Tuesday, December 1st
My motto for the first day of December…
Wednesday, December 2nd
Casting director Kathy Laughlin is a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City, a member of “The Casting Society of America” and also a member of SAG-AFTRA. Kathy has been casting and teaching since 1979 in Tampa. She has booked actors on too many jobs to count and has been a driving force in Florida. She strives for perfection in actors and we both hold the same philosophy of “No Excuses”!
Special thanks to Kathy for her contribution to “The Agent Diaries”
I have been asked to write an article regarding the importance of character development.
As a casting director and acting teacher here in Florida since 1979, I have seen things change and change dramatically. We used to have time to send out a breakdown, set the casting, cast and then do a callback. In some cases, we can still do that but, with the advent of uploads and the expedience of the casting process a lot has changed.
I send out the breakdown to the agents. I also use social media sites and wait for agents to respond or I can request actors, if I know the talent and trust the agent, otherwise we will review headshots and resumes. If you have a reel or website, we will also look at that to make a determination as to whether or not we will proceed any further to the next step but, here comes the rub…
What if your audition does not show you in different energies and you are the same in everything you do? This brings me to my point, let’s talk about the importance of your character development.
Watch European actors and you will be able to see that they can develop involved and dynamic characters. HOW? Most work in externals. Now what is an external? Simple explanation is:
1) An animal
3) Another person
4) An inanimate object
Now I understand that I just confused you. When I first met and worked with Eric Morris, I also was confused. I read his book ‘Irreverent Acting” and it started to become clear to me but, it was in workshopping with my students and pushing them to work in all of their subpersonalities that it became obvious to me about the importance of character development. Example, I have some actors that I have trained that I call “Pussy Cats” BUT, they book in darker energy all the time. As a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in NYC, I can and will recommend that you read good books on related subjects as to character development then get into an ongoing class and work with other actors. Keep a journal on the characters that you are developing and how you are doing it.
I recently received an email from a casting director in Louisiana who told me she had a chance to see one of my students in an energy that she had never witnessed or expected from that actor. As a result, she requested the actor to audition. Up to that time, she had only seen him as a bad tough guy but, after seeing his work in a showcase, she gave him a chance to show off his comedic skills and he booked the job!
To be honest, I have read most books on acting and I highly recommend “Irreverent Acting” by Eric Morris (Johnny Depp studied with Eric). Watch the film “Black Mass” and you will understand why developing a character is important for an actor as well as the casting director that may someday recommend you for a part.
Please stay in a class and grow. I always tell my students that “acting is a lot like playing tennis, the more you do the better you get BUT, you can’t play tennis alone”, YOU CAN’T ACT ALONE! Actors who consistently train are able to work on different energies to develop characters to keep in their library which they can from pull for auditions. The audition IS NOT the place to stretch, class is. An actor prepares, now work on yourself and prepare!
Thursday, December 3rd
The “IT” Factor. Do you ever wonder why some people have “it” and others don’t. Bill Clinton, George Clooney and Jennifer Lawrence have “it”. It is a mysterious factor that makes people like you. People with the “it” factor stand out in a room like a magnet, command attention, have positive energy as well as personal charisma, have genuine appeal and the ability to draw attention without trying. It can be a combination of personality traits you are born with that makes you radiate from the inside out. I also believe that pheromones play a major role. Pheromones is a secreted or excreted chemical factor that triggers a social response in members of the same species. You are either born with it or not. If I could bottle and sell pheromones I could retire. While you may not have been born with the pheromone gene, there is a lot you can do to draw attention to yourself in a positive manner. Besides good body language, actively listening and caring what other people have to say and give them your full attention. Make eye contact. Conversation is a two-way street. Remember a person’s name and use it in the conversation. First impressions count. Always keep the three P’s in mind, polished, poised and prepared. While you might not get the job, leaving a positive impression at an audition or callback will ensure the casting director and/or producer will not forget you I will quote Maya Angelou, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Friday, December 4th
It has been a great week at the agency! Alkoya Brunson is in Atlanta working on the feature film “A Meyer’s Christmas”; Robert Herrick worked on “Ballers” in Miami this week and Steve DuMouchel booked a role shooting next week; Will Haze and Vivian Fleming-Alvarez are working on “Bloodline”; Mary Rachel Dudley booked a recurring role on the new show “Greenleaf” shooting in Atlanta. It sure paid off for Mary Rachel to change her flight plans to attend the callback. Ali Flores, Owen Harn, Vincenzo Hinckley, Derek Roberts, Lance Tafelski and Kristin Wollett booked the independent film “Random Tropical Paradise” filming on the west coast of Florida and Steve Garland is returning to work on “Bloodline” next week. I love it when a role ends up recurring! BTG actors are doing fantastic! Keep up the good work!
Vivian Fleming-Alvarez ready to rock & roll on “Bloodline”
Monday, December 7th
Casting director Jackie Burch is a force to be reckoned with. I love her fighting spirit and enthusiasm for the business. Her long list of credits include “The Breakfast Club”, “Sixteen Candles”, “Coming to America”, “Die Hard”, “Million Dollar Arm”, “Iron Man 3”, “Ant Man”, TV show “Constantine” and the blockbuster box office dynasty “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” and “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay 1 & 2”. Jackie has been nominated numerous times for The Casting Society of America’s “Artios Award”.
Special thanks to Jackie for her contribution to “The Agent Diaries”
Tell us about your background and how you got into casting.
I was a teacher for the deaf in my early twenties, in LA, and a friend of mine liked my disposition and asked if I would be his assistant. And it was a really lucky, natural fit. Within a few years I was casting my own movies and I LOVE WHAT I DO.
