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so you didn’t get the role – 2 of 4

So you didn’t get the role – because you’re not the right ‘fit’

Some of it is stuff you can’t change, and that’s the hardest feedback for me to give an actor. It’s easier for me to give that kind of feedback to your agent, because if I’m looking for someone short and you’re 6 feet tall, your agent will stop calling me. If I need someone who speaks Russian and you don’t – your agent will stop calling me. Here’s where it gets worse – if I need someone with size DD boobs, because they’re a caricature of society’s ingrained idea of “sexy,” your agent understands that and will stop calling me. And here’s my least favorite – if my network has to have a specific number of actors that can check off an ethnicity other than Caucasian on their employment forms, and they’ve decided it’s going to be this one particular character – your agent understands that, and will stop calling me.  I hate all those calls.  I’d love to live in a world in which our looks didn’t define our character. That any person could play and represent any character, as long as they brought truth to the character.  However – there are some instinctive connotations that come with our looks, and sometimes we have to use those looks as a tool, to make our audience trust the truths we’re trying to tell.  And sometimes we can’t just cast an individual role. We have to always keep in mind the entire tapestry we’re weaving.

 

What’s harder to explain to an agent, but easier to explain when I’m talking to an actor one on one, is when the actual character doesn’t fit.

 

Maybe I can sense that you’ve got a darkness that you can bring forth. But maybe that darkness comes out as power – as a truly villainous, psychopathic, tortured hero of his/her own mind. That’s a beautiful, twisted character to explore – but this one, this role that I brought you in for? This role’s darkness comes from a deep, burning desire to be noticed and loved. This character lashes out in the hopes that someone will grab hold, and save them from drowning.  Both dark, twisted characters – and fabulous ones to explore and create. But one is the role that’s written, and one is a role that’s down the pipeline, that you should wait for.

 

Or maybe this character is sensitive, and vulnerable – which I know you can do, believe me.  But maybe your default as a person, is having that shell around the sensitive and vulnerable center. There’s nothing wrong with that! But there are also people who are able to be sensitive and vulnerable on the surface. Maybe they’re not as great as you are at creating that shell – and that’s what makes you fit in different roles. You’re both capable of sensitive and vulnerable. But there are different shades to every character. None are wrong – it’s just a choice, in the end. What story you want to tell.

 

And on rare occasions – I have to make the call that after going through the entire process –  a producer brings up a friend of a friend, and wants them hired for this role.

 

There are a few possibilities here. One – that person sucks at acting, and it’s a total favor. Everyone on the team knows, everyone on set will know, everyone in post will know, and it’ll even come across on-screen to the audience. They suck, and they’re the reason this industry seems so greasy.

 

Great. The vindictive version is out of the way.

 

Two – that person is an underrated actor that doesn’t stand a chance next to someone with a more impressive resume, a.k.a. quite possibly you. Because of the relationship they have with that producer, or that director, or whoever, they’re getting an opportunity and they’re not taking it lightly. They will do their best, and it’s quite possible they’ll bring something totally different to the role, and bring something unexpectedly beautiful to the story.  Don’t hate this person – because someday it could be you.

 

Three – I can’t hate on directors/producers/writers that want to hire their friends.  Think about it.  If you were starting a business venture, would you want to hire someone who looks good on paper, who maybe even gave a great interview – or would you to start that company with your best friend who has an MBA, who you’d trust with your life and who you could talk to about anything?  At a certain point – you want to surround yourself with those you trust to understand not only your vision but also your process. And you’d want to respect them too – think of that friend, that’s awesome at everything but doesn’t have time to work on your projects. What if you had an opportunity to offer them real money, with a real project, and actually get to work together? Wouldn’t you jump at that opportunity?

 

I confess, I do it too. There are certain actors I love and after knowing them for a while – that I trust. I bring them up for everything, because I trust them and respect them.

 

There are so, so, SO many factors that go into why someone gets a role.  Often times – if I say you’re not the right fit, it’s a multitude of reasons that yes, I could explain, but it won’t help you with your next audition.  So for now – you did well, but the fit isn’t quite right.

so you didn’t get the role – 1 of 4

So you didn’t get the role – and you don’t know why.

