Sunday, January 22, 2012

PSA -- Tales of Auditioners

Thoughts from spending time on LA Casting and running auditions this week:

I posted a few of these on Facebook about a week ago and was asked to turn it into a top ten list. I think it ended up being about 12 items. I should preface your reading of this list by saying that I am quite fortunate that the majority of my actor friends are not guilty of the crimes listed below. Sadly I have come to believe that my friends are the minority in this town. This list is not meant to offend anyone it is simply the observations of one production manager in a sea of many in Los Angeles. I’m sure each of us has our preferences for what we like and what we don’t like, the following just happens to my list.

#1 If you are going to waste my time by submitting yourself for a musical and then in the notes section say "I can't sing, but I submitted myself 'cause I'm just that good." I can guarantee a few things, first I won't call you back for this or any other project because you just annoyed the hell out of me, two I don't believe you really are "that good" and three, if by some miracle you are actually "that good" I don't think I ever want to work with you because you'll most likely be a pretentious ass. Lesson = watch what you write in the notes section - it does actually get read.

#2. If you are submitting for live theater please post your resume. I don't really care that you are size 2 and have a chest size of 34B and that you have a few photos of you posing in underwear or swimwear. I'd like to know that you can actually walk, talk and even act all at the same time. If you aren't going to take the time to fill in your acting and/or training credits I'm not going to waste my time and call you in.

#3 Your head shot photo should not make me do any of the following: shudder in horror, enlarge it because I'm thinking you accidentally posted your mugshot instead of your head shot or make me believe you may be a danger to those around you. (If I was specifically looking for serial killers I would be okay with any of the above things, but I'm not.)

#4 Pay attention to the photo you select as the photo I see...there are so many times someone has picked the absolute wrong photo and then when I look at the resume I see the thumbnails of their photos and go -- oh that's why you think you can play this role. Don't show me your "I'm the slutty school girl photo" when the breakdown says maternal instincts. And guys...I don't ever want to see your speedo modeling photos...not ever.

#5 Use a last name! I know it worked for Cher and Madonna and I suppose some could even argue Brittany, but it just makes me laugh and quite honestly it makes others laugh as well. It makes it very hard for us to take you seriously when all we see is your first name. And if you have decided that one name is the way you are going to go, at least make it a good name, something we can pronounce and something that is an actual name. Also, if you feel the need to invent a more creative name because you feel the name your parents gave you will not suffice, please choose names that are good, normal names. Don't pick something because you think it will make you stand out and be remembered. It will be remembered but most likely as I'm sitting at the bar telling my friends of the most recent LA Casting Actor Exploits. I almost hated to write this one as it does provide a great deal of amusement for me while I go through submissions.

#6 Please, please, please use spell check. Remember you are trying to make a good impression. Sometimes I have literally hundreds of submissions to choose from, given two equal resumes (roughly the same credits) I will 100% choose the actor who has spelled things correctly and has obviously proofread and/or looked at how it appears online.

For future reference, here is the correct spelling of the following words:

Ensemble -- contrary to the beliefs of many it does not contain the letter "a"

Finale -- meaning the end of something, does not under any circumstances have a "y" (and if you were trying to spell finally, that has two "l's" and no "e"

Lead -- as in you were the star of the production, does indeed have an "a" in it. Led, is past tense as in "I led the parade." I sincerely doubt you were the "led" in the show.

#7 Be nice to the person who greets you at auditions. Don't act like it was a pain in the ass for you to come audition. You had a choice to audition, so act civil. Remember you never know the influence that individual has on casting. In our company I am usually in the lobby and at the end of the session I always get asked "how were they in the lobby?" My thoughts and impressions of you have definitely swayed casting, I can guarantee if you are rude, mean, condescending or generally creepy I will let them know. It's very simple, smile and be nice to me and I will return the favor both in the lobby and later when I talk with the director.