I left LA after my youngest graduated high school, I just felt done with it, wanted a new experience. A friend had mentioned Wilmington as being both beautiful and a place with industry so I took a redeye there, bought a house and moved. And then when the incentives were killed in North Carolina it lead me to Atlanta, which has been great.
What do you like best about casting?
Finding talent. It’s the most exciting thing to find someone new, give an actor their first break.
What recent projects have you worked on that have you found rewarding and challenging?
I was really happy with my work on Bessie (HBO)–Dee (Rees, writer/director) was fantastic to work with, and it was such a large cast. I thought everyone did a really wonderful job. But I always treat every project the same. If it’s a blockbuster comedy or an independent drama–I want the very best people in every role, even down to the one-liners.
What advice do you give to actors just starting out?
Study. And do research– make sure you’re studying with teachers that actually know what they’re talking about. There are a lot of unregulated hot shots down here that are being paid to give bad advice. And watch movies! Watch great old movies with great actors. Have an appreciation for the industry in which you’re trying to be part of. If you look at AFI’s list of best 100 movies and haven’t seen most of them then you aren’t doing your job. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.
What are some things you do not like actors to do in taped auditions or in the room?
I do not like actors to be broad. If you’re auditioning for me, I want you to be natural. Always.
Do you think improvisation skills are important?
Absolutely. And not just comedic improv. I see that more and more, directors who want actors who can think on their feet. A lot of times it’s not about the specific lines, it’s about the character, and if you can inhabit them in a natural way.
Other than talent what do you look for in an audition?
Essentially only talent. And if someone has an obviously bad attitude (or seems a bit crazy) then that’s important too. I don’t ever want to send an actor on set who will be problematic. I’m the first person they call when that happens – but it’s rare.
Do you fight for actors, when they are rejected by the director or producers?
Yes, very much, always have.
What type of headshots grab your attention? How much does a headshot help an actor get selected to audition?
Most of the headshots here are not good. They’re too posy, silly, cutesy. I see over a thousand people per movie, so I’ve learned to not judge by a headshot because even good actors here that I know are good will look like bad actors in their headshots. But yes, having a good one will stick out and I would always include. A good headshot is simple, straight on, where it looks like you, where your eyes are connecting. The ones of, “this is me as a nurse, this is me scary” etc., are very silly.
How do you like actors to communicate with you?
When I have a project, I release it through Breakdown and I accept submissions that way. There are a lot of great agents in the Southeast and it is not hard to get an agent here. In LA it can take years. I don’t like getting mail, save some trees.
Any advice for actors who don’t book as much as they want to and avoid burning out?
I think I would say to really take a look at why you want to be an actor. If it’s because of money or fame, that’s not sustainable. You need to love the process. Every audition is an opportunity, take it seriously, even if it is just for one line, and then forget about it. Once you audition it’s no longer your business.
Any general advice or pet peeves you would like to share?
Don’t shake someone’s hand if it’s sweaty. Do theater. Don’t get swept up in the nonsense. Be natural.
Tuesday, December 8th
I have made a new discovery today. I got out of my funk and depression over the non-union commercial market by working on two SAG national commercials for “Master Card” and “Lay’s” this week and booking SAG extras for a “Disney” commercial. It worked! I checked email this morning at 6:30, read the Lay’s breakdown, jumped out of bed to boot up the computer and went to work. Best therapy ever! Congrats to Tamara Austin and Tim Pulnik for booking “Master Card”. A, big thank you to the actors who had a 5:00 AM call time this morning to work as an extra at Disney. It brings back memories of the good old days and I know the actors were happy to see each other. One day an actor is working on film or television and the next day they are on set doing extra work for fun, money and health benefits. Oh, the life of an actor! Live long and prosper!
Ian Poulter and Tim Pulnik working on “Master Card”
Wednesday, December 9th
Congratulations to two films with Brevard Talent Group actors that were accepted for their world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. It is every filmmakers dream to have their project accepted at Sundance. It is a life changing opportunity and I am thrilled for all of the actors who will have the opportunity to be seen by important movers and shakers.
“The Birth of a Nation” cast by Lisa Mae Fincannon, directed and written and by Nate Parker. The film is set against the antebellum South. The story follows Nat Turner, a literate slave and preacher whose financially strained owner, Samuel Turner, accepts an offer to use Nat’s preaching to subdue unruly slaves. After witnessing countless atrocities against fellow slaves, Nat devises a plan to lead his people to freedom. Cast: Nate Parker, Armie Hammer, Aja Naomi King, Jackie Earle Haley, Gabrielle Union, Mark Boone Jr. AND BTG actors Alkoya Brunson and Hank Stone.
“Kate Plays Christine” cast by Mark Mullen and directed by Robert Greene. This psychological thriller follows actor Kate Lyn Sheil as she prepares to play the role of Christine Chubbuck, a Florida television host who committed suicide on air in 1974. Christine’s tragic death was the inspiration for Network, and the mysteries surrounding her final act, haunt Kate and the production. Congrats to BTG actors Zack Gossett and David Mackey.
Thursday, December 10th
Today has nothing to do with the biz. I want to talk about another one of my passions. My friends don’t call me “The Product Queen” for nothing! Trying out new products is fun and my daughters have no problem taking what I don’t like. I wanted to share a few of my favorites with you.
Clarisonic: Yes, it is expensive but, by far one of the best investments you can make to improve the quality of your skin. Recently they came out with a version especially for men. I have had mine for years. I don’t recommend a cheaper version from a different company. Treat yourself, your skin will be glad you did.
Clinique Brow Shaper: The first one I bought lasted me over ten years. The brush wore out before the product did. Cost is under $20.00 and comes in a variety of colors.
