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.

Lessons From Your Survival Job

Marci Phillips - Being YourselfOne of the great things about being an actor is that everything that happens in your life can help to serve your craft. It’s my belief that virtually anything that is executed with intelligence, creativity, ethics, care and love can be considered an Art.

Some people believe that you can’t call yourself an Artist if you’re not actively producing any tangible “Art”. I think it’s important to open up this concept and put some of the same care, thought, inspiration and heart into everything you do on a daily basis as you would for an acting job. If you’re presently in a “survival job” and feel that your creativity can only be nurtured when you’re acting, you might want to take another look at that limiting belief. One of the Dictionary definitions of the word Artist is simply “a person whose work exhibits exceptional skill”. So it stands to reason that, if performed with exceptional skill, whatever you’re doing at the moment can be considered an Art. You just need to stop thinking that it has no relevance to what you really want to be doing.

What can you do?

To truly succeed in acting in New York City, one of the most important skills you want to hone as an actor is your ability to relate and communicate. Can you honestly say that you can’t work on those skills in ANY situation you find yourself in that involves other people? Most jobs require at least some interaction with others, and right there you have an opportunity to grow.

If you find yourself working in the Service Industry to make ends meet, can you use your unique personality to win over your customers? Is there much difference between that and winning over an agent or a casting director in a meeting? Waiters and waitresses sometimes have to deal with rude customers. Can you handle this situation with a certain amount of grace and dignity? That might be a great lesson in how to finesse a dismissive agent or casting director!

So – if you’re experiencing a somewhat negative attitude about having to be a Waiter, Bartender, Personal Trainer, Temp or anything else that’s not in “the Arts” at the moment, see if you can reexamine that. I could list examples for every conceivable survival job that an actor might have, but the basic principles are the same. These jobs allow you to observe life and interact with people in all their quirky wonder. The things you experience in these jobs today can be accessed and used in your acting tomorrow.

Think about how you can challenge yourself with this survival-job-time and turn it into a creative gymnasium that will work for you instead of against you.

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.

So You Want to Be a Voice Actor by Jen Rudin

Jen RudinSo you’ve taken a New York voice over class. Now how do you turn your new voice skills into a real career?

Let’s get real: what actor doesn’t dream of a voiceover career? Perhaps you’ve been told over the years by random strangers in passing (i.e. not just your mom) that you have a super cool distinctive texture to your voice. Maybe you’re a 30-year-old soccer mom who secretly rocks her Bart Simpson when the kids are out of the car. Or your boyfriend makes such convincing animal sounds (lions, tigers, and bears oh my) that you’re convinced he must join the cast of DreamWorks next talking animal movie. But hold please: The fantasy of recording in your home studio in your pajamas collecting ongoing residuals may seem super easy and fun on the surface. But a lucrative and fulfilling career as a voice actor does not happen overnight.

Welcome to “Speak Easy,” a new monthly online column devoted exclusively to  voiceover casting. Every month this column will feature a different angle of the casting process. I’ll include in-depth interviews with working voice actors and voice directors, share epic successes and epic fails from auditions, and often include tech topics such as demo reels, investing in a home studio booth ,and much, much more.

Here are three reasons to read new my new “Speak Easy” column:

1. I’ll give you secrets from inside the audition room on the process of casting animation,  voiceover and video games and more.

2. I’ll debunk plenty of  voiceover myths and delusions, and offer practical tips and tricks to help you nail your auditions.

3. Because I’m an expert. Seriously. I’m an award-winning casting director who spent five years as head of Feature Animation casting at Walt Disney Animation Studios from 2002 until 2007. I’ve cast animated feature films such as “The Incredibles,” “The Princess and the Frog,” and the upcoming “Rock Dog” starring Luke Wilson, J.K. Simmons, and Mae Whitman. I’ve cast voices for animated series (“Peter Rabbit” on Nick Jr.), national commercial campaigns such as Charmin, and the insanely popular video game World of WarCraft. Talk about loyal fans!

So trust me. I’ve worked in all areas of voice for over 10 years and want to help you!

Let’s start with some basics:

Q: People often tell me I have a great voice and should do voiceover work. How do I break in? 
A: You may have that natural texture in your voice, and do a spot-on Kermit the Frog, but you need more then just a unique voice to pursue a career. It’s a craft that involves precision and skill. You need practice (voiceover classes and workshops) and experience behind the microphone before you can land an animated series.

