How to Keep a “Story” Monologue From Seeming Like a “Flashback” by Brian O’Neil

Brian O NeilActors are told, wisely so for the most part, to avoid monologues that tell a story.  You most likely know the kind.  They usually start with “When I was seventeen” or “It happened after I left home” or “I still remember the time” etc.  They are usually delivered with a kind of sameness that sucks the life right out of the room in which its being performed.  For the most part, that is. They can sometimes work, if the actors knows how to infuse the necessary drive to carry them through the piece. The reason pieces of the “story” nature don’t usually work is because the reason the character is telling the story is not contained within the writing itself.

Another missing component is that we often have no idea to whom the character is speaking. Mother? Sister? Boyfriend?  Girlfriend?  Most of the time it’s not there, whereas monologues that have immediate and active conflict usually have this component within them and therefore are usually more compelling monologue choices.  The character is telling the other character how he or she wants the other character to change. A clear “fight” is usually present.

However, when a actor performs a story piece that works well, it’s usually because the actor has endowed the need to tell the story with a sense of urgency.  That is, if a character is telling another character a “story”: in a play, and that play is well-written, there is a reason why that character is telling the other character that story at that moment with the express purpose of affecting the relationship.  So when an actor knows what is driving him through the story, the emotional intention becomes as important, if not more important than the story itself.  We, the audience may have no idea why the character is telling the story, but if the actor knows why, he can hit a home run with a story monologue.  Yet, it requires an extra step to create this kind of immediacy.

The “flashback” reference in this article’s title refers to this “extra step”.  I can liken it to the following. Let’s say you ran into a friend whom you hadn’t seen in ten years.  She tells you that she got married ten years ago.  Then she tells you that her husband is now terminally ill.  You would react with strong and immediate sympathy, right?  Now let’s look at a different scenario.  You run into the same friend whom you have not seen in ten years.  She tells you that shortly after she last saw you she got married, but sadly her husband became terminally ill in the first year of the marriage and has been gone for nine years.  Your reaction would not be the same as if her were dying now.  Years have passed. Time has most likely had some healing effect upon her.  Her telling you the story of nine years ago wouldn’t have the same tone either, that is unless she wanted the story to affect her relationship with you right…now!   It’s this emotional immediacy that an actor must create to make anyone who’s listening to a story really, really care about the character, and by extension, the actor who is telling it.

Brian O’Neil is the best-selling author of Acting As a Business:  Strategies for Success:  Fifth Edition.  A former agent and personal manager, he is currently faculty at The Juilliard School and NYU/Tisch School of the Arts.  He is a career coach/consultant and you can learn more about Brian at http://www.actingasabusiness.com

Inside the Industry: How to Get an Agent with Michael Imbimbo – Talent Agent and Founder of 9MUSE Talent Agency

How to Get an Agent?  This elusive question comes up a lot when I give seminars. When I was a performer, I always viewed agents with this mysterious they-will-solve-all-my-problems view and thought it would be near impossible to track one down. The real question you should be asking yourself is whether or not you’re ready for an agent.

There is a lot that you can do before you need an agent -the daunting and endless open calls, performing at small local theaters such as the Gallery Players or the Secret Theater right here in NYC, networking with industry professionals, etc. The more you get yourself out there and refine your talent, the more opportunity will come knocking on your door. And it’s important to be ready when you hear a knock.

A great story that I love telling people is how I met a client in a reading at Gallery Players. He was phenomenal and I knew he could be on Broadway. We met, decided to work together, and 4 weeks later he was accepting his first Broadway contract. The most important thing to know is that he had already laid down the groundwork to make this happen. Sure, an agent can help and we excel at connecting the dots, but if you don’t already have the seeds planted, nothing is going to grow.

So how can you start planting the seeds to your career?

While there might not be one straight path, there’s certainly many routes to go. You could, for example, start working with a composer and offer to record some demos of their work, take a dance class, find the names of current Broadway directors (or their assistants!) and a small regional production that they might be directing, sing at and record a cabaret performance, etc.

