Archives for : ACTING

Why You’ve Been All Wrong About Those Co-Star Auditions – And What To Do Now!

I had rehearsed at least seven different ways to say the one line I was auditioning for on CSI as the foreperson of the jury. But the casting director had me do it over and over, and each time, said “Do less.”

I realized later that this was one of those instances where my purpose was simply exposition. I was to communicate the information in as unobtrusive a way as possible. But this was perhaps the one approach I had not considered.

If Jackie Geary and Jamison Haase had been doing their Co-Star class at LA On Camera Training Center, I might have known that going in. Below, Geary answers five questions about the upcoming class.

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Jackie Geary is a familiar face on television, having recently appeared on the likes of HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER, WEEDS, SUBURGATORY, RIZZOLI & ISLES, BONES, CASTLE, UNITED STATES OF TARA, HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER, and in the memorable Fanilow episode of WILL & GRACE. She is also known for her recurring role as quirky agent Susan Grady on NCIS. Recent features include a supporting role in Roland Emmerich’s WHITE HOUSE DOWN. She credits her Barnard education, combined with her love of comedy, for the technique she teaches at L.A. On-Camera. Marrying head instructor Jamison Haase didn’t hurt either.

1. Why do you think co-star parts are notoriously hard to book?

     Actors going in for co-stars are usually at the beginning of their careers, and can put a lot of pressure on themselves to book the job – never a good place to be as an actor. But the biggest issue is that actors often get confused as to which co-stars to do something with performance-wise, and which to just let be, and end up paralyzed by their options. As a result, they can turn in a vague read that doesn’t really land.  That was part of our goal in creating the co-star class — to try to answer that question, and demystify the co-star.

2. Is it really true that casting directors like to see 5 or 6 co-stars before they’ll consider you for a guest star, or a larger part?

     Very often. Depends on the actor, and depends on the casting director. If you are a 19-year-old model transitioning into acting, you might get to skip co-stars. If you aren’t, then yeah, you’ll probably need to book a few to move up to guest stars. There are some great casting directors out there who are willing to take a chance on talented people and bring them in for something larger, but they’re rare, and understandably so — casting directors want to know you have a certain amount of experience before risking their own reputations by vouching for you.

3. You’ve booked quite a lot of co-stars yourself, and so has your teaching partner, Jamison Haase, has that helped you to develop a strategy for booking them?

     Absolutely 🙂 Between the two of us, we’ve booked over 30, and auditioned for countless more. And that’s aside from all the actors we’ve coached on their co-star auditions. So we’ve got the process pretty fine-tuned at this point. My concentration is comedy, and Jamison’s is drama — so you spend half of the co-star class with him, and half with me. Because of the differences in style, comedic and dramatic co-stars can be very different animals; we outline exactly why and how, and the technique that goes into breaking down and booking each.

4. What can actors who take your co-star class hope to come away with?

The point of the class is to come away with greater confidence in auditioning for co-stars, and a better understanding of what it takes to make an impression in the room when you might only get a line or two. Ultimately, no one wants to do co-stars forever, but by showing the CDs that you understand the story and can make it better, the next time you may get called in for something bigger.

5. If we are cast very close to who we actually are in these co-star parts, what difference do our choices really make?

      Sometimes we’re cast close to who we are, and sometimes it can be very far from us. The catch is knowing when to do which and knowing how to make choices that serve the story, without making it all about you. Who we are has something to do with it, of course, although if my past co-stars are any indication, I am one bitchy stoner.  

 

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* The class is four weeks long, and it shifts between drama and comedy. Actors will work on and perform on more than 15 different sides over the course of the class and will be sent their takes after every class. Class is held at our studios at 2000 W. Magnolia Blvd., Suite 200 in Burbank, it costs $250, and the the next sessions begin Wednesday, Oct 21st (11:30-3pm) or Thursday, Nov 12th (7-10:30pm). Check out the website at laoncamera.com for more details.

 

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Why Worrying About Being Typecast is a Waste Of Your Time

I’ve been seeing Joseph Buttler in workshops at Act Now for years. I remember thinking– that guy should be working. And now, he is! He responds to my five questions here about how he made it happen, postcards, postcards, postcards, and why worrying about being typecast is a waste of your time!

1. You seem very clear about the type that you play, could you share with readers your journey in defining your castability and anything that helped you along the way?

One of the most important things an actor can do is to know their “type.” Now, that doesn’t mean that you’ll be pigeonholed into always playing the same character. It just means you know your essence and how other people see you. I guess that’s what some people call “branding.” For me, it’s really been a matter of looking over my career and seeing what types of roles I’ve been cast in and noticing if there is a pattern. Because of my look, I tend to play a lot of teachers, therapists, and scientists. However, within that category, there is a whole range of characters, running the gamut from psychiatrists to psychopaths – sometimes, I’m the dorky teacher while other times, I’m the mean teacher. I can be the friendly accountant or the mad doctor who tortures people. I tend to present myself as the guy next door who could snap at any minute. Now, all that being said, I just spent 2 days playing a uniformed policeman on a new television series. Go figure.

