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Tips from the Intern: Casting & Casting Directors

Trying to be something you’re not never works. Not in life, and especially not in the casting world. Paradoxical as that may seem, as someone who has spent some time in the industry, this is an important concept to grasp if one wants to maintain a positive reputation. You see, much like nearly any other profession, time is money for casting directors. Therefore, there are very few decisions that will blemish your image like upsetting a casting director. A surefire way to upset a casting director (AND YOUR AGENT!) is to lie about yourself in an attempt to get a role.

Picture an audition as a first date; the casting director is your partner. You may really want to seek a partnership with them, but if you lie about who you are and what you can do, you are building a relationship on a foundation of lies. Crafting a relationship with a false foundation will always lead to an inevitable collapse, like a tower in the game of Jenga, or a house of cards in a room with a ceiling fan. With that being said, be sure to think of that the next time you feel like you are perfect for a role that requires you to breakdance, if your only move is the ‘scuba-diver’.

Here are some other examples of what NOT to do:

Write that you are good with animals, but refuse to ride a horse because you are allergic. You may love the idea of animals, but if your body hates them, for all acting purposes so do you.

If your only time in the pool is spent where you can stand, or doing the doggy-paddle, you are not qualified to say that you can swim.

Riding a bike means doing so without training wheels.

Despite what some will say, if you can freestyle rap, it means you can do so without rhyming racial slurs and swears with each other. (Lil Wayne is the only exception, and we do not represent him).

Being polite, nice, or intelligent are things people will figure out & determine the validity of as they get to know you. Just do not list these traits, it’s presumptuous and undermines the overall validity of your claims. Let your actions speak louder than your words, and the world will be your oyster. (Unless, of course, you have a shellfish allergy. In which case, the world is your pizza).

-A Dylan Dinho piece

Breaking it Down: Self-Taped Auditions

With today’s easy access to cameras and editing software, actors are being called upon more and more often to tape their own auditions. Not only do self tapes allow casting directors to see a larger number of actors, they also present a great opportunity for New York actors to audition for LA projects. However, due to the huge amount of actors casting directors see for each role, nailing your audition is a must. Here’s some advice to make sure your self tape books the job!

1. Do not look directly into the camera while performing your scene. Instead, focus on your reader or a fixed point that feels comfortable and natural. It’s important to make sure that your reader stands to the left or right of the camera lens, rather than right behind it, so you don’t appear to be looking into the camera. The only time it’s acceptable to look straight into the lens is while slating.

2. Try not to film your self tape on a cell phone unless absolutely necessary!! There are many pocket sized HD video cameras that are very affordable and will significantly improve the quality of your self tape. A great option is the Take 1 HD Camera.

3. Be off book! If you’re looking down at the paper it’s hard for casting to see your face, and a lot of the expression is lost. We know that self tape requests often come with very short notice, but try your best memorize the material before taping. If being off book isn’t possible, make sure to refer to your sides in a subtle manner by holding the paper down low so it isn’t blocking the face. It’s also IMPORTANT to always memorize and strongly deliver the first and last lines! This way, the casting director can see your face at the beginning and end of your tape.

4. All details matter, so be a perfectionist! Always do a test shot and watch it back before taping the entire scene. Make sure that the camera is focused and the face isn’t shadowy.

5. Try to film in front of a plain white wall. If that’s not possible, use a solid color wall without photos or decorations. Most importantly, do not film in front of a window as this will cause the face to be in shadow. Casting will only have a few minutes with your tape, and you don’t want their focus to shift away from your acting.

6. Do not film the entire body unless it is specifically asked for by casting. A good framing is from the elbow to about two inches above the head.

7. Always film in a comfortable location. Don’t shine a light directly in your face or stand near a bright window.  It can be very distracting for the casting director if the actor is squinting or blinking throughout the scene because of improper lighting.

8.  DO NOT add intros or transitions with graphics, pictures, or music. Due to their busy schedules, casting directors don’t want to waste time looking through any unnecessary footage. It’s best to get right to the scene itself. If anything, these edits tend to hinder more than help.

9. Never zoom in and out while the actor is saying his or her lines, as this can be distracting. Do your best to make all camera adjustments before the scene begins.

10. For important self tapes, we HIGHLY recommend being taped at a professional studio with an acting coach. A high quality tape will improve your chances of getting cast and more importantly, a professional coach can guide you through the sides, provide insightful tips, and serve as a fabulous reader who will GREATLY strengthen your audition. In particular, if you are asked to re-record a scene with specific feedback from casting, working with a coach can help you see the scene differently and make good adjustments. A couple of fabulous coaches are Denise Simon and A Class Act NY. We know that hiring a professional can get a little expensive, but for a big audition it’s a worthwhile investment!

To check out our “How to Self Tape” video, click here!!

By Catherine Melillo

Breaking it Down: Demo Reels

Why do I need a demo reel?