Q: Do I need a VO reel?
A: Yes. You need a professional reel for voiceovers just like you need one for television and film roles. In the olden days, reels were cassette tapes and then CDs mailed to agents and casting directors. Today everything is digital, but that doesn’t mean you should make a reel on your iPhone. You must invest in a professional reel. Many services offer coaching, recording, and editing included. Check out Ed Lewis at www.shutupandtalk.com. Ed’s philosophy: “The job of a voiceover artist is not to talk into a microphone. Although, that is fun. The job of  a VO artist is to audition, audition, audition. In our technology driven world, that is becoming harder and harder. Specs and scripts can be very confusing the actors, even well trained actors.” Ed uses his experience as a trained actor (BFA Theater Performance), as an agent, and as a casting director to help actors.

Q: How can I contact you so you can answer my specific questions?
A: Email your questions to speakeasy@jenrudin.com. Ask smart questions. Engage in the dialogue. Do your best to be an informed actor and I will do my best to respond.  And if you are in the NYC area, check out this cool event on Feb. 27. I’m one of the panelists.

That’s all for now. Until next month. Over and out.

Jen Rudin is an award-winning New York 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.

Jen Rudin Spills the Secrets of Auditioning in ‘Confessions of a Casting Director’

Jen RudinJen Rudin is an award-winning New York Casting Director. We asked her for history, tips, and tricks of the auditioning process.

You started with acting, but stuck with casting instead; what is your favorite part of New York casting?

It’s fun when you get to hire somebody for a role, especially if it’s someone that you have been tracking for a while, who you groomed and brought in over the years. Getting to call the agent and tell them they got the part is the best part; when it all works out, that’s a good day of casting.

Have you had actors that you’ve really championed?

Actors have to make casting directors their fans, and we have to make the client (producing director) a fan of the actor; it’s a gradual process and doesn’t happen overnight. There are many actors that I love and fight for. The challenging thing is that I don’t want to shove my opinion down a director or studio executive’s throat. Casting is like bartending: My job is to present the choices to the creative team and hope the director/producers like the choices.

What do you find the most challenging part of your job?

There is never enough time to audition everybody. If I don’t know an actor, and they don’t have time to pre-read, they’re not going to have an audition. There are so many actors out there and you only have so much time to do the audition, so that’s challenging. There is never enough time to watch all the tapes that are sent in, especially during pilot season.

What have you learned in your career?

There is no formula for casting. Every single project is different; some are fun and easy, and others are a real struggle. Actors do change. An actor may come in and give a terrible audition one day and then another day come in and be great. You can’t write off someone and say they’re never coming back to audition again.

What do you look for when you’re casting animation versus on camera?

First of all, everyone thinks animation is easy to do. It’s a skill like anything else. You have to know what you’re doing behind the microphone, putting on the headphones, what to eat, what not to eat, what to drink, taking your jewelry off in the recording studio because you can’t have all of that stuff clinking. With voiceover and animation, an actor must be aware of their vocal range, and use the highs and lows in their voice to tell a story. Pacing is important. Most of the time comedians and theater people are great for animation because they aren’t afraid to make a fool out of themselves and to take risks. So everybody who thinks they’d be great at voiceovers should take a class and get into a studio and see how hard it is to do it.

What do you wish actors knew when they come in to your office?

I wish actors knew the basics: stapling picture to résumé, being prepared, knowing when to leave and to be able to move on so when the audition is over you go, you’re done—get out of the waiting room and move on with your day, move on to the next audition, don’t linger. I stress a lot in the book that if you’re going to call yourself a professional actor, then be prompt, early, prepared, iron your clothing, brush your hair, know your lines, have your life together so when you walk into that audition you will be you on your best day.

What other auditioning advice do you cover in the book?

Here’s what you can control: You can control what you had for breakfast, you can control leaving the house at an early hour to avoid the traffic. It’s taking control of your schedule, so if you know you have seven pages of lines to learn for a TV pilot, then you change your plans the night before. If you’re a professional actor, then that’s what you need to do in order to learn those lines. I’ve been appalled by what I’ve seen in pilot season: People want to do scenes in a different order than they’re written, an actor wants to sit when we clearly want them to stand. There is some audition etiquette that I hope people will take away.

Jen Rudin is an Award-Winning New York Casting Director who grew up in New York City and began her professional acting career at age eight.

