Monday, September 20, 2010

Writer Joel Goldman

From Joel Goldman's website:

I started writing thrillers when one of my former law partners complained to me about another partner. I told him we should write a murder mystery, kill the son-of-a-bitch off in the first chapter and spend the rest of the book figuring out who did it. So, I did and I never looked back. That was in 1992.

Six novels later, the Kansas City native is a successful writer and voice-over artist.

Check out Joel's website here to find out more about his books, including his new release No Way Out.

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Friday, September 3, 2010

Writer Tess Gerritsen

Do book reviewers treat female writers differently than male writers? And which should mean more, anyway: praise from the New York Times Book Review, or avid fans?

Tess Gerritsen:

We commercial authors don’t need the Book Review, but the Book Review needs us. It needs our publishers to buy ad space. Yet fewer and fewer publishers seem inclined to shell out the thirty thousand bucks to buy a full-page Book Review ad. When my publisher and I were discussing the promotional campaign for my latest book, Ice Cold, there was no discussion at all about buying ad space in the Times, even though they’d done it for my prior books. And I agreed with them that buying an ad in the Book Review is a waste of money. Why?

Because readers who buy commercial novels like mine don’t even read the Book Review any more. It’s become that irrelevant to their lives.

Listen to internet radio with The Casting Couch on Blog Talk RadioTess is the bestselling author of 22 books, including eight titles in the Jane Rizzoli/Maura Isles series. The Rizzoli/Isles series is now a show on TNT starring Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander. For Canadian viewers, Rizzoli & Isles will debut on October 5.

Trailer here:

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Dan Eberle - Writer/Actor/Director

Dan Eberle (The Local) returns to the Casting Couch to talk about his new film, Prayer to a Vengeful God, which opens in October. He'll give us the lowdown on the new movie, how he got it made, and how he navigates the festival scene.

See trailer below.

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Monday, August 16, 2010

Richard Rose - Artistic Director, Tarragon Theatre

Tarragon Theatre in Toronto is celebrating its 40th Anniversary this year. Richard Rose has been the at the helm as Artistic Director since 2002. Tarragon's mission statement is right up this radio show's alley: To create, develop and produce new plays and to provide the conditions for new work to thrive.

Over a career spanning more than 30 years, Rose has directed shows all over the country, including 13 plays at the Stratford Festival, and 30 plays at Necessary Angel Theatre, which he founded.

At Tarragon, Rose has directed a number of shows, including Scorched, Léo, The Oxford Roof Climber’s Rebellion, Humble Boy, Bea’s Niece, No Great Mischief, Simpl, and Remnants. He has also directed productions for seven opera companies and taught at a number of universities and schools, including York University, University of Toronto Drama Centre, Equity Showcase, and the National Theatre School. He is currently Adjunct Professor in the York Theatre Program.

We'll talk to Richard about the theatre scene in Canada, and what he's working on for Tarragon's 40th season.

You can visit the Tarragon website here. The new season's calendar is now available, so have a look.

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Matthew Tompkins - Actor and Producer

An actor of both stage and screen, Matthew Tompkins has appeared in numerous feature films, commercials, and theatrical productions. He is also the producer of The Fragility of Seconds and Radiant, which were both released in July, 2010.

Click here for the interview. We talk about Shakespeare, commercial productions, and movies. Matt also has some great advice for independent filmmakers.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Michael Atkinson - Writer & Film Critic

Michael Atkinson's new book Hemingway Cutthroat hits the shelves this month. We'll talk to him about the book, as well as spend some time chatting about movies, and the writing game.

A prolific writer, you can find out more about Michael here. It includes links to his blog and other work.

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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Brett Battles - Writer

Brett Battles is the author of the Jonathan Quinn thriller series. His books include The Cleaner, The Deceived, and Shadow of Betrayal.

An avid traveler, Brett has trekked from Ho Chi Minh City, to London, to Singapore, to Paris, to Bangkok, and other exotic locales that are featured in his books. We'll talk to him about Jonathan Quinn, and what it's like as a writer in the thriller game.