MAC Blot Powder: Whenever I watch an actors taped audition and they have a shiny face I think to myself “They need MAC blot powder”. It absorbs oil without leaving any color and gives your skin a nice matte finish.
Lush Bath Bombs: You can buy online or in stores. A hot bath is good for the soul. My sore muscles look forward to “lush” time after sitting all day in front of the computer.
Masks: My two favorites are – Rose Face Mask by Fresh and Pumpkin Enzyme Mask by Peter Thomas Roth. They are a little pricey but, last a long time, smell delicious and are worth every penny!
Baby wash cloths: They are smaller and softer to wash your make up off at night. I use a washcloth to remove makeup before I use my Clarisonic.
Obagi Professional Skin Care Line: This works great for fair skin and draws out any dark spots and brightens your skin. It is approximately a three-month plan that is best to use when you are not planning on being in the sun a lot.
Friday, December 11th
Lesson for the day: Learn to become proficient in skyping. Do not skype on a wireless device, i.e., iPad or iPhone. Make sure you are plugged in to a hard line so you have the best reception possible.
Two of my young actors had skype sessions today. One for a film in New York starring Richard Gere and Marisa Tomei and another for a film with JK Simmons shooting in Los Angeles. Pretty awesome, huh? Having the ability to skype saved the cost of airline tickets to attend the callback in person. If that is not a reason to learn how to skype, I don’t know what is. I would suggest using a skype name that is your own name, giving you another way to brand yourself.
It has been a great week for BTG actors! From working with a golden globe nominee, to having films with BTG actors selected to premiere at the Sundance film festival, to Julia Jordan attending the Directors Guild of America student film awards in New York City to MRD being approved by Oprah’s production company, Harpo Productions, to a skype session turning in to an in-person chemistry read. Life is good!
Mary Rachel Dudley on the set of “Greenleaf”
Monday, December 14th
Alkoya Brunson, a member of SAG-AFTRA, is having a great year! Alkoya’s instincts are always spot on and I love his old soul. Thanks to his supportive parents, Nikki and Alfonso, I have no doubt Alkoya will have a long career in the entertainment business and will be successful on whatever path life takes him.
How old were you when you started in the business and why did you want to pursue acting?
I started my career at the age of 7. I always wanted to be on TV ever since I was a little boy. I always watched the Disney and Nickelodeon stars. I’ve always had a passion for entertaining people.
I heard you are having a great time working on the feature film “A Meyers Christmas” in Atlanta. Tell me about your experience and about playing the role of Cameron.
I’ve had an amazing experience working with an all-star cast. I’ve learned a lot of new acting techniques. Cameron is a bookworm who likes a little humor here and there. I could relate to that character because I love to laugh and I do a lot of reading being homeschooled.
What do you like best about being an actor? The least?
My most favorite thing about being an actor is I get the chance to play different personalities and it gives me a chance to use my imagination. My least favorite thing about being an actor is leaving a fun set. I wish those type of jobs could last forever.
You have racked up quite the resume for a young performer. What has been your favorite project that you have worked on and why?
“A Meyers Christmas” is my favorite project. All the cast bonded like are family. We became more than co-workers, we actually became a family. My set parents really treated me as if I was there very own son.
What are your goals for the future?
My future goals include becoming a well-known actor, finish college, and eventually become a director.
What are you grateful for?
I am grateful first to God for allowing me to have such a successful career at the age of 13, my parents, an amazing agent, all of the casting directors, and directors that have helped me along my journey.
Any advice you can share with other young performers?
My advice to other young performers is to have passion, dedication, get your education, and keep working hard until you succeed. I would like to thank Traci for giving me an opportunity to share my story with other young actors.
Alkoya working on “A Meyers Christmas” with Danny Glover and Mo’Nique
Tuesday, December 15th
Another day in paradise! Same story, different day. Work, work and work until the sun sets.
Wednesday, December 16th
I had a great dinner last night with Robert Herrick. I wanted to pick his brain about stunt work and how an actor should handle a booking which ends up involving stunts on set. Robert has been an actor and stunt performer for 27 years and a proud member of SAG-AFTRA. If an actor reads the script or sides and sees there’s something that they might be asked or required to do, e.g. fight, getting shot, falling and they feel confident they can do that, then they should ask their agent BEFORE the shoot to contact production and ask if they would receive additional compensation or what is known as a “stunt bump”. The stunt coordinator might call the actor to ask about their experience and ability to do the stunt. On a legitimate production, no actor is going to be forced to do something they are uncomfortable with. They should speak up if they are but, the time to negotiate for additional pay is not on the set. Anything that requires some physicality with even a small risk of getting hurt is a stunt. The stunt coordinator will, more than likely, have a stunt person on standby to double the actor but, they might ask the actor if they think they can do it. The stunt coordinator is responsible for his stunt team, not the actors. The stunt coordinator has a set budget to work with and seldom, if ever, would give an actor a stunt bump. Be honest with the coordinator on your abilities. Don’t try to be a super hero and agree to do something you know you are not qualified to do. If it’s agreed that the actor can perform the stunt, then that’s the time to negotiate. Safety is number one. Stunt performers have spent countless hours training for that purpose. Don’t listen to other actors or stunt guys who think you should receive a bump in pay. Their opinion does not count or hold any weight. Actors have to pre-negotiate stunt adjustments or upgrades, and that grievances for such adjustments or upgrades have a 90-day expiration date to file a claim with the union. Don’t be upset if you do not receive a stunt bump. Look at this as an opportunity to learn something new and hopefully open doors for future work.
