By Jennifer Rudolph and Amanda B. Goodman
What is a "blacklist"? Most New Yorkers and television fans may assume that it's in reference to the hit NBC drama starring James Spader. But let's go back a bit and examine the term. To "blacklist" somebody means to see them as a disapproval towards something and to keep them away. It indicates that the name on the list has disobeyed a given set of rules and now they are banned from such activity. Back in the 1950's, if you were a Hollywood actor, writer, director, or any industry member accused of suspicion of having any involvement with communism; you were "blacklisted" from Hollywood. This caused artists to work under different names if possible, but often times, most were unable to bounce back from the banning, and thus their lives and especially their careers were ruined in many ways.
Now let's talk present day "blacklisting". And again, we don't mean the lovely AGR Staff Member Canedy Knowles out for a stroll with her daughter when they discover a dead body; no, that's still the TV show. What we mean is getting "blacklisted" from a casting office because you exhibited inappropriate behavior in the presence of an industry member. So what are the things that would get you blacklisted from a casting office? Let's take at look.
1.) Don't Stalk the Casting Directors. We tell our actors many times at the start of our AGR events, that this is an industry of relationships, and that those relationships must be fostered. We tell our actors to ask how the casting directors would like to be followed up with. Very few do not want to be contacted at all, and that is ok. Most will give either an email address or let the actors know they can send postcards. When they extend that courtesy to you; use it, but don't abuse it. Be a smart actor and don't become the actor whose headshot is hanging up in the casting office for the wrong reason. If there are devil horns drawn onto your head; it's probably not because they're thinking of calling you in to cast you as a young "Miranda Priestly" in the yet-to-be-written "Devil Wears Prada" prequel. (It's just not!) Calling an office to ask to speak to anyone unless you yourself are an industry member with a reason to call a specific casting director is a major no-no! Similarly, showing up to casting offices or agencies unannounced is not good. "Wedding Crashers" was a fun movie; but "Casting Crashers" could end up as more of a West Craven movie, and you don't want that. You want to foster a professional relationship in which the casting office loves your work and trusts that you are going to come in and be professional and prepared, and hopefully give them what they need as they do their jobs and you do yours.
2.) Don't Email Industry Members. Another aspect of not stalking the industry lies in not emailing them. If they have given you their email address, it's most likely that they prefer you use it sparingly. This means only contact them via email every 3-6 months when you have something relevant to say. While it might be nice to send someone an email saying: "Hey, good job casting Pitch Perfect 2, Casting Director Z! I'm free on Thursday, want to go see it?" Again, you can see there just another example of how the crazy stalker actor has come out to play. If you booked something, are in a show, have a really cool clip or industry related piece of media to show, then by all means email them. But also understand that one email is enough. Contacting them way down the line when you have new things going on, is fine. But don't get upset if they do not respond right away, or at all. It is not personal; they are all very busy.
3.) Don't Be Unprepared or Unprofessional. In the event that you do get called in for an audition, it is unacceptable to show up to an audition unprepared. This means professionally as well as emotionally. You MUST know your sides front/back (most casting offices give you about 24 hours to prepare). You must be early to your audition and not be a diva in the waiting room should things run late. There are many unforeseen things that can happen at an audition. Perhaps a producer calls and wants to change the sides, maybe there is a technical issue that arises, and so on. The point is that you need to be able to roll with the punches. If you are difficult in the waiting room, that sends a message that you will be a nightmare to have on set should something come up. And then there are the nerves. Nerves are a natural part of EVERY audition. The objective is not to get rid of the nerves (because that's like telling your brain not to think). The objective is to make them work FOR you. Their energy can be a key part in what books you the job, believe it or not.
If you have ANY doubt or inkling that you are not bringing your A Game at auditions and/or have nerves that are not currently working FOR you...I recommend seeing my favorite acting coach Clyde Baldo. Clyde is not only an incredible coach, he is a psychotherapist, director and working actor. He works with actors on such a deep level using various modalities that truly transform the actor from the inside out. Look him up. He's the best.
4.) Trust Yourself. You must trust the impression that you've made upon meeting the industry member, and that when the time is right, and the right role comes along, that they will have kept you in mind and will most likely call you in if it's a match. Remember, that you are making their jobs easier. Like Director Paul Haggis stated in his guest blog; "Be the Answer!" A desperate and insecure actor will always read into what happens in the audition room. Every one of you is unique in your own way, and will no doubt break into the industry when the time is right. While it's true that you must be the one steering your career forward, you must also know when and where it's appropriate to take a step back. If you are doing good work, trust it. Trust yourself, and most importantly, trust that the industry member knows what they're doing.
So take these tips and please don't end up on the wrong kind of "blacklist". This is not McCarthyism, and there is no excuse. But should you get an audition to play an actor who does everything wrong and is nuttier than a squirrel on an acorn binge, then by all means follow these steps for a detailed character study. But otherwise, be smart, and let the only "Blacklist" you aim to be on, be the one starring James Spader.
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