During Part 1 of my conversation with Casting Director Caroline Liem, we discussed the priorities actors should concentrate on when they first arrive in Los Angeles: Get a working car, get into acting class and get a great picture taken by a professional photographer.
In Part 2, Caroline and I discuss the business side of acting, the audition room and pet peeves.
How Important Is It To Have An Agent When You First Arrive In Los Angeles?
It's more important to train first. Get into a class. The actor should concentrate on building credits before looking for an Agent. Target the Casting Directors and educate yourself about what on-air shows you would be right for…what is your brand.
How Would You Advise Someone To Stay In Touch With You?
Don't send an impersonal form letter. Know the persons name you are targeting and know something about that person so you can be knowledgeable…then ask for what you want. Be specific: addressing the Casting Director by name and the project they are casting by name.
Unsolicited pictures and resumes usually end up in the trash. Postcards are a great pro-active way to communicate with the Casting Director. They land right on the Casting Directors desk and help them cast the one line or co-star parts. Postcards are a great way to follow up with the Casting Director after they have had you in for an audition. Candy and flowers are overkill. But sending a postcard to the Casting Director…acknowledging that you know there are only so many slots to fill and only so much time…thanking them that on this day it worked out for you to be in the audition room.
The Audition Room
The lobby is often a place where actors are sabotaging each other or sabotaging themselves. Own your space, focus and prepare with the mental focus of an athlete. When the actor walks through the audition door, the Casting Director is looking for a confident, relaxed actor who is prepared.
People memorize differently. If an actor has dyslexia, they have to memorize the material. Other people work better if they understand the story and have a more improvisational approach to memorizing the scene. ALWAYS HOLD THE SIDES! Casting Directors get very nervous if an actor walks into the room without their sides. It sends the signal that you are at performance level, and you are not at performance level. You are a very prepared actor who is making eye contact with the reader and only occasionally glancing at the sides.
An actor should always dress with a suggestion of character…not on the nose. It's important to wear the same outfit to the callback that you wore in the pre-read, unless the Casting Director has told you to wear something different. The viewers have started to visualize you in the part, and if you change outfits, you might run the risk of that magic disappearing.
In Michael Shurtleff's book "Audition", Michael gives an example of this happening when a Director did not recognize an actress when she changed from a red sweater to a blue shirt! Casting Directors will often write notes to help them remember an actor, and often will take note of what the actor was wearing to help jog their memory.
The Job Gets Closer
After three or four auditions for the same part, the job gets closer and often a money negotiation will happen between your Agents and the Business Affairs people at the Studio producing the show. The actor's job is to stay focused and remember their job's not done yet. All the money talk and contract negotiations is the job of your Agent or Manager. The actor's job is to work with the Director and Casting Director.
Props and Mime
95% of the time, the actor should not use props or mime the action in the stage directions. The one good prop to use is a phone if the scene calls for it. If there is a lot of action in the stage directions, but the lines in the scene don't reflect that action, then the actor shouldn't mime the action. Pare it down to what is the through line.
Don't shake hands. Don't wear cologne or perfume into the audition room. Don't overstay your welcome. Don't ask to start the scene over when you are half way through it. Don't go by the casting office to drop off a picture and resume without an appointment. Don't crash an audition without an appointment. Don't throw the Casting Director under the bus by telling the Director that the Casting Director gave you specific directions. Don't ask in a callback session if you should do the scene the same way you did it in the pre-read. Don't feel the need to ask a question just because they have asked you if you have any questions. Don't be a deer in the headlights after the audition.
DO leave the room with as much confidence as you walked into the room with!
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