Archives for : casting director

Create the REEL that Gets You Noticed!

My mother once got Aaron Spelling to agree to look at my Reel just by calling him over and over and asking real nice.4267356010_d737f6cf79_m True story.

Did he watch it? What did he think? I’ll never know.

But I learned one thing. Be ready with a kick ass reel if someone DOES ask for it. And be up to date on how to present it.

Below are my own suggestions combined with the aggregate wisdom of the Act Now consultants.

 Ultimately when you are starting out, agents want to see what you look like on tape…. & hopefully see you have some talent as well.

If they haven’t met you before, Casting Directors are looking to see if you fit a certain role, or they may use the tape to pitch you to a director or producer.

So their needs are different, and that means you need to present the reel is several different ways.

BELOW ARE SUGGESTIONS FOR BEST PRACTICES to Create a Reel that Will Get You Noticed!

  • If you are looking for representation and will be going out for co-stars (very small supporting roles that can be filmed in 1 day) have a 1:30-2 min reel ready.
  • If you start going out for recurring guest stars and especially series regulars, have a 5 min reel ready.
  • In both cases, Put the BEST stuff FIRST. Odds are the whole thing won’t get watched anyway, so definitely open with your strongest work.
  • Also in both cases, the focus needs to be on you YOU; if another actor has a big chunk of dialogue, cut it if you can; it’s YOUR reel, so we want to see as much of you as possible- not some other rando actor! (or the series regular you had your scene with).
  • Act Now consultant Becca Leigh Gellman told me that recently a client sent a reel where he didn’t even speak until 18 seconds into it. It’s important that you are TALKING at the top of the reel; no need to open with some long, artsty fartsy, slow-motion shot, panning the skyline. A reel is not the place for that; you just want to show what you look and sound like on camera, so they get a sense of YOU.
  • Of course, the quality needs to be excellent and professional- well lit, good quality sound, writing, etc. If you aren’t sure what industry standards are like, ask someone you trust (a CD, your agent, your Act Now consultant) BEFORE you post it for all the world to see.
  • Once you have enough material you can do a comedy and drama reel, some people like it, I suggest it. If it is a theatrical reel I shy away from putting a commercial in it at all or at least not the first bit at the top of the reel. I actually have a completely separate reel for commercials as well as for comedy and drama.
  • Most importantly for Casting Directors you want to have each scene posted separately as a clip on Actors Acces NOT as a full length reel. (I also suggest posting this way on IMDB and on your own website). These can be just 5-20 seconds long and the point is to just show you has one particular character. For each scene label it with the genre and the character. For example: “DRAMA- Criminal Minds- Serial Killer.” This way, when you/your agent is submitting you, they can select the clip that is most appropriate for the specific role. I.E., if it’s the role of a killer, and you have a clips where you’re a killer, it’s much more effective to just submit that clip, rather than your whole reel, where the killer clip may not be until the end. It streamlines the process for casting.
  • When you do post your reels (and clips) make sure the thumbnail of the reel is also a clear shot of YOU (maybe even your headshot); but not a wide shot of you and someone else, or something else altogether. If it’s a clip for a particular character, make the headshot the one that matches!
  • If you need to get one made, Mackenzie Marsh, my fellow Act Now consultant recommends Relentless Filmworks. They have a consultation with you, you tell them what you want exactly (type of show, genre, etc), they write you scenes (so no one else has your reel), they can cast the other roles, do hair/makeup, then shoot, edit, done. Some scenes are indoor, some outdoor, they change up cameras to make it look like different projects. Awesome guys!!!

RESOURCES: I’ve used them for years to edit my reel, the cost is affordable and they do good work. Various editors there will help you.

When you do have something airing you need an “aircheck” service. An Aircheck is the recording of a complete television show, provided on a DVD. An Aircheck + Upload is a recording of the program with your scenes extracted and uploaded to your Breakdown Express and Actors Access accounts.  Actors Access in partnership with Edit PLUS provides this service.

Casting Director Amy Jo Berman also does consultations on reels for $75, if you feel you need another opinion.

* Patrick Donahue is a great resource for both editing and airchecks. $20 per episode capture (cheaper than Actors Access below), $75 for reel consult AND edit in the same session. (cheaper than Amy Jo Berman + you get editing!). You can contact him at *

I invite you to post your reels here, or a link to them. Comments on the reels as well as any additional suggestions are welcome. What did you find most helpful in this post? Let me know, I’m eager to hear from you!

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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 memberships! Woo hoo!

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An Interview with the CD of “Eat, Pray, Love” among other films!

search While I was in Rome I sat down with Casting Director Lilia Trapani who has worked on such films as “Eat, Pray, Love,” “Casanova,” and “Gangs of New York.” Her specialty is finding English speaking actors in a city of Italians. Having a niche is what has kept her business, Studio T Casting, thriving.

Trapani has worked with Directors from Martin Scorcese to David Lynch to Spike Lee, Jean Pierre Jeunet to Lasse Halstrom to Ridley Scott. She is a member of both the Casting Society of America, as well as it’s European counterpart, the International Casting Directors Network.  She was such a delightful person, I was inspired put this on tape to share with you: proof that the casting director really is on your side!









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