Written by Jeremy Gordon, CSA!
The most popular question actors ask me lately is some version of “When do you think we will get back to normal casting?” Guess what, friends? This IS normal casting. First of all, Casting Directors have been casting remotely for well over a decade, if not longer. This is not new to us. We’ve been using self-tapes and Skype (yes, Skype - that was the hot tech before Zoom) and all sorts of video conferencing tools to meet and work with actors all over the globe. However since the pandemic, the remote casting we were delving into “sometimes” has since become “all of the time” and much of the industry has had to play catch up.
We are now just about 15 months past the official lockdown when we were all sent home from our jobs to shelter in place. While 15 months may seem like an eternity when you can’t see your family, friends or significant others and while you can’t go to the gym, movies or favorite hole in the wall Thai restaurant, it’s a blip on the radar in terms of figuring out how to consistently and successfully work remotely. Many people are just getting to the point where they finally feel ready to take on the world….remotely. 15 months is nothing when you take into account that entire computer systems had to be reprogrammed and new software was developed from inception to launch so that industries could continue to produce.
The entertainment industry is no different. While some of us were quite used to the idea of remote casting, very few of us were used to working this way full time. For those of us who are more tech savvy this was just another thing to learn. However, remote casting, with all its tech necessities and upgrades, was daunting for others. To that I say with love – It’s 2021 and gone are the days when it’s excusable to retort some version of how you are terrible with computers, social media and self-tapes. The show is still shooting on Tuesday regardless of how easy or difficult it is for you to get the job done. One of the most important tools in your artillery is, now more than ever, learning how to enjoy the audition process, self-tapes and all.
Let’s be real. As an actor, until you get to a certain point in your career, you will spend more time preparing for auditions and auditioning than you will playing roles on any set. If all you will allow yourself to enjoy is the time you actually spend on set and you can’t find any excitement and love or even interest for the audition process this is going to be one long and unpleasant road. There is no magic that I can share with you to help you find happiness in auditioning or joy in self-taping or excitement about the audition process. There is no wizardry I can tell you that makes you stand out in this remote casting world. It is as it always has been – “just do great work”. That’s all that’s ever been asked of you and that’s all we are asking of you now.
Yes, there are many things that go into doing great work: taking classes, preparation (and having ample time to do so), finding appropriate readers, finding a babysitter especially during the pandemic, upgrading your video and audio and lighting equipment not to mention potentially upgrading your home internet speed and counting the number of smart devices that constantly take up bandwidth at home. However, at the end of the day the one thing that counts more than anything else is…..drumroll, please……SHOWING UP AND DOING GREAT WORK. Yes, you keep hearing how important it is to have a near perfect home self-tape set up visually and audibly and how you may have to bite the financial bullet and spend a few bucks upgrading this or that and that all well may be true. BUT BUT BUT at the end of the day what casting wants to see is great work. That’s really it.
Story break to drive my point home: while I love a “perfect” self-tape where I don’t have to struggle to see or hear the actor (or reader) what makes you stand out, as you so love to ask about, is THE WORK. Do I sound like a broken record yet? There are times when you may just have to self-tape wherever and whenever, home set-up be damned. I hired an actor to play the villain of the season in a successful series (8/10 episodes – huge role) after he self-taped from, quite literally, the middle of the Pacific Ocean, as he was on a sailing trip with his family. The set up was far from perfect with the boat rocking all sorts of ways, waves crashing in the background, kids laughing and chirping off to the side and the most realistic (and nauseating) hand held camera work I’ve ever seen. And still, with all those imperfections and challenges, he did the great work to such an incredible extent that he got the job. Within 24 hours of him self-taping from the middle of the Pacific Ocean, we had to get him to port in Hawaii and jump on a plane for Vancouver so he could shoot an entire season of this series. Wow wow wow! I once hired an actor on Christmas Eve because another actor dropped out last minute and the studio called me in the early afternoon and I had to cast the role same day. I don’t remember the specifics of the rush job but that’s what I had to do. I whip out my phone and start calling actors I knew and loved. Thankfully I was able to get ahold of the right guy and while he’s at some fancy restaurant with his entire family on Christmas Eve, he snuck off to the coat check closet, slipped the coat checker a $20 to read with him, whipped out his cell phone to record and within an hour of that “Yes” moment the studio was calling me back to hire him. A few days later he was on set shooting a studio film. Not only did these actors do great work but they showed up with positive attitudes, smiles on their faces and the willingness to get it done.
Auditioning is an adventure. Not all adventures lead to hidden treasure but they all have something to take away. Scoring an audition is already “winning”. You are already being asked to play a role to show everyone that YOU are the best actor for the role. That should be exciting. You’re being asked to show us what you got. Maybe you won’t get that specific job. Though if you pull a “Pacific Ocean” or “Christmas Eve Coat Check” you will 100% make fans of the casting office and producers and director and perhaps some studio execs. At the very least you will be taking your chops out for a spin and working out some kinks or cementing some new skills you’ve recently acquired in class. Through all of this, you have to find the joy. If you just hate on it you’re going to be a miserable actor. I can’t find the joy for you. That’s something you have to figure out for yourself because you choose to do so. It’s not easier said than done. You can do it. Happiness is nothing new. People (including actors) have been choosing happiness for centuries. Said with love. Xoxo