Casting Tips

After many years as a casting director here are some hints and tips I have learnt along the way.

Marketing For Actors

13 Apr 2017, Posted by Nicci in Casting Tips

With every job there are the fun things and the dull things; the things that you love to do and the things that just need doing.

And while I’m sure you’d all rather be talking to Sam Mendes about your character arc, treading the boards at the RSC or even filming a commercial or doing a panto, sadly life can’t always be so. There are other things you need to do.

There are some obvious things that you need do that I’m sure are in your radar like keeping fit, working to pay your rent, and even doing your tax return, but the one thing that is often not considered by actors is marketing. And just to be clear by marketing I don’t mean updating your Twitter feed about the lack of kale in your superfood salad or re-tweeting other actors bitching and moaning. I mean MARKETING!

Something that cannot be stressed enough is that you are a business and like any other business you need to promote yourself in a positive light. There are lots of great resources on the t’interwebs about marketing for freelance creatives, graphic designers and web developers, (and no doubt some about marketing for actors too) but I thought I would add my thoughts on this too.

Marketing Plan

So if I was in business and I had a product to market, the first thing I would do is sit down and write a plan for a marketing campaign and you’re no different.

I saw you do a double take didn’t I? You just thought I said you should write a marketing plan didn’t you? By the holy Saint Leo of Di Caprio. WTF!

No, your eyes didn’t deceive you. I did indeed just say you should write a Marketing Plan.

Even if you are not a confident writer please don’t skip this. It doesn’t have to be War and Peace it can be a paragraph and some bullet points, but you do need something to refer to on a DAILY basis as you push forward to achieve your goals. Please don’t just rush in. You need to spend a little time strategising and asking your self some key questions so you are not wasting your efforts on something that will not further your ends. Then write it down and keep referring back to it.

The first questions I would ask are:

  1. What is my product?
  2. Campaign Goals: What do I want to REALISTICALLY achieve in this campaign?
  3. When by?
  4. What marketing assets do I need for the campaign?
  5. What channels should I use to market ‘the product’?

1. What is My Product?

Obviously in your case the product is you.

2. Campaign Goals

In traditional business and product marketing there might be loads of reasons to embark on a marketing campaign: brand building, sales and education amongst others. And guess what? You are no different so you have to ask yourself what you want to achieve from your campaign – but please bear in mind this has to be REALISTIC!

Don’t give yourself an impossible target of being the lead in the next Wes Anderson movie or starring in a play on Broadway. This has to be ACHIVEABLE and within the time frame of your campaign. If not you will just set yourself up to fail and then beat yourself up and lose confidence

Some ideas for your campaign goal could include getting:

  • An agent,
  • Your first role,
  • On Spotlight,
  • A role in a film or a short
  • Or making the transition from a supporting role to a leading role.

Only you know what this goal can be, but ideally it needs to be the NEXT step up in your career. Just to nag, and this bears repeating, don’t be too ambitious and make sure it is achieveable.

3. Campaign Length

How long should your ‘Campaign’ last? It needs to be short enough to keep you focused on achieving it, but long enough that it is possible to do so bearing in mind you have a life to lead and often another job to do. Again only you will know what this time is, but 3 months feels like a good time to me! J

4. Marketing Assets

Before you set off on your marketing campaign there are certain marketing ‘assets’ that I think are vital in this current climate if you are to succeed:

Web Site

Make sure you invest time (and money if possible) in a professional looking site that shows you in your best light. If you can’t afford a professional web designer consider services like wix.com that offer really great templates that are easily customisable without being a programmer. And all for less than the cost of one Skinny Latte a month! Which ever route you go down make sure that the site is ‘responsive’ and scales smoothly to different screen sizes without breaking the design.

Head Shots

This is IMPERATIVE. Whatever else you do invest in some great headshots. Nothing more to say really.

CV

Make sure that this us up to date and is laid out in a manner that is both clear and appealing to the eye. I do understand that if you’re at an early stage in your career getting a compelling CV can be difficult to achieve. But if you are at this stage, then the goal of your current marketing campaign becomes crystal clear. Get more work. Even if you have to work on student films do what it takes to get some experience.

Show Reel

Again very difficult earlier on in your career, so the same caveat applies as for the CV, but if you are starting to get more roles then get permission from the rights owner to include all your work in a show reel.

This can be on Vimeo, You Tube or a quicktime movie hosted on your website it doesn’t matter to me, but whatever please do your best on this it certainly makes a difference. Sometimes I will look at a show reel before I cast and sometimes even after the casting session. If you’re not quite right for the role you have read for then maybe I will be able to see something in your show reel for one of the other roles.

