Audition Submissions

Kimberly Jurgen by Kimberly Jürgen

You have the training to prepare you for the job. You understand who you are and how you fit into your local market. You know the characters you are able to portray as well as the types of projects that will help you achieve your ultimate career goal. Now you are ready to audition.

Of course there are non-typical avenues for gaining access to roles such as networking, recommendations, being seen in a play, nepotism. This article will focus on the typical process.

Where can I find auditions?  For commercials, hosting and print, there are two primary sites on which every actor should have a profile – Casting Frontier and NowCasting (in LA, this is LACasting). For theatrical (meaning tv & film), actors will find roles on those sites and should also create a profile at ActorsAccess, which is the actor side of Breakdown Services. Because some projects and casting directors are exclusive to one platform, I encourage you to explore each and receive the free emails of ‘roles that fit’ to determine which are the best investments for you. Whether you self-submit or have representation, you must at least create a profile on each of these sites so that casting has access to your information.

What is my profile? This is your resume, headshots, list of special skills, contact info, your rep’s info, acting reel or clips (used mostly for theatrical), voiceover reel, skills clips.

How many headshots? That is a loaded question. Some casting directors will not call in an actor if they see too many headshots because they interpret this as not knowing who you are. Some casting directors have told me they want to see 8-12 pictures. Personally, I believe in efficiency and suggest using shots that say multiple things about you. Two pictures are a great starting point – one for your typical commercial character and one for your theatrical sweet spot. Beyond that, it is up to the actor (& your reps). Character actors tend to have more pictures because there is a wider range of characters that they portray. Helpful hint: keep your pictures current because casting can see the upload date and may not trust that you still look like your image from 5 years ago.

Which projects should I submit on? Depends where you are in your career. If starting out, submit for every student film, spec commercial and micro budget indie that you see. These are your opportunities to practice your audition skills and see how successful your headshots are at representing you. You do not have to say ‘yes’ to every job you are offered, so this is also good practice in learning how to say ‘no’. However, do not accept a callback if you are not interested in the job because it isn’t fair to the filmmaker. When you have been doing this a while and gained confidence in your skills, you can start auditioning with professional casting directors. Keep in mind, however, that they do not need the practice of auditioning actors, so it may not be the best idea to accept an audition with them if you cannot do the job.

Side note: Sometimes these projects hold auditions at locations other than university classrooms or casting suites. Use caution when going to auditions at unorthodox locations such as a residence. Take a friend if it will help you to feel safe.

Another side note: You’ll find that there are times in your career when you level up and stop auditioning for certain projects as you turn your energy toward the next stage of your career. It is important to refrain from audition envy and do not compare your number of auditions or bookings to others. Evaluate where you are on your journey. Keep your eye on your career goals and what you need to do to reach them.

Which roles should I submit on? The ones where you fit the description. If it calls for twins, do not say ‘I can plan both roles’. If it calls for a specific gender or race or age that does that not fit you, trust that any limitations on the description are for a reason. Your age range for camera is typically 5-7 years (unless you are a celebrity and then Matt Damon can play 16). If a commercial role calls for someone who actually uses a product or has an illness, do not submit unless it is true for you. If you are 6′ tall, you cannot sit on a stool to play a 4′ character. Trust that there is enough work out there.

What should I put in the notes section of my submission? Usually, nothing. Do not write ‘thank you’. Do not send a link to your reel or website. Casting doesn’t have time to click a link. Either upload the digital file to your profile or don’t. But sending unsolicited links looks unprofessional. The only thing you should include is something that will help casting see you in the role. Such as ‘4 yrs in military’, ‘Russian native’, ‘black diamond skier’, ‘flair bartender’. These are things which might be in your special skills but should be highlighted when they qualify you for the role.

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I hope these tips are helpful as you submit for projects. And I’d love to hear your questions or comments.

Mistakes that turn your acting career into a money pit

Kimberly JurgenA Texas actor called me recently, asking for advice. He’s been studying acting in a group class for almost two years and working weekly with a private coach, yet he isn’t getting callbacks. Despite his lack of booking success, his agent encouraged him to sign up for their showcase for LA and NYC agents – for this opportunity, he paid them $2000. My heart went out to him and I shared a hard truth.

His career had become a money pit and he had become so eager for success that he was scammed by someone he thought he could trust. How to turn it around?

