, but I want her to be willing to do it.”

“S/he’s not network approved.” This doesn’t mean the network disapproves. It just means network execs don’t know the actor.

“I want a stripper for this role.”

“But the character isn’t a stripper. There’s no stripping in the script.”

“I know.”

After reading this, I hope you realize how random the casting process can be sometimes. So don’t beat yourself up after an audition. Not booking a job doesn’t mean you weren’t amazing. As long as you’ve given it your best shot, there’s nothing else you can do. Leave everything in the room, and look forward to your next audition.

To Self-Tape or Not to Self-Tape

images-2You’re out of town, but see a breakdown for a project and the lead role is perfect for you. You call your rep and s/he tells you casting is moving really fast, and will be done with final callbacks long before you can get back in town. S/he can get you the sides and script to self-tape your audition. Do you do it?

I’ve yet to see a self-taped audition done well, and unless you are a star name, the clips are usually ignored. Here are my thoughts on why this happens, and how you can be more effective in submitting your own auditions.

Actors freak out. You need to get your self-taped audition to casting as soon as possible, but you also need to submit a good audition. Prioritize. Read and understand the material first. When you think you’ve got a good handle on it, hire a professional acting coach to go over it with you. The coach might not add anything to what you are doing, but s/he might give additional insight. Even if the coach only serves to bolster your confidence, I think it’s worth the money.

Unless the sides are a monologue, you will need a reader, someone good who won’t throw off your audition. Casting tries to use readers they know and trust. You should do the same. Yes, you need to meet the deadline, but you also need to be savvy with your time and confident with your choices.

Bad background and lighting. Ideally, you would find a real studio to tape in, but time constraints rarely make this possible for actors and they decide taping in their trailer or poorly lit living room is the best way to go. Wrong. Think about it. Even in the tiniest casting office you’ve ever auditioned in, the actor is filmed in front of a white or neutral wall. Do the same for yourself. Find the best-lit room available and shoot yourself against a wall with nothing hanging on it.

Two takes, no variation. For the first take, read the scene how you think it should be done, but show us a different interpretation in the second. We may not agree with either take, but you will show us range that might get you considered for something else.

44475008030e0_6249n-2Bad eye line. Know where the camera lens is on whatever device you’re using to record your audition. Hopefully, you’re giving an Oscar-worthy performance, but how’s your eye line to the camera?  Do a test recording to make sure your head isn’t tilted too high or too low, and the camera frames you from the top of your head down to about the top of your chest. Your reader should be behind the camera, never in the shot with you. And look at your reader, not at the camera.

Not viewable. Some of the self-taped auditions I get are in a format I can’t access. Not everybody has iMovie or Flashplayer or QuickTime, etc. Maybe casting has it, but are you sure the director does? Instead, upload your audition to YouTube or your own website. It’s the simplest and least problematic way to go.

Best of luck!

10 Things to Remember When Auditioning

These tips may seem obvious, but I see actors disregard them all the time, so here’s a refresher.

Flip the Switch

Flip the switch

Relax your nerves. Unless you are crashing the audition (and please don’t), you have been invited into the room because casting thinks you have what it takes to deliver the sides, land the role, and make the CD look like a rock star to the producer and director. Keep in mind that by getting an audition, you’ve already made it past the first cut from the hundreds of submissions received.

Wipe your hands. If you insist on shaking hands with everyone in the room, make sure the hand you offer isn’t sticky or sweaty. A simple hello or wave or fist bump would be fine, too.

The rule of three. Whether you are auditioning for a drama or comedy (or a dramedy), pay attention to how a writer strings the words together. If the words are repeated three or more times in a row, or the dialogue is written in such a way that you’re listing things, it probably means the writer is emphasizing a point, or creating a rhythm for comedic purposes or dramatic build up, so try to figure out what that point is, and don’t go against his/her intentions by breaking up that rhythm.

Look like your headshot. Casting picked your headshot and resume after looking over hundreds—sometimes thousands—of submissions. You don’t have to enter the room wearing the same outfit as in your pic, but if your hair is blown out and your makeup is impeccable in your headshot, don’t enter the room looking like you just rolled out of bed. If you have hair and a beard in your headshot, don’t come in with your head and face shaved. The DMV might not care, but casting does.

