Tracy WeisertSynopsis by Tracy Weisert

Lovely and smart commercial casting director (and fellow Casting Networks’ The Networker’s newsletter columnist) Laurie Records was our guest speaker August 27th at our free Inside the Industry Seminar.

Here is Laurie’s bio-

Laurie Records (Casting Director, CCDA) has been working in the commercial realm since 2004. For three years she cast hundreds of commercials as Associate Casting Director in a bustling commercial office. In 2009, Laurie opened her own company. While she continues casting all types of commercials (from national network to internet only, union/non union, including: Range Rover, McDonald’s, Secure Horizons, California Lottery, Fed Ex etc.) she has broadened her horizons to include casting web content for Network Television, Television Hosts, Independent Television, Industrials, and dabbles in casting Features and Short films. Laurie writes a monthly column titled “Commercial Actors Should Never…” for LA Casting. She regularly attends Los Angeles theatre.

Some of the topics Laurie covered were how actors should be nice in the industry and in life, building relationships, being flexible, to always think and the increased importance of social networking in a professional actor’s career and the opportunities it affords.

I had such a great response to my synopsis article when Laurie was our guest speaker in 2010 so with her permission, I am re-printing parts of that article within this writing. What she told of her reluctant introduction to social networking, still has people identifying with it….and it will make you laugh!

Laurie said, “What do I have to offer?  I would like to think that I am an encourager and a bit of an actors’ advocate. I actually like you guys and find you very fun and likable people. Hopefully, you will leave here a little encouraged or a little inspired.”

Laurie continued, “I would like to talk about the ‘overachiever actor’. [laughter] I feel that word has a bad connotation.  This is a good thing!  Being an overachiever actor, whatever that means to you, is the new standard, so if you want to make it in this town and have success, in my opinion, you need to be an overachiever actor every day. I want to talk about a couple of different areas where I think that you all can be an overachiever actor, then we’ll take questions.”

She said, “My first topic is NETWORKING.  Being an overachiever actor on networking.  What can actors do to network?  We know that networking is important.  Everybody talks about it.  That word gets thrown around like crazy!  The ‘standard’ has been that actors can send out mailings, go to Casting Director workshops, they can make cookies and bring them to a Casting Director on Christmas. Send out your headshot.  Mail it to every Casting Director in town.  That was the standard when I first came to town once upon a time. That’s all I ever heard actors could do. Now, you all are so lucky, right now, to be actors because there are so many more opportunities for you to get to know industry professionals, not even just Casting Directors.  I mean, Directors and Producers. I will talk about a couple of ways that I find effective.

Before you roll your eyes, hear me out. Because I already mentioned it, social networking is a ridiculous opportunity for actors. If you are not taking advantage of it, you are missing out.  As someone who came kicking and screaming into social networking, [it was] not my thing.  I never had a Facebook page, forget it!  Twitter?  That’s stupid!  Please…I was so private and please don’t make me put my picture up.  You still probably won’t see any pictures of me.  Lord have mercy, don’t make me have a Facebook page.  I was told by several Casting Directors because I used to assist them at LA Casting so they do know me, ‘Ohhhh…just you wait!  You’re going to get a Facebook page, etc…’ I said, ‘No please, no’…so now I do!  And the education that I got from actors about the things you people do to get into my line of vision, to get on my radar and really, isn’t that what it’s all about? Yes it is! If I like you as a person and if I think you’re a cool person…when I put a job out, you all have heard these horror stories, there are a thousand submissions for every role. I get to call in whomever I want to call in. I will never call you in if you’re not right for the role but if you are, I still have a bazillion choices.  If it’s someone who is on my radar who I think is a positive, fantastic actor that I see “tweeting” everyday or who has told me about their show on Facebook or whatever, I’m going to call you in.  I’m not going to call you in if you’re not right.  If I have choices between people that I know who I’ve called in before or people’s work I’ve seen, I’ll call you in.  You are not too old, you are not too anything…you are missing out if you are not social networking with Directors, with Casting Directors, Producers, Agents…they are everywhere! There are Agents all over Twitter, Facebook or whatever who are very free with helping actors out, answering actors’ questions and giving really fantastic advise. With Facebook, say who you are.  Just say, ‘Hey Laurie, I’m an actor.”

