Anyone who’s been part of my readership for even a few months knows that I constantly acknowledge that this business is hard for everyone. Working actors have to compete against formidable competition, while up-and-coming actors have to fight against the masses to get noticed. Staff members of post-production houses work 14-hour days or more. Shows are given the greenlit and halted liked the ebb and flow of the tides. Movies bomb, production companies are laughed at, and careers end based on opening weekend numbers. Casting directors are soldiers in this business, just like everyone else, and their jobs are truly difficult.
You’re Not Here to Be a Pleaser
I make my living by empowering actors. So do certain casting directors. As much as I have dedicated my life to this work, it frustrates me when I see talented actors engaging in self-sabotaging actions that thwart their progress and derail their careers. These self-destructive behaviors include coming to class unprepared, making safe/derivative choices, or acting like their agents hold the keys to career success.
I can only imagine that casting directors, being the creative and eclectic group of individuals that they are, would have their same amount of frustrations with actors and their own pet peeves about the auditioning process in general. Just as some acting coaches don’t express their frustrations well (barking at actors or demeaning them), neither do casting directors.
But the No. 1 rule of the audition is always stop trying to guess what they are looking for, assume you are who they’re looking for, and bring yourself to the piece with a specific and fun choice.
Aside from getting in and out of a room gracefully and making fun and specific choices, your focus should never be to “please” the casting director—or the director, or even the producer for that matter. Your job is to demonstrate through your brave choices, courage, ingenuity, and professionalism that you are the fucking solution.
Casting directors are discerning gatekeepers, and many of them exude an artistry in their jobs that is obscenely overlooked in the industry today. While they can influence the final casting decision, they are not the ones who make it—the producers, writers, and directors are. Forging relationships with these individuals is equally important throughout your career as they are the ones who can actually give you a job.
Casting Directors with Acting Studios
When it comes to casting directors with acting studios, this is indeed a balancing act of sorts. On the one hand, many casting directors are passionate about acting and want to help actors perform better in the room and share their knowledge. On the other hand, there is undeniably a slippery slope at work, as favoritism for being called in (or even cast) could be given to students of the casting director (which happens), and that poisons the merit-based well of “the best actor gets the job,” and creates an actor mentality that they have to kowtow to this casting director, or essentially pay for class as an indirect way to pay to get auditions or book work.
The bottom line is: Great casting directors want great performances, not to have their asses kissed.
Forge New Relationships
Instead of trying to ingratiate yourself to industry professionals who are limited in the ways that they can advance your career, why not reach out to directors, writers, and producers and maintain relationships with them? Not only do professionals, like writers, not receive enough recognition, they are also likely to be more open to meeting actors and building relationships with them, as they’re not so besieged by actors trying to get their attention all the time. The same goes for indie directors. Making an effort to meet indie directors whose careers are on an upward trajectory is a wise idea: They want to meet new faces and they won’t have the hang-ups and barriers present that other industry players may have.
In my career coaching program, I help actors launch their careers—on their own terms—by building and maintaining game-changing relationships with major directors, writers, and producers.
Casting directors are an important alliance to have, but they’re not the “jackpot” that many new actors make them out to be. Finding off-the-beaten-track methods for opening industry doors is possibly the best way to get ahead in this business.
This article was originally posted on Backstage