#8 Don't throw me under the bus if you didn't bring a head shot or resume to the session. Yes, I understand that you emailed it to me 15 minutes before your audition, but guess what, I don't have a printer and the people in the casting room don't have time check their email before you walk in. Bring it with you or just admit you don't have one with you, but don't blame me for your inability to plan ahead and get a copy made of it.

#9 And while we are on the topic of head shots -- if you are going to reprint them at home please make sure your name is on it. Don't just paperclip it to your resume and hope that it stays together through the entire process, actually put your name in a text box and super impose it on your photo. It will take you less than 2 minutes to do, make you look a bit more professional and make me like you just a little bit more.

#10 Show up! This seems easy enough to me. If you confirm an audition I expect you to show up. After all I took the time to be there, the directors took the time to be there, you should too. In the 6 years I've been doing this I've come to understand why employers don't like to hire actors and why actors have a reputation for being unreliable. This is the only industry I know of where it is perfectly acceptable to set up an interview time (I call them interviews because that's what they are, just like a desk job interview we want to see your skill set, meet you and decide if you will be a good match -- it's honestly no different than interviewing to be a teacher, a secretary or any other job) so this is the only industry where you can set up an interview time, confirm that time, sometimes even have an email exchange with me and then not show up at all and not really think anything of it. It's quite aggravating really. I actually schedule people 3-5 per 15 minute time slot because I know that statistically maybe 1 will show up. Speaking of stats, from our last round of auditions: On a Tuesday Night, between 7:30 and 10pm I had 60 people ask for an audition of those 60, 27 confirmed they would be coming (the other 33 didn't respond at all, is it really that hard to hit the decline button on the website?) of the 27 that confirmed 14 showed up. Of the 14 that didn't show up I heard from 4 of them over email. If you don’t want to audition simply hit decline or send a quick email. It will take you around 2 minutes and make you look responsible.

#10B -- This is a tangent of #10 -- Thank you to the few of you that do send notes canceling your audition. But please be honest, or simply say you can't make it. Of the 4 people that cancelled on the Tuesday night above 3 of them used the good old "I have a family emergency" excuse. It's funny how on audition nights there seem to be a disproportionate amount of family emergencies among actors in LA. Tragic really, perhaps for the good of all these actor families we really shouldn't have auditions. It's simple, be honest, tell me you changed your mind, tell me a better offer came along, tell me that traffic sucks and you want to stay home but please leave your family out of it.

#11 Read the casting announcement before you submit. Now read it again – all of it this time. Know what you are getting into, look at the details…including audition dates. Don’t email me and ask for a different day, if we were seeing people other days I would list them in the notice. If it says Monday and Tuesday, guess what - that’s it. Pay attention to the times, if it says 7:30-10:30pm, don’t ask if you can come in at 2pm. I understand you really want to audition, but I can’t change the schedule to accommodate you, I’m sorry. Do some research on the play, please don’t ask me to explain the plot of Midsummer to you. I don’t want tell you all about Viola, that’s not why I’m sitting there. I don’t expect you to read every single play you audition for, but at least Google it, read Wikipedia, look at cliff notes, make just a bit of effort. I will gladly tell you whether they are looking for an angry Orsino or a cocky Orsino, but you have to show me you know who Orsino is first.

#12 If you are going to submit a video reel please for the love of all that is good make it something worth seeing...I didn't want to see a self recording from a computer placed at your feet of you doing the Marc Antony "Friends, Romans, Countrymen" monologue. If you feel you must do this, I ask first please reconsider this idea -- it's a bad one, second, don't act with your hands, third please make sure you can actually do Shakespeare. There are few things worse than badly filmed, badly hand acted, and badly spoken Julius Caesar.

So there you have it. My top twelve things I wish auditioning actors wouldn't do. And here's the thing, I wish they wouldn't do them not for my sake, quite frankly the twelve things listed above keep me entertained, I wish they do them to make themselves better representatives of their own careers and the acting community as a whole.