Synopsis by Tracy Weisert
Since he last spoke two years ago, I was glad to see producer & casting director David Kang again as our guest speaker March 23rd for another lively & interactive seminar. This time he focused on actor goal setting. Many smart & savvy actors brainstormed as a collective that day for all of our success in Hollywood!
Here is David’s bio-
David Kang began his business career as an entrepreneur in the entertainment industry in 1997. Combat Casting was his first venture, casting actual military, law enforcement, and firefighting on Hollywood’s production sets. Combat Casting’s success spread rapidly through the film industry and led to another company just one year later, Networks Casting. For the next five years, Networks Casting was one of the premier extras’ companies in Los Angeles. In 2003, David joined one of Hollywood’s elite boutique extras casting companies, Background Players. Under his management, Background Players cast actors for the feature films Mr. Woodcock, Balls of Fury, World Trade Center, Disturbia, andRent. Just after 18 months of managing Background Players, David established yet another company, David Kang Casting. The budding company’s first job was booking all the extras and specialty performers on Rush Hour 3. David also became one of the biggest music video casting directors, casting for artists such as Michael Jackson, 50 Cent, Britney Spears, Eminem, Jonas brothers, Justin Timberlake, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, and Usher. The video that David has done casting for have won, MTV Music Awards and MVPA Awards year after year and in 2011, three of his videos he cast for were nominated for a Grammy including Lady Gaga’s Bad romance which won a Grammy in 2011 for best music video of the year. Producers’ and Directors’ confidence in David’s casting abilities provoked them to hire him to work on various projects all around the world such as: Toronto, New York, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Miami, and the Bahamas. Just this year, he has worked with big name Directors such as Francis Lawrence, Joseph Kahn, Hype Williams, Rich Lee, Wayne Isham, Diane Martel, Jean-Baptise Mondino, and David LaChapell. Ultimately, his ability to find fresh new talent is one of the reasons Directors keep coming back to him. In 2010 David also produced 2 feature films “Detention” starring Dane Cook and Josh Hutcherson which will have its world premiere at SXSW film Festival March 2011, and “Fear Not” which is still in post. David also founded a Non-Profit with his 7 year old son called Project LACE (Loving Abandoned Children Everywhere) bringing awareness to help end poverty, loneliness, and neglect of children everywhere.
Here is a brief overview of things we covered-
Background work? David said, “(When I was starting out as an actor) I was heavily doing extra work for about a year. I know there are a lot of people who tell you not to do extra work. You know what? I’m telling you this right now.Get in front of the camera as much as possible. I don’t care if you’ve got a speaking part or an extra part. When you’re doing extra work, you’re working with industry professionals. You start learning terms like ‘stand-in,’ ‘camera right,’ ‘camera left’…all that stuff. Stuff that you don’t know. You also have opportunities sometimes. They say, ‘Don’t talk to the actors’ but if they come up to you, it’s okay, right? Sometimes they’ll actually come up to you and say, ‘Hi. How you doing?’ They just kind of chit-chat with you. I’ve had that happen all the time. This is just my opinion, but for those people who say don’t do extra work, it will hurt you.” He then told the famous story about actor Brad Pitt leaving the set of a background job he was booked on to go to a principalaudition for the film Thelma & Louise, which he booked… and the rest is history!
I then added that I had been an unpaid intern and reader for our mutual friend who is a features casting director for years. I said how being of service without expectation upped my game and made me a much stronger actor for having done so. David responded, “If you can intern for a casting director and read or run camera, I promise you, you will be that much of a stronger actor. You will see all the stuff…that like, wow…the camera does not miss anything! You get so good that it becomes second nature to you… (You say) ‘I can do this! How come they can’t get it done?’ It’s that kind of annoying feeling. Once you run camera and once you read, it’s like second nature to you when you audition. You nail it every single time. Try to intern for other casting directors. Get them to teach you how to run camera. Any casting director would love for you to work here and there.” He also shared that he thought the easiest way for an actor to get into an agency or a casting director’s office is to intern for them for two weeks.
Classes? “Improv classes are so important, especially if you are going to be in commercials. I cannot tell you guys how much improv helps auditions because sometimes you come in for one thing and all night you rehearse this one scene then at the last minute the director is like, ‘You know what? Let’s throw all that out the window and let’s just do it this way.’ And you’re like, ‘What??? I just spent nine hours rehearsing this thing in my head and now you want me to do something else?’ [laughter] So improv classes are very, very important. You can go to these local universities like Santa Monica College, Los Angeles City College, Los Angeles Valley College…I’ve taken classes at all those places. I wanted to be better as a casting director and I learned. Those classes that you take at these city colleges are great! They’re great and they’re cheap! Once you get that and then you have a little bit of money, then go these other ones that cost like $400 dollars a month.”
David made some interesting points about his office regarding Taft-Hartleys and SAG Eligibility. He stated, “If you guys get a speaking part in a commercial, TV show or movie, you’re automatically eligible to join SAG (Screen Actors Guild) and now it’s going to cost you, what $3000? When I joined SAG, it was $900! [laughter] If you get a speaking or principal part, that’s a contract. I Taft-Hartley (you) right away.”
An actor then asked him about being SAG Eligible. David replied, “SAG Eligible, right? I don’t bring SAG Eligible people into my SAG auditions. That’s what is called a “Must Join” and that’s more work for me to do but this is something key. If you guys have the money to join SAG and if you are going to submit for SAG projects, put on the notes, ‘Have the money to join SAG. Willing to join SAG if booked.’ Put that note on there! As a casting director, if I see SAG Eligible on there…Example—she’s gotten her SAG vouchers or booked a principal role (and is eligible), if she books the part and she does not have the money, I get fined as the casting director. The production company gets fined. The ad agency gets fined and it adds up!
“A ‘slate’ is really important to me. I really like the slate to be clean. You shouldn’t talk too much. You shouldn’t even come in and say the role you are (reading for) unless they tell you to. You should tell your name and maybe say, ‘Hi. How are you guys doing? Thank you for bringing me to audition’ and your slate and then nail your audition. When you’re done with the audition, you can even ask them, ‘If you want me to do it some other way, I can.’ That’s always good but the casting director can say, ‘Nope, we’ve got it. Thank you.’ Don’t force it. Don’t force it like, ‘You know, I felt like I did really bad there… [laughter] Do you think I can do this again?’ If you really think you did a really bad job and there is nobody (waiting) outside, the casting director won’t care if you do it again but if there are 20 people out there and you ask that question, they are going to say ‘No.’ Make sure you guys kick butt the first time.”
With our group brainstorming session, as he had done so previously, David advised actors to set professional goals that were high with timelines and to take our professional acting careers seriously—to treat it as a business. Set both long-term and short-term personal and professional goals for yourself and write them down! Post them on your bathroom mirror, so you look at them every morning.
David said, “Regarding goals. Do those free (unpaid) projects. I’m not telling you to do free projects all the time but pick and choose your projects. I’m still doing free projects because I want to work with a director I haven’t worked with. I want to work with a producer I haven’t worked with. Who here wouldn’t do a job for Steven Spielberg for free? [laughter] Right, right? There are all these other producers and directors that are up-and-coming that are going to be the next Spielbergs. They may not be it now, but hopefully will be in the next three or four years.
Thank you David for another enthusiastic, informational seminar! His website is www.dkcasting.com