Archives for : acting advice

Why Backstage West Is A Great NEW Resource For You

Backstage West is one of the oldest and most reliable resources for actors in the United States. And, with NEW updates it’s also one of the most complete.


Here, the LA Actor’s Blog asks 5 questions of Luke Crowe– the Vice President and National Casting Editor of Backstage and Call Sheet. He’s been working at Backstage for over a decade, so he knows what’s up!

1. Why is Backstage indispensable to Actors? 

 Founded in 1960 as a weekly magazine, Backstage is one of the world’s longest-running and most-trusted resources for actors, featuring news, interviews, advice columns, and casting calls aimed at helping performers advance their careers.

In the old days, we published separate print editions of the magazine for our Los Angeles and New York audiences; the L.A. version of Backstage was known as Back Stage West. However, with the tremendous growth of Backstage.com, we now reach a wide international audience of millions, and we’re able to publish new articles and casting calls throughout the day, every day of the week, providing actors with far more opportunities and timely information than ever before. We still publish a weekly magazine that’s national in scope, highlighting some of our best articles each week; while our website provides thousands of additional articles, resources, and casting calls.

images-1Casting directors, producers, filmmakers, theaters, production companies, and other content creators post more than 30,000 casting notices and job listings on Backstage.com every year, spanning hundreds of thousands of roles. The actors on our site are able to create customized applications to submit to the roles of their choice; keep track of their application history; communicate with casting directors; and more. Additionally, our site’s Talent Database features the profiles of over 130,000 actors, models, and performers; and content creators use the database to cast thousands of roles, supplementing their casting calls.

 Among a variety of entertainment-industry tools on the site, Backstage.com/Resources also includes an auditions calendar (featuring details on upcoming auditions), a database of monologues, production listings, and our popular Call Sheet directory (which includes company profiles and contact details for thousands of top casting directors, talent agencies, managers, and more).

 The incredible actors that got their start with Backstage include the likes of Robert De Niro, Scarlett Johansson, Jonah Hill, Amy Schumer, James Franco, Scott Bakula, Jonathan Groff, Marcia Gay Harden, Todd Field, Caitriona Balfe, Chris Cooper, Chris Evans, Kim Cattrall, Connie Britton, Ed Burns, Patrick Wilson, and so many more. The list is endless. We’ve compiled some of our favorite quotes at www.backstage.com/testimonials. And we’re very excited about helping to launch the next generation of actors as well.

2. Why are there sections online for cities other than LA and NY — Atlanta, for example? 

The entertainment industry has changed a lot over the last decade, with new opportunities for actors cropping up across the U.S. For instance, a lot of Hollywood film and television productions now shoot in states like Illinois, Louisiana, New Mexico, Florida, Ohio, Massachusetts, and Georgia. Independent film and theater has exploded in states like Texas. Content creators are shooting indie films, web series, and commercials across the country. And almost every state has multiple theater, film, and digital-media schools now, resulting in more local content being produced.

With that in mind, we’ve put a lot of effort into making sure that actors and content creators have a great experience using Backstage regardless of their location. Backstage’s casting site (www.backstage.com/casting) is set up to allow actors to easily filter through the opportunities based on their location, “type,” and interests; and the content creators that are using our site to cast their projects can likewise filter through the applications they receive (and our Talent Database) based on their needs. For example, our casting content can be viewed from a national perspective, or quickly drilled down to a specific state, city, or geographic radius.

And although we offer our services everywhere, cities such as Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, Miami, and Chicago have been particularly popular topics for visitors to our site lately, so we’ve added additional news and casting coverage to these cities to help meet the demand. We’re always working to meet the needs of our readers, wherever they may be living. (And, of course, New York and Los Angeles are still the biggest areas for casting on Backstage.com by far, since they’re the entertainment capitals.)

3. What are the newest features of your digital magazine? 

 We publish the weekly Backstage Digital Edition, which is a PDF version of the print-edition magazine — it looks great on tablets, and our magazine readers love it since they’re able to see it as soon as it’s published, without having to wait for it to arrive via snail mail. However, our full website is where all the big innovations are happening: On Backstage.com, we’ve launched tools for actors to create highly customized casting searches and automatic alerts; profiles featuring their credits, photos, videos, and audio reels; more powerful application tools for submitting to casting calls; a messaging system; a Talent Dashboard for actors to easily manage their profiles, applications, and private communications; interactive resource databases; more articles and advice columns; and an advanced suite of tools that make it easier for casting directors to cast their projects. We’re constantly launching enhancements to the site, as the art and technology of online casting continues to evolve.