Thursday, December 17th
Ricky Wayne started in professional theater at the age of seven but, did not break in to film and television until 2008, when he was cast in the SyFy channel movie “House of Bones”. This would be his first lead role, playing a character named Tom Rule. Ricky is a member of SAG-AFTRA and Actors’ Equity and the proud father of Stefan. It is an honor to represent Ricky. He is always prepared and never makes up excuses on why he did not do his best. He always meets deadlines without failure. A DREAM FOR ANY AGENT!
Special thanks to Ricky for his contribution to “The Agent Diaries”
Preparing the Audition – One to Done
I asked Traci if I could write something for “The Agent Diaries” that might help actors that have been in the business for a short to moderate time (from a month to a year) and are relatively new to going on tape. This is also for those actors that have been doing it for a while, not booking and need a reminder.
Besides being an actor, I run a taping service in the Tampa area. It started out as something I did to help my fellow actor friends who needed to be put on tape for auditions; over time it grew into a business that I pretty much do full time between bookings. Thanks to the advent of self-taping, the process of auditioning has changed. Gone are the days you have to travel hundreds of miles for pre-reads in order to get a callback and then booked. However, I have noticed, that this is changing how the actor approaches the audition.
Now more than ever, actors have to be self-motivated and disciplined when it comes to preparing and executing their auditions. But they also have to have a quality about them when they go on tape that says they did not do 20-30 takes. A relaxed, confident and centered persona that almost always bleeds through no matter what type of character they are playing. Lately, I am noticing a huge difference in actors who are FULLY prepared and the actor who gets the copy and memorizes it 70%, works on the character a little bit but pretty much wings it when they get into my studio. There are a handful of actors that I have taped that can pull this off. But even those actors are selling themselves short from achieving the full richness and dynamic quality of their tapings to the fullest.
But the differences, due to competition out there, are making a difference. The actor that is unprepared, lacks certainty. It’s no wonder actors want 10 to 20 takes. They have to process in their mind what they think they would have wanted had they been prepared. About three years ago, I started noticing the habits and quality of actors that came in and knocked their auditions out of the park and/or were booking. I kept a mental log in my mind of what their qualities were. The commonalities among them were simple. The ones that were prepared, did one to three takes, were relaxed and focused, were the ones that were booking. But there was also another quality. They had fun doing it. There was a quality in them that said, “they need me more than I need them” and “this is effortless and fun”. Then when they were done, I could tell they were on to the next thing in their life. They were not worried if they would or would not book the job. I found this incredibly inspiring.
As a taping service, my job is to get your audition down on tape, render it to the CD’s specs and send it to your agent. My job is not to teach you how to act. I can help you establish eye lines, help you set some limited blocking that keeps you in frame, give you my opinion when asked and read for you. But I cannot teach you how to act in 30 minutes. Much the same as you cannot learn how to act in a weekend workshop. Or even in a month. (CDs do these to give you some basics of the business but, they are not meant to teach you a whole process of creating a character. I think most CDs will agree with me that this is not the purpose of a weekend intensive workshop.) To become a master in your craft, you have to study. You can’t bullshit your way through this. So if you have any question if you can act, this is going to affect your audition. I strongly recommend you get into an acting class right away. Develop and become intimately familiar with your own process. Until you do, you will never book consistently. And if you aren’t booking and are doing this, at least you know it’s not because you did not do your work to the best of your ability. If you’re not booking, go to class! Perform. Work. It will come when you stop putting out the NEED to book. If you put out good work in class and your auditions, you will book. I can honestly say, I have rarely seen an actor that does not study and fully prepare not book at least once a year. But I digress……
So you get that audition email from your agent. You think this could be THE big one. The first thing you do is….continue to do whatever it is your doing and think about it later. Wait….what? Too many actors are putting off their auditions and waiting until they have time which always ends up being the last minute. If you want to be a working actor, make your auditions a priority. While you are out and about doing your life, other actors have already sent in their tapes and might have already been seen by the CD. I can’t prove this, but I honestly believe in some subconscious way, those first actors that get their tapes in are helping to shape little by little what CD will pass and accept and how they see the embodiment of the character more clearly, beyond what the director and show runner may have told them.
You’re an actor. THIS is your job. Auditioning. For now. Get yourself into a position in your life that when you receive an audition you start the slow shift of dedicated, mindful thought about nothing else but that audition. Yes. It’s important to have balance in your life. Yes, it’s important to follow through with your day job and commitments. But I have noticed with other actors that I respect and admire, that there is an obsessive checklist that happens in their minds when they get that email. They start the process of doing these things without realizing it. You should not stop thinking about it consistently until you are walking out of the audition taping studio. So, what do you actually think about?
I’ll get to that. But first, allow me to try to give you a paradigm shift in your mind about this whole process. First of all, do yourself a favor: stop calling it an “audition”. Call it what it is: It’s creating a character. The word “audition” intimates a test. It’s not a test. It’s a recording of you doing your one sided interpretation of the character from the a 1 to 3 scenes from the script – with none of the stimulus, other actors, sets and director. Look at it as an opportunity to show the severity of your ability to create and make it believable without all those distractions I just mentioned. Your focus should be on creating this reality on camera. Right out of the gate, you have a lot to overcome that has nothing to do with creating the character. But character is the bulk of the work. You have to create this living breathing person. If you don’t know how to create a character. Meaning, how to make this person real and true and personal to you, then get into an acting class. Immediately. Every actor should be constantly studying. I have studied the Eric Morris Process at Performers Studio Workshop for the past 8 years. Kathy Laughlin introduced me to the process and I have never looked back. This has been the foundation of my craft for over 7 years. If you DO know how to create a character, then you are in that group of actors that has a craft. It’s a good bet that if your agent has signed you, you know, on an instinctual level at the very least, your craft. That’s great. But instincts might get a you few bookings, but they will not help you to have a long career.