Take nothing personally. Being an actor means you need to have thick skin. If the people in the room have vacant expressions on their faces, it doesn’t necessarily mean they hate you. Something is on their minds and it probably has nothing to do with you. Maybe they’re hungry and thinking about what to order for lunch. Saying hello usually snaps them out of it. If you don’t get applause after your brilliant audition, it could mean you weren’t right for the role, but it might also mean you were so good you have rendered us speechless. Trying to read our minds will drive you insane. As long as you gave us your best take on the material and made any adjustments we gave you, your job is done. Leave the room, go get some ice cream, and find your happy place.

Ask questions before the slate. Actors have more control in an audition than they think. You aren’t sure of something? Ask. It might help you do a better audition and that makes casting look good. But once you slate, the camera is rolling,and the time for questions is over. It’s time to do the scene.

Engage the camera. The reader’s position in an on-camera audition is calculated so that the camera will capture your face well during the scene. So look at the reader. Directing your lines to your left/right, behind/above you while the reader is directly in front of you makes you look crazy. Don’t be crazy. Also? Don’t look straight into the camera. One more time: Look at the reader.

Rise above the paper. No need to memorize the lines, but the more comfortable you are with the material, the better your audition will be. We want to see your face, not the top of your head. Need to keep the sides in your hand? Fine, but lower them enough for us to see your face. If a session is running late, don’t complain about it. We did not plan it that way to make you miserable. Instead, use the waiting time to keep studying the sides to see if you can make any new discoveries in the material.

Do your homework. Is it a comedy or drama? Union or nonunion? When does it shoot? Did you read the script? What did you like about it? The casting director sifted through all the submissions and his/her personal files and decided you were one of the people worth seeing for this project. You should do your homework as well.

Hang up the phone. Some audition scenes will include characters speaking on the phone, but keep in mind we need to see your facial reactions. Holding your cell phone in the crook of your neck isn’t necessary. It could muffle your voice, you could get a call (happens all the time), or it could make you look down or away (drives me crazy). The people in the room are creative people; we have imaginations and know what phones look like.

Keep these pointers in mind, and you’ll already be ahead of some of your competition. Break a leg!

What New Actors Need

Walk Of Fame

This is the time of year when I get invited to a lot of showcases presenting graduating drama students from prestigious universities. From what I see, I sometimes wonder if drama programs are still teaching the basics of what an actor needs to get started.

So, I’ve prepared the list below. Print it out, memorize it, hang it in your bathroom—just make sure you follow it.

  • Headshot. It’s your calling card; it has to look like you. It should show the top of your head, all of your face and at least some of your shoulders. A full body shot is fine for dancers and models, but actors don’t need it. Your resume should reveal your body type (height and weight), and the special skills section will let me know if you’re athletic.
  • Resume. Keep it clearly organized. Your name should be at the top, your contact info right below, then hair and eye color, then height and weight. Because Los Angeles is a film and television town, your first section should be film or TV. It doesn’t matter which one comes first, just be clear. Name the project, role (lead or supporting is fine), director, and studio/network. Theater should be the next heading, then training and finally special skills. And don’t lie. If you have twenty-nine film credits, but you are still nonunion, or don’t have an IMDb profile? I’m going to question if the movies are all homemade.
  • Post it. If you aren’t on Breakdown Express, Actors Access, Now Casting, or LA Casting, you are doing yourself a disservice. I know it’s expensive, but you should be listed on at least two of these sites. It’s as important as having a headshot, and all of it is a tax write-off. If you have a reel, make sure it’s up there as well. If you have a reel on your website, make sure the link is clearly listed on the casting sites I mentioned, and that the link works. Casting’s time is limited. The less time it takes to find and view your materials, the better. Don’t lose out on a possible audition because you couldn’t be found.
  • Let me know if you’re in something. If you’re appearing in a play, showcase, webseries, TV show, or film currently in theaters or festivals, you should let me know. I do my best to see live theater as much as possible. I don’t care about the venue, just make sure your work is good. If it’s a webseries, send me a link. For TV, let me know when and what channel. If it’s a film, chances are I’ve already seen it or am about to, so just tell me which one. My office is paperless, so send me everything via e-mail.
  • Do workshops, but research them first. It’s a great way to be seen by talent reps and casting directors, but the quality of workshops and showcases is inconsistent. Do your research before you sign up. Who attends? Is it an agent or agent’s assistant? Casting director or casting associate/assistant? If it’s an assistant, does the person have any power? Will s/he let you do your own monologue or scene, or will you be stuck doing material you don’t like? Will there be feedback? Is an audition required to get into the workshop? Be smart with your money, and target only those who can advance your career.
  • Keep perfecting your audition skills. Acting classes are expensive, so a Shakespearean-trained actor with an MFA might view them as an unnecessary expense. I disagree. You may know how to act, but do you know how to audition? They’re two different skills. If you are lucky enough to be working regularly, you’re continuing to hone your acting on set or stage, but learning how to audition is an ongoing process. Continuing to work on your audition technique will help you book more jobs.