 

4. What does an actor “get” out of a subscription to Backstage? 

Every Backstage.com subscription includes full access to all of the articles, casting calls, and tools on Backstage.com — including the ability to add an unlimited number of photos, videos, and audio clips to their accounts for no extra charge (compared to other casting sites that charge additional fees for every media item); the ability to apply to an unlimited number of casting calls; exclusive audition details; optional inclusion in Backstage’s Talent Database; unlimited access to articles and advice columns; exclusive entertainment-industry company details in the Call Sheet resource databases; optional email newsletters; weekly delivery of the Digital Edition magazine (with the option to upgrade to receive the print-edition of the magazine as well); individualized casting searches and automatic notifications; and more.

5. How has Backstage changed in the last 10 years? 

Thanks to Backstage.com, our audience has grown exponentially in the past decade, reaching a global audience of actors, models, performers, and content creators. Along with that, the growth of digital filmmaking, web series, and online video distribution via sites like YouTube, Vimeo, and Netflix has had a huge imimagespact on the number of productions that now need actors. With more projects taking place and a wider audience, we’ve seen astounding increases in the number of projects using Backstage to find talent, which means more opportunities for actors to perform.

At the same time, technology has vastly changed the way casting takes place: Even just a decade ago, a lot of productions were still requesting headshots and resumes be sent via snail mail, and casting directors might have to wait weeks for all of the submissions to arrive and get sorted. Later, a lot of casting moved to email, but initial applications were still largely just based on a single photo and resume, and managing the submissions was still clunky. Nowadays, however, most casting takes place directly on our site, which allows for lightning-fast submissions that often feature a wide range of media items, including an increased usage of video; state-of-the-art tools for organizing submissions; and a quicker and more high-tech casting process overall.

If you have had experience using Backstage in any city, please tell the LA Actor’s Blog how it worked for you in the comment section below!

 And if you’re ready to find out more, click below to subscribe today!


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WHY THE BEST ACTORS ARE NOT ACTING!

I remember when a Casting Director said to me, “The best actors are not acting, they are being.”

She also pointed out a shift in self-consciousness around age 8-10 for girls 10-11 for boys. Her point was that the more self-conscious we become as we get older, the less natural we become. We start to think: what do they want, am I doing it right, do they like me, am I pretty enough– and so “acting” starts to take over.

Auditioning children can be different in a number of ways as well. Many Casting directors like to slate differently. They are really casting the child’s personality, rather than asking the child to act. They want to find the child whose natural instincts and natural personality fit the character. Sometimes kids can be shy, or they’ve been coached to be respectful in the room, so the casting director wants to get them to open up and be themselves.

And isn’t that interesting? Because we all know that, in the beginning of our careers, we are ALL cast as someone very close to who we are because we just don’t get enough screen time in smaller parts to earn the audience’s faith.

Many times for these very young actors the child will be given the line and then asked to repeat it back to the director. Then, the takes can be cut together.

So for example, the Casting Director told me, during a child search for a major feature film, they asked the kids to sing a song, asked them about their brothers and sisters, and a few more questions that were specific to the subject of the film. The CD and the Director want to see– does this child have a creative mind? Are they hard to get stuff out of? How easy is it to get them to go with the flow? That’s what is being assessed.

And again, not so different from adults. Except when it comes to expectations. Generally most CDs will give kids a bit more time to warm up.

As the actors get older the dialogue has to be there. At ages 8-10 the CD will still want them to talk off the cuff a bit, just to get a sense of them, before launching into the actual material. But even at this age casting may spend a bit more time with a child if they feel there is something there, a look that is right, for example.

It also depends on the director. Some are better with kids than others. Directors like, for example, Chris Columbus have been working with kids their whole lives and they’re just so good with kids.

Most of the time, she said, the more you treat the kids like adults in the room, the more response you get out of them.

I wanted to follow up on my recent post regarding how to get your SAG-AFTRA union card as it pertains to both child actors and to the 18 to play younger crowd.

I discovered that a minor, anyone under the age of eighteen, can be taft-hartleyed into the union with no explanation. But anytime you have an adult actor (even someone who is over eighteen but playing a character under eighteen) who is getting a union gig and they’re non union, you have to do a Taft-Hartley. One of the things the person filling out the Taft-Hartley form will add to their explanation is that, for example, they needed an adult actor who could work more hours that a child is permitted to, but who also looked younger. However there are still plenty of people in the union who could match that description, so they must still be able to qualify for one of the other categories.