Jen spent seven years as a Casting Executive at The Walt Disney Company.  From 2002-2007, Jennifer served as head of casting for Walt Disney Animation Studios in Burbank, California and she won the 2006 Artios Award for casting Chicken Little and the 2010 Artios Award for The Princess and the Frog. From 2007-2009, she served as Director of Casting and Talent Development for Disney Theatrical Productions in New York City. Additional animated movies include upcoming Turkeys starring Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson and Steve Martin, Meet the Robinsons (2007 Artios Nomination), The Wild (2006 Artios nomination), Academy Award Winning film The Incredibles, Academy Award nominated Brother Bear and Savva. In Los Angeles, Jennifer cast the Los Angeles premiere of Jason Robert Brown’s musical “13”, winner of the 2008 LA Drama Critics Circle Award.

Recent New York casting projects include the following films:  Mama (Guillermo del Toro, producer), The Lorax (Universal Pictures/Illumination Entertainment), Welcome to People (DreamWorks SKG). Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie (Walt Disney Pictures), The American Plan, Shake It Up, and Peter Bogdanovich’s Squirrels to the Nuts.  TV pilots include “Locke and Key” and “Touch” starring Kiefer Sutherland for Fox.  Jen has also cast hundreds of national television commercials; including the famous “Can you hear me now?” campaign for Verizon and currently casts the voices for the World of War Craft video game.  Jen has held faculty positions at Pace University and taught Master Classes at NYU, Boston Conservatory, Northwestern University, Emerson College, Webster University, Baylor University, Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, University of Colorado at Boulder, University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point, The New York Film Academy and University of the Arts.

She is the author of Confessions of a Casting Director.

How To Deal With the Industry Being Unfair by Marci Phillips

Marci Phillips - Being YourselfMarci Phillips, the Executive Director of ABC Casting, discusses how to pursue a career acting in New York City without breaking your heart.

Our lives can usually best be seen through the rear-view mirror. We rarely look at all the positive things that we have here and now because we’re too busy obsessing about the things that we don’t have. We rarely take a moment within the craziness of our day to stop the noise and simply be grateful.

Do you think that this business and New York casting in general is unfair? OK, but please show me a business that isn’t. Don’t get me wrong, if I ruled the world every talented actor would be making their living acting, and roles would all be cast according to whomever is the best for the job. But this is a very subjective business, and who is “best” for the job depends on the perspective and psyche of the individual doing the hiring. Today the role goes to the other guy, and tomorrow it might go to you. When you get the job, you’re no longer thinking, “That’s not fair,” but the actors that lost out to you may be thinking it! Instead of seeing things as unfair, ask yourself how you can grow from whatever happens. Success may—or may not—bring you peace, but disappointment can bring you wisdom.

The angst of your career not being where you want it to be can only bring you more angst. Thoughts become things so it may be time to stop programming your brain towards negativity. Remind yourself of all the things that you actually have accomplished and don’t belittle these achievements—no matter how “small” you perceive them to be. There’s always someone out there who would be very happy to have experienced the wins that you’ve already had.

Many people, myself included, have experienced being financially broke.

This period of time can either break you, or it can play a huge part in your growth and development. To know that you can live and somehow make ends meet with next to no resources is very empowering. When you eventually get out of your financial rut (and you must believe that you will), you’ll have the knowledge that you indeed survived it and that makes you stronger. No one can ever take that away from you.

If you look at this business as cruel and unjust then you’re right—that’s what it will be. If you look at this business as a crazy adventure where anything is possible, then you’re right—that’s what it will be. I didn’t write this article to invalidate your experiences or your feelings. I wrote this to remind you that where you are today is more wonderful than you probably realize.

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.

3 Business Tips for Actors Who are Ready to Create Their Own Work by Jenn Lederer

Jenn Lederer is an accredited talent manager and President/co-owner and talent manager of Merging Artists Management. Since technology has made it easier for performers to create and produce their own work, we asked her for tips on how actors can use this trend to increase their opportunities to perform in NYC.

I’ve been seeing a trend in the entertainment industry that could be doing more harm than good for a lot of performers out there: looking to expand their opportunities to perform in NYC.  Artists are jumping on board of this trend with the best of intentions, but lack of preparation, research, and commitment often leave them in worse conditions than when they began.

What is this trend?

Producing + Creating your own work.