 

It’s hard, with every role you don’t get. No matter how you felt walking out of the room – whether you think you bombed, or you think you absolutely nailed it – it’s always nerve-wracking, waiting for the response.  And then when you hear it’s not you – it SUCKS.  Maybe you even planned to turn it down, because after actually being in the room, you realized this wasn’t the right fit for you!  But it would be nicer to be able to say no, than to never have the chance.

 

And I know – the lack of feedback is hard. If you could just know why it wasn’t the right fit, it’d be a little easier to move forward, right?

 

I’m sorry.

 

I’m sorry you didn’t get the role, I’m sorry it sucks, I’m sorry it doesn’t make sense.

 

Here’s the silver lining – if you did everything in your power to be ready for that audition, then it’s not your fault.

 

Hell – 9 times out of 10, even if you weren’t absolutely prepared, it’s not your fault.  There are SO many factors that go into what gets someone a role.  You didn’t do anything wrong.  You may have hit every single beat as we heard it in our heads. You may have become my new favorite person. We may now even be planning to take over the world together. But that doesn’t mean you’re right for this role.  It just means you’re an awesome person.

 

Maybe it was a bad day, maybe you were nervous and couldn’t work through the jitters. If you tanked the audition and you know it – just thank them for their time, and succinctly let them know you hope you get another chance to show them what you can really do.  I say succinct, because I do not have time for a ten-minute disclaimer of you telling me you can do better – I’m gonna want to see you do better. Don’t waste my time, or it’s going to feel like false talk.  In this situation? You know why you didn’t get the role.

 

But maybe it was a great day, and okay – maybe it wasn’t flawless, but you hit some pretty great beats, and you were totally in control, and in the zone, and there was a good connection! You walked out feeling good!

 

I know it’s frustrating, the generic “You did well, but it’s not going further right now.”  But it’s true. You did do well. There’s nothing really wrong with the audition you gave. But think of it this way.  Let’s say you get the opportunity to hire a hypothetical teacher for your hypothetical child. A private tutor, that will shape your child’s education and get them ready for the real world. Now – do you want someone who can do it? Who can teach your child, and can get them into college? This person will teach them all the right things, they’ll get excited for the right accomplishments, they’ll make sure your child has every box checked to get them squared away in life.  Or, do you want someone who can not only do it, but is excited to do work with your child, and happens to be a great match with your child.  In fact – when this particular teacher works with your child, you see your child light up in a way you’ve never seen them before.  You suddenly start finding out all of these things about your child, because this teacher just opens up a whole new world for them, and teases out interests, and skills, and complexities you never knew your child was capable of.

 

To a writer – that child is his character. And the right actor doesn’t just get the scene right – they actually breathe life into the character and bring it off a page, giving it a world and a mind in which to grow.  That’s what we’re looking for.  And if you’re not the right fit – that’s okay. That keeps you available for the roles that do fit you. And forcing yourself into a role that doesn’t fit – that’s like forcing a bad relationship to work.  It ends up being uncomfortable and obvious to all others that it doesn’t fit. And generally speaking – it ends up making everyone look bad. Let’s avoid that!

 

In all honesty – I could continue on this analogy, and also point out that we’re looking for a teacher who wants to work with the parent, to try to find the best things for the child, as opposed to deciding what’s best for the child and trying to kidnap him…you get my drift. I understand that you have a distinct idea for this character. But ultimately – the character belongs to its creators. And they need to be okay with your ideas, in order for them to work.

keep in mind the character isn’t yours

I know when you find a character who really speaks to you, and that you really feel you can bring to life – it’s deeply personal, and all-consuming.  It’s easy to get possessive of the path that character takes.

That’s the beauty of a pre-read – you have the freedom, in a pre-read, to direct the character however you want.  It may be the same direction the creative team was already thinking – it may be totally different.  The point of a pre-read is for us to get an idea how you understand the character, while at the same time, assessing your acting skills.

Your first audition for a role is your chance to explore, to really show your viewpoint of the world, your opinion of humanity, and your understanding of self. It’s your chance to be everything you want to be.  Dare to be real, or dare to be fantastical. Take a chance.