 

 

 

 

 

Leonor Greyl: THE ARTIST Project

Leonor Greyl set awaits the cast

Ever heard of Leonor Greyl? Neither had I, until the company hired me to cast a media short. I did a little research, and the more I found out, the more excited I was to be a part of it. Leonor Greyl is a Paris-based popular line of hair products, and was one of the sponsors of the film The Artist, which I was rooting for to win the Oscar for Best Picture last year.

Production on the project was completed before the Oscars aired, and The Artist won 5 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Director. The concept was to be a representation of this film, and how Leonor Greyl’s products were used throughout.

Brian Patacca checks his phone

I set about finding the two leads, who not only would have to bear a striking resemblance to the leads in the movie, Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo, but also be able to match the mannerisms of the 1930s silent film era as the entertainment industry transitioned to talking pictures. While I firmly believe a well-trained actor can easily adapt to any genre or style of acting, it is not easy to find such talent in Los Angeles for a commercial spec.

I asked the actors I was considering to look up the word dapper and Google Dujardin as he appears in The Artist, and see what they could put together from their closets. They were told to wear dress shoes, black pants, white dress shirt, and a bow tie if they had it. Wetting or slicking their hair back and penciling in a mustache were suggested as well.

Normally I would never suggest an actor try to dress the part they were auditioning for, but since this was so period specific, I thought it would help them create the character for themselves. Let’s face it, even a non-actor behaves differently when he/she is wearing a T-shirt and jeans versus a suit and tie.

Mary Harris does a bit from the film

I told the actresses to look up the word “flapper” and Google how Bejo was dressed in the film. I stressed that they should not go overboard in looking for a costume, but a dress allowing them to move easily, paired with some costume jewelry, would be a good idea.

I was very impressed with the outfits the actors showed up wearing. Well, for the most part. One actor entered the room wearing a full tuxedo paired with tan, unlaced work boots. He was very good, which made it easy to overlook his baffling choice of footwear. An actress showed up in fishnets and boy shorts with high heels. Perky as all hell, but couldn’t deliver the goods once we turned on the camera.

For the audition, I had each actor sit in a chair and flirt with a styrofoam head attached to a mic stand, then drift off to sleep. We would then change the music and, as if in a dream, the actor was to rise and waltz with the mic stand until we said, “Cut!”

As you probably know, The Artist is a silent film so this project had to be as well. There’s no dialogue for the audition. We just reiterated the premise to the actors, had them slate, played some dance music from that era, and encouraged them to have fun.

Waltzing is easy

Some were brilliant, others not so much. I was surprised at how many men had no idea how to waltz, or how many thought grinding their pelvis against their partner was appropriate for the time period, but I coached them through it from behind the camera and we found our cast within 72 hours.

For those of you interested in the numbers: 486 actors submitted for 2 roles (112 for The Actor and 374 for The Actress). I auditioned 28 men and 19 women; 4 women and 6 men got callbacks.

On-camera featured bits were given to 2 women and 3 men who had auditioned but weren’t quite right for the leads. Our director, Mauro Borrelli, cast a few of his friends, and trusted me to round out the cast with actors I felt had the look and would be fun on set.

The Camera Operator

In an odd move, he asked me to play The Camera Operator. Since I had loved working with Mauro during the casting process, I accepted. Yes, that’s me below operating the vintage camera, an actual prop used in The Artist. You can see the finished piece on my Recent Projects page.

 

Pay for Play

One of my director's credits as Art Illustrator

One of my director’s credits as Art Illustrator

As with all industries, building relationships in the entertainment business is really important. One of the most enjoyable working experiences I have been lucky enough to nurture over the last couple years is with a talented director who apprenticed with Federico Fellini.

Most of you have seen his work on a bunch of Hollywood blockbusters as an art illustrator, but he has begun to dabble in directing. We recently completed our third project together, and I hope to continue to be his favorite casting director.

Our most recent collaboration was a short film. I can’t tell you much about it due to the NDAs the cast and crew and I signed. All you really need to know is that it’s a magical piece infused with wonderment, and the lead character is a young boy about eight years old. He is the heart and soul of the film, and finding him was like trying to cast the first Harry Potter, only harder because this boy doesn’t speak in the film.