Social Media

This isn’t a deal breaker and although some producers favour casting actors that have a social following to help promote the project I am not suggesting that this is the reason to participate in social media. IMHO when done right active instagram and twitter accounts become great shop fronts to promote your talent and I can understand a little bit more about the actor and suitability to the role. But BE AWARE that whatever you do post can come back to haunt you later, so think before you post

5. Marketing Channels

Now you have decided what your goal is and you have your assets you need to find out the best channels to further your gains. These can be online and offline. If this is to get your first role in an independent film then maybe you need to be networking with filmmakers and getting on their radar, if it is to get some traction with a casting director maybe you should attend some casting workshops.

Start to create a database of contacts who can help facilitate your goal: casting directors, filmmakers etc and deliver short, targeted emails with a call to action. Make sure you keep notes as to when and where you have contacted them. Bizarrely there are free CRM software packages used by professional sales companies to track sales calls and customer interactions that the more techy amongst you could even try and use to be really Ninja. If not a Google Sheets spreadsheet would work nicely.

Use all your marketing assets to help promote you, but be SPECIFICALLY focused on achieving the goals of your marketing plan.

Bear in mind that not all your activity should be online. Consider attend Film festivals, networking events and as I mentioned workshops

Hold Marketing Meetings

Another weird one. Just like a company you should hold a marketing meeting with yourself every Monday morning (or whenever) to track your progress and amend where necessary. Make yourself accountable to your boss –  i.e. you!

Personally although I would use something like Google Docs to keep track of who I have contacted and when, here is an important tip.

PRINT OUT your Marketing Plan and stick it on your fridge or somewhere where you can’t fail to see it to keep you focussed on achieving it.

The End Goal

Hopefully when you have succeeded in this current marketing campaign and achieved your goal then you pick another goal up your ladder of success and then create another marketing campaign and rinse and repeat ad infinitum.

By being focused and methodical you can progress your career one step at a time, then soon you’ll be able to spend more time talking with Sam about character motivation and polishing your performance for the RSC.

And when you finally get to do your performance of Malvolio you can then say “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have… a marketing plan.”

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We all want to look our best, but for those of us whose careers depend on it it is vital and for none more so than women. Sadly this is not the time or place to enter the wormhole of a gender debate, but women are still judged largely on how they look and god forbid that any female of the species should appear in front of the camera if they look over 30.

Yeuch! Who in their right mind wants to watch a film or TV show with some ancient crone in their mid 30s or even worse some female fossil who is maybe 50 or 60 – unless of course they are playing a downtrodden wife or grandmother. And this is not just the angry rantings of a woman who is only just out of her twenties (tee hee). As a side bar check out this fascinating report by Polygraph that backs up the apocryphal stories that women have less dialogue and roles as they get into their 40’s.

Anyhow I digress. So what do women do? They often “do a Cher” not just lyrically but actually and try and “Turn Back Time”  and have “a bit of work done.”

“But surely that is their choice isn’t it Nicci?” I hear you cry. “Who are you to judge what people look like and what they do to their bodies? If they want to enhance what God gave them then why not?”

Well thank you for your comment and I agree  – apart from when they’re an actor then often I AM the person who will judge what they look like and whether I think they are appropriate for the role. After 20 years as a Casting Director I have seen more Frozen faces than a Disney executive and more fillers than that bloke on the Polyfilla counter at B&Q.

I’ll stop being flippant; in reality a little tweak here and there never hurt anyone, but please keep things in moderation.

Here are some of my Top Tips for things actors should avoid.


Botox
– the prevalence of botox treatment has reached an all time high, but before you partake please ask yourself whether this will impact on your ability to deliver an emotional performance. From my perspective I won’t hire you if your face doesn’t move enough to tell me whether you are happy or sad and might even start dropping a hint by singing “Let It Go.”

Fillers – if you’re going to have fillers please avoid that bloated bland look. Personally I love to see interesting faces that have seen a little life – so don’t flatten your face and remove all your character.

Lips – Two words. Trout Pout. I think you catch my drift!

Teeth – white teeth are great, but be careful with over whitening and with veneers they can look too perfect and very false. You don’t want to look like a cheshire cat

Implants – again don’t go crazy with breast augmentation and however you justify it remember a bum implant never got anyone an Oscar!

Guys – much of these other points apply to men too, but specifically guys be subtle with your hair dying. Looking like Peter Stringfellow or a reject from a Grecian 2000 advert is not a good look.

Cosmetic Surgery – for those of you with bigger budgets for more radical surgery, when you go shopping for a new nose and before you sign on the dotted line ask yourself whether this new conk will really get you more work or whether going on a Meisner course or something similar would be a more sensible investment. If you want a new nose by all means get one, but don’t justify it with a spurious argument that it will get you more work.