You might not be headlining on Broadway today; however, imagine if you work with a director in Boise and then again in Detroit, you do solid work and are reliable night after night and build a rapport with that director. Now imagine that said director lands a Broadway show. Guess what? You will most likely get that coveted Broadway audition and get to show your stuff in front of the industries finest! If you do a good job, suddenly the casting director who never called you in before is calling you in for project after project.

These scenarios rapidly propagate and soon you might even need a manager to handle all the requests…but that’s a topic for another post.

Good luck out there!

Previously at IMG Artists, Michael Imbimbio runs one of NYC’s newest and most sought-after boutique talent agencies. 

9MUSE clients have appeared on and off Broadway in Doctor Zhivago, Book of Mormon, Avenue Q, Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, Heathers the Musical, Bedbugs!!!, Clinton the Musical, and The 39 Steps; in national tours of I Love Lucy Live, Annie, and Anything Goes; and in regional houses across the country including the world premiere of Bright Star at The Old Globe. His clients have also appeared in various TV and Film projects including Hostages, Difficult People, The Black Box, The Following, Lifetime and pilots for Comedy Central, ABC and CBS. 9MUSE recently celebrated the launch of its literary division. www.9muse.org

One Big Surprise About TV Call-Backs and Reading for Producers by Brian O’Neil

Brian O NeilHere’s something  few actors– and their representatives–know about episodic television.

I was talking recently to a writer/producer friend of mine who has held that position for years on a major hit New York television show.  Here is what he said:  “Let’s say there is an audition for our casting director for an episode guest star and twenty actors read for the casting director. If five are called back to read for me and the third one nails it, the role is gone.  It’s cast.  Actors number four and five don’t have a chance, no matter how much they “nail it.”

We almost never go backwards in this area. Why?  Partly because the show runner and I have often left the room.  I have an episode to finish writing and/or the show-runner has to check a location. We’re shooting a weekly show and everything has to be done yesterday.  There’s no need to sit there and watch what everyone else can do when someone gave us what we need. To draw a sports analogy, it’s the same reason why a baseball team who’s winning doesn’t play the bottom of the ninth.  The game is won.”

Now, before actors say “That’s not fair…etc. etc”  Let me point out a few things. Whoever got it “before you” is going through the same thing elsewhere.  You go in, you do your best, and then it’s out of your hands. Everyone goes through it; it’s the way the system works. And it IS highly beneficial for the actor who got a “call back” because they get to read again for the casting director.  And will probably be called back in for something else.  It’s all good. Really good. Trust it.

Another reason I am writing this is because I think actors should be discerning when asking their agents for “feedback” on a call-back. Why?  Because I’ve never encountered a situation where a casting director said “He was great, but by the time he entered the room the decision was made.”  Has it been said?  Maybe, but not to me or any of the agents or managers I polled.  So you’ll get some other “reason” that may not be of much help. Just keep getting called back and “nailing” it and one of these jobs WILL have your name on it!!

And as long as you’re getting called back, most representatives will keep sending you out.  Most. Why? Because you are making both you AND them looking good by auditioning well (hence, the call-back)   So, know that you very well may have “nailed it”, but so did someone else.  Don’t beat yourself up over it or second guess it.

Just hang in there!

Brian O’Neil  is the best-selling author of Acting As a Business:  Strategies for Success:  Fifth Edition.  A former agent and personal manager he is currently faculty at The Juilliard School and NYU/Tisch School of the Arts.  He is a career coach/consultant and you can learn more about Brian at http://www.actingasabusiness.com

8 Tips for Powerful Professional Relationships By Dallas Travers

Dallas TraversWe’ve all heard the old line in this business, “It’s all about who you know.” I believe that it’s less about who you know and more about how well you know them. One key to success is powerful relationships. So, here are eight simple tips to help you strengthen your professional relationships.

1. ADD VALUE

Be willing to help others. Listen well. Go see your friends’ shows. Show up on time and stay through the end. Send thank you cards. Remember birthdays. Offer help and support. Tell others about a great book you’re reading or a fantastic restaurant you enjoyed. Participate because you want to, not because you have to. Share your ideas, resources and time. The Tao of Show Business involves a natural flow, so if you are unwilling to give things away, you actually block the natural flow of things. How can you expect people to help you when you don’t first help others? Don’t be the person who only contacts others when you need a favor. Stay in consistent communication so asking for help is no big deal, and receiving it is easy. Add value and increase the value of your day-to-day life.

