Hide/Seek - Lessons about actor submissions

As you know, I'm going to be directing a SAG short film in April called "Hide/Seek," and we are currently in the process of going through 3500 submissions from Actors Access, Breakdowns Express, and Backstage, as well as direct submissions, to figure out who to bring in for the four roles.   I will be documenting the entire process through this blog, and through our instagram, as I think it's important for actors to really learn on an honest level what goes into something like this.  

As a director, I go through all the submissions and make my selects (my choices to bring in), and recommend them to Kimberly Graham, our casting director, who has her own choices.  We also see if some "names" are interested.    We only  have a certain amount of slots, and we have to pare down and decide who to bring in.   On my end, I don't care if people have an agent or manager, are union or non-union, I just want to have the best actors in my film.   I'm going to be paying my actors and treating them like kings and queens for the week, as that's the way it should be.  It's amazing being on this side of it, as I've learned a lot about the casting process, as well as how actors and agents submit.   So without further ado, here are the lessons I've learned so far.

1.  Lots of people on Backstage have black and white headshots (still?), shirtless pics (why?), or very strange pictures that would look right only on Myspace (cray?).   This doesn’t happen as much on Actors Access.  Don't be crazy.  Are you professional or not?

2.     People who don’t have video don’t get looked at (unless I know you from class and know how great you are on-camera).   I don’t care about union or non-union, but why don’t you have video?  It shows that you have no camera experience.  If you have no video, then get a scene professionally taped and put up there so I can see you in action.  It separates the serious from the non-serious in my book.  You can only tell so much from a headshot, and I want to see if you can talk on camera.

3.     People put age ranges of 20 years or more.  Don’t be crazy.  Keep it to 5-10 years.  You ain't Benjamin Button.

4.     Some agents don’t even bother submitting on small projects like this.  Some of my own students weren’t even submitted.  Stay on top of your agents!

5.     Some agents have a lot of people of the same type.  Very interesting.  Some agents submit all of their clients, and some are selective.  It doesn't take much to click a "submit" button.   The push comes from the follow up email (which most don't do for a project like this).

6.      I thought we would get 500 submissions if we were lucky.  Well, we have over 3500 submissions between Backstage, Actors Access, and Breakdowns Express (maybe because we are actually paying our actors SAG rates?).   There isn't time to look at resumes in this first go through.   I go first to the people I know, and who I have worked with.  Then I consider pitches from agents I know and trust, and who know me.  The rest?   I'm sure there are lots and lots of amazing actors in these submissions, with tons of credits, but I just don't know them, there isn't time, and these audition slots are valuable.   I understand now why it's important to have a relationship with a casting director or director.  Makes me think that targeted casting director workshops make sense after all.   

7.     It’s interesting which agents and managers submit first, and which forget and end up doing it four days later. 

8.     The majority of actors on these sites are 20-40.  Far fewer submissions come in for young kids and older men in their fifties.

9.     I am literally looking at a screen and scrolling through JPEGS of thousands of headshots.   Everyone starts to look the same after a while.  Yes, some caught my eye.  Others did not.  The headshot doesn't matter as much as you think it does (in my opinion), as long as it looks like you, and you fit the type I'm looking for.  Relationships matter more.  

10.  If you don't get a time slot, don't be offended.   We are casting a family, and need people to fit a certain mold.   

Next up?   In my next blog post, I will be talking about AUDITIONS, CALLBACKS, AND CHEMISTRY READS, which will happen later this week, as we narrow down our choices.  Stay tuned....