After that, though, it’s a collaboration.  If the team likes you, and likes you enough to listen to what you’re planning to do with this character – that’s fantastic.  But keep in mind – this was their character first.  They know it’s a collaboration too – otherwise the screenwriter would have just written a novel. Instead, they chose to make it a movie.

I used this analogy in another post – it’s as though the character is a child, a product of its creative parents, and the parents have come to you to be a nanny, or a tutor, or whatever care-taker archetype you prefer.  And as that nanny, or tutor, or whatever care-taker archetype you are, you may find a child that is so special, you just want to spend all your time with it, shaping its mind and helping it grow so that it can go out into the real world.

BUT.

You can’t kidnap the child.  It’s not yours, just because you like it.

Maybe the parents love what you’re doing with the kid, so they give you total freedom. Hey – Annie Sullivan was able to do whatever she wanted with Helen Keller. And if she hadn’t been given that freedom – maybe she wouldn’t have achieved what she did.

But most of the time – there’s a structure the creators want the child/character to fit in.  You have to respect that, and figure out how to bring the most you can, within that frame.  Can you, and should you, push the boundaries a bit? Of course. WITH THEIR PERMISSION.

Filmmaking is a collaborative process.  It’s your responsibility, as an actor, to bring something to the table, to be thinking about this character with the care and attention only you know how to give.  It’s also your responsibility, as a filmmaker, to be open to the collaborative process, and to be ready to compromise, in order to find the best future for the character.

 

Photo by Samuel Regan-Asante on Unsplash

don’t let the nerves win.

If you come into audition for me, and you’re so nervous that you can’t get through your audition – that’s not okay.  I’m sorry to say it this harshly – but I will hold it against you.

Here’s why.

If your nerves are so bad, if your jitters are so bad, that you can’t get through a scene – that means you weren’t prepared. Yes – I count being that nervous, as not being prepared. If you’re so incredibly nervous that you can’t do your audition – that’s something you need to address before you walk in my door.

Let’s break down a few of those situations, and how to deal with them.  This by no means covers all reasons for nerves – if you’ve got another reason not addressed here, let me know in the comments and I’ll try to help you out.

 

  • You’re just the type of person who gets bad nerves.

Maybe this is something you’ve dealt with your whole life – maybe it’s something that’s only come into effect recently. Maybe it’s case-sensitive – it only happens in auditions, or grocery stores, or when you’re in bars specifically designed to look like a spaceship. Or maybe it’s a generalized social anxiety disorder, and it happens to you anywhere, and anytime, there are people near you.  The nerves hit you, and maybe you shake, maybe you cringe, maybe your throat closes, maybe you develop tunnel vision. But in all those situations – the words you want to say are unable to choke out, and your body betrays you.  You might be totally prepared for your audition, but you just can’t get the words out.

If this is something you’re aware of – it’s something you need to deal with. Auditioning is a difficult, but necessary, process for actors, especially when starting out.  Work with a therapist (and yes, I said therapist, not just a coach) in order to address these issues in a healthy manner. Figure out your triggers, and how to navigate them before you come into an audition.  If you break down in my audition room – my first thought, and I’m sorry, is going to be that you’re not ready to be an actor. Because if you haven’t figured out how to deal with your nerves for an audition, I can’t trust that you’ve figured out how to deal with them on set, with my whole team waiting and the camera rolling.

If you absolutely know you can do the role, but you just can’t get through an audition – request  the opportunity to do a self tape. See if the casting assistant will come get you if you step outside the office while you’re waiting, so that you don’t have to be around any people.  Ask the casting director for a moment while you take a sip of water and breathe. Maybe come up with a quick habit that calms you down, and ask for a moment to do that before you start. Yes, these practices have been hilariously mocked in web sketches, but who cares? You want the best performance possible.  I once had an actor who would turn and face the wall, and make the weirdest sounds while punching himself… keep in mind his process took five, maybe ten seconds, but when he turned around, he did a fantastic job and got the role.  It becomes an awesome story when it works out. And that’s the point, right?

 

  • This particular one means more.