Laurie said, “Another one of my favorites and again, I’m being educated by you the actors, is those actors who send out a monthly newsletter.  There are email services out there that are very affordable.  I personally don’t respond, but it doesn’t mean I don’t look at it.  When you are social networking, don’t miss any opportunity.  So what I think is interesting is when…let’s just say an actor emails me about my column that I wrote and they have a question about it.  The actor does not leave their full name; there is no link to their pictures and resume.  I just got your email, I have no idea who you are and you’re not giving me any information.  I will have to become a detective to figure out who you are.  You’ve got to make it easy on us. I would also suggest you don’t attach your picture and resume.  Send a link.  You all have online accounts because you’re all on LA Casting.  You know that you can send a link to your LA Casting account, right?  If you don’t know that, call them because it’s possible.  Don’t miss the opportunity to put your face and resume in front of a Casting Director, Director or Producer or whoever it is you’re talking to.  If you have Facebook or Twitter, don’t use ‘Tinkerbell’ as your name.  Use your full name! [laughter] It happens all the time!”

A few highlights included are-

Headshots-

Laurie said, “Your headshot is the most important tool you guys have as actors. I know you know this. It’s the first thing anybody sees to decide if they are interested in learning more about you…if they want to take a look at your resume, if they want to call you in if you’re right. It’s your photo. The majority of headshots that I see are okay, adequate to poor, so I challenge you, if you’re going to get nothing else….I would like you to get a few other things but if you’re going to get nothing else today, you have to have a brilliant headshot. I don’t want to see a ‘good’ headshot. I don’t think a good headshot serves you well. I think that should be your goal and I know money does not necessarily equal a brilliant headshot but it might help. So I’m not sure why you guys are having your pals taking your headshots in your backyard. Then you’re spending tons of money on your cold reading class, which, yay for you [laughter] I like training but holy moses! If you’re going to skimp someplace, don’t do it on your headshots! Figure it out how to get genius headshots and you may not get it the first time. It’s going to cost you money. Do it anyway. Do whatever you have to do to get great headshots. You can’t get an audition without a great headshot.”

Casting trends?

Laurie stated, “Improv is being asked for a lot. And you guys are going to get my opinion but you guys can answer your own question by watching commercials. But in my opinion, it’s ‘very real.’ Very regular, odd, imperfect people. Good news for ‘regular’ people like me. Right now, you don’t have to be Adonis or Barbie. There will always be room for ‘pretty people.’ Don’t you worry pretty people! [laughter] But I love, love, love when I get to cast the regular people. I have weird grey hair! I appreciate regular people with flaws and apparently right now, so do the public.”

Laurie stated, “You guys know that the industry sort of changes at a rapid pace. It’s always changing and the importance of staying on top of what’s going on is ridiculous. Knowledge is power. The more you know about what’s going on, the more informed you’re going to be, the better decisions you’re going to make. The more on top of it you are, only the better for you. You guys all know that, right? You have to be educating yourself constantly. I think we all want to be lazy…I would and say, ‘That’s what I hire my agent for….I give them 10%….I give my manager 15%…so that’s what I pay them for.’ Well, I don’t know. Do you pay them for that? I challenge you and I implore you to be educated yourself to know what is going on! Make it part of your daily routine to keep up. Whether it’s reading certain blogs and newsletters like THE NETWORKER. There are so many great, great online resources that if you aren’t staying current, shame on you. I don’t care how old you are. I don’t care how much you hate computers and neither will anybody else. It’s your job, so figure it out. I’m so mean right now!“ [laughter]

Interestingly, some of actors asking questions at this seminar were the same actors who asked the last time Laurie spoke to the group. Laurie suggested-