2. BE AUTHENTIC

Stop worrying about what casting directors or agents are looking for. They’re looking for you, so just be yourself. Be authentically you, so that you will easily find your people. Be you and make everyone’s job a little easier. My client, Justine, got fired from her fourth agent in about four years. Not because she couldn’t act or even because her résumé was weak. Justine left the wrong impression with her agents every time she met with a new one. You see, Justine is really quirky and kinda clumsy. She’s adorably neurotic and very marketable.

Yet Justine figured the best way to take an agent meeting was to arrive all buttoned up and proper. That’s what she did and agents got the message, so these same people continued to send her out on auditions for uptight professional types; the opposite of who Justine really is. It’s no wonder she couldn’t keep an agent. Justine wasn’t her authentic self and therefore wasn’t making the right match. As soon as she allowed herself to be her true self, she found the right agent who found the right auditions and Justine started booking like crazy. Be authentically you. Nobody else does you like you do!

3. EMBRACE THE POWER OF TEAMWORK

Share your passion and talent with the people in your life and encourage them to do the same. John Paul Getty once said that he would rather have 1% of the effort of 100 men than 100% of his own effort. You do not have to take this journey on your own. You can enlist the support, feedback and resources of others to make things happen more efficiently and effectively. Force yourself to ask for help and be the first to offer it. Be willing to ask questions and open to receiving honest, constructive feedback. Connect people together. What better way to strengthen your team than to connect your people together! Think about the people you know and identify who they should know and why. Make introductions to support the Collaborators in your life and tie your separate circles together while you’re at it.

4. EXPECT NOTHING

As cool as it would be to control everyone around you, that’s just not the way it works. You can only control your own actions, so let go of any expectations you may have about who should do what and how things should all go. Don’t keep score. Be responsible for your own needs and wants. Focus on you and do the things that inspire you or make you feel good. Take action because you want to, not because you have to. Release your need to be in charge and be open to any possibility. Surprise yourself.

5. LISTEN MORE AND TALK LESS

The best conversationalists are those people who listen more than they speak. Pay attention to what’s going on. Observe others and learn from their successes as well as their mistakes. Make others feel appreciated because you listen to what they have to say. Even if you’ve heard it all before, always bring new ears and eyes to every situation in order to learn. That’s how you get better.

6. FOLLOW UP AND FOLLOW THROUGH

Stay in touch. Don’t leave things unfinished and be mindful enough not to over-commit. Do what you say you will and communicate openly. Be honest. Don’t be flakey. Show up when you say you will. Answer your phone and return phone calls quickly. Actively participate in your career and keep your word.

7. TURN YOUR COMPLAINTS INTO REQUESTS

Stop moaning and make change. If your scene partner isn’t pulling her weight, don’t complain about it. Look for creative solutions and constructive ways to create new results, encourage new behaviors, or completely change your relationship. Crying won’t get you anywhere, so be a part of the solution rather than the problem. If you cannot turn your complaint into a request, you have nothing to complain about.

8. BE COOL

The only power to be had exists in the present moment. Don’t worry about what happened last week, about what you forgot to do, or where you dropped the ball. Stop worrying about the future, wondering about whether or not you’ll get that callback or if your agent is really working hard on your behalf. You cannot change the past and you can’t predict the future, so just be cool and stay present.

Respected as one of the entertainment industry’s leading experts, Dallas Travers teaches actors the career and life skills often left out of traditional training programs. Her groundbreaking book, The Tao of Show Business, has won over five awards including first prizes at The Hollywood Book Festival and the London Festival along with the National Indie Excellence Award. She has helped thousands of actors to increase their auditions, produce their own projects, secure representation and book roles in film and television.

If you’re ready to jump-start your acting career, get your FREE Thriving Artist Starter Kit now at www.dallastravers.com.