I get it. This one’s special. Maybe it’s the project, maybe it’s the casting director, maybe it’s the writer, or maybe, it’s the character. Whatever it is – this one’s the dream. This is it, the whole reason you got into this industry in the first place. The kahuna. Your big break.  No matter how prepared you are – just walking into that room, knowing that it’s here, and now, will make those jitters pop up and destroy you.

But guess what? It’s not that special.

I know, I know, this is the coolest opportunity you’ve ever had.  But here’s the key thing – it won’t be your last. I know it doesn’t feel like it right now, but there will be another one. Another huge director, another famous studio, another fantastic script that comes your way.  Trust in your own future, if only to get through today.  Take a beat in the waiting room to calm down, and remind yourself that this is just one of the amazing opportunities you’ll have in your life. Also? This is their one opportunity to see you. Because you’re going to go on to be amazing. Stupendous – legendary! And this is their one shot to get to know the real you!  So be yourself. Because you’re worth this opportunity, just as you are.  While you’re waiting, remind yourself – you’re the catch. Not them.

 

  • You’re not prepared.

This one’s simple.  I’m not talking about being off-book – I’m talking about not working through the scene. You didn’t prepare, you haven’t thought about any of your choices or broken down a single beat – maybe you thought you’d wing it, or maybe you thought your natural raw talent would shine through. But now you’ve got a couple extra heartbeats, the adrenaline coursing through your veins, your mind’s in overdrive, and the fumbles are taking over.

Here’s how to avoid this – don’t be an asshat. Prepare for your audition.

(Scared of cold read? Lightening-prep guide coming.)

 

  • Something just happened in the waiting room.

Maybe it was good, maybe it was bad.  Maybe you ran into a bunch of friends from your acting class, and got to talking! Or maybe the casting assistant up front is actually a cool person and you were enjoying yourself!  (Yes – it’s fun talking to you, if there’s time.)  And when your name was called, you weren’t in a place where you could play a PTSD veteran coming home to find his brother sleeping with his wife (yes, that’s the plot of BROTHERS).

Here’s the thing – your actor friends, the casting assistant – they know why you’re here. If you say, “I’d love to catch up! But can we do it after my audition? I just gotta get in the right head space…” they may laugh, but they’re here for the same goal. They’ll let you do your thing. And hey, if chatting helps you get into character, because it’s a charming, talkative character – more power to you! Just make sure you do what you need to do to be in the right place, before walking into the audition room.

Along the same lines – if something bad happened in the waiting room, address it. Maybe there was a car accident outside. Maybe you got a phone call with bad news. Or maybe it’s something like the auditions are running an hour behind, or a new note was just thrown at you.  However you need to process that information – do it. Don’t shove it aside, unless you know that works for you. Talk about it, call a friend, down a cup of coffee – and don’t afraid to ask for a minute.  Casting may not be able to give you 20 minutes, but I’ve never heard of a casting office that couldn’t give you another two minutes.

 

  • Last but definitely not least – it’s just a few jitters.

Some nerves, are to be expected. In all honesty – I think nerves come when you care.  And I appreciate that you care!

Just close your eyes, and take a couple deep breaths. Don’t let those nerves take you over.  Acknowledge that they’re there, and remind yourself it’s okay that they’re there.  Take a breath before you start.

Identify how those jitters show themselves, then do what you can to get yourself back in a comfort zone.  A few common ones:

  • Wavering voice – say something on the way into the room, to get in the groove of speaking. A ‘hello! Hope it’s going well today!” never hurt anyone. And on the rare occasion the character calls for a wavery voice – you’re in luck!
  • Shaking hands – figure out a way to tuck them away. Your pockets, folded arms, or giving yourself a small amount of business, can hide shaking hands.
  • Hunched shoulders – before you start, squeeze your shoulders up to your ears while breathing in, and as you exhale, let them relax down. Clasp your hands behind your back, or find another pose that feels natural, but forces those shoulders down.
  • Dry throat – bring a bottle of water. Or ask for one. I feel like this one’s obvious.
  • Blushing – I’ve seen people get flushed and red, appearing on the throat and upper chest – if you know it happens, to a point that it’s distracting, or it makes you self-conscious and that distracts you – invest in some high-necked shirts.
  • Sweating – same thing. There are a lot of undershirts with that “wick-away” technology.

