Archives for : casting director workshops

5 THINGS EVERY ACTOR SHOULD KNOW ABOUT 2016’s PILOT SEASON

FASTER THAN A SPEEDING BULLETT! Pilot Season started earlier than ever this year and is moving like lightening. Don’t get lefPilot-Season-Logot behind, find out what you need to know here. 

1. WHAT IS A PILOT? The Pilot itself is a stand-alone episode of a series that is used to sell the series and will usually run as the first episode of the series, if picked up.

Over the summer the major networks all received short pitches for new shows from writers and producers. Then in the fall, each network requested scripts from about seventy of those pitches.

By January, the network has chosen twenty of those scripts from which to make pilots. Pilot season is the annual high-pressure race to the finish line. The race generally happens between January andApril, culminating at The Upfronts in May.

With more and more cable networks producing original content the start and end times of pilot season as blurred. This year pilots began casting as early as NOVEMBER! Whaaat? Yes. True.

During the coming months studios battle it out to cast, produce, and test the best new series.

Once they have been produced, those pilots are presented to studio and network executives (and sometimes to test audiences). Each network then chooses between 4 and 8 pilots to present at The Upfronts where they are added to network schedules for the following season.

2. HOW ARE PILOTS CAST? Most pilots have about 6 weeks to cast anywhere from 5-25 roles. In the TV world where you have 2 days to cast 12 roles, 6 weeks is A LOT of time, meaning A LOT of actors can get seen. However, because producers want to sell their idea, they usually jam pack that pilot with well known actors if they can.

First, lists are made up of first choice actors – the A-List – then second choice – the B list- (hence the term A-List, B-List etc.) Later in the season casting will pull from agent submissions. Often actors on the aforementioned lists will opt out of auditions for already-established TV programs during this time. The reasoning behind this strategy is that most actors (and their agents) would rather bet on booking a pilot that gets picked up, where they sign a multiple year contract, than take a week’s worth of work on a current show. Lessmoney upfront, but it could pay off with more money and work in the future if the pilot goes to series.

3. HOW CAN AN ACTOR PREPARE? If you have representation, follow up with them now and figure out a game plan.

This should include your own marketing plan of drop-offs, postcards and networking. Consider doing Casting Director Workshops with new casting offices, but also re-meets of people who like you (they have called you in before or booked you).

Additionally, don’t focus solely on pilots. Even with great training, reps, some credits and business relationships, you might not get any pilot auditions.  Keep in mind, pilot season is also the second half of 2014/2015 episodic season. REMEMBER all those actors who are opting out? They leave a chasm for YOU to fill. Also, shows that have a full season pick-up order are still very, very active in casting!!

+ Make sure that you are audition-ready no matter what stage you are at! Luck + preparation = opportunity!

+ If you do not have representation, you REALLY need to make sure you have a marketing plan in place for drop-offs, postcards, other updates (Mail Chimp anyone?) and networking. Actors without reps should not rely on pilot auditions. Most of the time casting goes to their industry list and then agent submissions.

+ If you are non-union, your first priority should be getting at least SAG/AFTRA-Eligible. No matter the season, your focus should be on commercials, films and a very, few, specific tv casting directors who are open to seeing non-union actors. Here is my post on EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW TO GET SAG-AFTRA. No excuses!

4. HOW ARE THINGS CHANGING?

Now that Amazon and Netflix are in the game, the landscape is more and more crowded. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’m always telling actors to create their own work, weather it’s a webseries or a short film or stand up comedy.

This year’s trends include a lot of pilots based on webseries or even podcasts. Yes. Podcasts. Also there are a lot of the tried and true procedurals, medical dramas and crime dramas. See more here from the Hollywood Reporter on development trends. 

Fellow consultant, Mackenzie Marsh auditioned for lead roles in 9 pilots and tested on 3 last year, this year she has ALREADY tested for one and it’s only January.

Likewise Act Now consultant LJ Salerno had this to say:

“This was the first year I went in for series regulars on pilots since the first year I moved out here 12 years ago. I went in for two comedies. Both were in November and December.   And for a series regular on “Good Girls Revolt” in April-ish?..right after my guest star on the Middle aired. That was a Netflix series. “

5. WHERE CAN I FIND OUT MORE?

TVLine writes super informational articles about each season, but it’s released late Janurary.

 Variety has a list of up-to-the-minute series and pilot orders.

 Deadline Hollywood is another great resource.

There is also The Hollywood Reporter. As things get moving and shaking, www.thefutoncritic.com and www.castingabout.com. are great ways to keep up with developments in addition to who the casting office is attached to each project.

Any pilot season stories to tell? Comment below and help your fellow actors!

 

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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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THE ONE SECRET TO BOOKING YOUR SERIES REGULAR

How can there be just one thing that’s going to (finally) get you that series regular role, or that breakout film part you’ve been working towards? Honestly, you’ve also got to be well-trained, persistent, castable, professional, camera-savvy, and hard-working. But if you aren’t confident, none of this will add up in the end.

I promise if you do the work to be the most CONFIDENT actor you can be, you’ll see a difference in your career!

And if you don’t? You could end up bragging to your friends about all the auditions you went on, how you once served pasta to some A-lister, and that time you rode the elevator with Stephen Spielberg whom you did not speak to because you were stupefied.

Imagine Matthew McConaughey or Jennifer Lawrence without Confidence. See what I mean?

But if you can develop this attitude you will have that “star quality” you need to move ahead.

I’m going to give you two exercises that will help you be more confident immediately and which you can use before any audition.

1. The Meditation: Sit or lie in a comfortable space. Beginning with your childhood, imagine times in your life when you felt confident— maybe you were the star of the school play, maybe you got a standing ovation at a talent show, or won a blue ribbon. Now go through your life, moment by moment, remembering all those times you felt certain of your ability to achieve your dreams. Pick out one moment, just let it come to you, and flesh out that scene. Bring in all your sense: smell, touch, taste, sound, sight. Really re-create that moment in your memory, like a snapshot. Feel the feelings you felt in that moment. Really notice how feeling the memory affects your body. Rest in the moment, with your snapshot, feeling the feelings for a few more seconds.

2. The Attitude Line: Come up stand and walk around your room. Continue to radiate the feeling you found in your snapshot memory. Notice how you walk when you feel confident. Now exaggerate that walk. Saunter! Swagger! Prance! Expand, intensify, and enlarge the walk. Really go for it. Now, begin to say the attitude line: “I’m confident” as you walk. Really believe the words. Say it louder and louder. On the final repetition yell the line as loud as you can and at the height of it, FREEZE! See how your body has manifested the feeling – notice your posture, your facial expression, are you relaxed? tense? smiling? frowning? How are you holding your hands?

3. The Visualization: Close your eyes and relax. Watch your breath coming in and out for 10 breaths. Focus on that. Now see a bold bright golden light shining from inside your core. Let it burst out of you, now see that light pouring like liquid gold from you and into the parking lot of the place you are going, through the door, up the stairs or elevator, into the waiting room, into the audition room, flowing over the casting director, writer, producer, director, everyone in the room, showering them with your special light. Feel your positive energy and confidence flowing out of you. 

You wouldn’t go in for an audition unprepared would you? NO! And your preparation should include a confidence booster like one of these. If you try out my suggestions (or develop one of your own) please return here and comment and let us know how it changed your audition experience! I can’t wait to hear what happens!

 

 

* Credit to Stephen Book, creator of The Attitude Line exercise, modified here by me

* Credit to Dawn Cartwright, creator of The Meditation exercise, modified here by me

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