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Mark Preston - The Lettermen

Mark Preston is back on the The Casting Couch to talk music, show business, and the release of New Directions - the Lettermen's latest album. The Lettermen have been touring like crazy for the past year, and have dozens of more tour dates coming up. Mark will give us the view from the road, as well as a sneak peak at a couple of tracks from the new album.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Michael Bourret - Literary Agent

Michael Bourret returns to Casting Couch Radio. Michael has been a literary agent at Dystel & Goderich Literary Management since 2000. He moved to LA late last year to head D&G's Los Angeles office. We'll talk to him about what's new in the writing world, and what he's up to in LA.

Listen to The Casting Couch on Blog Talk RadioYou can also catch our last conversation here.

michael bourret

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Cliff Guest - Director and Producer

Cliff Guest has been in the film and video industry since the 1980s, directing and producing music videos, commercials and feature films. His credits include videos for Madonna, Aerosmith, Peter Gabriel, and Cher, as well as ads for companies like Proctor and Gamble and The United Way.

Cliff is currently in Florida, developing projects at Knee Deep Films Inc. We'll talk to him about the ever-changing entertainment industry, and his no-nonsense take on the independent scene.

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Arik Abel - Zooppa

Zooppa is the place where major brand names meet new and experienced storytellers. Brands provide a creative brief for the message they want to spread to the world, then award cash prizes for the best ads that Zooppa's members create. We'll talk to Zooppa's marketing director about this new opportunity for filmmakers.

You can learn more about Zooppa here.

Listen to the interview by clicking below.

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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Audition Tips #5

I'm doing another casting call for a corporate pitch, which means I'm looking at a lot of headshots, resumes, and websites. Some thoughts:

1) Actors always seem concerned when they don't have a website. "I need a website...I need someone to build me a website...I wish I had a website..." Nonsense. Blogs and Facebook are easy to use, and they're free. Use them. Add your resume and pics, then send the link when applying for an audition. Actors that don't have a web presence today are simply lazy.

2) It is far better to use a blog or Facebook if your website is cheap and looks it.

3) Don't add music to your website. If your website already has music, remove it. It's irritating to open a webpage and be blasted with a song. The song may be the soundtrack of your life, but it does absolutely nothing to help you land an audition. I would guess that casting directors hear about three seconds of your song before doing one of two things: turning off the volume, or closing the website.

4) The word "headshot" is a little passé, at least in the context of "Send me your headshot." It's a holdover from the days of print photography and the post office. Sending one headshot was simply convenient and inexpensive, both for the actor to send, and the casting director to file. I suggest actors send at least two photographs with the email, and have two or more on their website. The more the better. One should be a close up from crown to chin, the other a full body shot. The rest can be a sampling of everything in between. All of them on one webpage (and from here on out "webpage" means Facebook-blog-webpage-whatever) is the best. The more options, the better.

5) Use the spell checker. It matters. It is especially weird to see websites that have music and flashing lights, but bad grammar and misspelled words. You worried about the wrong things. The music tells me nothing, the spelling actually quite a lot. This morning I received resumes that spelled the following words incorrectly: acting, improvisation, and director.

6) If your page has a bunch of different photographs, with a bunch of different haircuts, it's handy to know which style you're sporting right now. Blonde? Brown? Bob? Shoulder length? Say so. For guys, if you have a beard in some shots, but no beard in others, say whether or not you have to keep the beard due to other commitments, or if you can shave/grow it whenever needed.

7) As I've said before, if you change your hairstyle, you owe money to two people: the hairdresser and the photographer. Never drastically change your appearance unless you're prepared to get new photographs.

8) Photographs from more than a few years ago are probably useless. Discard them.

9) I like to surf the acting blogs and forums to see what actors are thinking. Believe it or not, the stuff written above is not criticism, it is simply opinion. Opinion that I hope will help actors achieve their goals. That said, I notice that a lot of talk on the forums comes from actors that complain about not getting an audition in 6 months or a year. A year! Who would fail at something for that long before coming to this conclusion: "I'm doing something wrong." If your website is the same as it was last year, and your photos are the same, and your email's opening pitch is copy and pasted from every other email you've ever sent to a casting director, then here's a news flash: your approach isn't working. Change the website. Change the photos. Change the pitch. Adapt and experiment.