Why Choosing Monologues from Plays is Usually Best by Brian O’Neil

Brian O Neil1.)  They were written to be performed live.  Unlike monologues from film and television, plays are written for one reason, and one reason only.  To be performed by a living, breathing human being in the presence of other living and breathing human beings.  They are about language.   The dialogue of a play moves the action forward.  Each line in a monologue dashes onto the next, either for immediate results or to serve as a tactic that will have a payoff later in the play.

2.)  Quantity.  It’s not my intention to stress quantity over quality, but monologues from plays have more words to work with than monologues from film and television.  On-camera, particularly where film is concerned, the visual aspect of the script cannot be overestimated.  Pick up a screenplay and glance through it.  Now pick up a play and glance through that.  The play will have several thousand words more than the screenplay.  If the play is well-written, you’ll have more to work with.

3).  The actor’s medium.  The stage is the actor’s medium, film is the director’s medium.  Every on-camera performance you see has been edited and set in a way that cannot happen in the theater.  The actor is on his own up there with no one to save him -but himself- if he messes up.  Performing a stage monologue puts you, by it’s nature, right into the actor’s medium.  Whoever is watching you is breathing the same oxygen you are and it’s a real test.  On-set, the word “cut” is used a thousand times for many reasons.  There is no one to say “cut” when you’ve live.  Scary?  Yes,  Exciting?  You betcha.

4). Industry judgement.  When you perform a monologue from a play, an industry person tends to find you more sophisticated as an actor than if you perform a piece from film or TV.  Film and TV is a common denominator in our culture and accessible by all.  Choosing material from a play tends to make an industry person think you’re savvy and aware by virtue of the fact that you made that choice.

5).  Lack of comparison to the original artist.  Very few plays are identified by the performance of one actor, and many different actors will play all theater roles over time.  Doing a monologue from film or TV can lend a comparison to the original artist (the film was made and then it was done, over  and frozen).  Bear in mind also that the film actor performed the monologue in optimum circumstances, i.e. lighting, setting, cinematography, and editing.  As opposed to, say,  standing in front of an agent’s desk!

6). No rules!  Despite all the above there can be exceptions.  Sometimes a piece from a little known film can be effective.  Also, always bear in mind that your selection for a monologue needs to match the needs and sensibilities of whomever you are auditioning for.  So if a film and TV casting director should happen to ask for a monologue, the heightened language of a playwright such as Tom Stoppard would not be ideal.  It’s too poetic.  So you’ll want to find a monologue where the dialogue sounds more accessible, more vernacular, more like conversation than would a classical piece.  It needs to feel like a good fit for you and the language of it needs to fit you well and show whoever is watching and listening how you can be of value to them.

Brian O’Neil is the best-selling author of Acting as a Business:  Strategies for Success, Fifth Edition.  A former agent and manager, he is now a career and audition coach.  He teaches at virtually every top acting training program in the country, including Juilliard and NYU.  For more information, visit http://www.actingasabusiness.com

Let’s Shut Up and Talk Demo Reels

Jen RudinSpeak Easy caught up with Julian Rebolledo, Sean Kenin, and Ed Lewis, the team behind Shut Up and Talk. Voice actors Rebolledo and Kenin launched Shut Up and Talk in 2001 and for the next seven to eight years, the two coached, produced demos, and taught some voice over classes. In 2008, Julian wanted to expand the company, so they rebranded and started an audio post production company called Hyperbolic Audio. Today Hyperbolic provides the full audio post services while Shut Up and Talk continues as the educational arm.

Ed Lewis produces Shut Up and Talk demos with Hyperbolic engineers in their studios. And Ed is super credible to produce demos: He’s a casting director (“The Wonder Pets,” “Team Umizoomi,” and numerous voiceover campaigns), directs audio books, and also spent three years as a voiceover agent.

Jen: What’s the number one misconception about demo reels?
Ed: A big misconception about demos is that you need to show your entire range and I don’t believe that’s true. The audience for your demo is agents. You want to show them: “Look, I can make you some money!” So at Shut Up and Talk, we aim to produce five spots. Our intention is to make it sound like five different spots recorded in five different locations and assembled into your demo.

