I’m currently casting for an upcoming short film that I’ve written and will direct. As a writer/director, I both love and hate the casting process. I love it because I get to try on different faces and voices and bodies to the characters and words I’ve had dancing around in my head; I hate it because I have to pass judgment on people based on face value. It always makes me think how hard it must be to be an actor, putting your face and your body out there for a quick judgment without knowing you or your abilities or your passions. I couldn’t do it, and so I admire everyone who is bold enough to throw in their hat, and I want to tell each and every one of you “Good luck!” and “I wish I could take all of you!”
At the same time, I see a number of ways that actors are shooting themselves in the foot with their submissions. Websites like Backstage.com or Actors Access allow you to submit more and more to peak a casting director’s interest, but MORE IS NOT ALWAYS BETTER. So here are some things, obviously based on my own opinions and experience, that I would like to offer as food for thought when you submit:
- Make sure you read the breakdown. Submit to a role that you connect with as an actor and that you “fit” physically. And if you don’t fit it physically, but really connect with the character, tell me why you want to be considered.
- Send in a headshot that looks like what the breakdown calls for.
- Don’t send a selfie. Headshots don’t have to be professional, especially when you’re just starting out, but they should be clear, medium/close-up shots of your face.
- If you only have one headshot, pick the one that shows your face clearly with a bit of personality that is neutral enough that a casting director can try to project the character onto.
- Do not post 12 headshots with you making different faces or wearing glasses. I don’t know who thought this was a good idea, but in my opinion it’s very hard to make this work right because – especially with young actors just starting out – most of the time it looks like the same facial expression turned in slightly different directions or with a different costume, which makes you look like you’re not a very strong actor. It’s better to just pick 1 headshot.
- Don’t send in modeling/bikini shots if it’s not reflective of the breakdown/casting notice. For this particular character I’m casting for, it’s a young teenage girl and I feel lewd going through photos of young women with barely any clothes on for a role that doesn’t call for it…at all.
- Be as selective with any videos you post as you are with your headshots. In some cases, there were videos that put me over the fence on deciding whether to audition an actor or not. It helps to see your physicality on screen and how you “read” on camera. The danger, though, is that you post a monologue that’s for the stage and not for film and you end up looking like you’re over-acting. Stage acting and camera acting are two different styles, and your theater video will not help sell you as a film actor.
- Do not attach a personal note saying “I’d like to submit for this role” because if I’m seeing it, you clearly submitted for the role. Don’t give me your measurements. If anything, I want to know why you submitted and why I should consider you. Make it personal. But not having a note is fine too. Don’t feel like you have to attach a note.
Look at your headshots and your videos with a critical, unbiased eye. Try to disassociate yourself from it, don’t look at it personally. Ask yourself what your expression on the headshot says, what your video showcases for you…get someone else to look at it and tell you what they see in a loving and supportive way. Rejection is king in the acting world and you will need to live with it – all the time – and find ways to keep moving forward. But you can also learn from rejection and see if there’s something you can improve upon. Most of the time, you’re just not going to fit that intangible “it” that a casting director (or in my case director) is looking for, so it’s nothing to take personally. Just keep putting yourself out there.
But I hope these tips will help you get through the door if you do have that face-value “it” that we’re looking for.
Good luck! I wish I could take you all!