10) I have an incredibly hard time convincing actors of this next one. No matter how many times I say it, it doesn't happen. Maybe they think I'm stupid, or just plain wrong. Perhaps they're right, but I don't think they're right. What I say is this: "Record some video of yourself doing a monologue or scene, and put it on your website." Never happens. I can't fathom why. All day long you'll hear actors complain that they have no video demo material. Meanwhile, cheap video cameras abound, scripts cost eight dollars from Dramatic Play Service, and writing your own scene is free.

Put the camera on a tripod or, if you can't afford that, put the camera on a table and a stack of books. Sit near a window to get enough light. Don't have the window directly behind you, have it to the side, to add some shadows and definition (watch any TV show where ladies drink coffee in a cafe, then copy the shot). Then do a monologue, or two or three, or ten. Do them only in a head and shoulders shot, so we don't see your living room. Pick the best of the bunch and put them on your website. Being able to hear and see you speak is the most powerful tool you can give to a casting director. Unless you're strictly going for modeling jobs, headshots can't come close to showing what you can do compared with seeing you act. If you're worried that this will look amateur, beat this opinion to the punch by plainly stating, "I like to keep fresh by practicing stuff from a variety of genres." Write this above the video player. Bingo. You've taken away the amateur vibe, and you've shown that you work on your craft. Good all around.

Back to Casting Couch Radio.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Graham Brown - Writer

Graham Brown was born in Chicago in 1969. He grew up in Illinois, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, traveling often with his family. Graham earned a degree in Aeronautical Science from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona and went on to get a law degree from Arizona State College of Law in Tempe.

A pilot and former lawyer, Black Rain is Graham Brown's first novel. He and his wife now live in Tucson, Arizona. You can learn more about Graham and Black Rain here.

Thursday, May 13, 10PM EST.

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Monday, May 10, 2010

Michael Atkinson - Novelist, Essayist, Film Critic

Michael Atkinson is a novelist, poet, essayist, and film critic. His work has appeared in dozens of publications, including The Village Voice, The Guardian, LA Weekly, and

The second book in his Hemingway mystery series, Hemingway Cutthroat, will be in stores and online in August, 2010. You can visit Michael's website here.

Listen to the interview by clicking below.

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Saturday, May 8, 2010

Marsha Moore - 24 Hours Paris

It was great having Marsha back on the show. I interviewed her a while back about her book 24 Hours London. Her new book about touring Paris at any time of the day or night is out this month. We talk about that, and some more exciting news: the release of her first fiction novel.

You can find out more about Marsha here.

Listen to the interview here.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Writer Julie Chibbaro

Julie Chibbaro is back to talk about the writing game, as well as an update on Deadly: The Search for Typhoid Mary. The book is due out in 2011.

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Friday, March 26, 2010

Show Notes: Acting Coach Mary McGinley

Mary McGinley, acting coach and founder of the Carolinian Shakespeare Festival, stops by for another chat about actors and auditions. Mary's going through the casting process right now for this year's show, and she'll give us the low down on what's good, what's bad, and what makes the difference between the two.

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Show Notes: Dana Kaye - Kaye Publicity

You've written a book, started a business, or developed a revolutionary idea. Now what?

Based in Chicago, Dane Kaye of Kaye Publicity represents over a dozen authors. We'll talk to her about the publicity business, and how she helps raise public awareness for her clients and their work.

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Show Notes: Adam Rave - Lead Singer of Adam's God

Adam Rave, lead singer of Adam's God, is back to talk about navigating the Toronto music scene as an independent artist. We will also play a couple of the band's new tracks.

They have some shows coming up. Check out the website for details.

Interview: Tuesday, March 23, 10PM EST.

Click to listen:

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Audition Tips #4 - First Instincts Are Usually Correct

At least, I think they are.

Take an audition from a couple of weeks back. I sent 12 invitations to actors to come in for a read. Two cancelled, the other 10 showed up. Out of those 10, I would say that five gave decent reads. The other five gave "okay" reads but, being me, I pushed them a little and got more out of them. This is why I like to do long casting calls when I have the time - such as when two people cancel and the clock isn't ticking.