So what else, besides character, do you “think” about. I use that word loosely. Take notes. Do a video or audio log or diary. Here are some things: the tone of the show or director of the show or film you are auditioning for. What you are going to wear. When do you need to have it done by and is this going to be possible with your busy schedule. All of these things have to be flushed out in your mind. But, acting is doing after all. This is true. But there is something to be said for putting your best foot forward. Productivity is the basis of morale and the enemy of actors is fear. Worry. Stress. There is a meditative nature to thinking about The Work (yes I said it and yes it is overused) and checking them off in your head that relieves anxiety and stress. If it doesn’t relieve your anxiety and stress as you do these things, find a different business. Running a taping business going on 6 years now, I have seen so many actors who just simply don’t prepare. So here’s a checklist, a guide if you will, that you can use when you have an audition and make sure all of your bases are covered.
1. READ THE ENTIRE EMAIL. Don’t scroll over it. Read it. The breakdown. The deadline. The slating requirements. Who’s directing. Who’s starring. Where does it shoot. Get a picture in your mind of this ENTIRE project and the scope of your character within it. Are you pivotal to the whole script? Or are you helping the antagonist and protagonist propel the story forward by selling them a cup of coffee? Once you know all of this, and it is something you can do, respond and accept or decline the audition. My opinion: With the amount of actors moving to the Southeast and Atlanta poised to surpass New York in filming in 10 years (in my opinion), at this point, you should not be declining any auditions. Ever. Do every single one. Even if you feel you are not right for the role or if it’s too small. Just do it. Remember, it’s your opportunity to create a character. To show what you can do. To act. Which is what you want to do. This is the endgame. When I started looking at bookings as my blissful work vacation/reward for all of the hard character work I did with my auditions, I enjoyed the audition work so much more.
2. SET YOUR CREATING AND TAPING TIMELINE. Every taping service has their own requirements but, I prefer actors text me with a date and time preference right out of the gate. A schedule it based on the REALISTIC amount of time you will need to create the character, memorize the lines, research the project and do the taping. The goal is to get done within 24 hours. For me, I know that for every page of copy, I estimate about 30 minutes of prep time for everything. So, for a 5 page audition, I will plan 2.5 hours of prep time. Sometimes it’s an hour a page, sometimes 2. It all depends on how deep you want to go. But the deeper you go, the more confidant you will feel when you walk in to do your audition. If I know I will busy that night, I will set the time to tape AFTER I have blocked off 2.5 hours to prep the next day. This is important. If you do a little preparation research you will discover A LOT about the project. I can promise you this will change the audition had you not done any of the research.
3. RESEARCH. Once you have set your appointment, now you need to research the project. Start with:
a. SYNOPSIS OF THE PROJECT. This should be in the email. If it’s not, Bing and google are our best friend. Identify the overarching purpose and themes of the show. If it has not come out yet, take a look around currently airing TV and film, you can bet that this project is dove tailing off a vibe that another popular show created. Use that show as a reference point. Who do you think the target audience is going to be? What’s the genre? What channel will it be on? This is also a good time to research the writer a little. But I have found that most writers are so diverse in their voice, especially in TV, it is hard to see them through their writing. Some TV writers, have an unmistakable rhythm to their work (Aaron Sorkin). But most are really good at fitting into the rhythm of that show. Once you’ve done this little bit of research, then make some assumptions about the grit or lack thereof that needs to be in the character.
b. DIRECTOR AND/OR THE SHOW. Look up some clips of other things that same director has done. This is especially important for film. In TV, most directors are a road warriors jumping from show to show, so this is not as important. But, I always like to watch one or two things that director has done in order to check that directors ability to think outside the box and if they like actors or not (yes, you can tell). If you do not like watching TV shows, figure out a way to get yourself to like it. I can tell you, ACTORS THAT WATCH TV/FILMS BOOK MORE THAN ACTORS THAT DON’T. Some shows are slower paced in method and unraveling the story (Bloodline). Some are all about getting out information well (CSI). In some, character is paramount (The Vampire Diaries). And even still, some shows are all of these things. The important thing is to get the TONE of the show. Take for example the show Rectify. I call this a tone poem of the south. There is a cadence to the show that is unmistakable. It is nuanced and hyper realistic. It takes some thoughtful intention to really get what this show is about as a whole. This will affect how your character fits in this particular show and the choices you make when you go on tape for it. This is an example of a less is more approach. Nuanced subtle choices in the character. Clean and effortless.
c. THE BREAKDOWN. Underline the active description words in the character breakdown. Words like joyful, scary, brave, cut throat, etc. Don’t cling to these words for dear life. Just make sure you know their definitions. Then let it go. The character and script you create should do this work for you. Read it over and over again. Read it out loud. Read it to your reader.
d. OTHER ACTORS IN THE SHOW.
e. THE SCRIPT. If your agent sent you sides for other characters, read those too. Jot down little notes that help you understand what is happening, help set the tone for the project and where you see the story going. This will help you to understand how important, or not, your character is to the story. The other thing this does is helps you to see the other character(s) you might be talking too. This might shed some light on their relationship with this world the writer is trying to create and by proximity, their interactions with you. Read all stage directions, notes, stuff that’s crossed out. Knowledge is power.