Preparation as a commercial actor and at auditions-

  • “I’m confused that some of you don’t have your resumes on LA Casting.”
  • Put yourself on tape and see what you look like.
  • Work on your slate- “Be warm, trustworthy, likable and confident.
  • When you’re under 18, say your age in your slate.”
  • With auditions that are interviews- “It’s not about your words. The Director is looking for your thought process and warmth. Practice your interview for a friend.”
  • Practice commercial copy with cue cards.
  • Google commercials and download old commercial copy.
  • “Check to see if there are sides online and download them.”
  • “If you are lucky enough to know who the Director is, get online and watch their reels.  Are they quirky or beautiful?”
  • With medical commercial copy-“When you memorize it, you stand out,” but cautioned “Commercial copy changes all the time!”
  • “Have a system for yourself to check your email and voicemail regularly.”  Laurie then spoke of 1st choice actors losing bookings because “they will go with the backup actor” if they can’t get a hold of an actor.
  • “Never, ever brag about not watching television and commercials.”
  • “My sessions start at 10:30AM. Don’t give me grief if you choose to come early.”  She also shocked the roomful of actors when she stated that with auditions, she counts on a 25% no show rate and if it’s raining, a 50% no show rate by actors (there was a group gasp after that!)
  • “LISTEN to the Sessions Directors or you are missing important clues.”  [about the spot]
  • “I caution you not to hang out with bitter actors. Don’t lie with dogs.  Don’t ‘stew’ with other actors in a packed [casting] waiting room.  Folks, I cannot tell you the crazy, frustrated things actors say in the waiting room.  Zen out and find a way to Kumbaya.”

More information about auditions-

Laurie said, “Be on time. I know you guys have heard that a million times. Why are you guys not on time? You probably all are but I’m probably preaching to the choir. THINK for a moment. Get rid of the myth that in commercials as long as you come within the 4 hour window that you’re fine… [laughter] You’re not fine. Just know that as money gets less, casting days are fewer. Holy moses! On this last job, I saw ten roles a day, so when you come late, you are out of category and I don’t know what to do with you. And I really wanted to put you on tape or I wouldn’t have called you in but what do I do with you? You were supposed to be paired with your girlfriend or with a family. I don’t know what to do with you. Think guys. Think about your actions and the implications. It’s hurting our relationship, is it not? I remember these things. People who cause me trauma and panic, I remember. They are like seared in my brain.”

“Wardrobe….you guys all know commercially, wardrobe is ridiculously important. You all know that, right? Come in the right wardrobe. Spend some time thinking about it. Think about it the night before. If you are one of those really flexible actors that I talked about earlier and you have a same day call, just do your best. Wardrobe is so, so important. We don’t have time. My clients, I can guarantee it, want to see on tape, someone who could walk on set. Don’t get goofy about, ‘I don’t want to come in a costume’…If it’s for a cop and I say ‘Come in a cop uniform’ come in a cop uniform and I’m not steering you wrong. And for some reason if my mind has changed between yesterday and today, then I’ll say, ‘Take the hat off. It’s a little too much.’ I’m not scolding you. Thank you for coming in the right wardrobe. You’re wonderful!”

Read all the information-

“Read, read, read the information. Don’t ask questions before you read everything, okay? Be prepared. Go over your copy the night before. I posted it for a reason. With your theatrical auditions, you will have three page monologues memorized and for a commercial audition, you got one line and you just can’t seem to spit it out….and it’s written on a cue card right there? [laughter] Please come prepared and with that being said, be flexible for when you walk into the lobby and the copy has changed. Don’t get mad…. A. It’s not my fault but who cares whose fault it is? Roll with it. The more flexible and cool you can be, the better chance you have at getting the role. Just go with it. Don’t get pissed off. I don’t know what you guys think….that people are taking advantage of you. It’s not a conspiracy against you. It’s commercials. Things change.”

Laurie continued, “You all know that desperation can be detected, right? [laughter] And so can like ‘Bad Attitude Joe.’ If you’re like ‘Pissed Off Actor’ in the lobby and you come in, (with a bad attitude) it just doesn’t work. So ‘be chill’ in the lobby. Find a happy space. Sometimes it’s not going well out there. I know because it’s not going well for me either. If my lobby is not well and if I am behind, trust me. I am more unhappy than you are. Find your peaceful place. Come in. Be lovely, nice likeable actors. Those are the one who get hired.”

Laurie added, “Take commercials seriously. If you think commercials are stupid, don’t audition for them. If you want to be in commercials, be prepared, take them seriously and research! Watch them! Do your due diligence. Truly, if commercials are not for you, that’s totally fine. I don’t care but don’t come and take my time. This is my job. This is how I make a living. Show respect for me. It’s a great way to make a living. It’s better than waiting tables, is it not?”

Thanks Laurie once again for a wonderful morning of enlightenment!
To contact Laurie- http://www.laurierecordscasting.com/

Follow Tracy on Twitter- @TracyWeisertLA
Email Tracy, or find her on IMDB

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