After pushing, I had 8 good actors, and two that weren't right for the part no matter what. But the first actor had been so good right off the bat that I knew everyone else had to beat her. She set the bar. I took the tape home, watched it, and had a friend in LA watch it. I didn't tell him who I liked. He wrote back and said, "The first one."

He was right. It was the first one. She wasn't spectacular compared to the other 7, there was just something about her that seemed to fit. She was right for the part. The other 7 actors would probably have done a fine job with it, some of them perhaps better than others. They were all quite good, better than I expected them to be, which made my job harder. But the first actor had "it." Whatever the hell "it" is.

Casting isn't easy. If you think casting directors take it lightly, they do not. Try as they might, no matter how often they watch the tape or look at the headshots, Zeus isn't going to come down from Olympus and say, "That one."

When you're casting, you have to trust your gut, and your gut's first reaction is usually the one you'll go with even after chewing on it for a day or a week.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Show Notes: Linda L. Richards - Writer

Linda L. Richards is a mystery writer, as well as the editor and co-founder of January Magazine and a regular contributor to The Rap Sheet.

Linda has lived in Los Angeles and Munich but was born in Vancouver, Canada. She currently lives in the Gulf Islands off Canada’s west coast with her partner, the artist David Middleton, and their crazy dog, Jett.

When she isn’t writing books, writing about books or reading, Richards enjoys hiking the wild beaches near her home, quite often thinking about her current work in progress.

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Monday, March 1, 2010

Audition Tips #3: Casting Call Types and Practicalities

Casting calls are patently unfair, but there isn't much you can do about it, whether as an actor or a casting director. (Note that everything I talk about could involve a choreographer, or director, or producer, or whoever is running the audition. I use "casting director" as a catch-all to keep it simple).

Here's the problem: there's a lot of actors out there, or at least a lot of people that call themselves actors. If a casting director puts out a great sounding casting call (paid work, no nudity, speaking role), then they are going to be flooded with resumes. Dozens, if not hundreds, of actors and wannabes will want to audition. If a casting director doesn't put out a call for resumes, then they'll do what's called an open call: just announce an audition at such-and-such a time in such-and-such a place, and wait to see who shows up. This generally attracts bigger crowds, but the problem remains the same. There just aren't enough hours in the day to see everybody for more than a few minutes.

I prefer doing auditions by invitation. I whittle down the list of people I want to see according to what their headshots and CVs tell me. How do I know if they're any good? I don't. I'm just guessing. But it's an educated guess because I've already seen their face and body, and I've decided that they might fit the role. If they're a smart actor, I've also heard their voice because I will have seen their demo reel online. This gives me more to go on. In any event, I use the headshots and CVs to say, "I want to see what they've got." A calculated risk.

An open call is what it sounds like. It resembles American Idol. Would-be actors walk into the room sight unseen, do a monologue or sing a song, and hope for the best. For all they know, the casting director is looking for a blonde while the actor's a brunette, or the casting director wants somebody over 35 and you're a teenager. You're history before you've even opened your mouth, unless you're extremely good and change their mind about the part's requirements.

A cattle call is a hybrid of the two. The CD doesn't want resumes, but neither are they going to give you a chance to speak just yet. In a cattle call a dozen or more people come into the room or onto the stage and are then eliminated by look alone. The ones that are asked to stay are then asked to read, or act, or dance, or whatever, and are whittled down some more. You see cattle calls in seemingly every behind-the-scenes movie about Broadway, where hundreds of people line up and are decimated by the index finger of a casting director, until only a manageable amount are left to actually audition.

In any of these three examples, it is important for you to remember that the CD has someone in mind before you even walk in the room or email your resume. They don't know who this someone is, but they have an image of it, a feeling for it, in their mind. If you come close to meeting this feeling by your look, then you've got a good chance of reading. If you don't, too bad, unless the CD has time on their hands. It's important to remember this because it will help keep you sane: not being picked during a cattle call doesn't necessarily mean you look like crap - it means you aren't what the CD wants for that particular part. "Not right for the part," can be a BS statement, but it can also be a very honest and valid assessment.

