The day has finally arrived when taping your audition is simple, fast, and cheap because you can do it at home. Celebrations! Right? Sorry, but no. Getting in the casting room is still going to give you a better shot of getting called back or landing the role. Here’s why:
I need to sense you.
I know that sounds creepy, but hear me out. When an actor walks in the room, we get a sense of YOU [which reminds me: DO NOT enter the room in character. It’s just weird.]. We want to see your natural presence, how you work with others, how you listen to direction. Sometimes very charismatic people can make that come through on tape, but it’s rare.
When you self-tape, you use an Instagram mentality.
What does that mean — it means you take 8 million takes of your scene, choose one, edit two together, blanche out your face so only your good side is visible, sometimes you add a filter (actually happened). Guest what. You will have zero control over this when you shoot a film. I need to see you when you are controlling nothing but your craft. I know when people do these tricks in self-tapes, and all it does is distract from the performance.
I’m a director and want to direct you.
Part of the “test” of an in-person audition is seeing how you take direction. If you take direction well, I will absolutely make note of that, and it will carry weight in determining if you’re the right person for the job or not. When you submit a tape, you don’t know what I’m thinking. If I wanted to see something slightly different, you won’t have the opportunity to make that happen. Think for a second what a huge disadvantage for you that is. You basically have one take to absolutely blow me away, despite 50 other people being seen for that role in person. The likelihood of that happening is extremely slim.
I want to connect with you.
I like to work with people who will work well with me and the rest of the cast & crew. I can only really know if that will happen if I meet you in person. I like to love my actors. I do everything I can to create a perfectly safe world for them on set. So let me get to know you. Show me you’re a team player. And leave me with a positive memory of you. If this isn’t the right role for you, but I liked you, I’ll probably call you in for the next film. In fact, I’ve cast people even without making them audition again because I liked meeting them so much the last time.
Having your little brother as your reader can work against you.
When you self-tape, you are usually at the mercy of whatever poor soul agrees to read with you. This can be a disadvantage when they’re not giving you what you need. In-person auditions give you a reader who knows the material inside and out, and knows exactly what to do to make your audition go in a successful direction. And no, reciting only your lines is not a good idea. I need to see you interacting with another human.
Do your best to make in-person auditions possible.
I know, sometimes you’re on the road, or your schedule is just a mess, or you’re being scene for a role in a different city. But I also know a lot of actors have just decided to stop trying. Don’t be that actor. Get on the Greyhound bus. Write me and ask for a different time. It’s not always possible, but I would much rather see you in person than watch your tape. Take ownership of your job as an actor committed to craft and get out there. In an increasingly virtual world, I promise it will make you stand out.
And since listicles are still all the rage, here we go:
If I ask for clips or reels, do not send me your headshot without a clip or reel.
I get it. Actors Access asks that you pay to put a clip up there. But this is your career, and I can tell you it IS a worthwhile investment. Probably more worthwhile than some of the classes you take. Because I NEED TO SEE AND HEAR YOU. And if you really can’t swing it, look up my email address and email it to me. Now, I don’t need to be added to a Constant Contact list, I don’t need updates from you, but I do need to see your video so that I can be convinced you may be right for the role I’m casting.
If I am looking for an 18-yr-old woman, and you are a 57-yr-old man, please do not submit for that role.
Chances are, I’m going to see your headshot and not — as you had planned — write a role for you. I just won’t do it. The bigger point is SUBMIT FOR ROLES FOR WHICH YOU ARE TRULY APPROPRIATE.
If you know I am casting or shooting in a certain city, and you live nowhere near that city, tell me that you are willing to travel and work as a local.
Let’s review what “working local” means in the film and TV industry. It means you are able and willing to pay for your own transportation and lodging. It means you will not require per diem. If this is not possible for you, or part of it isn’t, do me the courtesy of telling me that. Believe it or not, my producers need to know this. If you live in California and I’m shooting in New York, and you can’t pay to work as a local, please do not waste your time. It’s not that I don’t like you, it’s that movies have set budgets made way before the casting period that we have to adhere to. Unless you’re a celebrity, it’s just not gonna happen. That being said, many actors consider travel a business expense, and write it off on their taxes (smart).
If there is something that would make you stand out, like FOR REAL, for a particular role, use the note feature or include that information in your email.
I read notes. I love notes. It doesn’t take me long to read notes and sometimes I find useful information in there, such as the website where I can find your reel, or that you are able to work as a local. Again, don’t bombard my inbox, and I don’t need your life story, but leaving a note is a good tool for you. Here is a sample note that would work well:
“Hi, you can find my reel at http://www.myreelisgood.com. I can also work as a local and speak the foreign language required for the role fluently.”
Boom. That person is in. Here is a sample note that would not work so well:
“Hi, Thank you for considering me, I’m soooooo excited to audition for you!”
Huh? You don’t have the audition yet and you provided no information that helps me decide whether you should or not.
The bottom line
I think it helps to understand how the casting process works. There are a TON of submissions. Imagine a wall with 1,000 pictures that are the size of your nose. Yeah. That means we have to work quickly and decisively. I don’t have time to google search you, I don’t have time to watch an entire episode of ANYTHING, and I don’t have time (unless it’s a very hard-to-fill role) to personally write you and beg [again] for your video clips.
WE WANT TO HIRE YOU. We really, really do. Please just keep these tips in mind to make it easier for us to really see you and what you can bring to the project.