It’s okay to be nervous. It’s not okay to be unprepared for nerves. But it’s within your power to control them, and not let them hinder your life. Don’t let them win!

 

Photo by Vlad Panov on Unsplash

headshots – starting out

Ah, the long-lamented, woefully redundant, ever-exacerbated topic – headshots. Much like online dating – it matters. A lot. Until the person knows you, and then it can be whatever you want it to be. Yes – I love Thomas Lennon’s headshot too, but he’s also at a point where he can do that, and all it does, is expand upon his own brand. When you’re starting out – you’re not there yet. Below are a couple pointers for starting out.

 

  • Think about your audience. Are you sending these out for commercials? Are you sending them out for gritty indies? Are you sending them for a sketch web-series? You should have something that can be used for whatever you’re going out for, a standard, go-to headshot, that represents you well, but in the process of actually shooting the photos – think about specifics. Tailor your headshots to those specificities.
    • Commercial – this is where it’s extremely important to know your brand. Yes. I know that you are particularly edgy, and you’re soooo sarcastic. But if you look like a sweet Midwestern farm boy, that’s what you’ll be hired for in a commercial. Give into the flannel, give in to the blue collared shirt, cardigan-ed up with khakis. And for you, you sweetheart with curly hair bigger than your head and tattoos behind your ear – your look is hipster, how ever much you hate that label. I know “hipster” doesn’t capture your essence, but guess what? “Hipsters” get hired. Put on those chunky glasses and strike a quirky app-developer pose, whatever the hell that may be.  Or maybe – you’ve always been the class clown, everyone knows you’re just a cool, down-to-earth friend – but those sharp cheekbones look good with a lawyer’s power suit, and you know it.
    • Theatrical drama – no characters to hide behind here. I just want to see you. Keep it minimal, with clothing, with accessories, with the background. The focus here is not your look – it’s your eyes. I want to see your depth, and I’m not going to get that with a brightly checkered top. The reason people aren’t usually smiling in a drama photo? So that I can see more of your eyes. The ‘windows to the soul,’ and all that jazz. Yes. I want to see them.
    • Theatrical comedy – here’s where you truly get to show your essence. Again no characters, just the truest version of what makes you happy. I want to see what makes you unique, here. And the way to do that – is to dress as yourself, act as yourself, and generally just be yourself.  The easiest way to do that is to get into a conversation with your photographer that puts you in your happy place, and then start snapping away.  NOTE: I’m not asking you to come up with a brilliant thing that’s different from everyone else. I’m asking you to be yourself. That’s unique enough.
  • Keep in mind, if you’re uncomfortable, or not quite sure what to do in your photos – I can tell. I can see that you’re uncomfortable, and I can see you’re unsure. Every version of a photo that I just described – they still need to be authentically you.
    • Commercial – you know that flannel and those chunky glasses without lenses I’m making you wear? They need to be some version of what you would wear. If you’ve never worn a collared shirt in your life – then for pete’s sake, don’t button it up all the way, and put a t-shirt underneath. If you’ve never worn your curly hair natural – don’t try it for the first time on the day you’re shooting your headshots.  Keep everything as normal as possible – these are just versions of you. Facets of who you can be. Nothing should feel out of your wheelhouse.
    • Theatrical drama – I know you’ve got great teeth, and your default face is a grin. And I know you’ve tried ‘not smiling’ in the photo. It’s hard – we’ve been programmed since we were kids to “say cheese!” and so all these serious photos come out a little forced and weird. The trick to it, is confidence and vulnerability.  Don’t force a frown, don’t grit out some pose you think looks powerful.  Find a comfortable position that makes you feel confident in yourself, and talk to your photographer about something personal.  Being open and honest, and more importantly – relaxed while being open and honest – it gives me, the viewer, a sense of your power and character.
    • Theatrical comedy – here’s your true chance to be yourself. Try not to concentrate on smiling, or your cheeks will start to hurt and your smile won’t be real – just let yourself be the happiest version of yourself, and it’ll come across in the photo.  Maybe tell your photographer a funny story, or ooh! Imagine yourself telling that hilarious story to a crowd of adoring peers, all hysterically laughing while they’re awarding you with the award for Best. Person. Ever!!  That might do the trick.