The American Idol example is probably closer than any of us think. It wouldn't surprise me in the least if the producers of the show say to themselves, "Damnit, we're short on young people." Meaning that young people now have an immediate advantage over someone in their late twenties. You may think America Idol is democratic as all hell and is a wonderful way to find musical talent, but before America gets to vote on the top 20 or whatever it is, the show's producers control the population. American Idol is, first and foremost, a TV show.

The casting director may not be your friend, but neither are they your enemy. I've said this before, and it bears repeating: the casting director wants you to do well. They want to find good talent. So nevermind the CD. Your greatest enemy at a casting call is time.

During an open call, you have mere seconds to make an impact. That's it. It's mostly beyond your control. If you do not match the look that the CD is going for, you're probably history. But after you've opened your mouth to do a monologue or a scene, the clock is ticking fast. The first ten seconds have to be your best work, and every second thereafter has to be even better. You have to be on. In an open call, there are no comebacks. There's a hundred people behind you at the door, the production has rented the room for eight hours, and that's that. If the words, "Can I start over?" leave your lips, you're pretty much done.

I'm talking here about practicalities. You have to see show business as a business, and you have to look at it from the CD's point of view. They are responsible for finding the best talent the city has to offer and in the shortest amount of time.

Casting calls cost money. You have to advertise them, find a space to conduct them, feed the crew, and fill them with coffee. Scheduling is a major issue, and casting calls can't be cancelled without serious repercussions, the largest of which is a huge hit to a CD's reputation. Taking that into consideration, imagine facing the actor that silently "gets into character" for thirty seconds before starting their audition. If ten actors do that during a day, that's five minutes that could have been spent seeing a few more actors. Frustrating. (An aside about this, while I'm thinking about it: if you have to shut your eyes and "get into character" before an audition, do it outside the casting room door. Doing it in front of a casting director is self-indulgent nonsense and it wastes time. If you're an actor, act).

More later...

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Show Notes: Steve Forman - Writer

Steve Forman is the author of Boca Knights and the recently released Boca Mournings, a humorous mystery series set in a retirement community in Boca Raton. Boston homicide detective, Eddie Perlmutter, moves down to Boca when his arthritic knees can't take the New England cold anymore. He was looking forward to a retirement filled with sunbathing and golf, but he soon learns even paradise isn't without its crime. Library Journal says, "Mystery fans who like their operatives macho with an offbeat sense of humor will certainly enjoy this book."

Steve finished and published his first novel at the age of 65, after spending over 30 years as the CEO of a multi-million dollar corporation. Like Eddie, he splits his time between Boston and Boca Raton.

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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Audition Tips #2: Headshots

If you're an actor, then you've probably been told that your photos are the most important part of your resume, CV, portfolio, or what I simply like to call an actor's "stuff."

Your headshots are the most important part of your stuff because what you look like is usually a deal breaker for whether or not you get a part. "What you look like" does not mean pretty, or handsome, or gorgeous, or thin. It means what it means: what do you look like? Are you right for the part?

Some tips and thoughts on headshots. Most of these are thoughts I've had when I've opened an email and seen an actor's stuff. Note that I'm referring to headshots taken by a professional, and not headshots taken with a point-and-click camera in your living room.

1) Being drop dead gorgeous is fine, but not if the part requires someone who isn't drop dead gorgeous.

2) When you send your stuff in for consideration, know what you're applying to. Accountants don't apply for jobs in molecular biology. Don't send a glamour shot for the part of a tough guy thug.

3) I have an actor friend who hates her eyebrow. Just one of them. It goes up at a funny angle when she smiles. So she uses headshots that don't show the funny eyebrow. Me, I like her funny eyebrow and think it sets her apart. It isn't stupid looking, it just adds character. Something different. Remember that guy in Braveheart with the big scar on his face? That scar probably got him the part.

4) I like to see a headshot and a full body shot. The headshot should show both eyes clearly and have next to no make-up. Your hair shouldn't be too trendy. The framing of the headshot should be a close-up. Chin to the top of the head is great. The full body shot is used to see your body type. This doesn't mean how thin you are. It means, well, what do you look like? Are you right for the part?