4. CREATE THE CHARACTER. Everyone has their own process. I’m not going to go into how to create characters. So assuming you have created the character, one thing you MUST do is live IN the character for a while. Drive to work in that character’s mindset. Go to Target. Walk around in it. Smooth out the edges. It should feel cleaner and effortless the more you do it. Many actors come and get into their wardrobe when they arrive to tape. I understand the practicality of this. However, you would be surprised how much wearing your wardrobe choice for an afternoon or night will throw you into the character. Just something to think about. Your ability to feel at home in a nurse’s uniform, a waitress’ apron or a District Attorney in an expensive suit, speaks volumes to your confidence. Try it. There is a social obligation that people have that prevent them from doing this. But, your ability to pull that off in public is a kin to some family’s ability to watching you on TV. So screw the social obligations. Book the role. This DOES not mean go out and spend money on costumes. Obviously, there are some exceptions to this and it just can’t be done. But most of the time you can. And it is fun! Arrive in wardrobe to your tapings.
5. COMMIT THE COPY TO MEMORY. Memorize the lines. Know them backwards and forwards. Memorize them with someone else. Part of memorizing the lines is knowing the other lines, or your cue lines with it. Do not memorize the lines before you create the character. Rather, use the lines as jumping off point when you create the character and then fine tune it when you memorize. You will be surprised how much easier it is to memorize the lines if you have created the character first. I am often shocked how people think that 99% of the taping is just being able to say the lines without messing up. I tell you that an ounce of character work is worth a pound of memorization. All of that being said, make sure you are memorized. It is not the person who is taping you job to help you memorize the lines.
6. ESTABLISH YOUR EYELINES. This is critical. Stand a broom upside down. That’s the camera. Now place the 1, 2 or 3 people you are talking to on either side of the camera. Get to know them. Make sure you know their names. Then practice this with the copy. Establish, set and confirm your eye lines. Sometimes it’s best to put people you are talking to on both sides if you are talking to two or more people. But the main thing is, we MUST see your eyes. So they can’t be too far away from the camera. Everything you do has to favor your eyes in a taping. Everything has to be cheated. If you are talking to a patient in a bed, the patients bed has to be higher than normal for the purpose of being able to see the eyes. This also speaks to the time and place. Establish the place you are in and cheat your relation to others in that room to favor your eyes always being toward frame. Also, and this is a biggie, work on not blinking. Practice it. Often. Watch Juliana Margulies in The Good Wife (one of my favorite guilty pleasures). She never blinks. She is so dialed into this character that the inner life of the character and the wheels turning is always there. You don’t see it when as much when actors blink. Blinking is a sign of insecurity.
Some actors like to use the reader, as one of their eye lines, some don’t. Some actors are so good at imaging their personal choices in front them, that I step aside and let them do their thing. Some actors need the stimulus. I think it depends on the actor. Some people will say that you HAVE to be looking at someone, and I used to think the same way. Then I spent 3 weeks acting in a film where, due to the nature of the shoot, the other actors I was talking to were off and not present for my coverage and I had to eye line a PA, tree, dark of night, whatever. Often times, I did not know this was the case ahead of time and at first it was nerve racking. But it grew my ability to see people with my imagination so well that I no longer judge an actor who can do this.
7. PROPS. In general, actors like to use props. I think it helps them see and feel the environment. There is also something to be said for an actor keeping busy. After all, how often do you see someone in real life not multitasking with something in there hands nowadays? Some CD’s don’t care about props. Others are strict about no props. If they say not to use props, then don’t use them. But if they don’t care, use props that help you fulfill the obligations of the copy. But don’t overdo it. Keep it simple. I feel there are 3 examples that are exceptions to this. Guns, smokes and phones. I find it very distracting when an actors entire scene is spoken into the cell phone and they don’t use a phone. Or pointing a gun, and using their hand. Or the breakdown says, she is a “chain smoker” and the actor doesn’t show they know their way around a cigarette. Your ability to believably smoke or handle a gun (or not be handle to a gun in some cases), if you are playing a terrorist for example, is a huge part of the audition if the breakdown and script specifically call for it. Just make sure the gun is not in your face, or real. I have a fake gun loaner that actors can use. Always ask yourself, what is more distracting, having the prop, or not having it. This also goes for earrings, make-up, patterns and logos on shirts and entrances and exits. If it is going to shift my eye down from yours while I am watching your tape as a CD, avoid it.
8. TECHINCAL STUFF. when you come to tape your audition, I need to know 4 things:
a. Slating instructions: this means what you say in the slate and where it goes in relation to the audition. Get it down before you arrive.
b. File labeling instructions: this means how the file I am sending to your agent is to be labeled.
c. How many takes do they want.
d. How they want to files prepared. Takes in separate files? Slate separate? Etc.
9. RELAX. Before you arrive. Take 5 minutes. Take deep breathes. Relax. If you’re prepared, it SHOULD be fun. It will be fun because you are doing your bliss. Do this even if you are late. (please try not to be late.) Relaxation causes you to dial in on your vision. This will allow you to come in and knock it out of the park. Also, in regards to number of takes. If it takes you more than 5 takes to do the scene, you did not prepare enough. I do not charge by time. So we do it until you get where you want it to be. But, you should know exactly what you want to accomplish before you tape. What you want it to look like. Feel like. What you want the reader’s cadence to be. You can direct me as the reader. I don’t mind. But you should be able to visualize everything. Anything less than that is still preparing and not meant for the taping room. So the only reason to do take after take is if it’s not what you wanted from a technical stand point. Other than that, you watching it pretending you’re the casting director, or from the director’s mindset is a waste of time. You have no idea what they are thinking. You never will. In my opinion, the definition of talent in this day and age is being able to prepare the audition FULLY and completely in the time you have allowed yourself to tape it. It is not enough to be good. You have to be a good time manager as well.