  1. Don’t put the cart before the horse. You wouldn’t hire a PR firm before you have something to talk about. And you don’t need to work privately with an acting coach each week when you are still developing the foundation of your training. If you get a break and land a big audition, yes, hire a coach to help you prepare. Otherwise, trust your teacher and commit to your training.
  2. Know when it is time for a second opinion. If a doctor treated you for years and you were still sick, wouldn’t you ask for a second opinion? Likewise, if you’ve been working with the same acting coach for years and are not seeing tangible results, then you need to consider getting a second opinion. Doesn’t mean anything about either of you beyond the fact that, for whatever reason, you are not responding to what they are giving you. Sometimes you simply need to hear critique from a new voice for the lightbulb to turn on.
  3. Accept that there are no shortcuts. Every now and then, life gives us a Candyland slide and we jump ahead a few spaces. And it is amazing. But the reality is that if you want to play in the NBA (which is the level of excellence demanded when working in a top market like LA or NYC) then you had better be finding success at the college level. If you are getting appropriate auditions for your type but not getting callbacks and bookings, then you need more training, experience and confidence before you are ready for your “NBA tryout”. And if someone tells you they have magic beans that will grow you a career overnight, just say no.

No matter what market you are in, there are ways to fulfill your desire to act, host or do stand-up; there are networking opportunities and training options. The key is to remember that this is a business. The people reaching into your pockets are focusing on what is best for their business. And you must have the level head of a savvy business person, making smart choices.

And amplify your bs-radar so that you can recognize a snake oil salesman when they promise miracles.

Hack your Headshots

After your photo shoot, selecting a few perfect headshots from the sea of 400 options can be overwhelming. At least, we always hope it will be a difficult task. Eliminating the obvious duds should get you down to about 40 potential gems. Then what?

Here is a quick hack to drop that 40 down to 10 or 20 to show your reps and colleagues. It is a system I learned back in my modeling days and it helps to remove the ‘looking at self’ element that can distort your evaluation.

Before your shoot, you nailed down your goals. (If not, then let this be a reminder for next time.) Look at your potentials and see if they are telling the story of these target characters.

Now cover the lower half of your face and just look at the eyes. What is the story? The emotional state? What is this person thinking?

JL eyes

Now cover the top half and look at your mouth. What is this story? What is this person’s state of mind?

JL mouth

And here is the biggie… do their stories match? If they are not telling the same story, then it is not going to be a successful headshot. Because even if someone can’t tell you specifically what is off, the observer will feel the inconsistency.

Jennifer Lawrence

In modeling, the next step would be to split the face on the vertical axis and look independently at the left and right sides. But that is less important for actors.

If acting is your career, then you have to set your standard higher than just a good picture. First, it must look like you (so limit the photoshop). Second, it should tell a unified story – especially if it is your commercial shot.

Thanks for reading. And please let me know if this hack was helpful!

Improv Tips for Hosting

Frank Moranby Frank Moran, Sena-Series Hosting Coach, Weekly Workouts

When people hear “improv” more often than not they think of “Whose Line is it Anyway”.  But improv isn’t just about coming up with funny things to say and do with a giant foam cowboy hat.  The skills you learn studying improv are invaluable as a Host.  It also is an incredibly helpful tool to have as a host.

The most important part of improv is listening.  And I mean active listening.  If you’re not actively listening to everything your partner (and for hosting your partner is whomever you’re sharing the camera with – a co-host or someone you’re interviewing) is saying or not saying and are caught up in your own head thinking of the next question or some witty comment, then you are missing potentially interesting statements or responses that can lead to far more entertaining and revealing moments than you had been planning in your head.  It’s great to go into a co-hosting or interview situation with a plan but you have to be ready to drop it when something far more interesting presents itself.

Don’t apologize or judge yourself.  When we mess up our first instinct is to apologize and then the judgment starts. A person will start reading copy, stumble on a word or lose their place and immediately apologize.  You can see the confidence and enthusiasm drain from the person as they start judging the rest of their read. Audiences and casting directors want to see how you take that gaffe and turn it into something amazing.  Improv teaches you that mistakes aren’t something to apologize for but rather embrace and see it as the gift that it is.  A slip of the tongue, a stumbled word, mispronouncing a word are all opportunities for you to have fun with yourself, your co-host or the person you are interviewing and make an incredibly memorable moment that will stick with a casting director.

Improv helps you realize that you are your greatest tool. Take what is uniquely you and let that be a part of your hosting.  Let that influence the types of questions you ask, the way you interact with a guest or co-host or handle yourself when you flub a line during a live read or audition.  There are thousands of aspiring hosts trying to be the next Ryan Seacrest.  Well, Ryan is already doing that and doing it very well.  Instead, trust in your uniqueness and focus on being the best possible of yourself and that will make you stand out.