5) The most irritating thing in the world is an actor that doesn't look like their pictures. If you do any of the following things, you need new headshots. a) Cut your hair. b) Dye your hair. c) Put on a lot of weight or lose a lot of weight. d) For men, if you grow a beard/mustache, or shave a beard/mustache, you need new headshots. I once had a frantic phone call from an agent who said, "That guy you want for the audition, I forgot, he's highlighted his hair! It's a little more blonde! I'm sorry!" Good agent. It didn't matter for the role and I said don't worry about it. The onus, however, was now on the actor to get new headshots. If you change your hair color or drastically cut its length, you owe money to two people: the hairdresser and the photographer.

6) The weight thing is always a bummer, because people regard it as a touchy issue. It isn't. If you have put on twenty-five pounds, and don't get new pictures, casting directors will be able to tell that you've put on twenty-five pounds. That simple. You aren't fooling anyone except yourself. It is very irritating to have a person send in pictures and a CV that say 120 lbs, then show up to the audition weighing 150. Not because casting directors hate heavier people, but because you're a liar, you're treating them like idiots, and you're wasting everyone's time. If you're wondering why I don't mention the people that send in pictures of themselves weighing 175, then show up weighing 130, it's because it never happens. Interesting.

6) If it's been two years since your last headshot session, you need new headshots. If you think you still look the same after two years, you don't. I sometimes receive headshots that are obviously scans of photos from the days before digital prints. Gimme a break. Get new headshots.

7) If you need to wear glasses all the time, and can't wear contacts, then your headshots better have glasses in them.

8) Don't send me a shot of your butt unless the breakdown specifically says it's an underwear ad. Have some self respect. Nothing - and I mean nothing - is more pathetic than bad lingerie and bikini shots. I suppose there's some scummy casting directors out there that will cast someone for a corporate promo based on a girl's butt, but I don't think they'll be in the business for long.

9) Stop plucking your eyebrows. That advice comes from a model friend of mine, and she's very successful. I showed her a shot of a woman I was thinking of using for a gig and she said, "Yup, looks great. Now tell her stop plucking her eyebrows. They're crooked. And eventually, they won't grow back."

Monday, February 8, 2010

Show Notes: Lou Berney - Writer

If you rip off a murderous 400-pound Vegas gangster, leave the country. ASAP.

Such sage advice can be found in Lou Berney's recently released first novel, Gutshot Straight. A screenwriter by trade, Berney penned the book during the writer's strike of 2007/08.

Lou has written several feature screenplays, television pilots, and short fiction. His work has appeared in the New Yorker, New England Review, Ploughshares, and the Pushcart Prize anthology. He has taught at the University of Oklahoma, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and in the MFA program at Saint Mary's College in California.

We talk to Lou about the writing business and making the transition from screen to books.

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Sunday, February 7, 2010

Show Notes: Mary McGinley - Founder of the Carolinian Shakespeare Festival

Mary McGinley is the Founder and Producing Artistic Director of the Carolinian Shakespeare Festival. She has worked as a performer, director, and administrator at many regional theaters across the country. Having received her MFA in Directing from Rutgers University and a professional degree from NYU, Mary teaches acting and coaches actors in New York. We'll talk to her about acting, directing, audition technique, and the incredible staying power of the Bard.

You can find Mary's company website here, and her audition website here.

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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Show Notes - Filmmakers Kelly Schwarze and Charisma Manulat

Kelly and Charisma have spent the last year creating their own independent comedy, "You People," which will appear at film festivals this year. We'll talk to them about how they got it done, and where they're going from here.

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Show Notes - Writer Robin Burcell

Robin Burcell is an FBI-trained forensic artist, and spent more that two decades in law enforcement as a police officer, detective, and hostage negotiator. She is an award-winning author of six novels, including the Kate Gillespie series. We talk to her about the transition from cop to writer, and what she's working on now.

I liked this interview a lot. Robin's got a lot of passion for the business of being a writer. Plus, let's face it, Godard wasn't wrong: all you need for a good story is a girl and a gun. Robin's new book, The Bone Chamber, is now available.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Audition Tips

I'm in the process of putting together a cast for a script, as well as casting for a corporate web pitch. The audition process of the "casting call" is more or less the same for both formats, so I thought I'd put some pointers here.