And most importantly please DO NOT go into debt for cosmetic surgery. Any enhanced feeling of overcoming those deep-seated body issues you have would soon be negated when the credit card companies or bailiffs come knocking at your door

In summary if you get the cold shoulder for a job it probably wasn’t that you didn’t look young enough so follow Elsa’s advice…

Let It Go. The Cold Never Bothered Me Anyway.

 

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10 ways to Smash Audition Nerves

19 Sep 2016, Posted by Nicci in Casting Tips

Many people struggle with nerves ahead of a performance or casting audition so here are my top 10 ways to smash your pre-audition nerves.

1. Have a Gin and Tonic

audition nerves - alcoholAfter all one can’t harm can it? Errr Hello! Do not on any occasion. Under any circumstances. Ever. EVER have any alcohol, a spliff or any other form of mood enhancing drugs, to help with audition nerves.

However confident you think a cheeky Baileys might make you feel, the smell alone, never mind your performance, will be enough to ensure that the only place the casting director will calling will be rehab and not your agent.

 

2. Do a short meditation to start off the day

audition nerves - meditateThese days you don’t have to go on a retreat to an Ashram or camp in a Yurt on a Welsh commune to find yourself. Meditation has become a part of many people’s lives; everybody can benefit from some inner calm and focus whatever type of person and whatever the age – and nobody more so than actors.

There are various flavours of meditation from Transcendental Meditation (for the truly dedicated with deeper wallets) to more simple mindfulness techniques, but whatever you do chose it will help promote calm, confidence and a feeling of being centred. There are plenty of great resources online, some of which even cover mindfulness for actors, so inhale deeply grasshopper and let Google be your guru.

 

3. Get there in good time

audition nerves - leave timeThere is nothing worse than being late and dashing into an audition hot, sweaty and not able to perform your best, so I’m going to paraphrase Oleta Adams’ musical advice from 1991. “I don’t care how you get here, just get here…” nice and early.

And whilst I would not recommend that you take her advice and travel “…by sailboat, climb a tree or swing rope to rope.” I do recommend that you do ensure that you plan your journey carefully.

Check then double check your timings and then add at least 30 minutes for good measure. If you’re early… meditate!

 

 

4. Feel The Burn

Nobody is expecting you to do a ‘Mo Farrah’ style 10k, but some gentle exercise an hour or two before you go in for your casting session will release those endorphins and get you feelin’ pumped and energised. And if you can’t manage a short walk, run or swim then why not retire to a cubicle in the Ladies or Gents at the casting studio and do 30 seconds of squats and 30 seconds of running on the spot.

Motivational speaker Tony Robbins gets into a “Peak State” for his presentations through forms energized movement that he says can change your state of mind. Robbins will get himself in the zone about ten minutes prior to taking the stage getting his body “awake and alive” by jumping up and down, spinning around, fist pumping and standing with his arms outstretched – you might want to avoid his use of trampolines though.

 

5. Be like a Boy Scout…

…and be prepared! Make sure you have a look at any script at least 24 hours prior to your casting, providing its been sent to you in good time. Have a recap a few hours before your casting.

 

6. And breathe…

Tied closely to tip 2 don’t forget to breathe. Just before you go into an audition take a moment to centre your body, standing with your feet apart and remembering to breathe 4 counts in and 8 counts out. Do for 5 minutes.

The next 3 tips to beat your audition nerves come courtesy of legend that was Bing Crosby. In fact he was so smart that Microsoft named a search engine after him (unlike Google who named themselves after another rat-packer Google Davis Junior.)

But I digress. Bing told us we need to…

 

7. Accentuate the Positive…

So why not speak to a positive friend on your journey to the casting – someone that makes you laugh and will distract you from being nervous.

 

8. …and Eliminate the Negative

Try not to over think things. Don’t focus on what might go wrong, what will they think and who will be there – just be yourself and remember at the end of the day we are all just people. There is that bizarre trick of imagining them naked, but depending on who is on the panel, that might either repulse you or make you blush! In any event some centred meditation and breathing will help you Eliminate Bing’s Negative.

 

9. Latch on to the affirmative…

Think about all your good points and all your achievements. You must have got something right to even be there!

 

10. … and don’t Mess with Mr Inbetween

Don’t do too much before you have a casting, so pick and choose from the above and see what works best for you.

Today’s blog is part two in a series of blogs focused on helping filmmakers cast low budget feature films.

In the first post about Casting Low Budget Feature Films  I talked about keeping it real. Today I am going to elaborate with 6 more tips that will ensure you don’t have to use hair technicians as casting directors on your film!