Casting directors do not waste time. That means calling in the best actors for the role, and only working with those who prove themselves to be the strongest overall. With thousands of actors vying for auditions and roles, it’s important to set yourself apart and use every advantage available to you. In the industry today, headshots alone aren’t enough for an actor to get cast. If you want to stand out and get noticed, having a stellar demo reel is definitely a must!

What belongs in my reel?

Ideally, a demo should consist solely of high quality clips from professional projects, such as feature films, commercials, or network television. However, if you’re a beginning actor with little to no experience and no professional credits, acting in student films is a great way to get footage. Although most of these jobs are nonpaying, they’re great for obtaining high quality film clips for your reel, as well as practical on-set experience for your resume.

Another great way for inexperienced actors to add footage to their reel is to record a short TV/Film scene in a professional studio. Many studios in NYC offer HD picture, sound and lighting quality, along with editing services and professional actors as readers. Some great options for recording a mock scene are The Actor’s Green Room and One on One NYC.

How long should my reel be?

Generally speaking, a reel should consist of two to five scenes of various lengths that show a range in acting. However, one professional scene can certainly be enough to send to a casting director as long as it markets your “type” well and showcases your best acting ability. Casting directors are very busy and constantly screening talent, so try to keep your entire reel under two and a half minutes in length.

8 Tips for a Top Notch Demo Reel

1. Make sure the clips you choose clearly identify whose reel the casting director is watching. Scenes should always start and end on a shot of you, rather than the other actors in the scene, and it’s important that the clips never show more of other actors than of you. If possible, include scenes with actors who aren’t the same age or type as you are.

2. Always begin the reel with what you feel is the strongest scene. A casting director might not have the time to watch an entire reel, so start with your best.

3. It’s a good idea to vary the style/character between scenes. Show casting directors the range of your ability and keep them engaged as they watch your reel.

4. That being said, although a little variety is good, it’s best to make separate reels for comedy and drama. If a casting director is working on a comedy, they want to view only your comedy footage, rather than wasting time looking through dramatic clips. If casting directors want to see your range, they have the option of watching the other reel.

5. Trim down your scenes as much as possible. The scene should move quickly, regardless of whether the viewer is able to understand every detail of the plot and backstory.

6. Never include a flashy opening montage, music or photos. Casting directors do not have time to wade through a long opening while looking for your clips. It’s best for your reel to start with your name and contact info and then transition directly into a scene.

7. Your reel should be compressed into a standard, easy-to-send video format. Stay away from CDs or flash drives. Instead, put your demo reel online somewhere easy to access, such as Vimeo or YouTube.

8. Make sure to label each individual clip so the casting director knows what TV show or film the scene is from. Most importantly, don’t forget to include your contact information at the beginning AND end of your reel.

Written by: Catherine Melillo

Let’s Talk About Voice Overs!

Here at Take 3 Talent, the more we work on voice overs, the more we realize how difficult it is to book a voice over job! It seems easy… you might have a GREAT voice, maybe you’ve booked some cool on-camera jobs, but booking a VO is a completely different animal. The key to successfully making the transition into voice over is understanding the voice over industry as well as knowing what is expected of great voice actors. Here are a few tips to help you prepare for the world of voice over and start booking work!

WHAT TYPE OF VOs ARE RIGHT FOR ME?
Find your niche. VOs range from Commercials (Radio/TV/Online) to Animated Series. Think about what type of VO auditions you would like to focus on first. Once you’ve decided which area you’re best suited for, try focusing on how your natural voice can translate to VO. A great way to achieve conversational speech in a recording is to listen! Pay attention to the way people speak in everyday life. One helpful technique is to ask your friends’ or family’s permission to record them having a casual conversation. Listening back to natural, everyday dialogue can increase your awareness of how your voice comes across when reading VO copy.

RANGE
Can you do accents? Different characters? Can you sound like an 8 year old girl or an 80 year old man despite your age and gender?  The more voices you perfect, the more marketable you are as a voice actor. Along with mastering a variety of characters, it is also ESSENTIAL to stay up-to-date on trends in voice over. Real and conversational is the name of the game these days. Casting directors aren’t looking for actors who sound as if they’re trying to sell a product, but rather actors who are able to bring listeners into their private conversation and make the copy sound as if they’re chatting with a friend.

WARMING UP/ PREPARING FOR YOUR AUDITION
Remember, VO is all about communicating the copy through the intonation of your voice! So it’s important to do a few diction, mouth, and vocal warmups before attending an audition. This way you’ll be ready to speak clearly and with perfect diction in the booth. Even if you’ve warmed up ahead of time, remember to arrive to the audition early to familiarize yourself with the sides. Make all the important decisions about the tone, pacing, and energy of the script so you’re prepared to do a flawless first take!