10. FORGET ABOUT IT. After your done, text or call your agent and let them know your audition is done and on it’s way and then, do not think about it. I don’t even watch my auditions unless I am told I was way off the mark or they want a re-tape. You should watch your tapes back to make sure they were prepared properly, etc. But other than that, Let. It. Go. Don’t ask for feedback. Consider your invitation to tape again from that CD as feedback that they like you and want you to try something else. If you did your best, worked hard on preparing the audition and had a good time, there is nothing left do. If you are second guessing yourself after the fact, you did not prepare enough. If you are a wreck waiting for the call to see if you booked, you are in the wrong business. If you feel you were not “in it” enough and wish you could redo it, then you are responding to a fear. Give yourself more credit that you can hide that better than you think. But all you are doing is saying that you have not perfected your craft enough to feel confident enough that you can book. If you feel like you are entitled to a booking because of how much you go on tape, you’re missing the point. THE WORK is the preparation. The preparation is the hundreds of characters you will create over the course of time. Getting to spend a week or two on set is just an elongated version of creating that characters you prepare in auditions.
Thanks for reading this. I hope it helps. Attack those auditions with your time and talent. Don’t put them on the back burner. -Ricky Wayne
Friday, December 18th
It is the time of year to start thinking about your “New Year’s Resolutions”. We can all count on personal resolutions such as taking better care of our health but, you also need to think of business resolutions so you can start the new year out by challenging yourself in 2016!
The following are some resolutions I would love for all actors to make:
Quit procrastinating. JUST DO IT! Get your auditions in as soon as possible. It never fails the same actors that get their auditions in at the last minute are the ones I can bet that there will be issues such as file size, not following instructions, bad quality…the list goes on and on. DON’T BE THAT ACTOR! If you want your agent to believe in you and continue to represent you, do everything possible to make their job easier.
Sign up for an acting class and/or workshop. If you are pursuing auditions for film and television you MUST train or you will not be able to improve and become a better actor.
Do not contact your agent after 3:00 on Friday unless it is an emergency. This goes for text, email or phone call. Ask yourself, can this wait until Monday? If the answer is yes, then by all means wait until Monday. The job of an agent is mentally challenging and never ends. Not having to deal with nonemergency issues after 3:00 on Friday will give your agent time to wrap up the week so they can start their weekend, regroup and look forward to next week. I will speak on behalf of all agents who need time away from their job and a life outside of the business, giving your agent time off is the best gift in the world!
Take care of business. It is your career, not your agent’s. If you need new headshots, your reel and resume updated, whatever it might be, please take care of it before your agent asks you to. I have had an actor, this entire year, that needs to have his reel updated. I frequently remind him of this and it still baffles me as to why it has not been done. It takes nine months for a baby to be born but, in 12 months, a reel is not finished? Trust me, actors like this are going to be left in the dust and they are the first to whine “Why am I not booking more?” It just might be that your agent is tired of waiting for you to take charge of your career, when the actors who are, are the ones who end up booking and keeping them in business. Remember show business is two words!
Get busy…start planning your resolutions TODAY! A new year is right around the corner!
Monday, December 21st
Lori Wyman has been a casting director for film, television and commercials since 1979. Lori is a member of the Casting Society of America and has given thousands of actors the opportunity to work and get their SAG card. Casting credits include “Ballers” and “Bloodline” currently shooting in South Florida, “Graceland”, “Burn Notice”, “The Glades”, “Magic City”, “Dolphin Tale” and “Dolphin Tale 2”, all shot in Florida. For a complete list go to www.imdb.com. Lori is a great teacher and motivational speaker, a Florida native and a proud mother to Ali. I credit Lori for encouraging me to be an agent and become SAG-AFTRA franchised.
Special thanks to Lori for her contribution to “The Agent Diaries”
Tell us about your background and how you got into casting.
I have been in casting since 1979, when I started working for one of the biggest talent agencies at the time, ACT I. I was fresh out of college and this was an entry level job. The job description was “filing and typing” but, I knew that you had to start somewhere in order to get into the film business and that’s where I wanted to be so, I was thrilled to take the job. Filing and typing turned into filing, typing, calling actors for castings, doing comp pulls, putting actors on tape and booking actors. I learned so much. After five years of working in the agency, I wanted to become a casting director. I wanted more of a hand in deciding who would actually be submitted to the clients. After that decision, I started to work for the casting company that was handling the Miami Vice television series. I worked for that company for two seasons and then the producer approached me directly and said, “Leave there and I guarantee you the ‘Vice’ account!” The rest is history!
You recently received your master’s degree in Interdisciplinary Arts with a concentration in drama therapy. Why did you decide to go back to college and have you been able to use your new degree in casting and teaching?
I went back to college because I had always wanted a doctorate. I had to start somewhere. My goal was to get a degree in something that I could use to benefit actors with their audition anxiety. Over the years, I find the biggest problem the actor faces when auditioning is himself. I have seen actors completely blow auditions when they should have booked the job because of what that little voice in their head is telling them. When I visited NSU in South Florida, they told me about this program in drama therapy and it really resonated with me. I was casting three TV shows at the same time so, I only took one class at a time for my masters. It took me three years to complete and I proudly got a 4.0. I have used many of the tools that I have learned with actors. It is amazing. One girl came to me who, all of a sudden, got nervous on sets. We spoke for maybe 1/2 an hour and she left my office. She contacted me a few weeks later telling me that her set anxiety had been relieved. The drama therapy is pretty powerful stuff.
What do you enjoy most about casting? The least?
Of course my favorite part of the casting process is when I get to book an actor for a role. I am currently casting Bloodline for Netflix and Ballers for HBO. I have had the opportunity to book so many local actors for roles on both shows and many of these roles have turned in to recurring roles. The joy and excitement these actors exhibit really delights me, too.