His entire performance is through his facial expressions and reactions, while we, the audience, experience his fantastical journey through those eyes. Kids that young aren’t known for having much of a developed inner life, and almost none have the discipline to turn in that kind of subtle performance for the camera.

I knew I would recognize this ability when I saw it; I just had to find a child actor who could improvise through an entire audition without having read the script. Did I forget to mention that part? The director and producer felt it best not to give out the script or explain the story to the actors until final callbacks. But when dealing with child actors, casting must explain everything to the parents before the child comes in, as well as to any agents and managers involved.

“There’s no sides or script?” asks the mom or dad.

“No, just some improv.”

“Well, what are they going to be doing exactly?”

It’s a fair question, one I didn’t know the answer to right away. I would be improvising as well. The role in question is of a prodigy, and requires the child to create beautiful things with his hands. The director wanted to see each auditioning actor work with his hands, as well as various reactions to people he encounters throughout his journey.

So how did I coax kids into conveying all that on camera while they didn’t have any idea of the whole story? I appealed to their sense of play.  I bought four different colors of Play-Doh, and had them make me things while I gave them simple scenarios to react to, with the camera rolling the whole time. This worked on two levels: It gave them something to do, and an organic place to start from. Luckily, every actor was willing to play along with me. I can only hope they found it as much fun as I did.

Reese Gonzales

Reese Gonzales

I love my job, but what made this one particular project exceptional is the feeling I found a future star. Furthermore, the short will premiere in Florence, Italy, and the boy and his family will be flown there to walk the red carpet.

My First Experience in Casting

One of my old headshots. Shut up!

One of my old headshots. Shut up!

I was a struggling NY actor, fresh out of college, taking any part-time job I could find. A friend asked me to take his place as a reader for a big-time casting director who was casting a major feature film. I was very excited, and ready to wow this BTCD with my acting skills, which I was sure would make her cast me in the film.

No, I hadn’t read the script, but I was a New York-trained actor—I could play anything. They would see my brilliance instantly and I would be signing film contracts the same day. I was on my way to becoming a star. According to all the magazines I had read, it always happened overnight.

I met BTCD in a rehearsal room on the west side of Manhattan. No, I won’t be naming names; she’s still around and still casting.

About ten  minutes elapsed between the time BTCD handed me the script and a stack of sides to study, and when we saw the first actor. I recognized him from his movies. I was a fan. The entire session was filled with actors and actresses from some of my favorite movies, gorgeous women and incredibly handsome men.

I was kind of shaken because I had never read opposite such well-known actors and had no time to read the script. What got me through the first take and the rest of the long day of auditions was a real eye opener.

The script wasn’t exactly Shakespeare; it wasn’t even Mother Goose-caliber, but so many of these actors fumbled the material. It was as though most of them had never broken down a scene. Yet here they were, with their impossible good looks and drool-inducing careers, getting put on tape for a lead role in a studio film. I could name twenty other actors who could make this crappy material sing, but I knew neither they nor I would ever get a shot at it. Yes, it hurt. But the bigger pain came later in the day.

I opted to stay in for lunch so I could read the entire script and better understand the sides. BTCD came back from lunch and sat down next to me. From the look on her face, I thought she was going to fire me.

“We are about to see John (not his real name). I hate the prick and I refuse to put him on tape. But if he notices we aren’t filming, I’m going to need you to back me up.”

“I don’t really understand.”

“A little red light on top of the camera comes on when it’s recording. I can see it and the person being taped can see it. It’s not going to light up and he might notice. If he does, I’m going to have to make something up. You just go along with it. Is that going to be a problem?”

“No.”

“Good.”

“Can I ask why?”

“We slept together and it ended badly.”

“Why see him at all?”

“The studio is making me. Any other nosey questions?”

John came in, did a great reading, he did notice the light didn’t come, and I backed up BTCD. There was a lot of cheek kissing. John tried his best to make it lip kissing, but BTCD kept turning her head. It made for an awkward moment. John turned beet red, and left.

BTCD’s laughter began just a second before the door closed. It sounded very much like Cruella De Vil from 101 Dalmatians. Once she was sure he was gone, she killed the laughter and became very chatty about her relationship with John, which ventured into cringe-worthy detail.

The next three days went about the same way. BTCD had a lot of exes to grind. I was twenty-one at the time, and I remembered wondering why this pretty, smart, and powerful twenty-seven-year-old casting director would waste so much time being petty to all these guys.

On the last day, she told me: Offers had been made for all the roles and the deals were all closed.

Thankfully, she paid me in cash and I never had to deal with this person again. I am also thankful for her teaching me how not to treat actors during auditions.