She was breathtaking. How did she get into your head and embody the character you’ve so carefully birthed in a cold read? Jesus knows, but she’s the one. And of *course* she feels the same way you do. Of course she has identified your film as her breakthrough moment. She has been thinking of nothing but your screenplay for the last four days since the callback. She’s been awake at night, staring at the ceiling, sweating with anticipation for your film. So you decide to send her the email she’s been dreaming of and you just know it will be the answer to all her fragile prayers. And so you write:
Dear Fragile Actress,
It is with great honor that I bestow upon you the answer to your prayers: I would like to cast you in the role of “Moira.” I’ve decided to give you this opportunity to grow as a performer, to spread your wings and embrace the space that I create for you. In terms of payment, you will receive a copy of your scenes, bagels on set, and because you are SAG, we have decided to apply for the SAG contract (you’re welcome). Because of this, we will also defer your payment. I would also like to work with you in a safe environment in the form of three days of rehearsals, which are also deferred, in which I will make sure you know your lines and that you say them exactly as I say them in my head, and make you do the scene a million times even though we all know that the fleeting moments that happen in front of the camera are all that really matter, but I have worked exclusively in the theater world and I’m not really familiar with the differences between film and theater, but none of this matters because I am brilliant. I am thrilled to be directing you and look forward to your acceptance of these terms.
The only one of my graduating class, no, ALL graduating classes that will make it as a big-time director, you have no other possible job prospects, so clearly you’re going to immediately respond yes to all these fantastic offers Smith
No. Do not write this to your actor. In fact, if this is even close to what you were going to write your actor STOP. Let’s take a step back, take a breath, tell our ego to STFU, and re-assess.
“But I’m the most up-and-coming, ’emerging,’ out-of-the-box 22-year-old director in the world!” you think to yourself.
You sent it. Five minutes go by. No response from your actress. A day goes by, nothing. She must be dead, right? Finally she gets back to you with this response:
Dear Phenom Director,
Thank you very much for offering me the role. I am very excited to work with you. In terms of pay rate and schedule, my agent will be reaching out to you shortly. Looking forward to making the film with you.
Hardworking, professional actor Jones
Holy. Sh*t. No f&*king way. Who does this priss think she is? She should be thankful you offered her the role, even if you’re the one who desperately wants her to be in the film, and out of all the actors you auditioned, you chose her. She should be kissing your feet.
Thirty minutes go by, and you get this email from her agent.
Dear Phenom Director,
Glad you’ve chosen Hardworking professional actor Jones for your film. We would like to clarify her day rate, which is the SAG minimum $125/day + 10%, and the day rate for rehearsals. When you have production dates set, please let me know and we’ll schedule her. Looking forward to working with you.
Totally reputable and reasonable talent agent Myers
At this point, you explode. Physically explode. Like guts and brains everywhere explode. Here you thought you were going to have an artist-to-artist mutual love for your script, that this woman would be so enamored with your masterpiece that she would give up weeks of her life for you, and she refers you to her agent!?!?!?! What a heartless bitch. What an ego maniac. Doesn’t she realize that you have the upper hand because you are doing her a favor by giving her this role, and it is not the case that negotiations are reasonable here because there was never any intention of bringing any business elements into this project, and that the clips she was going to get from this project — not to mention THE BAGELS — are worth more than fair pay standards, and that she was going to take those clips and get discovered by Hollywood and become a star, and then she would come crying back to you one day, dropping to her knees, thanking you for giving her the chance to be in your film? Did she not realize all that?!?!?!
Dear director (and if you don’t have a producer, or your producer somehow thinks the way you do, get a legitimate producer, or fire that awful producer), this actor has every right and responsibility to discuss project hiring details with her agent.
For one, if she is signed exclusively to her agent, any work that she gets — even if it is an audition she got by herself and not through her agent — she has to pay her agent commission. The agent’s responsibility to the actor is to negotiate the best possible deal for the actor. If you really want to work with this actor, then the negotiated deal will be a win-win. She will be paid fairly, and you will pay what you deem her to be worth. If you deem her to be worth bagels, then chances are your production is not mature enough to shoot. If you at all think you are doing an actor a favor, and that you are being generous in hire said actor, then you need to go back to the casting phase, and find the actor worth paying.
Secondly, understand that the further up your career goes, the more you will be talking with agents. And I’m not talking just actors here. I’m talking screenwriter agents, DP agents, composer agents… pretty much everyone. Hell, you’ll probably want an agent at some point as a director. In any case, understand that this actor has chosen this field as a career, and as such should ensure that her work is properly compensated.
Thirdly, don’t get all squirmy when it comes to negotiations. I know you got into this for the art, but there is a VERY strong business component in film, and you better get used to it now or you’ll never survive.
Finally, don’t take it personally. Don’t let your ego tell you that she’s trying to take advantage of you. Don’t ask “who does she think she is?” Remember that she, too, probably wants distance from the business aspect of this — that’s why she hired an agent. Just get the numbers locked up so you can work on the art. And rest easy that if she didn’t like the project, she just would have said no thank you.
And for crying out loud, stop putting “food” anywhere near the word “compensation.”
A few of you have written and asked, “Hey Oriana Oppice, when are you going to do a project that has you grossly pregnant, littered with children, wobbly after a C-section, computer-literate, broke, exhausted, wielding a gun and a baby at the same time, and insanely murderous, all while having your story introduced by Roseanne Barr?” Kids, sometimes your dreams do come true. BEHOLD the newest episode of Momsters: Momsters Episode 6
I finally saw “The Goblin Baby,” which had me starring as “Claire,” a woman who must work through her post-partum depression as a first-time mom. Lovely seeing all the cast and crew again, and happy to report that the baby I was constantly screaming at on set has forgiven me, and we’ve become the best of friends.
Just wrapped a wonderful day playing opposite Michael Emerson and Amy Acker. Episode should be out this fall!
Thanks so much for all the kind words about my role on House of Cards — what a hoot!