The least? When an actor messes up an audition or doesn’t book and blames it on ME. I always tell the actor, LOOK IN THE MIRROR! I am not the reason you didn’t book. Really I’m not!
What advice do you give to actors just starting out?
STUDY, STUDY, STUDY!!! Take any role you can, to start out with. Watch and listen when you are on the set. Don’t chat with everyone. Watch what the AD’s and the director are doing. LEARN!!! Make sure everything you do is with professionals in the business. For example, get your headshots with a professional headshot photographer. Don’t try to save money by using your friend’s brother’s uncle who happens to be handy with a camera. Do it right!!!
What are your favorite projects you have worked on that were rewarding and challenging?
One of the best projects I’ve worked on was HBO’s RECOUNT! This was the story of the 2000 presidential election. I cast over 80 roles, which is huge for a local casting director. Many of these actors had to look like the role they were portraying. For example, Al Gore, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, George Bush, and so on. So not only did I have to find great actors, they also had to look like the roles they were portraying. I was nominated for an EMMY for this show and I won the prestigious ARTIOS casting award.
I also loved working on Dolphin Tale and Dolphin Tale 2. The film was so sweet and so many people were hired. The director and producer were very good to work with.
I remember when we went to the location expo and the American Film Market in Santa Monica years ago. Back in the day when film commissioners attended the convention to pitch locations, not when it was about the best incentive programs. Did you ever think when you started casting, when Florida was third in the nation for film production, that our state would turn into the market it has become? What is your opinion on the future for the sunshine state?
I think everything is cyclical – meaning, it will come back. Back in the early 90s Georgia was booming. They had so many TV shows and films. And then, it all dried up. Georgia had nothing going on in their state as far as filmmaking. It was even rumored that the unions would never work there again. HAHA! Now look at them! I do believe Florida will hit their stride again. People LOVE filming in Florida. The weather, the locations, the flavor. We have so many interesting locations all over the state. They will be back!
How do you like actors to communicate with you? (Postcards, social media)
ALL of it! I am on Facebook and I cannot tell you how many actors I have cast from Facebook. If I am not getting the submissions I need from the agents, I will post what I am looking for on Facebook. Last season on Bloodline, I was looking for a couple of younger versions of certain actors for flashback scenes. The agents didn’t seem to have anyone for this. I posted on Facebook and, like magic, the submissions poured in. I found everyone I needed. I do not mind if actors want to email or snail mail me postcards or notes. I’ll look at it all.
Any advice on actors for under-five roles?
Well, you never know what a few lines can lead to. We have several recurring roles on Bloodline, for example, that started out as just a few lines. There is no such thing as a small role. You just never know where it will lead. BUT, if you say NO, then it will lead NO where!
Do you have any suggestions for actors taping their auditions to help them make the next step in being sent to producers for consideration?
Make sure the tape you send in is a good tape. Clean background, no outside noise, GREAT reader with the actor (very important), good lighting, good sound. Recently we had an actor send in his self-tape. I have cast him numerous times over the years so, I presumed his tape would be good. Apparently, he didn’t have anyone to read with him and he asked his wife to do the honors. She, quite obviously, was NOT an actress. She was so bad that it brought the whole audition down. My associate was watching the tapes with me and her comment was, “WOW, how to shoot yourself in the foot!” and he had! Actors don’t realize how very important it is that the person reading with you from behind the camera really makes a difference.
Any advice for actors who don’t book as much as they want to and avoid burning out?
I don’t think any actor books as much as they want to – including Hollywood stars. We always want more and more. I say do NOT give up. You just never know when tomorrow is your time to book. Yes, it can be very discouraging to tape and tape and tape with no results. I get that. But if you stop taping you are sure to fail. If you keep on going after it, the law of averages says you will get something.
Any general advice or pet peeves you would like to share?
Of course I have a few pet peeves. PLEASE do not come into a casting office with perfume or cologne on. I am finding more and more casting directors discourage this as many people are allergic. ALWAYS be memorized when you go on an audition. Your audition will look SO MUCH BETTER if you don’t have to keep looking down and up. PLEASE BE ON TIME for your audition if you are going in to meet the CD.
AND….do not disrespect your agent or the casting director on social media and then wonder why they don’t want to see you in their office anymore. Once you put anything out there on Facebook, for example, many thousands of people will have access to it, you cannot take it back once you hit send. Think twice before you do that.
Tuesday, December 22nd
This is one of the reasons I love being an agent, making a difference in someone’s life
Wednesday, December 23rd
This is the last day for “The Agent Diaries”. Writing the blog has been very cathartic for me. This would not have been possible without my editor, Mary Rachel Dudley. She made me delete some bad language, let’s be honest, a lot of bad language I wrote when I was mad and venting but, I insisted on keeping the word “balls” in once, maybe twice. I also want to thank Tom Hillmann for posting the blog, the guest contributors Jackie Burch, Lisa Mae Fincannon, Tyler Grasham, Tom Hillmann, Tracy Kilpatrick, Kathy Laughlin, Chase Paris, John Peros, Peggy Sheffield, Ricky Wayne and Lori Wyman; the twenty members of “The Agent Diaries” fan club and David and Krista Kelley. Without their support and enthusiasm, I would have thrown in the towel a long time ago! THANK YOU to the hundreds of actors I have represented throughout the years and to the parents of young performers for being on this wild and crazy ride together! And, to the amazing friends I have made, you know who you are. I hope you have enjoyed reading the diaries and learned valuable information that will help you be the best “you” in your career. I made a pact with myself in January that I would make it through the year. Today is the last day I am in the office before the holidays so, I will say, “It’s a Wrap”. Best wishes to you and your loved ones for a joyous and safe holiday season!
Cheers to 2016! May it be your best year yet! Traci