In the Weekly Workouts that I’ll be coaching on Monday nights as part of the Sena-Series Hosting classes we’ll work on embracing your mistakes as gifts, making you your best possible version and being as comfortable as possible in any situation so that when the time comes you can show a casting director why they don’t need another Ryan Seacrest but the first you.  See you Monday nights from 7-9.

First and Last Impressions

Lauren Lethererby Lauren Letherer

Just a bit of advice from someone who worked as a commercial  casting assistant for 13 years, and has been auditioning for over 16 years.

 

So you have a commercial audition. Awesome! You did all the steps necessary for you to be sitting in the lobby, waiting for your turn.

What happens once you get in there?

The session director will tell you what is expected of you: where to slate, what props or blocking will happen during the spot, where your eye line will be, how the shot is framed and what the tone is. If any of these questions aren’t answered, it is completely okay to ask before you begin. Remember the director has been doing this all day, sometimes, they may skip a step. Then they will most likely take your picture on camera then go right into filming the slate and the spot.

Most important step? BREATHE. It is crazy how often we forget to do the simplest things when we get nervous. 2nd – you are responsible for the energy you bring into the room. Don’t suddenly pop into happy actor mode once the camera is on. Go into the room with a good positive vibe. Otherwise it just feels false once the camera is rolling.

I know you want to be friendly, but please don’t shake the session directors hand.

They can see up to a 100 people or more in a day and, frankly, will not want the germs. Next is an absolute must… If there is copy? READ IT ALOUD OFF THE BOARD before the taping begins. It is there for you – just in case you need to pick up a line or two. Know where every line is before you begin. Make sure to memorize the first and last line. Regardless of how many times you’ve drilled it in your car, something bizarre happens when you actually say it out loud the first time in the room. So speak it before the camera starts rolling.

When you finish, there is no need to start a conversation or tell a story or comment on what just happened. You did everything you needed to do.

Go ahead. Leave.

And I challenge you, when they say “Thank you” respond with “You’re welcome.” After all, you are helping them out. They can’t do their job without you.

Own Your Truth

Kimberly Jurgen

by Kimberly Jurgen

Owning your truth means accepting yourself where you are at this moment. And if you believe that what you have to offer is enough, then there is no need to distort or embellish that truth.

In casting and in coaching, I’ve seen actors upgrade a scene done in class to a production credit. If they understand how to play a game, having that knowledge is transformed into a special skill. They’ve seen Disney’s Brave and feel qualified to say they can recreate a Scottish accent. Doing this is unnecessary and, believe it or not, potentially dangerous.

Years ago there was a national commercial looking to cast a female actor with advanced swimming. They offered the role to “Janet” who assured them she had no professional conflicts, no schedule conflicts and was a skilled swimmer. When they got to the location, a seaweed bed in open ocean, Janet was soon literally in over her head. Divers had to rescue her from drowning. Production shut down for the day and the role had to be re-cast. Because she had misrepresented her abilities, Janet was sued by the company for $1,000,000.

For the commercial actor, Special Skills are crucial. Identifying skills appropriately on a resume and online can set an actor apart from the pack and provide significant opportunities. Casting directors and marketing departments depend on accurate skill listings when they are making decisions. Therefore, an actor must be honest when listing abilities and when asked.

Consider including details with your skills. With that language skill, are you beginner, conversational or fluent? Are you a competent ballplayer or did you play college ball? If it has been more than a year or two since you did a skill, should it really be on your resume? With accents and dialects, would you fool a native speaker? If you need to practice before performing a skill on demand, then it does not belong on your resume. Show casting they can trust you by your honest assessment of your skills.

And you’d be surprised how useful those outside-the-box skills, like cartwheels, knitting, or bird calls, can be at getting you a commercial audition.

When playing a role, our job as actors is to truthfully lie. It is very difficult to deceive the camera. Therefore, we become very adept at believing the lie so that a character’s truth can become our truth. However, where we have an obligation to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but our personal truth, is on our resumes.

We do this because it is the mark of a professional. As professionals, we are not desperate, deceiving or disrespectful to those who put their faith in us. We accept ourselves as we are. Because we are each enough.