If you don't know how a casting call goes, it's something like this: you walk into a room and meet two or more strangers. There's a camera at one end of the room, and someone tells you to step in front of it. If the project is a corporate ad or a commercial, there's probably a teleprompter on the camera, and it has a script. If not, then someone just hands you a piece of paper (if you're lucky, they sent you the script days ago; if you're not, it's going to be a cold read).

After you've stepped in front of the camera, you might be asked to slate yourself. That means saying your name, your agent's name, and anything else the casting director wants on tape. Then someone says, "Go," or "Action," or "Whenever you're ready," and you start to read. After a minute or two, that same person will say "Thanks," or "Stop," and then tell you that they'll be in touch.

You leave the room and wonder if they'll really be in touch, and you think that they probably won't. And you're right.

It isn't always your fault. If you want the breakdown of a casting call from someone that shoots them, here's my take. I don't know if it's all good advice, but it's advice nonetheless. Most of it relates to corporate pitches and ads, because that's what I shoot the most. These are off the top of my head and in no particular order.

1) It doesn't really matter if you shake my hand, look me in the eye, or otherwise ingratiate yourself. It only matters if you can act, and if you can read well on the first go. Not perfectly, but well.

2) Any casting director will know in about 2.5 seconds whether you're any good. That's not an exaggeration. One spoken sentence is about all it takes. They don't need your resume to know if you've done cold reads before. If you haven't done cold reads, it means you haven't auditioned much, which means you haven't acted much. It will show. If the casting director is unkind, they'll tell you to stop reading after ten seconds. If they're a wimp like me, they'll give you a whole minute or two, just so you don't think you wasted your time getting down to the audition.

3) If you're pitching to the lens, never take your eyes off the lens. Ever. Newscasters don't, and neither should you. It makes you look shifty and is the first sign of an amateur.

4) With all of the cheap video cameras lying around, it amazes me that actors trying to get into film and TV don't tape themselves and practice in front of a lens. A small, decent video camera will cost you no more than $200. A usable tripod will cost another $30. Use it. Set it up and read to it. Get used to being in front of a lens and talking to it. Talking to a camera is not a natural act, and it takes practice. Better yet, get someone to tape you, so that you're used to be watched and scrutinized.

5) Practice more.

6) Practice again.

7) When you're done a read, keep looking into the lens until someone says "Cut," or "Thanks." Pros don't look away from the lens until they hear that, because they know an editor needs time to cut away or fade out after the dialogue ends. Since they know this, they habitually keep their eyes on the lens even after doing a rehearsal or a cold read. It's the mark of a pro. Actors that finish reading, then immediately look to the director for feedback, are obvious amateurs.

8) There's nothing wrong with being an amateur, except that it means you will need more direction. This means longer shoots. Longer shoots means more money, for studio time, a director's fee, editing, maybe even aspirin. This is why a limited number of pros get most of the good corporate and commercial spots: they're good, they're easy to work with, and they nail things in a small number of takes. Unfortunately, this means that amateurs have to wait for their "break" to get a job. But while waiting, they should...practice.

9) Practice again. Get a computer and write a script on it. Have a friend put the laptop or monitor on a shelf at eye level, with the camera just above or below it. Stand ten feet away. Have your friend scroll down as you read the script. Do it again. And again. And again.

10) Loud people tend to come off as pros when they walk into a room. I don't mean jerk-loud or wanna-be-loud. I just mean gregarious and slightly above conversation level. They sound confident and like they've been there before. I don't suggest you try it too hard, unless you want to sound like a dork, but I say it in passing.

11) Don't smack your lips when you talk. Try not to lick your lips, either.

12) If you need a glass of water before you start, then ask for one. Most casting directors are not jerks. Don't be afraid of them. They'll give you a glass of water.

13) You might not be right for the part, and there might not be a good reason why. Not your fault. Move on.

14) Listen to direction. I often give people two or three reads, even if they suck, and I'll give them a couple of pointers. My philosophy is this: if they suck, at least they'll tell their agent I was cool with them. If that's the case, the agent will probably be cool with me. (I also run the risk of agents treating me like an acting coach for their new guys, but it's an acceptable risk). However, if I give a pointer and you blow me off because you know it all (when you obviously don't), then you can forget working with me again until you get an Oscar. I had one guy who had never been in front of a prompter before. I tried to coach him a bit, but he kept cutting me off in mid-sentence with "Got it," and a wave of the hand. Do you think I passed him on to the corporate client that was going to be there for his taping and pay for his work?

