by Casting Director, Laurie Records
Ah! The third and final round. Did you catch the first two? If not, let’s catch you up:
I am a former LA Casting insider, newly on the outside, sharing with you, the actor, what I know about the industry and how it relates to LA Casting. About a year ago, I was a part of a panel discussion, entitled, “What You Don’t Know, You Don’t Know, about commercial casting”. The response from the attending actors was extremely positive, and I was surprised that the info I learned in my years at LA Casting and took for granted was not necessarily common knowledge.
You are walking in at the last (but not least) part of the series where I will address the almighty Casting Director. Last month I touched on the different types of agents: the old school, the hotshot, the pro and the newbie. The month before I talked all about the actor, following the same format. For consistency sake, I will forge on in the same manner.
Casting, here we go!
“Old school” casting directors:
Strengths: If you want to be stereotypical, these folks have been around for a long time, and their experience demands respect. Typically you will find the old schoolers in the theatrical world, or in a different part of the country. You know them immediately, hopefully from name recognition, and then by their requests for hard copy submissions. You should jump through whatever hoops necessary to get in front of a prestigious old school casting director. It may mean hoofing your submission to their casting office, or calling on the ole messenger service. Get your submission in their hands any way you can. Most don’t post their projects online. Some don’t even put out a “breakdown” (even via fax) but instead send a script over to a select few agents offices. If there are roles put out to the masses, it is for only the tiniest ones. It may be frustrating to the “hot shot” actor, but be patient and accommodating with these old school casting directors who deserve reverence, the rewards are worth it.
Areas of opportunity: It is hard to hold back technology and these folks, knowingly or not, are trying. For the old school commercial casting director, the actors/agents willing to get hard copies over to their office by the next morning for a non-union buyout are fewer as the days go by. (Newbie actors, pay attention. If you see a commercial with a request for hard copy submissions, get them there, ON TIME. You will be one of few, thus increasing your chances of being called in!!!) These commercial CD’s will go online or go out of business. If their clients haven’t already figured out that there are hundreds of other casting directors out there who can cast quicker, email them a sampling of talent and post the sessions online, they will, and will hire someone else. The commercial “old schooler” can’t exist for much longer. Again, the prestigious theatrical old schooler can do whatever they want. Only when they decide to retire may the theatrical realm use the new technology on a regular basis.
The “Hot shot” casting directors:
Strengths: Commercially, they tend to be some of the biggest casting directors around. These are smart business people, and are always looking for a way to make their job easier, with less people, and less mistakes. Imagine the assistants it took to make hundreds of phone calls a day, and to open envelope after envelope of hard copy submissions. The hot shot casting directors were the first to sign up with LA Casting, and are constantly making requests of improving the functionality of the software, as well as asking that agents and actors keep up with the technology. Nothing frustrates a casting director more than asking that an actor have a skill, calling them in after they were submitted, only to find out that they couldn’t do the skill. It makes them look bad to their client to only have 4 actors on tape, because all the rest couldn’t do the skill. The hot shot CD will look for photos of the actor performing their skill. Soon the hot shot will request video clips of the actor performing the skill. The hot shot makes sure they have everything they need to do their job well, and at this point it’s all technology.
Areas of opportunity: If you aren’t in the cutting edge category of actors, you will miss opportunities to be seen by the hot shot casting director. And, they will miss opportunities to see you. It does go both ways. Obviously, you don’t want to fall too far out of their realm, or it will be hard to catch up. If you can afford to accommodate their every request, go for it. But it will cost you, and it may not be the norm for another year, amongst the other casting directors falling in the professional or newbie category. Their requests may never be the standard. Weigh your options, check your pocket book, consult your agent, and decide how far you will go for the hot shot casting director.
The “Pro” casting directors:
Strengths: Ah, here is where we find the balance. This casting director is up with the times, but allows the hot shots to forge ahead. This casting director uses technology to their advantage, but still has human contact. The pro will still talk to an agent over the phone instead of demanding instant messaging. They realize relationships with agents and actors have moved them along in the business and they still hang on to what has worked. Their eyes are always open, though, to where the business is headed, what other casting directors are offering their clients. They watch, listen and react.
Areas of opportunity: It is the coveted category of casting director. It is where most would like to be. These folks have found a system that works for them; they have found their agents that they trust. It may be hard for an agent to move in to the pro’s A List. LA Casting has evened the playing field quite a lot over the past couple of years. Before the online revolution, there were many envelopes that were never opened by a casting director. Now, they see all submissions side by side when viewing their submissions. There is a surprising amount of “pro” casting directors that look through every single submission received, not just checking out their A List favorites. Still, when push comes to shove the pro will rely on their tried and true agents in a pinch. Any time you have the opportunity to be in front of a pro casting director, do whatever razz-a-ma-tazz juju you need to do to be at your best.
The “Newbie” casting director:
Strengths: Enthusiasm, enthusiasm, enthusiasm. This is a great casting director for an actor to snuggle up to, because they are the ones who are open to it. Often, the jobs are non-union commercials, music videos, or low-end print work. They are open to submissions, however, direct from the talent, because sometimes they struggle to get sufficient submissions from agents alone. Good casting directors don’t forget talent who have proven themselves as professional and talented. Newbies don’t stay newbies forever. If you prove yourself to a newbie casting director, they will take you with them as they move up in the casting world. I have a great story that I love to tell: During my time at LA Casting, a former casting associate had just started casting on her own. She had some freebie jobs at first, then low paying non-union commercials. It only took a year for her to start landing SAG nationals. When she was casting these huge jobs, she continued to open her project to actor submissions, as well as agents. This angered an agent and he called me complaining. I asked him if he submitted on her low paying non-union jobs just a few months ago. He said that he didn’t. I explained that she was continuing to cast in the way that she knew she would get enough submissions and reward the folks who have helped her out in the past. Casting directors remember people who come through for them, both agents and actors. Snuggle up everyone!
Areas of opportunity: The obvious-typically low paying jobs. They may be a little disorganized. You may get a call the same day as the audition. You may need to wait a little longer than usual at an audition (although, this happens to established casting directors as well… things go wrong at auditions for all casting directors). Be patient and accommodating with the Newbies. It just may pay off as they rise in the ranks, and you may make a little cash in the process.
That’s it for this series! Stay tuned for other nuggets of knowledge. They will be coming your way in future editions of The Networker!