Three Surprising Ways Social Media Can Impact Your Career

Lisa Jey Davis

by Lisa Jey Davis

I’m a social media maven. I don’t like to use the word expert, because every platform out there undergoes countless changes to its algorithms, or its rules, and I’m always learning. I’m the person who constantly reads articles about social media and the new tricks of the trade, and I take classes just like those that I teach. But I’ve been at this social media game for quite some time. When I was a publicist, I required my clients to set up accounts on Facebook and Twitter (even before Pinterest or Instagram became a part of our lexicon). In fact, I set up their profiles for them and managed activity, as well as created ads and engaging posts to encourage engagement. I’m now a bestselling and award-winning author, as well as fitness professional, and I’m married to a working actor. I’ve taken what I’ve learned about Social Media, implemented it and built successful businesses out of it.

The fact is, a strong social media presence that is strategic and clear about WHO YOU ARE, and WHAT YOU ARE GOOD AT, will pave the way for opportunities. But it can also backfire. Read on for more…

Here are just three of the ways the strategic use of social media can impact your career:

  1. IT CAN GET YOU IN THE ROOM. I’ve seen it happen!
    1. A casting director is looking for a mommy with a comedic flare. She searches the Internet and is taken to the Twitter account of a woman she brings in to audition. Said woman auditions for a national commercial. Whether she books it or not, SCORE one for her Twitter account and her audition opportunities!
    2. A production company is casting a reality show and needs very specific types of people for an upcoming network show. They search Instagram for hashtags and are lead to almost ALL of the people they audition for the upcoming show American Grit.
    3. Casting directors are seeking a humorous, everyday mom with lots of personality to add to their celebrity studded “panel-style” show (similar to The View) for Fox. They do an Internet search and find candidates based on a combination of Blog websites, YouTube videos and Twitter. They contact one woman in particular (hint: ME), and ask her to send in her “reel” for producers!
  2. IT CAN MAKE YOU THE PREFERRED CANDIDATE FOR THE GIG.
    1. So, you’ve auditioned (or interviewed), then gone in one or more times to do it again… and you know you’re being considered. In fact, you know it’s between you and another person. I.SWEAR.TO.GOD., if you’ve come this far, having a strong, solid online presence, with a good fan base can only help push you closer to the win. It’s all about generating buzz! Every business, film, project (whatever) wants to be heard and must get their message out in an increasingly flooded, over-stimulated and crowded market. The people who are hiring realize how much more valuable a person is, if they can help move the needle with potential or existing fans/clients/etc. While, it may not make a huge difference if you’re just starting out in a field – because, hey… in most cases, you’re a beginner and you’ll be seen as one, regardless of your internet footprint (if you don’t believe me, read this), it will only help you in the long run to keep developing your voice, your presence and your fan base.
    2. It’s a known fact that Social Media impacts the success a film, television show… even radio broadcasts. To see some of the stats about this, read here. Businesses, networks, shows and more these days are looking to exponentially grow their reach by adding people to their “team” whose followings will make a difference.
  3. IT CAN GIVE, AND IT CAN TAKE AWAY TOO.
    1. People get sponsorships, free swag (designer clothes, products and more), cash for endorsing something, and can win big prizes for creating engagement… I’ve seen this happen in my own life (can you say “new car”?), and for countless other people as well.
    2. I’ve also seen people lose work, fall to the bottom of the casting list, or get fired from a job/role/gig for taking it upon themselves to “leak” their audition or gig prematurely (see this article). It is infinitely more important to post with intention and strategy (have a plan, and set up guidelines for yourself), than it is to simply make a loud “noise” with a large number of posts.

Though your skill, talent and that hard-to-pinpoint “sweet spot” you have is what will keep you working, your social media presence is vitally important. It represents you, your brand and who/what you stand for. My workshop will cover all the basics of setting up your social media brand, and help you become more thoughtful about everything you “put out there.” Take my course, and after some practice at this social media thing, you just may be surprised at the ways it pays off.

Do You Have To Be Funny To Do Improv?

When you think of improv, do you think of comedians being crazy funny, making the audiences clutch their sides in laughter? Do you picture people coming up with hilarious speeches and one-liners so funny that you’re just amazed they could think of them at all?

Sure, that’s a popular depiction of improv – and with shows like Whose Line Is It Anyway? And seeing many Improv trained actors starring in comedy films, it’s no wonder people might think that you have to be funny to do Improv training.

I believe you don’t have to be instinctually funny to study Improv. While it’s true that improvization classes tend to bring out the funny and quirky qualities in people that may already exist, that doesn’t mean it’s only limited to them. In fact, many corporate executives and businesspeople take improv classes to improve communication, learn how to think on their feet, and generally enjoy themselves and their work process.