Jen: How does an actor know if they are ready to make a demo?
Julian: Your read needs to be compelling and competitive. Everybody wants a demo, but we need to hear you first. People think we just want their money, but we really have to assess them and then decide if they are ready to make a demo.
Sean: When Julian and I started we turned away a lot of people who wanted to make demos, and we ate a lot of cheap food, and the two of us had a lot of down time! But looking back we are really glad we made the choices we did early on.
Ed: You cannot and should not make a demo until you are ready.

Jen: What makes somebody ready? And if they are ready, what’s the process?
Ed: I coach privately with each actor to assess their skills. When their first and second reads are competitive with what I am hearing during my days in my own casting sessions, that’s when I feel they are ready.

Jen: How has your background as a voiceover agent prepared you for your job now?
Ed: Everything I know about how to produce a demo came from my years as an agent because I heard so many bad demos. So much of my job was listening to demos. I got demos with people doing multiple animated voices and accents.

Jen: Don’t actors think they can do all kinds of voices?
Ed: They may be able to, but agents don’t want variety. We like versatile actors for film, TV, and theater, but in the commercial world, variety is not always what we are looking for. Bottom line: I really need to know if you can deliver a piece of Sprint copy in a conversational manner and make it your own as well, not that you can do every single accent and voice on the planet.

Jen: So actors need to be really clear with what their strengths are.
Ed: Absolutely!

Jen: So what’s the word on the various kinds of demos: animation, commercial, narration, regular VO demo? Are they all on one? Are they three separate demos?
Julian: Separate demos. You can decide which demo you want to make with us.
Ed: You can’t mix sounds on your demo, or genres. You don’t need to show off your whole range. I believe in NYC the only demo you should be working on is a commercial demo.

Jen: Okay, so I’m ready to make my commercial demo. Take me through the process.
Ed: We meet for a first coaching here at Hyperbolic Audio. The first time I work with somebody I lay out a lot about the commercial business. We work in the studio. I throw a bunch of scripts at them. I’m not the Wizard of Oz. I can’t predict if you’re going to make it, but I do share some feedback about what I hear and assess how many coaching sessions I think you’ll need in order to be ready to make your demo. Then it’s the actor’s choice whether they want to invest that kind of time and money into it. I’m not in this demo and production coaching business just to make money. I don’t just want to churn out demo after demo. I’d want to make demos for people who are ready, and high quality demos, which is something Shut Up and Talk has been doing since its launch. I want to be 100 percent behind every demo.

Jen: So it’s quality not quantity. How long is the process?
Ed: You’re in the booth for a little over an hour. Once the spots are recorded, the engineer and I will choose music.
Julian: That’s where Hyperbolic comes in. We have relationships with music houses and music libraries. And we work out a reasonable rate so we can pass it on to the actors.

Jen: So when you finish your demo here, what do you get? A CD, an MP3?
Ed: We deliver an MP3 and a wav file. I do have a consultation once we are done with the demo to teach them about what to do with the demo, and about the websites that they can make some money on. I’ll help them set up their home studio. I also tell them who the nonunion agents are as well as the union ones. I compose the letter.

So all in all, it’s a great deal over at Shut Up and Talk. And as I stress over and over in my book “Confessions of a Casting Director,” you only have one chance to make a good first impression. Don’t make a demo on your iPhone! Just like you go to the dentist, or your accountant, seek out the professionals for your demo!

Jen Rudin is an award-winning casting director and author of “Confessions of a Casting Director: Help Actors Land Any Role with Secrets from Inside the Audition Room.” (Harper Collins/It Books, 2013). Visit www.jenrudin.com and follow @RudinJen.

Why Being Yourself Will Land You the Role By Marci Phillips

Marci Phillips - Being YourselfEveryone on the planet has a very distinct personality. An actor may be defined as someone who observes and portrays a character’s psyche, but everything is ultimately filtered through one’s own prism. We all – actors, casting directors, producers and directors – come from a particular vantage point and bring our own unique life experience to whatever we do.