 

1. Are you Gong Fodder…?

Gong FodderFirstly I am going to issue a “License to Ignore”  –  kind of like a License to Kill, but with less car chases and no Timothy Dalton.

So, please ignore my last post  about keeping it real if your last low budget feature film blew everyone away at last year’s Sundance and you had Harvey salivating over his cheque book. Also ignore me if you just had a sell out run at the Royal Court?

If so then you should probably go straight to the conference call with Leo Fassbinder’s agent and Mira-versal Pictures. You could well be what everyone is looking for, you could be the next “annointed one.”

Everybody in the industry wants to be associated with the next new SUCCESSFUL thing and theatre directors…? Well there is a well trodden path from British stage to screen and with good reason. Although the acting process is often different, theatre directors have a reputation for understanding how to help actors really get under the skin of characters.

When stars do lower budget movies it is often on projects that could position them for awards – Gong Fodder if you will. Being seen as a “proper actor” often means that it gives them kudos, credibility and PR and ironically give them more firepower in bigger studio movies.

 

2. Without great actors you have nothing.

Bear in mind that actors are not commodities – they perform jobs that many of us just cannot do. They put themselves out there and expose raw emotions and go to places that literally make grown men cry. And they do it take after take after take.

Show some respect for their craft and process – they are not just names to use as a marketing tool with a drunken sales agent in the Carlton Hotel bar at the Cannes Film Marche. I meet SOOOO many incredibly talented actors day in and day out many of whom would act not just their socks off, but some of their most loved body parts too. so if in doubt…

CAST. INCREDIBLE. ACTORS

Just because they have not had the lucky break yet does not mean that an unknown actor is any less capable than many stars who have been fortunate. Some of them are… incredible. You should also consider TV actors. The pressure of TV production often means that TV actors are capable and very quick to pick up parts and deliver flawless lines and might give you some degree of the “knowability” that your financiers might need.

 

3. Think Locally

cast low budget feature films mapIf you are a regional filmmaker then the temptation again might be to use bigger names many of whom could be living in that there London, but before you do you should do a Geography Test.

Whereabouts are the actors based? Can your casting director help you source local talent? In addition to great regional locations there are also great regional actors – and remember not everybody in the North speaks with a Geordie, Scouse or Yorkshire accent. Also with less to spend on hotels and train fares your budget can go further.

 

4. Arrested Development.

When budgets are tight there is often either temptation or pressure to expedite the development process and “get on with it.” I would argue that this is the LAST thing you should do.

The more time you can spend honing the script during the development process the better. Sometimes I receive scripts that definitely need more work, and it might sound obvious, but it’s vital that the script is ready before you go out to cast. There are a lot of projects out there vieing for attention – make yours stand head and shoulders above the rest.

The better the script with credible realistic dialogue and interesting character arcs then the better the cast you will get. Simples. Pixar’s development philosophy is legendary in the industry and should be emulated. So sayeth Nicci.

 

5. Are you Preppy?

Make sure you have enough time to workshop the project during prep. When you are on set is not the time to be talking to the actor about what his motivation is in this scene. Again give the actor some respect for the process and the time this takes to get right.

Workshopping will allow your director time to work with the cast so you are all on the same page and therefore save valuable time and money on set. This then allows both your director and cast to try different nuanced approaches in different takes when the camera is rolling.

 

6. Employ a Casting Director

nicci_topping_smI would argue (well I would wouldn’t I!) that one of your important investments is in a Casting Director. Yes you might want to spend all your budget on hiring an Arri Alexa and the latest gimbal-less stabiliser, but don’t be a gear junkie, your films will be NOTHING without a great cast.

Keep some budget to employ a PROFESSIONAL casting director. I am of course available (see niccitoppingcasting.com… tee hee!), but my colleagues at the CDA will also do you a fantastic job. A professional casting director will be invaluable: their experience and on-going relationships with agents will help you get to the talent you want quickly and with integrity and they will be able to advise you on up and coming talent that you would never have known about. They will also help you…

CAST. INCREDIBLE. ACTORS

 

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Good morning class!  You!… Yes you at the back… I’m talking to you! Sit up straight boy!

Today’s class… err sorry I mean blog…  is going to focus on casting children, but rather than passing on advice to our youngest thespians my advice is aimed at parents and guardians.

Casting sessions can be stressful enough for participants, but throw into the mix nervous parents and highly strung kids then you have a stress cocktail more potent than any mixologist could whip up.

I have done a LOT of children’s casting both for drama and commercials and so here is your homework – my top ten stress-busting tips that every loving parent should check out.

 

 1. Vicarious Ambition

No this is not a dodgy one-hit-wonder girl group from the 90’s or the name of a failed Madonna tour –  it is something altogether more timeless and sadly altogether more common.

