Notes From Casting Director Harriet Bass on Acting While In Quarantine

In no particular order, here they are:

Headshots

  • Your headshot is like your card. It's your calling card. They should be professional and well done. You can print it on any kind of paper and gloss, which can make it more expensive

  • You need to look through a photographer's book

  • The shot should look exactly like you on a normal day

  • Have a few different final headshots. It should show some personality

  • One serious shot, one smiling shot

  • There are more theatrical shots and more "film" shots

Agents

  • You can get an audition for a union project even if you're non union and don't have agent

  • If a casting director thinks you're right for a role they'll ask you to do a self tape

  • Agents will open the door more but you can still get an audition without them

Audition Process

  • Some auditions will only ask for sides/songs from the show and not a monologue/song

  • Should you memorize the sides? Aim to be so familiar that they are virtually memorized, but they should be in your hand because not having them makes casting directors nervous that you may forget your lines

  • Write down your motivations, obstacles, etc.

  • Big audition no-no's: 1) Your behavior in the room matters. You should always let a reader know if you're going to touch them or anything like that. You have to be very mindful of the reader. THANK THE READER WHEN YOU FINISH

  • They're looking also for what kind of person you are

  • Don't waste an audition panel's time by starting a conversation. Be pleasant, but no chit chat.

  • Your audition starts as soon as you're walking into the studio, NOT just the room. No one wants to work with someone who has a bad attitude. You need to have a pleasant demeanor.

Self Tapes

  • What makes the difference between a good and great self tape is if the audio and video are food quality, and they get a full body shot

  • When doing an audition, they want to see you so you can look directly to the camera

  • Movement should be minimal

  • Lighting should be good. Face needs to be lit

  • Dress is important. Don't wear flashy colors that may be distracting.

  • Tape as many times as necessary until it's right

  • Slate isn't necessarily imperative, but it needs to include your name, agent (if you have it), etc. if it's a tape you've been invited to do. But it might be more so with film and TV and in regional theatre

  • If doing a theatrical self tape, it needs to be to the camera

  • Dressing like the character: never be in costume, but you should be wearing something that suggests the character. Example: if this character wears jeans don't wear a dress. But wear something you can walk on the streets in and not feel like a freak.

  • After you submit a self tape and it's gone through the prescreening process, the casting director will ask the director "did you like so and so?," and the casting director will contact the people chosen

  • In quarantine, callbacks are currently through Skype or Zoom. This is also the case typically for regional theatre's

  • The audition=part talent, part personality. Virtual auditions through Backstage will be happening soon!!

  • Self tapes submitted right now may not be reviewed immediately, but that doesn't mean they won't eventually be viewed!

Careers in General

  • Part of your career is research, so look for what companies (regional theatre, off Broadway, etc.) are doing in 2021 (many companies will just push their 2020 season back)

  • Find ways to keep your craft sharp

  • Know what's coming down the pike during and after quarantine

  • Many casting directors are probably not thinking too much about auditions right now because it's not necessarily their focus during this pandemic

  • Reels are always good, regardless or whether or now we're in the pandemic

  • Covid-19 may unfortunately result in losing some smaller theatre's that don't have the money to recover from this crisis

  • The more training you can get, the better! Casting directors look at the kind of training you've had to see where you stand on the professional scale

  • Background work has no negative effect, but know that casting directors will know that background roles aren't true roles. It gives you familiarity with a film set.

  • There's lots of non union gigs that pay pretty well

Things To Know About Casting Directors

  • Don't ask for feedback about auditions from casting directors

  • Go to a casting director's website to get an idea for what they're currently casting. You can submit through email if you don't have an agent

  • Can send postcards if you have a relationship with an agent

  • Thank you notes are always good

  • Don't submit unsolicited hard copies of headshots and resume's because they will usually end up in the trash

  • What does "local hires?' New York actors often book regional theatre. Note if you're a local hire for regional theatre. Casting directors will like that because then they don't have to pay for your lodging/transportation

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