This is such an exciting time in the industry for creative artists of all kinds, because it has never been so “easy” to create + produce your own work.  With platforms like IndieGoGo, Kickstarter, FundAnything, CrowdRise, etc, more projects have a chance of getting the funding they need to finally get off the ground.

More actors are getting the chance to put themselves in the kind of projects they WANT to do + really showcase their talent(s)..but at what price?

If you’re thinking of Producing some of your own projects, congrats!  Just make sure you’ve got your sh*t together first…

DISCLAIMER: I am a HUGE FAN of actors taking control of their career by creating their own projects…but I’m NOT a fan of watching people spread themselves so thin that they can barely remember why they started the project in the first place.

When you start a project that requires you to take on any (or sometimes all) of these roles: Producer, line-producer, Writer, co-writer, director, actor, accountant, etc…basically, if YOU are running the show…you better have an incredibly clear idea of exactly how you plan to COMPLETE the project successfully.

I see a lot of great projects START off wonderfully…but often times it seems like no one has taken the time or energy to really think about + plan what it’s going to require to see this project all the way through to the end.  Not to mention what is going to have to go by the way-side while you give this project your all.

(I’m sure you’ve been involved with your share of projects that never see the light of day because it falls apart in post…the last thing you want is for YOUR passion project to become one of these horror stories).

The point I’m getting at here is this: Something’s gotta give.

You have to be honest with yourself going in as to what you will need to give up in order to make this project happen, successfully.

  • How much time every week will you truly need to give this project for it to be a success?
  • SCHEDULE the time in your week + stick to it.  The time won’t just magically appear in your schedule.
  • Will you honestly be able to keep up with auditions, callbacks, performances, and other filming schedules on top of what you need to get done?
  • Do you have ALL of the information you need to make this happen successfully…or does more research need to be done?
  • What can you honestly handle on your own and what should you be seeking assistance with?
Spreading yourself too thin is only going to leave you feeling even more frustrated than when you began…and this whole thing started as a way to BOOST your career, not kill your energy!
Want to know if you are ready to take on your passion project?

Here are my 3 Business Tips for Actors Who are Ready to Create Their Own Work: 

Step 1: RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH

  • Do you know someone who recently completed a similar project to the one you are about to start? Reach out to them and ask if you can take them out to lunch + ask them some questions about their experience! (HINT: prepare your questions before hand so you don’t waste their time + get as much out of it as possible :)
  • Think of EVERYTHING that you will be doing and research everything you can about each role.
  • Do you know how to put together an analytics package for your investors?
  • Have you got a crew lined up that is committed to making this happen?
  • Do you have a clear schedule laid out for the ENTIRE project (with rain dates & other options if your cast isn’t avail)?
  • Are you familiar with how to secure locations?

If you can name it…You research it.

Step 2:  BE HONEST + prepared

  • Again, you’ve gotta be honest with exactly how much time, effort & research needs to go into this in order to make it happen successfully.
  • There will always be unforeseen obstacles that come about once the project gets underway…but the more prepared and supported you feel going in, the better you will be able to deal with those hiccups as they happen.

Step 3: Know Your Team + Get It In Writing!

I’ve seen projects implode from the inside, and it ain’t pretty.

Whether you are teaming up with friends or simply getting together with other creative minds that you know & respect, it’s important that everyone is crystal clear on their roles & responsibilities.  You’ve gotta get it in writing, because when the going gets tough…it’s amazing how fast no one can “remember” what they say will get done.

  • This will become SO helpful when things are stressful and no one feels like taking the wrap for what didn’t get done.  You don’t want to start playing the blame game, and a written agreement made up at the beginning of the project will help you avoid this.
  • Also, if someone simply isn’t delivering on their end of the deal, you have written proof as to why they are no longer welcome on your team.  It’s nothing personal, it’s business…and that was made clear at the beginning. (phew.)

As I mentioned before, there are always going to be unforeseen challenges that come up…but the more you know before you start, the better off you will be in every way.

Protect yourself, protect your project, protect your vision, and create the project that you always knew it could be.

Jenn Lederer is the President/co-owner and talent manager of Merging Artists Management, and is an accredited TMA talent manager.  Merging Artists’ actors have been seen on The Blacklist, L&O SVU, Boardwalk Empire, Nurse Jackie, Louie, The Good Wife, Royal Pains, Tower Heist, The Smurf’s, All My Children, and many other projects including independent films & National commercials.