By the time a role is casting, it’s often too late to meaningfully compete. Unless you have a solid pre- and post-game strategy. Once breakdowns are released, a given role has been kicking around with producers for a while, sometimes even years. They’ve already talked at length about who should play the part you’re up for. They may have even made offers to people they know. There are actors who are sent to casting under the category “network/production approved.” Casting might just be a formality, or a measure put in place “just in case” or “to see what else is out there.” You shouldn’t feel defeated by this notion. It just means you need to have a super tight pre- and post-audition game.
As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, it’s possible to book series-lead-level jobs before those roles ever reach a casting office. How? By building career launching relationships with the people who actually cast you: producers, writers, showrunners, and directors. You’ve heard it a million times: this town is all about relationships.
Get to know the people who create projects and forge real friendships. There is a proper way to use those relationships to leverage getting access to early releases of scripts and sides before they ever go to a casting office.
This year, fifteen of my clients booked series leads, series regulars, and leading/supporting roles in major feature films without ever setting foot in a conventional casting office. And, mostly without the help of reps.
Follow up! Don’t reach out after every audition, of course, but only for those roles that are important to you. Touching base on preferred parts with a method in place can give you valuable data and feedback about your audition performance.
Not having a strong post-game strategy is perhaps worse than not have a strong pre-game strategy. Following up with casting or production after important auditions is vital. It’s part of being pleasantly persistent.
A Cautionary Tale
I have a Korean actor client who is with a rep who doesn’t believe in her and thus doesn’t pitch her for major roles. He criticizes her acting and demands she put a lot of things on tape for him to prove herself. The whole professional relationship is off-balance and veering into unhealthy territory.
Your agent and/or manager should not only absolutely trust in you and your work, they should also personally like you! If your reps don’t have faith in your abilities enough to pick up the phone and pitch you hard, then you need new reps. Period. Staying with an agent or manager who lets you languish on their roster without pitching you, is like dating someone who won’t introduce you to their friends. It’s a relationship that isn’t going anywhere.
I worked with this actor and I put her on tape for a major feature film with an award-winning top Korean director. As always, I helped her to reach a booked-role caliber performance and captured it on tape. She was thrilled and loved the finished product.
Two weeks later, the actor came into class, looking somber and unhappy. I asked her about what was wrong and said told me that her rep hated the video—that the acting was “too big,” and they both had concerns given the absence of a response from casting.
I let her know that her rep shouldn’t be saying things like that to her, as he’s not an acting coach or a director. Sure, everyone has opinions, but most agents and managers know that their opinions about their clients’ work or abilities should be kept private.
I asked the actress what her thoughts on her performance were. She said, “Now that I’ve had some time to think about it, I really thought it was totally wrong and totally off, and I didn’t think it was good what we did.”
Even though she was criticizing my work as a coach in front of my class, I wasn’t perturbed. It was clear her dysfunctional agent had influenced her, in combination with the silence from casting about the role.
I reminded her that she loved the work, that it was fun for her and that I wouldn’t have given it my stamp of approval if I hadn’t thought it was her best acting. I prodded her: Was she sure her agent had sent the tape? Did he follow up? Did she?
It turns out that neither the agent nor actress had followed up with casting, which was odd, particularly since my client had recently taken the “Launch Your Career Program” with me and knew how to pitch herself.
I told her that I would personally reach out to the Casting Director to figure out if they had received the self-tape and to get any feedback. With all the craziness of this business, why deride a solid performance if you haven’t even made an attempt to follow up?
I sent a simple but powerfully worded email to the person my client identified as the CD, only to later find out that he was also the writer/director/producer who was helping with the casting for the project. He immediately responded, telling me the actor was one of the top 3 finalists and that she was also his personal favorite submission. He explained that she ultimately wasn’t selected for the part due to something out of her control: her own looks. They were looking for someone who fit a more ethnically Chinese look. He finished the email by saying that as Korean American, he was thrilled to see her perfect Korean language ability on her reel and that he would be interested in working with her on a different upcoming feature project. This was a major audition win for my client but she would have never known about it.
Here’s what this situation helps us all realize:
• Actors must always believe their instincts.
• Reps who don’t believe in you will stagnate your career.
• Stop listening to people who engage in fear-based decision-making.
• Following up is often as important as the actual audition: get feedback!
• Pursue relationships with these people before you pitch for roles so you can feel better about checking in on the status of projects you’ve been submitted for.
1. Did they get the tape?
2. Did they have a chance to review it?
3. Is there anything else they’d like to see?
4. Do they have any feedback?
It’s too easy to succumb to negativity in this business. Resist the urge to just throw up your hands and say to yourself, “well I guess they hated my performance.” Getting feedback can help you refocus the lens of your work, offering you invaluable clarity.
Now, what do you think the next steps for my client should be?
Leave her agent. Start pitching herself (properly) for every role she’s right for.
This article was originally posted on Backstage.