I once attended a SAG Conversations event with William Sanderson – you might remember him as Larry from “Newhart,” Farnum from “Deadwood,” or Sherriff Bud from “True Blood.” His characters always seem a little off. He was asked if he ever worries about being type cast and he replied, “I’d rather be type cast than not cast at all.”

2. What is the greatest MARKETING tool for actors that you’ve found?

Postcards, postcards, and more postcards. I design and print mine at home. Every few months I do a mailing to a targeted list of Casting Directors, just to let them know what I’ve been doing. I also send out postcards when I’m going to be on a show. In addition to hard copies, those postcards also get posted on Facebook. We are in an era of social media – one can reach thousands of people through one Facebook post – not just your own friends, but also if your friends share your post, you’ve reached all of their friends, too. I get a kick out of sharing my friends’ posts and helping them promote their careers, too.

3. You’ve been on a roll of late, booking CSI, American Crime Story, Days of Our Lives, as well as a webseries and some films. To what do you attribute this?

One, I have a wonderful agent who pitches the heck out of me. That probably falls under the “marketing” question, as well. Also, my goal, when I audition, is just to play and have fun. There are so many variables as to whether one gets the job – maybe you look like the director’s ex. Maybe you DON’T look like the director’s ex. If I can walk into the casting office and BOOK THE ROOM, I’ve done my job. The actual job bookings will come. And when they do, watch out! They say work begets work, and it does seem the more you work, you more you book.

I find that if I’ve been booking a lot, that confidence shows. I have confidence in my talent, and also confidence in knowing that I am doing exactly what I’m meant to be doing. And when I’m on set, I have 2 jobs – the acting job, but also a responsibility to be nice to everybody. I do my best to learn all the crew member’s names, and thank them, by name, at the end of the day. That means sticking my head back in the make-up trailer, wardrobe trailer, etc.

4. How did you find your agent, Joe Florance?

Talent Link on Actors Access. Every week, they blast your profile out and agents who are looking for new talent can search. Joe saw my headshot, watched my reel, and called me. We had a nice phone chat and really hit it off. At that time (2008), I was playing Felix in “The Odd Couple” and he and his wife came and saw the play. That really impressed me. He handed me an agency contract right after the show. He has been a real blessing, and we have become quite good friends over the past 7 years.

5. You’re also a musician, have you ever gotten to play music on screen?

Not on screen, but the director of a feature film I recently wrapped asked if he could license one of my songs to be playing on the radio in one of the scenes. Hopefully, that will make the final cut!

 

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Do you want to “Know stuff other actors don’t?”

Would you like to see behind the curtain at how breakdowns work and how CDs are working every day? Here’s your chance! Read the LA Actor’s Blog Interview with Blair Hickey & Brian Wold, founders of WWW.CASTINGABOUT.COM

CastingAbout is a marketing and research tool that actors can use to get to know the key players in town. It’s a list of all the projects casting in NY and LA– who is casting what and how to reach them. Casting About has a team of researchers updating that list every day- the project, the associate, the assistant, and the address. Here’s what they had to say…

“People do marketing backwards, it’s not, how can you help me, but how can I help you? This puts you in a better position so you can optimize your time, you might as well find the people who are most right for you to work with.”

“First of all people think they need to meet the CD and not the Associate, but frankly if you’re at the bottom of the ladder you have a much better chance of building a solid relationship with someone who is just starting their career. You can also use CastingAbout to follow and track the career of a Casting Director that you’ve already met. You can log in and see what they’re up to, so if they book a pilot or they get promoted, you can congratulate them.”

“And that can work for you in the room. A friend of mine went in for an Associate, and he says to her– hey I saw you were doing a film in Pittsburgh, you’ll love it, I grew up there. She asked if he could be a local hire. He ended up working on the film for 3 weeks.”

“And if you look at what someone has cast over a number of years you can usually see a through-line and that can help you to understand the tone and style and adjust accordingly.”

“The submission process is really about sales, trying to sell yourself for the role. Log in as a CD and you can see what 2,000 submission look like. If you are the CD who has to pick 30 out of these, who do you pick and why? Most CDs pick people they know and trust, they don’t have a lot of time and want to impress the producer. So how do you get to be one of those people?”

When they are talking with CDs about what they love and don’t love, lately they’ve been hearing that 75-80% of the actors they bring are people they already know. So getting the audition is secondary to creating the relationship.

“Actors feel like, why won’t anybody give me a job? If you want to be part of their community, you need to understand their needs and goals- what are they looking for? Put yourself in a position to make their life easier.”

“Actors who work have built relationships with these CDs who become fellow storytellers -so you are working peer to peer. The ones who tell the same stories you tell, they need you, to tell the story. Then it becomes a symbiotic relationship. When you take the time to learn about the CD and the project you realize they have a problem, which is that they need someone to fill a certain role. That effects your submission process–with a note, a demo clip, and the right headshot you can demonstrate that you can help them.”

“So it’s more, hey fellow storyteller, I know what you need, maybe we can help each other out.”

