By Jennifer Rudolph
Let's talk business. It’s time to shed a bright shining light on how the casting process really works. My goal is always to educate and empower you to make smart decisions based on the realities of the business - never to discourage or make you afraid. By understanding and embracing the truths, you can either decide to ride the tide and master it, or fight against it and be angry and resentful I encourage you to navigate the “seas” like a shark so that you can get to where you want in the fastest way possible.
The truth of the matter is that this is a business about relationships. It’s about who you know and more importantly who knows you. In a business with over 350,000 people vying for a limited amount of roles, it makes sense that you have to have iron clad relationships with the people who can make it happen for you and…be really, really good and most importantly, memorable, right? Perhaps you have read my success stories and are still wondering how I helped that guy go from not being able to get arrested, to landing a lead role on Netflix’s ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK and ABC’s HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER. Granted, it took some time (approximately 3 years) but this is what he did:
- He applied the business principles which I instilled in him to his career
- He marketed himself optimally by going with the “type” that we nailed down and following my advice on headshots, website, resume etc
- He kept his acting muscle strong by being enrolled in a scene study class on a regular basis
- He developed relationships with casting directors, agents and managers
- He learned on-camera audition technique from casting directors
- He was really, really good
If I were to dissect each and every AGR Success Story, I could tell you that every one of them followed the same above points. Is this the only way to break into the business? No. I am all for creating your own content and making a name of yourself in any creative capacity which you can. The trajectory I am laying out for you however is the one with the best odds.
So let’s break it down. How does the casting process really work? (I am talking about the major leagues here)
Contrary to what many actors think, it is not a casting director’s job to discover new talent by auditioning every aspiring actor. There is just not time to do it (remember there are thousands upon thousands) plus 95% of the people who call themselves actors are not at the professional level in terms of being truly ready for film & television. Casting directors are hired by producers/studios to cast the projects they are hired to cast, in the shortest amount of time, with the best actors for the role, for the least amount of money. It is a casting director’s job to stay up to date on “relevant” talent and projects that are happening in the industry. (By “relevant” I mean actors who are signed to strong agencies/management companies, who are in critically acclaimed film/tv shows and acclaimed theatre productions and who graduate from prestigious schools/conservatories) That is the pool of actors that casting directors are expected to bring to their producers and productions. Casting directors release breakdowns to agents and managers who then vy for appointments for their clients for what is a small amount of available roles. Casting directors call in actors who they know and trust either via agents and managers or from a pool that they already know personally. Approximately 2200 actors are submitted per role role and between 20-25 are called in (often times less). These are the truths. Unsolicited submissions (especially without even knowing the casting director), cold calling, sending something called a “one-sheet”, doing general mailings, and inviting the industry to a show without any critical acclaim will not get you noticed.
So what does work?
If you are talented and already possess a certain level of skill, know who you are as a “type” you need exposure to the right people. You can have all the training in the world but if no one sees you, it doesn’t mean anything. The #1 way to take your training plus the package you have created is to hone your audition technique and learn the in’s and out’s of the casting process by working WITH the casting directors. Who better than to teach you than the people who do it every day for a living? I can’t express enough how high the “bar” is and how important it is to meet it. If you’re not getting results, it’s important to self-reflect and figure out what may be off. You have the power to make an impact and be memorable. Yes there is a lot of competition but as I always say…”if you build it, they will come.”
And they do.
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