 

The primary thing I need to see in a headshot, is the same as what I need to see in an audition – clear choices. I can tell when you’re trying to get that one shot that could please all your audiences. And it doesn’t work.  Don’t go for that one, don’t try for it. Characters who are palatable on all levels aren’t interesting to watch. Bland isn’t interesting. I’m not saying I need my socks knocked off, but I want to see you.  And I know, I know, that you’re capable of all these different things, at once. But the different characters, the specifics for each audience – those should be facets of you.  And that one photo, that best represents you – that’s one you’ll find in the editing room.  One will stand out as the most comprehensive representation of you, and that’s the one you’ll feel comfortable using in any situation.

 

The thing that’s going to hook me in, as someone sifting through hundreds, if not thousands of photos? A clear sense of self.  If your photo says, “I know who I am. You should want to, too.” then hell yes. I’m in. Tell me about yourself, tell me what you’re capable of. Better yet – come in for an audition, and I’ll hear all about it.

 

 

 

PS if you’re naked or shirtless in your headshot – yeah, I might take a second to appreciate those hard-earned abs, and there’s a slight chance I’ll consider you for “Slutty Boat Dancer #13,” but it’s unlikely I’ll hire you to act…

 

take a note from MMA

In auditioning fighters and wrestlers who are transitioning into actors, I’ve noticed a distinctly different approach to acting.  There’s an aspect to it that I think all actors could use to their benefit.

Fighters know that their bodies are tools. Their every muscle has a function that supports their purpose – to win. And on top of that – their every emotion is trained and used as a tool, to fuel their strength and focus.

I’ve seen actors that tower over me, with muscles rippling upon muscles, who are so nervous for their audition that their voices quiver.  Do they mask it, and try to squash it down, hoping that it doesn’t affect their performance? No. More often than not – it’s the first thing out of their mouth. “I’m so nervous,” they say. At the same time, I can see they are addressing the issue in their mind, the same way they do before a fight – it’s an acknowledgement of humanity, it’s shining a light on whatever weaknesses are present, in order to expose the problem and find a solution before stepping into the room.

In the same manner – when giving a wrestler direction in a scene, they hear it differently. They hear it, and I can see they’re thinking ahead, about the goal of the scene, and how they can expand on that note to serve the bigger picture. They want to use every tool at their disposal, to achieve the greatest scene.

What’s refreshing, is the lack of ego, regarding one’s own vulnerabilities. And regarding one’s power.

I may be talking out of my ass, but I’d bet when stepping into a ring, a fighter must be aware of themselves in a way that none of the rest of us are.  They need to be aware of every strength and weakness, both physically and emotionally, in a way that leaves no surprises against an opponent.  There’s no time or energy for ego – no room to squash a hurt down deep inside, no room to have a skill that you’re only proud of secretly. Everything must be out in the open, ready to use or ready to protect.

I’m not saying that everything should be on the surface. Our complexity as humans is what makes us interesting characters, and depth is as important as any other tool, for an actor.

But the focus on a goal that’s bigger than just yourself, combined with the understanding that you have an arsenal at your disposal – using your body, your mind and your heart to serve something greater than just you, without ego, will allow you to achieve greater work than just you.

 

Photo by Attentie Attentie on Unsplash

self tape guidelines – addendum

Please, for the love of anything you hold sacred – don’t get naked in your self tape.

Yes.  You read that correctly – don’t get naked, unless you’re asked to get naked.  A sentence, accompanying your self tape, letting us know you’re comfortable with nudity – that’s enough.  I don’t need to know your family secrets.

self tape guidelines

In an increasingly digital world, in which we’re able to live and work anywhere, self tapes are a fact of the industry now.  If you’re not able to get into the room with casting, it’s important to show them the best version of yourself.  Some actors find them preferable, because they’re able to do the scene at their own pace, and tinker until they get the scene just as they like.  Self tapes can be a useful tool for you, especially if you’re able to turn them around quickly and do them well.