Parents really do need to take a reality check and ask themselves a fundamental question –  “does my little love bundle really want to tread the boards or promote washing powder etc, or would they much rather be designing a robot or kicking a football around or even playing computer games.”

I get it, I really do. You loved acting or having your photo taken when you were their age, but maybe you didn’t have parents who were supportive or had the money to fulfil your dreams.  Now you have the ability, you want to make sure that your kids have everything you didn’t have. Being supportive and nurturing is indeed what great parenting is all about, but you do need to ascertain whether this is really what THEY want and IS THIS THEIR DREAM or YOURS?

Ask the question of your child and listen VERY CAREFULLY to the answer and how they say it otherwise you are wasting everybody’s time.

 

2. A Den of Bribery and Corruption

casting kids - no junk foodSadly this is often what casting studios can become. If your child does not want to be at a casting, please do not be the pushy parent and start bribing your child with a McDonalds.

If they do not want to be at the casting the chances are is that they will not want to perform on the shoot. and you will just waste everybody’s time and build up resentment in the fruit of your loins.

 

3. Say Cheese

Kids Casting - up to date photosMake sure that you have up to date photos of your kids. Nothing is more frustrating (apart from maybe the Sky box failing to record the last episode of this season’s Game of Thrones) than the young talent turning up having just lost some teeth or with a radically different haircut.

 

4. War…Huh… What is it Good For?…

…absolutely nothing. Edwin Starr and Frankie were not wrong and we don’t want any competitive wars in the casting studio either.

Casting WarsSome parents really don’t know when to rein in their competitive natures and although I’m glad to say that I’ve never witnessed some of the violence seen at football touchlines, I have been witness to some decidedly crazy antics .

If you really want your child to be a professional actor both now and going forward then you too need to behave professionally. This is imperative – you wouldn’t behave badly and aggressively at your own work so why would you do so at your child’s?

So, no psyching-other parents out, no tricks, no lying, just good old-fashioned decency and integrity. Traits you should want to demonstrate to your child in any event.

If you don’t behave like this then you won’t be invited to other castings and we will obviously report back to your agent as they too would not want to be associated with such behaviour.

 

5. Listen to Your Child’s Agent

This one is easy and does what it says on the tin – respect and take on board their advice. They understand this market and can really help you and your child succeed.

 

6. Crush The Candy

kids casting - no sweets

Please do not try not to give your child too many sweets or fizzy drinks before a casting. The last thing that the session needs is a glucose-fired hyperactive child running round the casting studio.

I’m no nutritionist, but think about bringing healthy food and fruit than can give your child energy without the spikes. Bananas, pasta salads and bottles of water will ensure that your little artisites perform to the best of their abilities

 

7. Paperwork

Make sure the agency has all the up to date paper work for your child – this is really important in terms of licensing.

 

kids casting - dont overdress8.Don’t Step on My Blue Suede Shoes…

… or even dress your child in them.

And don’t dress them in a party frock (especially if it’s a boy!) or anything overly skimpy. In fact be sensible and just let your child dress in clothes they feel comfortable in.

There may be occasions where you will be asked to come dressed specifically, but unless asked to do so treat it as a normal RELAXED Saturday or Sunday chilling with their friends.

 

9. Parents Should be Seen and Not Heard

Parents can be sometimes a distraction to their child in a casting. If you are in the casting suite please try to keep out of their way and eye-sight and let them get on with their job without any prompting or involvement from you. This can affect their performance.

 

10. Keep Smiling

If your child does not get the part, try not to be too disheartened, it could be that the casting director is trying to form a family and they might not quite fit in, they may decide to go for someone slightly older or younger – there could be a multitude  of reasons. Nobody is saying that your child is talentless though or not worthy of being there.

Here Comes The Serious Bit…

Being an actor is a tough job and rejection is sadly part of the day-to-day aspect of that job. If you don’t feel your child can cope with this then you should seriously consider another vocation. Exposing a vulnerable child to constant rejection could have a lasting effect on their mental health and could cause issues of self-worth and negative body image.

I will be covering the mental health issues of being an actor in another blog, but in the meantime, be very careful with your child’s mental wellbeing it is not worth jeopardising over a TV spot or a short film.

If you have any tips or advice I’d love to hear from you too. Feel free to comment below.

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As part of my mission to de-mystify the casting process, today’s blog is part one in a series of blogs focused on helping  filmmakers cast low budget feature films.

I hope to be able to pass on hints and tips across the whole process from identifying cast, to running casting sessions, maximizing auditions and working with agents.