The production must fill out a form explaining why they are using a non union actor. Here are the categories the production has to choose from:

Reason for Hire (Check Appropriate Box)

Member of recognized “name” specialty group (Attach documentation and photo)

Important, famous, well-known or unique persons portraying themselves (Attach photo and bio)

Background actor adjusted for non-script lines (Attach photo)

Military or other government personnel used due to governmental restrictions (Describe restrictions below)

Special skill or unique physical appearance. (Describe skill below or attach photo)

First employment of a person who has training/experience as a professional performer and intends to pursue a career as a motion picture performer (Attach photo and resume)

Child under the age of 18 (State age and attach photo)
Owner or operator of special or unique vehicle or equipment (Describe below and attach photo) Employed as stunt coordinator (Attach photo and resume)

Employed as body double for scenes requiring nudity or sexual conduct (Attach photo)
Other (Describe reason for hire below and attach photo and resume)

 

Ultimately we grow up fast in this business. And yet, what makes the best actors sparkle is sometimes their ability to retain that childlike freedom from self — the ability to just be in the moment and let go of what others think.

Something to strive for no matter how old you are!

 

 

 

 

 

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Why The Rut You Are In Isn’t As Bad As You Think!

What to do if you are IN A RUT imgreslike the Act Now client  who wrote me this letter…

 

MY CLIENT’S LETTER:

Hello there, love!

Was hoping I could get your advice on something. I trust and respect your opinion very much, so you’re the first person I thought of.

So, I’m in one of those ruts, Dufflyn. Those “God I suck, what am I doing, why isn’t anything happening” type of ruts.

My commercial agent isn’t sending me out, which is frustrating because the three times they’ve send me out went AVAIL, CALLBACK, 2X CALLBACK so obviously I know what I’m doing. I have brand new (awesome) headshots and lots of comm/improv training, so what gives? And the “Oh your agent should be getting you out all the time, you have a great look, you’re very marketable” comments I get all the time just exacerbate the situation.

On the theatrical side, I could just cry. I see breakdowns for a ton of stuff that are a perfect fit, but no theatrical representation to get me in the door. It’s like these opportunities are out there but I have no way to grab ahold of them. Does that make sense?

I’m just getting frustrated and down on myself and I don’t know what to do.

I know your job description doesn’t include “counselor” so appreciate you reading this far, Dufflyn. Any insight you have would be appreciated. I’ll keep my head down and keep working, keep workshopping, but please let me know if there is anything further I can be doing. Thanks again. xo

 

MY REPLY: 

Hello lovely,

I often refer to myself as a “guidance counselor for actors.”

This is perfectly within the realm of my job, and I am happy to share my experience, strength, and hope with you.

First, this industry is not what it once was. It is both more competitive and more accessible.

Largely, this is a result of the internet, cable TV, web series, youtube, netflix, etc. It has created a situation where networks must really refine marketing and compete for audiences. A lot of investment is riding on every episode. And as a result the expectations placed on actors are extraordinary. There is also more opportunity than ever before for actors who are willing to create their own material and be more entrepreneurial. But again, we are expected now to be writers, marketing directors, managers, producers, development executives, and mail room lackeys all while maintaining our acting chops and somehow paying our bills until we book.

No easy task indeed.

Secondly. It’s tough to know what producers/casting directors are really looking for when you read a breakdown.

The truth is that many times THEY don’t know what they’re looking for: except that they are ALWAYS looking for someone to come in and show them! (By bringing a part to life). So, though a part MAY appear to be right for you, keep in mind that many things could also happen: the producer decides to cast his girlfriend, they have an offer out, what they meant by “quirky” is not what you think of as “quirky” (or sexy or upscale or whatever), the part gets written out of the script, and so on.

And third, yes, you need a good agent. It’s not the whole picture, but it’s part of the puzzle.

Do showcases, go to networking events, ask friends for referrals, create GREAT relationships with casting directors who might actually give you a RECOMMENDATION to an agent, and yeah, keep meeting CDs and book more parts on your own so that you have some credits. All agents want to see credits. It’s a Catch 22, but that is where workshops come in. Once you get a few credits, you’re much more appealing to an agent because you are a proven commodity.

Finally, this business is no guarantee.