 

Logistics:

  • If you’re taping on your phone, GO HORIZONTAL. Yes, I know a vertical shot gets more of you in the frame.  But that’s not how it’s going to be shot if you get the job, nor does it ever look good. Not only is the quality of the video better (something about turning your phone horizontal for a video makes it HD, I don’t know?) but vertical videos are a bitch to edit. Most websites we post them to for our producers automatically rotate the video, and we have to edit and compress the video to some weird version in which you look like an oompa loompa before it plays correctly.
  • The frame should be from your chest to about three inches above your head.
  • You need to be well-lit, and I shouldn’t struggle to hear what you’re saying.
  • Have as little in the background as possible. You don’t want me contemplating where to get that cool poster or sofa you have in the background, or if you’ve watered your plants. You want me focusing on you – so make sure you’re all that’s in the frame.
  • If casting has asked you to look directly into the camera – cool. But if they haven’t specified, DON’T. Put your reader right next to the camera, and look a few inches to the side. If you look directly into the camera, it feels like you’re trying to see into my soul and I get uncomfortable with that. Conversely – if you’re looking too far away from the camera, all I can see is your profile, and I want to see your whole, pretty face.
  • It’s a good idea to include a ‘slate’ or body shot – meaning a quick, five-to-ten second shot with your whole body in the frame, in which you state your name, your height, where you’re based, and any other elements we may have asked for. Yes, you can look directly into camera for this.
  • Please, please, PLEASE, start with the scene, not that flub you and your reader thought was hilarious right before you started. Also – give yourself a beat at the end of the scene to properly finish the emotion, before you cut. Not to say you can’t ad-lib a line at the end – sometimes that’s a bright part of my day while I’m watching self tapes.
  • On the topic of readers – it really doesn’t matter that you get specifically an actor to read with you. Just make sure they’re not distracting, and they give you a good foundation to work from. It’s never a good idea to read with Siri. If you absolutely can’t get a reader – that’s fine, but make sure you’re giving space and time to react to the other lines. I want your reactions as much as your words.

 

Quality:

  • The more off-book you can be, the better. Yes, sometimes you have to turn a tape around in a matter of hours and it’s impossible to memorize that much material. But try not to let me see the script in the shot, and make sure you’re looking up and connecting with your reader as much as possible.
  • If you don’t get the first beat right, do it again. Sometimes I have to go through 50 self tapes in half an hour along with everything else I need to do, and I can perceive a lot from fifteen seconds. Start the scene exactly as you want to. Every beat is important, don’t get me wrong, but the first beat is non-negotiable – I need a reason to keep watching you.
  • If you’re uncomfortable, I can tell. This is true any time you do a scene, but particularly in self tapes. You’ve got the advantage of doing this on your own turf, so make sure you’re physically comfortable, and I’m concentrating on you instead of mentally begging you to get out of those high heels or undo that top button that’s choking you.
  • If there is action in the scene – feel free to get creative, if your friend taping you is a director. BUT ONLY IF YOU’RE SURE THEY’RE COMPLETELY AWESOME AS A DIRECTOR. Otherwise, mark all the action. I want the beat, the emotion, and the reaction – I don’t need to know you actually threw a chair across the room.
  • Stay in it the entire scene. This is just like being in the audition room – if you fall out of the scene, I can see that. And if I like you, I’ll watch the whole tape through. THE WHOLE THING. So make sure you like it too.

 

So you’re done with your self tape, and you are ready to send– the most ideal way to receive a self tape is a clickable version that’s also downloadable. Label the file with your name, the project and the role (surprisingly no, IMG047997BLAH is not a good file name) and send it through. Vimeo is a good source for this, or Dropbox – only use YouTube if you can make the video downloadable. I tend to like .mp4 or .mov, those are the most universal video formats.

 

*Also – I’ll speak to this point more in a later post, but if in doubt – make the video password protected.

