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.

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