The audition process can take as little as one day or as long as many months, but the goal is always the same: to find the right actor for the role. But what does “the right actor” mean? If everyone had the exact same opinion, we’d just bring that one person in, cast him or her, and be done with it! You can read a breakdown and say “This is me! I’m perfect for this!” but there are literally hundreds of other actors responding that same way to that same role at the same time.

When you walk into the audition, you don’t know what preconceived notions the casting director has for this. You don’t know if there’s something in the director‘s history that’s coloring his or her conception of the character. You may have read the script but you may not know what the writer is actually visualizing here. So what can you do?

Trust yourself.

You may be spending too much time trying to decipher what “they” want and not enough time crafting the best way that this role can be illuminated through your one-of-a-kind spirit! It’s your imagination and individual experience that will color your choices. No one wants you to give the exact same audition as the 20 actors that came in before you and the 20 actors that will come in after you.

Don’t be afraid of your instincts. If you’re trying to please everyone, you can easily lose what is special about you and end up pleasing no one. Always stay within the parameters of what’s organically honest for the role, the scene, and the world you’re portraying, but if a choice strikes you as particularly funny or poignant, don’t be afraid of it!

Obviously those choices won’t always be on the mark for what “they” want, but you aren’t a mind reader and we don’t expect you to be! Casting directors simply want you to come in with a well-defined, intelligent take. If you’re right for the role, then we (or the director or the producer) will guide you from there.

Along the way you will certainly lose roles because of your individuality, but don’t let that deter you. This same individuality is what lands you the roles that will make your career.

Be fearless!

Marci Phillips is the Executive Director of ABC Casting. The opinions expressed in this article belong solely to Marci Phillips and do not necessarily reflect the views or endorsement of ABC, Disney or any of its subsidiaries. Marci is the author of “The Present Actor – A Practical and Spiritual Guideline to Help You Enjoy the Ride” available on Amazon.com.

7 Rules for Following Up With Casting Directors by Brette Goldstein

brette-goldsteinYou’ve auditioned for a casting director. You received a good response. Now what? Here are some do’s and don’ts on following up:

1. Send a thank you note. If it’s an email or a card, a short and sweet message of gratitude is always nice to receive. I am still a sucker for handwritten cards. If you feel like you’ve got a good read on what a casting director would like, choose a card that they might actually save. Years ago, an actor gave me a thank you card that I had on my bulletin board for the next two years because I loved the art and bright colors. We cast her in four projects during that time. Subliminal? Perhaps!

But do not send a thank you with an “ask” (unless absolutely necessary). The downside to email thank you notes is that I am more and more often asked for something…and often with a deadline. Yep, a deadline. Don’t be that guy. Go ahead, send a link to your reel or most recent short film, commercial, clips, etc., but please try to avoid asking for feedback, a quote for your website, a recommendation for representation, etc. When I have a good meeting with a potential client/producer, I follow up by thanking them for their time and consideration. An ask can come at a later time.

2. Know and keep track of how individual offices like to receive follow-ups. I am great with snail mail, and would prefer it to email. Other casting directors are, thankfully, greener than I, and hate receiving postcards.

But don’t overdo it. Follow up after an audition or meeting with a thank you. Reaching out every six to eight weeks minimum after that is a safe bet.

3. Send email newsletters, with permission.
I recently booked an actor in a commercial because her MailChimp newsletter popped up on my screen as we were casting. It does work. A friend of mine has very funny updates with strange and useful tips one can use in everyday life. I love his emails newsletters.

But don’t bombard me with bi-weekly newsletters or send them to all of my email addresses. Don’t post your updates or links to your most recent trailer on my Facebook timeline or message me on Facebook. Again, that’s my preference. Keep a database of how other casting directors like to be kept in touch with.

4. Respect boundaries when it comes to drop-ins and phone calls. Do not pop into the office unless otherwise invited.

5. Invite us to see your work.

But do not invite us to see something that perhaps you’re great in, but isn’t so great overall. I met an actor at a workshop. He did a great monologue and I loved his energy. He then invited me to absolutely everything he was in and bombarded me with emails and requests. I went to see one of his shows. The play itself wasn’t very good, nor was he. Be very discerning. I was “uninvited” to a show over a decade ago…an all-female rendition of “Romeo and Juliet.” The actor that invited (and later uninvited) me was playing Mercutio. I was excited to see her performance.