 

Now. The biggest (and sometimes only) disadvantage to self tapes is that you can’t get direction from casting in the room. And sometimes, even though I know you’re brilliant and insightful, there’s a note that we in casting have, or have found after auditioning a lot of people for this role, that you don’t have.  Be very clear that you’re willing to re-tape with notes. If we like you, you may need to do this again, possibly a few times, before you get a part.  Your first tape may get you the test deal, or even the part, but if we want you to tape again – it doesn’t mean you did anything wrong. It’s a good thing. It means we’re willing to wait for you to turn around another tape, because we want to see what else you can do.

 

Self tapes are handy, in our geographically spreading industry – make sure they’re your ally.

what I can’t do for you

The purpose of this isn’t to tell you the class to take, the book to read, or the bar to go to.  There’s no formula to break into the film industry. Do I have recommendations? Of course I do.  And I’ll share them.  But will any one thing I say, guarantee you an acting job? Nope. Not in the least. If you gamble your last penny on an opinion of mine, consider it gone.

When I leave Los Angeles, and talk to those elusive characters who know nothing of the film industry, I like to point out that outside of this town – everyone thinks success in film requires 90% luck.  Okay, I’ll be fair – they think it’s 80% luck. Getting that one opportunity to let you shine – that’s the main struggle. Finding an open door, an open mind, an open ear – THAT’S the golden nugget we’re all fighting to find.

But if you’ve spent any amount of time out here, you quickly realize – flip that around.  This industry is mostly hard work, and only a dash of luck.  Everyone I respect in this town, works their ass off to follow their dreams. Not that you aren’t!  I know you are working hard. The thing that does suck about our industry, is that I’ve met people who have worked hard their whole lives, and they’re still dreaming of the day they actually get a project they like.

I truly believe, that everyone gets a door opened for them, at some point in their career. However – you may not realize that door was opened. You may have been too scared to walk through that door. You may have fallen through the door. You may have walked through that door, and declared “I’m here!” and never gone anywhere after that.  But that door should have been just an opening for you to take off running.

Let me explain what I mean by that.  You may have been offered an opportunity to star in something, and you turned it down, because it didn’t look right. Maybe it was a theater opportunity, while you were focusing on co-star auditions. Maybe it was a short film, or a student film, when you decided you were only going to focus on network projects. Maybe it was a weird little web series, but you’d decided you were only doing drama, because your comedy didn’t always land the way you wanted it to.  But those could have been launching points. You never know what is going to take off. Judge the projects you do, by the quality of the filmmakers. Not the media outlet, not image you want to present of yourself.  More often than not – you’ll discovers skills you never thought you had, because you’d never had the opportunity to flex those muscles.

You may have been too scared – I think that’s self-explanatory. If you think you’ve bitten off more than you can chew – work your ass off and JUST DO IT. Nike has it right – You know what needs to be done. Yes, it’ll be hard. But yes, you can do it. Just work hard.

You may have fallen through the door – meaning you haven’t been working on SHIT this whole time, you’ve just been trying to find an open door. If you haven’t been working on your skills, doing your research, and generally making yourself absolutely ready for that one big lucky strike – then when an opportunity comes along, you’ll just stumble through it. Maybe it’ll be half-assed because you don’t consider it to be a REAL opportunity, just something to bide your time. Maybe it’ll be half-assed because you haven’t put any work in before now – you just assumed you had natural, raw talent that would shine through when you get your REAL opportunity.  My point is – if you don’t work hard on all your projects, and approach them with respect and diligence – not only will your work appear to be shitty (because you half-assed it), but you’ll have developed a reputation for shitty work. Off to a great start, right?

Lastly – if you get an opportunity, and it goes well, that doesn’t mean you’ve ‘made it.’ Every project, every role is a struggle to get off the ground.  One good job does not mean the work is done. It means the work has only just begun.

Here’s my point – this industry requires a lot of blood, sweat and tears. And there’s no way around that.  It also, sadly, requires a bit of Irish gold – and that’s why I started this site.  There’s no step-by-step process to succeed, no particular class to take, no particular party to attend. But there are some tools I can share, to help you, so that when the door cracks opens for you (and stay strong – it will) you’ll be ready to blast through that door and start running through the maze.

 

Photo by Mike Erskine on Unsplash