To kick the series off the first blog is about…

Keeping it Real

Are you sitting down? Good because I have some bad news for you.

leo KeiraAlthough you might have a passion for your project that is hotter than the surface of the sun, I’m sorry to say, the chances that Leo and Keira will be equally excited and jump on your sub £1m project are infintesimally small. There I said it.

Sorry to be shatter your dreams, but If I had a tenner for every time I had been approached by the producers or directors of low budget movies with unrealistic casting aspirations then I’m sure I could have financed my dream low budget feature “The Full Blair Juno Monty Witch Dynamite Activity IV.”

Going after such talent is rarely successful and the only thing you attach to your project is shovelfuls of frustration, and not only that it also wastes time. Although time might not mean money in a low budget film where everybody is investing ‘sweat equity’, the constant rejection can sap your motivation.

Yes ‘A listers’ will sometimes board low budget independent movies ( Spoiler alert: Bear in mind that not all people have the same definition for low budget!), but they usually will do it with established directing and producing talent and the project will usually ALWAYS have distribution in place and be #gongfodder.

I don’t want to labour a point (actually I do) but film is a risky business so why would their agent even send their “Special One” a script for a project that is so embryonic and unlikely to happen never mind recommend it. Also they are well aware that you probably need their “Special One” to even finance the thing.

Pierce Brosnan’s Hairdresser

pierce brosnanAgents are getting approached ALL the time regarding their A and B List clients and so often move into gatekeeper mode protecting their clients from less solidly packaged projects. And even if you have an “in” to the talent directly and try to bypass the agent (I was once casting a project where the director had an in to Pierce Brosnan through his HAIRDRESSER in LA!!) all roads will lead back to the agent anyhow to ‘do the deal’and if you have pissed off the agent in the process by trying to get round them, well good luck!

If you do have a solid “in” to the talent, then at least let the agent know that you have been discussing the project with them. It’s only courtesy.

The agent needs to TRUST the producer that the project will happen and there is a good chance it will be a success (nobody wants a failure obviously) and the actor has to TRUST the director that they will provide a secure space for them to weave their magic and help them deliver their best performance – after all that is why you want them on your project isn’t it… isn’t it? It’s not to try and help finance your film surely?

 

Money Talks… Talent Shouts

Obviously I am being glib and one shouldn’t underestimate the industry’s need for names to help with your pre-sales and marketability (especially with sales agents), but all I am saying is that it is not the be-all-and-end-all and focussing on trying to attach household star names can ruin many a fantastic project – I know I have been there.

So what do you do then? Well, if you are a really low budget project where there is little chance of pre-sales or distribution ahead of completion then your best chance of success is investing in the BEST possible actors for your roles. I can vouch for the fact that there are SO many incredibly talented actors out there – I know I audition them day in and day out – so why not take a different approach…

CAST. INCREDIBLE. ACTORS.

They might not be household names yet, but a project that crackles with superb grounded performances will probably have more chance of success than somebody who was once “somebody in this town” who is phoning it in.

And the project with Pierce’s hairdresser? Sadly there was more chance of him having a bubble perm than taking the role.

 

Read Part Two

Further Tips on Casting a Low Budget Feature Pt 2

 

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10 Ways to Get Your First Acting Jobs

12 Aug 2016, Posted by Nicci in Casting Tips

I often hear the plaintive sobs of actors at the start of their career that’s usually goes something like… “That’s all well and good, but how do I break into the industry. I’m not on Spotlight. I don’t have an agent, it’s a conspiracy…”

HOW DO I GET MY FIRST ACTING JOB???

Firstly bear in mind there is no conspiracy theory: they really did land on the moon, there are no aliens in Area 51, Elvis and Margaret Thatcher did not have a love child and oh yes most importantly…

Nobody is conspiring to keep you out of the industry.

The first challenge of the industry is getting in the industry. This applies all across the board in film and TV, and we will give some other examples generally in another blog, but today we will look at some strategies for getting yourself started as an actor.

 

1. Act!

actors-tips-#11

To paraphrase Basil Fawlty this might sound like “stating the bleedin’ obvious“, but to be an actor you need to act. It has to become like breathing and eating.

Take. Every. Opportunity. To. Act.

It bears repeating!

Take. Every. Opportunity. To. Act.

Not only will this allow you to perfect your art, but it will help you network and also it will give you something for a showreel.

This is the most important rule. Everything else is just detail.

 

2. Weebles wobble…

actors-tips-#12

But they don’t fall down! If you are younger than 30 this will probably mean nothing to you. Let me explain.

When I was growing up there was an egg-shaped toy that if you pushed it over it would just right itself. The Weeble is the perfect metaphor for what an actor must be.