“And when we talk about story it’s about what’s your sweet spot? What’s the story that you’re born to tell? Especially when you’re building your career. As you get to know people you can push your boundaries and your edges. The CD doesn’t need you to be able to play “anything” they need you to know where you fit in the process, to be specific, and to help them fill a need.”

“CDs have to present 5 different versions of one story. So the way you can help the CD is to offer the most authentic version of your own telling, it’s going to be different from everyone else’s, and that will also leverage your strengths. If you don’t define yourself, others will define you. But if you can be a professional about it the performance will be good enough that even if it’s not a match and they can’t use that they’ll be thinking I wish I could.”

“You look at people who are super well respected and if you took the same role and gave it to each of those people you’d get a different story every time. Specific, Focused, Targeted marketing is way more successful.”

“I Heard a CD say, don’t just limit yourself to what headshot do I take, but pay attention to what books are on your bedside table, what songs make you cry, what movies can you not turn off, what poems do you remember from school, what scenes are you given in class and why. All that really starts to point toward some point of view, the way we look at the world is part of our own story.”

So once you figure out your story, the effect is fewer submissions, fewer auditions, and more bookings.

Sounds good to me! Thanks Blair and Brian!

Oh, and P.S. Act Now clients get a 10% discount on www.castingabout.com memberships! Woo hoo!

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FREE PANEL SEPT 11th! Questions Answered Here!

Nancy Bishop is not only an accomplished Casting Director and sought-after coach, she is a lovely human being and founder of the Acting For Film Program at Prague Film School.

She has done casting on projects such as: MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: GHOST PROTOCALL, WANTED, CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, BOURNE IDENTITY, TRISTAN AND ISOLDE, THE ILLUSIONIST, NOVEMBER MAN, TRANSPORTER, and SNOWPIERCER. She also worked on new HBO pilot “Virtuoso”, produced and written by Alan Ball (True Blood and Six Feet Under.)

Her experience in international casting (out of both London and Prague) for both film and television puts her at the cutting edge of her field. Her new book, Auditioning for Film and Television, Secrets from a Casting Director” is a fantastic collection of her most pertinent advice. A great read, endorsed by Donald Sutherland, Auditioning for Film and TV is a bible of knowledge for jobbing actors. Learn crucial strategies for marketing, auditioning, self-taping and using internet technology to forward your career.

She answered five questions here that give you an idea of how knowledgeable she is. She will also be appearing in Los Angeles (details below) and I urge you to seek out more of her wisdom.

1. One unique thing about your book is that you come from an international perspective. Do you think it’s still necessary for an actor to live in NYC or LA? Why or why not?

I have a whole chapter devoted to the question of where to live. Because I work internationally, and have offices in London and Prague, I often meet actors who ask this question. I always advise actors to evaluate their quality of life. There are so many factors that enter in to a decision about where to live. There is certainly no “right” answer. There are many opportunities in New York and Los Angeles but there is also much more competition. If you embark on a career in Los Angeles, for example, you need to be someone who loves competition. There are local markets that are doing very well and actors are cast from everywhere now, not just LA and NYC.

2. Because casting is so widespread now there are more and more self-taped auditions. What is the number one mistake actors make in self-taping?

Not getting it in on time and in the format that production has requested. You really need to follow instructions because if your format doesn’t fit the format we need then you may be immediately disqualified. For example, if I asked for you to load it to Castit and you send it to me via Vimeo, I may not have time to transfer it. Be succinct in your introduction as well. I’ve seen actors talk us out of casting them in a too long introduction.

3. In your book you write that “Actors who get cast are actors who tell the story,” can you summarize what you mean by that? How do they tell the story?

Well if I give away everything no one will buy the book!

4. You go into on-line presentation quite a lot in this edition— can you talk about what some of the most recent developments are in this area?

I think it’s important to not only be active but interactive. Social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, give opportunities for direct contact. Some industry professionals do indeed manage their own social media accounts. Learn how to use social media to your advantage in marketing.

5. What is your next project?

I’m developing a lovely film now called Any Other Time, written and directed by Peter Howitt who wrote Sliding Doors.

 

NANCY WILL APPEAR AT THESE UPCOMING EVENTS FOR ACTORS TO LEARN HOW TO BOOK THE JOB.

 

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 11th, 2015 1-2 pm Nancy Bishop will read from her second book “Auditioning for Film and TV,” followed by coffee, cake and book signing. Special guest speaker will be Marcello Bellisario who is the Vice President of Casting at Lions Gate, which means he’s worked on winning shoes like Mad Men and Orange is the New Black. Panel moderated by Dufflyn Lammers *Free of Charge!!! 

At The Green Room at Samuel French Bookstore in Hollywood 7623 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90046

RSVP: info@nancybishopcasting.com
Parking: behind the bookshop on Stanley

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 13TH, SELF TAPE CLASS with casting directors Donna Morong and Nancy Bishop.

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 13TH, 1 day
And 11:00am – 2:00pm
COST: $200 (limited to 20 students)
**New students are accepted by a headshot, resume, and online reel submission (if reel is available).

Materials can be sent to inquiries@aquilamorong.com.

 

 

 

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