It’s an argument that comes up a lot. “Do I pay to be seen by a Casting Director (CD) in an organised workshop, or not.” Actors fork out money left and right and we never know where our next pay cheque is coming from. So do we spend that last months corporate job cashola on being seen by the person who may or may not get us into the casting room.
Wooaaah. Maybe that’s the issue right there. “To get us into the casting room”. If you’re doing the workshop purely for the benefit of getting into an audition then you’re probably doing it for all the wrong reasons. If that is your soul purpose for spending that money, you’ll likely find you’ll be disappointed. Full stop.
However, if you are open to a bigger game plan about why you should attend Casting Director workshops, then there is merit in them. I honestly believe that. And don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t always an advocate of them. I came into this part of the acting business kicking and screaming. But then I worked out why they can be useful and how to make them work for me personally. (And this comes from a girl who now helps offer Q&A’s with many different industry people on a monthly basis as part of the Tweetups – so trust me, I really honestly hand-on-my-heart get the value of not wanting to charge actors too much).
You as an actor are running a business. Your job is to know your USPs, to know your casting type, to know the roles you would be right for, who is casting what and why you’d be perfect for it, and what Casting Directors like and don’t like. And how can you possibly know that last point unless you hear it directly from them. You can’t find out if you don’t know them or haven’t met them or have never been seen by them.
The other important thing to note is what you DO in that room while you’re taking in all these awesome pieces of information they have to share. Here are some of my absolute do’s when you turn up to a Casting Director workshop:Attending a Casting Director workshop is the start of creating your little black CD book. It is your rolodex (remember them!!) for every CD you want to meet. A Casting Director workshop will give you an insight into how they run their office. They’ll likely share what they’re casting, what they’ve just cast, how they draw their lists up, how they like to be contacted, how they want to be approached by actors and even sometimes, which agents they chat to the most.
What they have to share is MUCH more important than you rattling off your CV and achievements to the classroom. Listen more, speak less.
2. Know your lines:
This one shocks me time and time again. Actors come into the workshops and they haven’t learnt their lines for the piece they’re going to do in front of the CD. If you’re not willing to prepare properly for this performance, how are they to trust you will if/when they actually do bring you in for a real audition? This is your chance to demonstrate that you can get off book, that you make interesting choices and that you value their time. Give yourself the best possible chance by knowing your lines. **
3. Ask relevant questions:
Referring on from point 1, try to ask a question that doesn’t involve you starting with an epic story about the last job you were on. Ask a short, well constructed, well thought out question. If we know you’re using the question as a chance to brag, then they’ll see right through your waffle too.
4. Calm down:
They’re just a person. They’re just someone who goes home and watches the television, has a glass of wine from time to time if they’re so inclined, has family, might have kids. I repeat, they are just a person. Don’t make them mean the whole world. Treat them in a relaxed manner as you would any other professional. Show them that you are their equal, not a bumbling mess of the person you were before you arrived. Be cool like a cucumber.
And finally 5. Have a fun fact ready:
CDs love to ask you something about yourself. Chances are they’ve already seen your CV when they prepped for the workshop, so tell them something they don’t know. I’ve often used stories about rock climbing when I’ve been asked about myself, both in auditions and in castings. I get a much more interested response than reeling off my Spotlight credits.
So get out there and grow your black CD book. There’s always merit in better knowing and understanding the people who cast us. I’ll have more on where you can find these workshops in a future post.** caveat for American actors: the UK CDs often say they prefer people to be off book. It’s also widely suggested that in LA you are fine to have your script in hand at an audition and to read from it. Please consider this if you’re based outside of the UK. But again, if you know your lines you have time to really enjoy getting into the character’s head in full and committing to making excellent choices.