After the first preview or two, she removed my ticket from the box office, saying that she’d rather me sit at home and take a nice bath than come see her show, which she wasn’t proud of. She felt good about her own work, but knew the show overall wasn’t up to snuff. She trusted that I already loved her work and would keep her in mind. I have never forgotten how cool that was. I stayed home that night. And took a bath.

6. Find clever ways of getting industry pros to your show, without breaking the bank, of course. Way before John Lloyd Young won a Tony for “Jersey Boys,” he invited me to see an incredible production of “Spring Awakening” (the play) in a basement on the Lower East Side in NYC, which at the time was a little more sketchy and very far from my apartment. The company paid for my taxi. I went and I loved it and I still call the actors in for auditions, nearly 15 years later.

But do not expect industry pros to schlep a good distance to see you in a show. As more actors are self-producing their own content, there are more and more opportunities to work and get your work seen by industry professionals. Patience is difficult but worth it.

7. Focus on building collaborative, mutually beneficial relationships with casting directors. Do not expect casting directors to spend a great deal of time with you in person, on the phone, or over email “managing” your career, no matter how much they like you. I can’t tell you how many times I have picked up a check after giving advice for over an hour. It can be an energy drain.

The bottom line is: Think of auditions as both an opportunity to perform and as a job interview. You wouldn’t make demands after either. Following up simply and professionally builds relationships.

Do not be needy. If you think of interactions in this industry as—to a certain extent—dating, and you think about how those who are successful with dating function, you’ll be more inclined to show us your best self and detach from the outcome.

Brette Goldstein has cast over 40 independent films, 100 commercials, 100 plays, several television and new media projects, and was the resident casting director at Washington, D.C.’s Folger Elizabethan Theatre for 10 seasons. Goldstein has cast films that have won awards and been official selections at most of the major film festivals including Sundance, Tribeca, and Cannes. Additionally, she is the former co-producing director of The Washington Jewish Theatre, production manager at Washington Shakespeare Co., and associate producer of the Washington Theatre Festival. Goldstein teaches audition technique at various NYC studios and several universities, and has done some serious damage at the craft services table in brief stints as an on-set coach.  She teaches an on-going film class at Actors Connection.

Common Missteps for On Camera Auditions by Marci Phillips

Marci Phillips - Being YourselfAlthough I firmly believe that a solid actor can transcend all mediums, there are usually specific expectations for an on-camera audition that a number of you can use some reminders on.

Memorization is not so cut-and-dried in a theater audition, but I’m a huge advocate for it in on-camera auditions. First and foremost, it frees you from the tyranny of the page and allows you to put your energy where it’s most important. How can you be connected, nuanced and in the moment when you don’t know the dialogue?! The powers that be are ultimately watching your audition on-screen and imagining you in their film or series—you make it much easier for them to fall in love with you if you aren’t dragging the pace, pausing inappropriately, staring at your page and fumbling over your words! And in case there was any doubt, paraphrasing as an alternative to knowing your lines is not the best way to ingratiate yourself with the writers.

This being said, the page should always be in your hand—we understand that what you had down pat in the comfort of your home has a way of eluding you when unwelcomed nerves rear their head in the audition room! The sides are in your hand as your safety net but they should never be used as a security blanket. Gluing your eyes to the page won’t ever help you. On the other hand, refusing to look at the page when needed—because you want us to believe you’ve memorized it when you haven’t—isn’t fooling anyone and is only going to hurt you.

If you transpose a sentence, say the wrong word, skip a line or make any other mistake, don’t apologize—improvise! You wouldn’t say “sorry!” or correct yourself in front of an audience if you were onstage. You would use your improvisational skills to find your way back to the text and not let the audience know that anything was wrong. Try to do the same in the audition room if at all possible.