You can wobble, but you can’t fall down. You have to get back up again. There will be MANY MANY MANY rejections. After each one you have to pull yourself together and live to fight another day and to do that you have to be hungry. You have to want it. You will have to be resilient. You will have to work HARD. You have to channel the Weeble. You will have to earn EVERY role.

 

3. Build Relationships

Take every opportunity to build strong and deep relationships with other creatives. And not just the obvious ones like directors and producers but also other actors, It’s not a competition. Even if two actors are going for the same part, you just need to be the best YOU can be and hope that everything else on the CD and director or producer’s list is aligned. Then hope that the Gods of casting smile down on you.

Building relationships with other actors means that you can recommend each other and have a support network. Being an actor is the best crap job in the world or is it the crappest best job in the world – either way having a safety net who REALLY understand your situation is vital and something that even the most supportive friends and family have no frame of reference for.

 

4. Practice

If you can’t act then practice. Work with your actor chums that you have build relationships with (see 3 above) on scenes to hone your craft. Video it on your phone, critique, adjust then rinse and repeat.

 

5. The University of Life

actors-tips-#15

Life is an education. Always approach EVERY situation as an opportunity to learn. Dissect it. Log it. Recall it. Your life’s journey’s and experiences will help you be a better actor. Your performance will then always be informed by real life. Be an emotional magpie. Create a diary (paper or even something like Evernote). Think like an actor. Become an actor.

 

6. Be a Class Act

actors-tips-#16

There are some great classes out there, go forth and Google. Classes enable you to keep trying out new techniques that may or may not work for you, but why worry remember… In Classes Nobody Can Hear You Fail. What you got to lose?

You will also work with different actors which is always a plus and again there are opportunities to build relationships.

 

7. Educating Actor

The internet is great, but also make sure you read real books. There are also some great books that can help your education process I will blog with a list of these sometime soon, but make sure you know Stanislavski from “Stan’s Lav Key” and Meisner from Miserly

Another opportunity to learn is by reading film and TV scripts. There are many dodgy transcripts of film and TV scripts online, but you should ignore these. Invest some money in the “reel deal” at Script City – it will be a revelation!

 

8. Actor For Hire

When you are confident that you have read and practiced and have channeled said Weeble and attended classes then why not contact film schools and see if there looking for actors for any of their films. Sometimes there are just not enough actors to populate the filmmakers focussed on the practical and technical side of filmmaking

 

9. Networking

Part of the building relationships tip really, but you should attend networking events where ever you can. I know many very confident actors who can get on stage in front of hundreds of people and not be phased, but put them in a room of 10 people as themselves and they are knackered.

It can be daunting when you don’t know anybody and they are all talking in their little cliques or groups, but this is a perfect example of putting your acting talents to use. Pretend to be confident and “Fake it until you Make it.” Act like a confident person would.

As I said in a previous blog keep your ear to the ground and get in the middle of projects – Be Part of The Solution Not Part of The Problem.

 

10. Marketing

We will explore making a showreel in a future blog post, but you do need to try and find ways to let the world how bloody great you are. Why not start to blog about what you are up to, try to build up a following use it as a platform for your showreel. Self-promote. Tweet. Facebook. Instagram whatever spread the word.

But bear in mind make sure it is QUALITY. The interwebs doesn’t need to see what you have had for your dinner or to see you slag off your BFF’s ex.

 

A Final Thought

You could marry a sugar daddy and get him to fund a $10m feature film starring you. Maybe not so useful if you are an overweight 53 year old ex builder called Barry. Possibly more applicable if you are a young ingenue.

In fact strike this. This is a rubbish idea. It’s Friday afternoon and I’m obviously past my best. See my other post… Respect yourself!

This is like Rule 1. VITAL.

 

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I have been casting everything from commercials to feature films for almost 20 years, and one thing that actors often ask me is “Why do some actors get all the best jobs?”

After sitting in thousands of casting sessions and looking at countless submissions there are some obvious trends that I thought I would share with you.  In no particular order here are some of my casting tips…

 

1 – They make sure that they actually look like their headshot.

actors tips #1This may be a controversial opinion, but if a director and casting director have a particular look in mind and select you based upon your headshot, hey they kinda do expect who turns up to look like that.

They are unlikely to take one look at you and say, “What the hell, those extra 10 years or 10lbs (up or down) don’t matter.”

 

 

2 – They sleep with the director…

actors-tips-#2

No only joking. The actors who get the best jobs don’t flirt outrageously, they behave with professionalism, integrity and have a genuine enthusiasm for the part. They respect themselves because if they don’t why would others?

 

3 – They don’t lie about their previous work.

actors tips #3As an FYI CV does not stand for Create a Very-misleading-document. Listen, people know people. If your CV lists the work you did with Leo and Keira and the campaign for Porsche, it won’t be long before you’re found out – unless of course you were in that product placement scene with the Porsche Cayenne in “Bend It Like The Revenant.”