15) That said, casting calls are not acting school. You're expected to know your craft. It is, after all, a job interview. "But how can I learn when I don't get gigs?" you might ask. To which I say...practice.

16) If the font on the teleprompter is too small, say so. They'll increase it.

17) Don't wander. Keep your feet firmly planted on the ground.

18) Don't ask what you should do with your hands. That's amateur. Keep your hands at your sides. Use them for inflection when the moment seems right, but don't flap them all over the place and distract from the medium, which is your face and voice.

19) It is the teleprompt operator's job to slow down or speed up according to your read. Don't follow their speed. They follow you. Don't panic and read too fast, and don't slow down to robot-level. Just read the way you think it should be delivered, and the operator will try to keep your next line in the middle of the screen. If they screw up, just keep reading. They'll get it back on track. The only exception to this is when a script needs to be delivered in an exact timeframe. If that's the case, they'll tell you.

20) Casting directors don't make the final call on whether you get a job or not. They tape a number of people, cut out the bad ones, and send their suggested ones to a director or corporate client. Those people get the final call. The casting director can be of an immense help to you, because if they like you, they'll suggest you strongly. Piss off a casting director by acting like a bigshot, and you can forget it. Chances are, your clip will never get out of the camera.

21) Casting directors want you to do well. They do not want you to fail. When you walk into the room, they want you to succeed, because they want to find someone they can easily work with for years to come, and they want to impress their client by finding good talent. The casting director is the last person from whom you should feel pressure. (This is a personal take; for all I know, some casting directors are nasty tyrants. But trust me: I want you to do well. I do. And when you don't do well, I get a sinking feeling in my stomach because I know you're wasting your time and you don't have it. I hate that feeling, but it's part of the business. I have to figure that a lot of other casting directors feel the same way).

22) I've been saying the word "read" a lot. "Read" means speak. If you're in front of a prompter, we shouldn't see your eyes following the script. Generally, the closer to the camera you are, the more we'll be able to tell that you're reading. You really have no control over this, because if the director wants you there, and the camera here, you'll have to deal with it. A good trick is to slightly move the tilt of your head every couple of sentences. A little left, a little right, a little down, a little up. And I mean a little. Just a touch. Too much, and you'll look weird. You'll know what I mean when you...practice. Get in front of a camera and do some reads. Use the laptop trick, and also do some memory reads. Play it back and watch yourself. Work on it.

23) Your resume doesn't mean much. Bring it with your headshot anyway, because it has your contact details on it. But really, the following criteria are of utmost importance. a) Look. b) Delivery. c) Easy to work with. You may have been in twenty plays and fifteen commercials, but if your look is wrong for the part, or if you act like a jerk, then you're not going to get the job. The only people that can act like a jerk and get the job are stars, and stars don't do casting calls.

Good luck, and one last time: practice.

Back to Casting Couch Radio.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Dan Eberle - Independent Filmmaker

Dan Eberle: "Creating any work of art starts with a strong affirmation that it will happen which is, by definition, positive thinking. In a big group project like film, the initial affirmation (re: this is going to happen) has to be powerful and unwavering."

Dan stops by again to chat about filmmaking, and the conversation he's starting on his blog at

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Show Notes - Screenwriter Steve Allrich

Steve Allrich is a screenwriter in Los Angeles. He wrote the screenplay for the thriller "The Canyon." We'll talk to him about screenwriting, and what it was like watching his first screenplay come to life.

Monday, January 11, 10PM EST.

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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Show Notes - Alison Slight - Event Designer

If you're a Somebody with a capital S, you don't throw parties. You host events and extravaganzas. Alison Slight is the managing director of Candice & Alison, one of Toronto's premiere event design agencies. Their clients include De Beers, Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton, Rolls Royce, Chanel, and 20th Century Fox.

We'll talk to Alison about what's happening right now in the entertainment and fashion industries, and what she does to showcase her A-list clients to the world.

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