SELF-RECORDED AUDITIONS
Very often we ask our actors to do a self-record for a VO audition. Once we receive the MP3s, we send them off to the client. If you do not have access to a professional studio/booth, it’s very important that you can record a clean audition on your own! Cell phone recordings are generally NOT acceptable. Look into buying an affordable mic ($75-$150 range at most!) and a pop filter (somewhere between $20-$40). You can also download the outstanding, FREE audio software Audacity. By investing a little bit into a home studio, you’ve GREATLY increased your VO opportunities.

CLASSES/COACH
Practice makes perfect! If you’d like to book more voice overs, or just become more comfortable in the booth with VO copy, look into taking some classes or finding a coach. There are also some great one-night seminars and workshops at Actors Connection, Actor’s Green Room, and One on One NYC.

DEMO REEL
Sometimes casting directors will call or e-mail us looking for a specific voice type. Instead of waiting for you, the actor, to record an audition and send it, they’ll ask us to send them a DEMO REEL, ASAP. If they hear what they like from your demo, it could turn into an audition or even a booking. VO demos are expected to be professional quality as well as an accurate demonstration of your voice capabilities. Whether commercial, animation or both, an effective demo should showcase the sort of work you excel in. Although a voice over demo should be of professional recording quality, just because you were paid to record a VO, does not necessarily mean it should be included on your demo if it doesn’t showcase your best ability. It’s likely you’ll voice certain projects that don’t necessarily show the best read you are capable of, therefore, you will not want to include them in a demo. Your demo may be the first thing a casting director hears from you, so remember to find voice over copy that is exemplary of your “type,” of a variety of styles, and national network television caliber!

Written by: Catherine Melillo

Passport to Stardom

It is important to always have your materials up-to-date, and passports have become one of the most common materials requested of a talent. We are seeing more and more auditions that are filming out of the country and even having some of their final callbacks out there. That means, if you want the job then you need to have a valid passport. It is as simple as that! Casting will always choose the actor with a valid passport.

Many production companies are now shooting outside of the U.S. due to the film commissions/tax incentives/etc. and it is important that talent are prepared to work internationally. More than 30 foreign countries now offer tax incentives. Canada, one of the very first countries to offer a tax incentive, is a very popular destination among production companies because location scouters find that it can double as the U.S.

Our talent have booked overseas (i.e. cruise line commercials, airlines, vacation resorts, feature films, national/international tours, etc.) These jobs are lucrative, and require actors to have passports. This does not mean that you can go and get a passport last minute, but rather it means you must have a passport before even auditioning. A passport can take up to 6 weeks to obtain and casting cannot wait or they risk delaying the production.

Agencies are going to start requiring their actors to have passports. Apply for your passport/renew it here: http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english.html

 

 

6 TIPS TO KEEPING YOUR AGENT HAPPY

In the acting world, keeping a good relationship with your agent is of the utmost importance! Many times, people will ask us if there are any “do’s” or “don’ts” related to the agent/actor dynamic. Here are our 6 tips in order to keep your agent happy!

  • STAY FRESH!  Being an actor, you’ve got to keep brushed up on your skills – whether that be improv, commercial or theatrical. If you’re at a quiet spot – perhaps not much is going on in your spec, or it’s over the holidays – you should be looking into classes! Being an actor/actress is a full-time job and you must always be proactive.
  • UP TO DATE MATERIALS! As Madonna said, we are living in a material world.. And we require up to date materials! This means refreshing your resume after every job booked, or class taken. Have you developed a love for rock climbing, or started playing guitar? Let your agent know! You should also be getting new photos every year/year and a half. Sometimes a new headshot can be just the thing to get you back into certain casting houses, especially if your old one has become overused and stale.
  • BE CAMERA-READY! With the dawn of the Internet, there are now more and more requests for self-taped auditions, that you should be prepared and able to film at home. Look into having a spot in your house or apartment set aside to do tapes, and make sure you have proper equipment. This can be achieved with a relatively inexpensive video camera, basic lighting, a solid colored wall, and a reader.  You should be familiar with what will be expected of you from a tape, and how to upload and send it over to your agent. And if you don’t know.. Ask!
  • DON’T CALL US, WE’LL CALL YOU! Cheesy as it sounds, this is a great rule of thumb! if you have not heard from us, PLEASE know that your agent did NOT forget about you. The amount of auditions you will receive depends on the opportunities available for your type at any given time, and this is always changing.. Please don’t think that agents would knowingly be omitting you from audition opportunities, or withholding information from you!
  • BOOK OUT! You should ALWAYS let your agency know as soon as possible when you will be out of town or not available to audition. This prevents us from submitting/pushing you for projects that you aren’t available for. You can let your agent know if some dates are negotiable (ie; a doctor’s appointment can be moved, but a trip to Aruba you probably can’t move.) We assume that you are always available unless you tell us otherwise!
  • BE ON TIME! When you do receive an audition, do not be late or early – simply BE ON TIME. Arriving 5-10 minutes before your scheduled appointment is sufficient. Oftentimes waiting areas at a casting are not large, so please try to come right when your allotted audition time is. If you do happen to be running late, be sure to call over to let us know!
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