You can be fantastically talented and never make a living. Look at actors like Elizabeth Shue, who has worked on and off for years, but with YEARS between parts. It’s like that for EVERYONE. It’s not personal so don’t take it personally. Just know this is the business you’re in and if you are not comfortable with instability, maybe it’s not for you.

 

It’s not as bad as you think, because it’s within your power to do something about it. IF YOU CHOOSE TO! 

 

What I know is this: if you do not give up, and you keep improving your craft and you stay on top of the business side of your business, the parts that are for you will come to you. To some extent it is simple: YOU DO THE WORK AND LEAVE THE RESULTS UP TO THE UNIVERSE.

images

Do your best not to compare yourself to where your friends are, but to where YOU were a year ago. You are not competing with anyone but YOURSELF!

Comparison is a losing battle.

We always want more. You get that first co-star, you want a guest-star, you get a series regular, you want a film, you get a film, you want an Oscar, you get an Oscar, you want TWO? Don’t believe me? Ask Meryl Streep!

FINALLY, Remember that if you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you’ll keep getting what you’ve been getting.

 

EXERCISE: Can you try something new? Make a list of five things you can try. Commit to trying at least one of these things for 30 days. Check in with yourself after 30 days to see how your results look.

 

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HOW TO GET AND KEEP THE RIGHT AGENT: DO’S AND DON’TS

imagesThe RIGHT agent and/or manager can make a world of difference in your career. But how do you find the right representative(s) and keep them?

First of all the RIGHT representative is one that is excited to work with you.

It’s kind of like dating, you don’t want someone who doesn’t want you, or whom you have to chase around all the time, who doesn’t call you back. Make sense?

So you know what you DON’T want, but what DO you want?

You want a representative who has great relationships with casting professionals and who has a positive reputation in the industry. You can research agents and managers on IMDB Pro (which you should have a membership to anyway so that you can have a more complete profile on IMDB). Look at who is on their roster: do they have anyone like you? Are their clients working? How many clients do they have?

If you have an agent do you need a manager?

That depends. If you agent is getting you out, you may still want a manager if you can find the kind of manager who will really add something to your team–someone who is doing MORE than just submitting, who is getting you general meetings with casting, who is helping you mold your brand, who is looking for projects for you. If you are meeting with a manger you want to be sure and ask them about this also, how do they work? How are they different from an agent? Do they know your agent already?

If you already have a manager, do you need an agent?

Possibly, it depends on the manager, again. Many managers work the same way agents do these days. If you have a manager like the one described above, yes, you do want an agent so that your manager can focus on these other developmental aspects of your career. And if you are just starting out, non union, very young, and are what is called a “developmental” actor, then the manager can help by setting up meetings with agents as well.

If you do a mailing to agents or managers…

Do your research first so you are not submitting blindly. Submit to agents that work with actors in your age range and whose actors (you can see their roster on IMDB Pro) are working. Mail to 3 at a time. The cover letter should be short and sweet, it is not likely to be read unless they really like the headshot, and even then it may not get read. What matters is the headshot and resume. Follow up by email after 3 days. If a number is listed, call after 5 days DURING OFF HOURS when you know you can just leave a message. 7 days after your first mailing, drop off another copy of the headshot and resume with a sticky note: “seeking reps” for the SPECIFIC agent you are targeting. After 7 days, move on to the next 3 until you have meetings set up.

If you do a showcase with agents or managers…

You must first of all be prepared to keep the contact information they provide. Don’t expect to be able to look it up later. Although if you find yourself in a bind most agent and manager emails are listed on IMDB Pro. They may give a private email in the workshop and the facility is most likely not permitted to repeat that information. If they ask to see a reel, send them a link (NOT an attachment) to the email address they have given. Most prefer this method. And most prefer an email to a phone call. If they specified another method to follow up with them, follow their instructions.
If they say “keep in touch” for possible future representation, follow up within 2-3 days with a postcard and/or email. Keep it brief. Just a reminder of who you are and that you are interested in meeting with them, and that you are following up “AS PER YOUR REQUEST.” Most reputable workshop companies will be doing these showcases in May and November when agents are looking. Then in the following weeks agents and managers are updating their roster and weeding out actors they no longer want to represent which leaves room for new ones. Do continue to stay on their radar!

If they say they would like to meet with you, follow up right away, in the fashion they indicated in the showcase. Always keep communications brief, positive, and professional.