So whether you were the class clown or always had your nose in a book, you don’t have to be funny to benefit from doing this training.  What’s more, if you want to be the best actor you can be, improv can have real benefits for you:

Improv helps you think fast on your feet. This is a critical quality, especially when auditioning and asked to try out different approaches to the material. Improv can help ensure that you’re not thrown by these requests but can be creative with them which is very impressive to the decision makers.

Often movies have actors improvize dialogue for many of the scenes; in fact, some of the most famous scenes were the direct result of improvisation (think Han Solo talking to a Stormtrooper over the intercom).  Improv helps you tp explore different options within scenes, which can assist you to connect with your character.

Improv work helps actors to be more creative, instinctual and unique especially with changes and last minute rewrites when there is very little time for preparation.

Bottom line, Improv training helps to develop confidence, be a better listener, trust your instincts and be more creative. No matter how you use it, it will benefit your life and any business, Don’t be intimidated by improv – you might just discover that you have an incredible new talent for it and/or it will help you be a better actor.

The Biggest Rookie Audition Mistakes – Revealed!

Ever found yourself wondering what you are doing wrong at auditions or what you can be doing better?

You show up to casting call after casting call and you do your best but you know that you are probably making mistakes but you really don’t know what they are since you are not getting callbacks or books.

If this sounds familiar to you, then it’s time to break free from the cycle so you can finally booking. What mistakes are you making?

From my experience as a casting director – and from conversations I’ve had with other casting directors – here are the biggest rookie audition mistakes you might be making:

You’re not asking enough questions to get clarity what is expected from your audition.  I know it might feel intimidating to ask questions – or you might feel like you’re doing something wrong – but asking questions shows that you want to understand so you can do your best work.  If after listening to an assistant’s instruction and reading the audition scenario sheet and if you don’t understand something or need clarification, don’t be afraid to ask!

You may be talking too fast, too loudly, or too softly.  I get it – auditions can be an intimidating, so it can be easy to make these mistakes. When rehearsing practice talking slowly, or a little faster, louder or not projecting so much (whatever you have determined is your issue). Take a deep breath before you begin your audition and remind yourself just once which of these is your issue then focus on your connection to the material and the person you have chosen to speak to.

Many refuse to look at cue cards when needed.  New actors often believe that they’ll do better if they have everything memorized, but don’t underestimate the power of nerves.  Don’t be afraid to look at the cue cards – no one is going to penalize you for doing that! Know that most experienced actors use them when needed.

You don’t listen to or really hear the direction because you are too busy reminding yourself of what you planned to do or are figuring out how to do what you just heard from casting director. When you do this you are going to miss out on the next piece of direction and/or look like you are not listening. Not listening, is the casting director’s biggest pet peeve. I suggest you stay neutral, just listen, and if you don’t understand or miss something – ask.

Don’t give yourself a negative critique or make a negative comment out loud after you finish your audition.  No matter how you think you did, never say negative self criticism out loud – because the casting directors  or the clients, if they are there for the callback, might think of you as  a problem or a negative person.

Free up your audition from these mistakes, and you should start seeing better results.

Dedicated Actors Should Start their Acting Training with a Meisner Program

Many of the acclaimed theatrical and movie performances by your favorite actors can be attributed to the skills gained from studying the Meisner technique.  So if you are a new actor, you don’t have to wonder why you should consider learning the Meisner acting technique.

The Meisner technique was developed by celebrated actor and teacher Sanford Meisner.  The technique incorporates a series of exercises designed to help actors portray truthful behavior on stage. Actors are encouraged to act in the moment and enjoy instinctive moments with fellow actors, rather than sticking to a fixed intellectual interpretation of a scene.

Benefits of the Meisner Technique

Gives you the confidence to face any project that comes your way, because it teaches you how to quickly get into any character.

Demonstrates the tools of expression you need to make your portrayals believable, by tapping into your own emotions.

Helps to bring out the best in you as an actor, as you learn to recognize the freedom you have to explore real emotions for every role.

Teaches you to listen and practice real communication, so that your acting becomes spontaneous.

By signing up for Meisner technique classes you will certainly experience growth as an actor.

Now that you know why, you should consider learning the Meisner technique.  At the award-winning Carolyne Barry Creative Ent., in Los Angeles, CA, Meisner technique classes are available from the beginner to the advanced levels, and we remain true to Meisner’s original material. Give us a call today at (323) 654-2212, or email carolyne@carolynebarry.com.

And check out her articles and videos on backstage.com, master talent teachers and her YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/user/CarolyneBarry)