Trust me, deceit is a fast track way to ensure you’re not even “what they’re looking for” when they’re casting that role for a guy wearing a chicken suit in the web commercial for the Slough branch of “Chick-u-Like.”
actors-tips-#4

4 – They don’t lie about their age.

Makes sure you look your playing age – it’s important not to lie about your age if you are casting for a financial services commercial or an alcohol commercial or both if it’s for a Pay Day Vodka Company.

 

5 – They actually can do accents.

actors-tips-#5 Achtung listen up y’all. Åré Yøü TalkÎn’ Tö Me? Une actor avec talent will do the research and PRACTICE, this way they can sprechen like ein proper native. There are so many great resources on You Tube and other places that there is no excuse.

And please avoid stereotypes: remember not all German’s speak like the an SS General in Colditz and not all French people speak like Rene in ‘Allo “Allo.

 

 

6- They keep their ear to the ground…

actors-tips-#6…or even to the internet. And what better way of doing that than by being a slick networker.

Try and build your connections and get yourself in the middle of conversations about projects that are happening or might be happening.

And by “in the middle of” I don’t mean following Steven Speilberg on Twitter – be part of the solution not part of the problem!

 

7- They don’t act like a Diva.

actors-tips-#7In fact they go out of their way to treat people with respect and work as a team. They collaborate willingly, they try things out they may not initially agree with, they come up with fresh intelligent ideas and they have a positive attitde and wear a smile. They understand that they are just ONE part of a creative machine.

EGO ALERT! Be gracious when taking criticism, and be aware that not everybody will agree with your Mum that you are a indeed a little princess, just waiting for all these IDIOTs to recognize your talent.

 

actors-tips-#88 – They have at least two testimonials.

Everybody is looking for ways to mitigate risk and without a Trip Advisor.com for actors insider knowledge from their industry peers that you are easy to work with, diligent and responsive to suggestions will go a long  way to helping directors and casting directors convert that great casting session into a part.

 

9- They remember to Hi-Five other actors on the way up the ladder.

actors-tips-#9They are generous both in acting process and with their advice and help.

Today’s nervous wannabe on their first job could be tomorrow’s Olivia Colman and you too may fall from grace and have to make ends meet at the aforementioned Slough branch of Chick-U-Like and be on the outside looking in once again.

Anyhow the better their performance the better you all look. And remember we all started somewhere.

 

10 – They remember every casting director they meet.

actors-tips-#10They build relationships and make themselves memorable for all the right reasons.

Although you might not be right for this role a strong relationship with a casting director could make you top of the list for the next one.

And remember no stalking on Twitter now! Be respectful they are not looking for a new BFF just strong professional relationships.

 

 

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The Casting Directors Association

25 Jul 2016, Posted by Nicci in Casting Tips

Overview

In this ongoing blog about being a casting director it is my intention to de-mystify the casting process for both producers and actors alike and offer advice and tips to help true talent get discovered.

However, I also want to use the blog as a forum for open discussion on issues facing our industry and how we can strive even further to offer great value and professionalism to our clients. Increasingly, the industry has become infiltrated with inexperienced people labelling themselves as casting directors which has sometimes tainted our profession. These people rarely have the relationships or have built trust with agents and clients both of which are vital to ensure that projects can be quickly and cast to professional standards.

My obsession with delivering high quality casting services in a professional and friendly manner has been a very important part of my “brand” and enabled me to be able to do the job I love and deliver excellent value to my clients for over 20 years. But I am not alone there are many other such diligent and quality obsessed casting professionals in the UK and we are all proud to be members of our wonderful trade association.

The Casting Directors Association

The Casting Directors Association (CDA) was set up in 2015 by two fabulous casting directors Tree Petts and Shakyra Dowling, primarily as a body for experienced and established casting directors to collaborate and follow a set of professional standards.

Tree and Shakyra established the CDA to promote professionalism and standards in the industry and provide a safe place for producers and creatives to vet and view professional Casting Directors (CDs). The CDA have made a huge impact in such a short time by creating a platform where CDs can obtain advice and support, built stronger relationships between CDs, the APA Equity/PMA and set up a code of practice and standards that professional CDs can follow.

They have also managed to achieve a great collaboration and forum for Casting directors. The CDA is moving in a positive direction, and for me It is a great honour to be the first Northern Casting Director to be accepted on the board.

If you are a CD please visit the CDA website to find out about exciting developments and news in the casting and film industry, and join to get your voice heard.

I would also love you to subscribe to my blog so I can also keep you up to date with advances in our thinking and comment and participate and help shape us the future of the industry .

 

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