Inappropriate volume for the circumstance of the scene is a common mistake that actors with more stage experience than on-camera experience tend to make. You’ve been so conditioned to speak to the back of the house that, now by habit, your volume is louder the moment you start acting. We need the appropriate, real life volume for whatever is going on. If you’re having an intimate, close dinner in the scene, your volume should be just that. When you’re getting angry or passionate about something, your volume may naturally rise. If you’re yelling, “Hey, throw me the football,” well, yell! It’s very simple—do what you would do in life. I know, sometimes the simplest principles can be the most difficult to master.

Every time you come into an audition, the casting director logically assumes that you are bringing your absolute best into the room. You are telling us, “If I were to book this job and today was day one of shooting, this is how I would show up.” Obviously you’re not privy to the director’s vision, but you’ve got to make your choices based on what you know about the character, the world that the character lives in, and your unique perspective of it all. From there you’ve just got to be bold and fly with it.

Adjustments from our end will likely follow, but you have to make strong choices in order to interest us enough to spend that time with you. I see way too many actors coming in with weak, generic choices—they don’t know for certain what we’re looking for and don’t want to go in the “wrong” direction so they go in whatever seems to be the “safest” direction. You’re probably not going to excite anyone about you with that approach.

No risk equals no gain in most areas of life … and performing in NYC is no exception.

Marci Phillips is the Executive Director of ABC Casting. The opinions expressed in this article belong solely to Marci Phillips and do not necessarily reflect the views or endorsement of ABC, Disney or any of its subsidiaries. Marci is the author of “The Present Actor – A Practical and Spiritual Guideline to Help You Enjoy the Ride” available on Amazon.com.

Set Realistic Expectations For Booking Commercials

Casual young man holding a clapboard, over a gray background

By Dallas Travers

When you first sign with a new commercial agent, it’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling anxious about your booking ratio.  Fears around having to “book right away or get dropped” are often present, and those fears can actually keep you from doing your best work in the audition room.

I want to share a little story and some statistics about commercial bookings to keep in mind every time you go on an audition or start to feel pressure to book.

A Little Commercial Story

First of all, I love the commercial world because there are actually measurable numbers. Your agent will know exactly how many times she submits you, exactly how many times you go out, how many times you get a call back, and how many times you book.

Not too long ago, a client of mine signed commercially with one of the biggest, well-respected commercials agencies in the country. She was with them for a full year, auditioning three to four times a week consistently, but she didn’t book anything.

When her contract came up, the agency called her in for a meeting, and she was horrified. She thought, “They’re not just going to drop me, they’re going to drop me in person.” To her, it looked like a potential nightmare situation.

When they finally sat her down and expressed that they wanted to renew her contract for three years, her jaw hit the floor. They laid it all out, saying, “We don’t expect you to book in your first year. The first year is about building relationships with casting directors.”

They pulled up her numbers and showed her that her callback ratio was 60%. “We know you’re doing everything right,” they said, “and then it’s just about what flavor of ice cream the ad agency wants.”

Know The Numbers

Statistically in commercials, it’s said that you will book one out of your first 52 auditions. So, if you’re auditioning once a week, after a year you will book something.

After the first booking, that number gets cut in half, and you’ll book one out of every 26 auditions. If you’re going out a couple times a week, that’s a couple of commercials every year.

It’s important that you know these numbers and understand that if an agent agrees to work with you, they don’t expect you to book right away. Now, that doesn’t mean that you don’t have to hold up your end of the bargain, but there’s no need to feel pressure when you’ve just signed with an agent. If you’re getting callbacks, you’re doing everything that you can.

Respected as one of the entertainment industry’s leading experts, Dallas Travers teaches actors the career and life skills often left out of traditional training programs. Her groundbreaking book, The Tao of Show Business, has won over five awards including first prizes at The Hollywood Book Festival and the London Festival along with the National Indie Excellence Award. She has helped thousands of actors to increase their auditions and New York casting calls, produce their own projects, secure representation and book roles in film and television.

If you’re ready to jump-start your acting career, get your FREE Thriving Artist Starter Kit now at www.dallastravers.com.