I will say, I myself did 6 of these when I was looking for an agent about 10 years ago. At the time I had 1 co-star on my resume. I was 35 but I still looked late 20’s. I play white collar professionals, moms, basically I’m cut out for a series regular in a 1 hr. drama. I’m not a bombshell a la Pamela Anderson, but I’m not a character actor either. And I’m brunette. So there’s a lot of me. That means it’s not going to be so easy to get me auditions.

What I heard from agents at the time was a lot of this:
Send me your reel (and then they’d never get back to me)
Great job (but I have someone like you with better credits)
Check with me for future representation (when you have better credits)

BUT eventually the (very small boutique) agent I was with at the time moved to one of the (bigger, better) agencies I had showcased for. Because I had already seen the head of the agency she was allowed to take me with her and I ended up with a pretty good agent until the strike in 2007 closed them down. So, my point is that you never know how this is going to pan out for you, and it may not look the way you expect it to. Also, you are just starting out, so you might want to look for an agent who is too, or look to smaller more approachable agencies. But also, that you have to meet a lot of agents before you find the right one.

When you get a meeting with an agent what should you ask in a meeting?

Do you need to know thier favorite color? (no).
Do you want to ask some questions? (yes)
What do you need to know?

Here are a few of the questions you should be prepared to ask and answer.

Again, this is a lot like dating. Your job is to show them a good time. And your job is also to find out what you need to know to determine if this person is a good match for you. 

 

WHEN YOU HAVE A MEETING WITH A REPRESENTATIVE

– Do ask questions before you sign.

1. Are you union franchised?

2. Which Casting Directors do you know best?

3. What does the ideal actor/rep relationship look like to you? (In other words what are you doing for them and what are they doing for you – this is about expectations, be clear!).

– Do be prepared in an interview for what the Agent May Ask YOU!

1. Are you SAG-AFTRA? or eligible?

2. Which Casting Directors do you know best?

3. What do you hope to achieve through this relationship? (again this is about expectations, if you haven’t already asked they may ask this).

Of course they may not ask anything at all. Which to me is a red flag unless you’ve already answered all of their questions. You also want to just notice in the meeting if this person appears professional, ie: do they have an office, do they dress professionally, do they behave and speak like a business person, do they seem knowledgable about the industry?

Remember this is your REPRESENTATIVE and they must represent you in a way that is in alignment with your own values and in a way that helps you rather than hurts you.

At the end of the meeting be sure to ask how they would prefer you follow up with them, by phone? By email? And how much time they need to think it over IF they do not offer you representation right there on the spot.

 

ONCE YOU HAVE A REPRESENTATIVE

Once you have the right representative you must know the Do’s and Don’ts of etiquette in order to keep them.

 

DON’T

– Don’t go out of town without telling them in advance. If you go out of town- June and late December are your options, especially if you are not a well known actor yet.

– Don’t be unprofessional in auditions. For example, showing up late. Not cool.

– Don’t call your agent to complain about not getting any auditions. Do something to help them out or find a new agent.

– Don’t disappear. If they never hear from you they may forget you exist.

– Don’t take forever to respond to requests for new headshots, etc.

– Don’t ask for a different time for your audition, make it happen unless it is something huge and rare. Changing times makes your agent annoyed and can make everyone look bad. Make it happen, or someone else will!!

– Don’t take more than 30 minutes to respond to texts/emails/calls from them. They need to confirm quickly for auditions.

 

DO

– Do be on top of YOUR business. Give them the tools they need to get you in doors, aka have a reel AND clips up on your online profiles. Have updated headshots with different looks, update your resume constantly.

– Do Always “book out” if you are leaving town or otherwise engaged so your agent is not submitting you for work you can’t do!

– Do be ready to put something on tape should something perfect come along while you are out of town. You can use your phone’s video cam for this, no excuses!

– Do respond to any requests they make.

– Do reply quickly to their calls.

– Do be sure to keep them updated on casting directors you are meeting in workshops, how your audition went, if you are doing any live performance (stand up, plays, etc.) or your own projects (web series, one woman show, etc.) If you are planning to get new headshots, or print postcards, talk to your agent about it beforehand for suggestions, or at the very least let them know you are on top of it.

– Do create a connection. You want to have a relationship with this person, the better they know you, the better they will be at submitting you. Do you share a love of animals? Fitness? Cupcakes? Ryan Gosling?

 

Feel free to post follow up questions for me in the comments if I’ve left any of your questions unanswered.

 

 

 

 

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