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Thursday, April 1, 2010

Through the Photographer’s Lens

Welcome to Through the Photographers Lens,

In this week’s post I thought I’d talk about “Surviving the Casting Call”. The Do’s, Don’ts and what your casting agents and directors are expecting from you and what you should expect from them. As a photographer I get the privilege of working as casting agent for several different production companies and advertising agencies. It is my job to review each subject head to toe (in some cases quite literally) and visualize how if at all that person can be used in the project at hand. I am also charged with the task of seeing that person in other casting situations and projects that may be a good fit for everyone.

There is a saying that goes “Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance” also known as the 5 P’s. I’d like to take some time to explore these in an effort to help you the reader better prepare yourself for any casting situation. Using these tips and trick will not guarantee you’re getting every role you apply for but it will keep you from getting put out and embarrassed at your next casting. Preparation, like in all facets of life is one of the keys to success. “You can’t unlock the door if you don’t have a key,” and getting in is what casting is all about. There are many things you can do to prepare yourself for a casting call that will help you land a job.

Let’s start with finding the casting call. There are several methods of finding castings, from reading your favorite trade rag to online sites and casting databases to casting agents. All highly effective if and when used properly, but you must use them properly. Read any casting call carefully and investigate those who are advertising for their particular roles. Remember your safety (not your comfort) should come first. Check out the websites of anyone holding a casting call to see what other projects they are or have worked on and if there are any references or reviews on them read them as well. Check with the BBB (Better Business Bureau) website and make sure that there are no complaints against that business or casting agent that are legitimate. ( I have heard horror stories of casting agents that have complaints against them that ultimately came from angry past cast members and potential talent because they didn’t get the part)

Be mindful of where the casting call is being held. If you are not comfortable with where the casting call is being held then you have three options. Take a friend; ask if there is a location available that might be more comfortable for you or just don’t go! Of course not going means not getting the part so be careful how you wield that last option. I work with one production company that has its offices in a very prominent hotel and I get calls all the time from young ladies especially, saying they are not comfortable going to a hotel to meet with anyone. In that case, there are conference and meeting rooms, ballrooms, and if all else should fail the lobby where there is plenty of security to make you feel all warm and fuzzy. I also encourage anyone that is uncomfortable with a location to bring a friend with you to the casting.

Now that we have gotten you to the casting safely, we have to make sure you have everything in your attaché case that will help you to impress and convince the casting agents of your worthiness of their time. Remember that a casting agent has to see many other people before and after you and have very little time for long drawn out stories and presentations. They also don’t have time to wait for you to look in your bag for your CD/DVD, props, and shoes or even lip gloss. I have asked many people to leave the casting room and join the end of the line and get themselves together because of time wasted because the subject was not prepared to be casted. Many get upset and just leave walking away from what could have been an otherwise good opportunity for them had they been just a little bit more prepared and professional. When you walk into the casting room you should have your resume (no matter how limited it is) and headshot in hand along with any performance materials you will need. (Music CD/DVD/MP3, instruments already in tune, voice clear and audible, performance props of whatever kind clean and ready to go with fresh batteries already in place)This way when you walk in you can introduce yourself, hand your casting agent your “Package” and begin. Remember casting agents are paying for the time you are wasting looking for any missing materials or “Getting Ready”. A good tip for castings is you should be ready for an 8am casting call at 8pm the night before.

Don’t be shy! This is the entertainment business. Your job is to be outgoing and ready to ply your wares at a moment’s notice. I tell potential cast members all the time that you can’t be shy in front of 27,000 people at Madison Square Garden so you can’t be shy in front of the 5 of us. You have to be committed to your craft to the point where it doesn’t matter who is around or what you are doing, you should be prepared to perform anywhere and everywhere, RIGHT NOW!!! “It’s Your time, it’s Showtime!!!”

All right! You’ve gotten to the casting safely and there are plenty of people on line before you. Your attaché is prepared with all of your performance and reference materials, but what about your physical? What is your state of mind? How are you feeling? What do you look like? What do you smell like? Most casting calls give a detailed description of what the casting director wants your appearance to look like. Some are very specific but many are unclear. The safest thing to do if a casting call is unclear is to wear what I like to call the casting uniform (Clean blue jeans, clean or even new white t-shirt, black shoes, heels for the ladies (sorry)). As one of my mentors used to say “You have to come in Snatched up and Ready to go!” From head to toe you must be neat and eye catching. The first thing we notice about you when you walk into the casting office is the way you walk into the casting office. You can’t walk into a casting call looking like you’ve been at the club all night and just stopped by “to see what’s good.” Manicures and pedicures are a must. Trim the claws. I couldn’t tell you how many times I have met people that I could not use for the project they casted for but I knew of another project that would be perfect for them because they had nice well maintained hands or feet or their makeup was clean, fresh and not over done. (We’ll get back to that in a minute) Bare in mind that casting photographers move from project to project to give our opinions on what a person would look like as part of a particular production but if we can use your talents in some other project AS WELL, then we will make note of it on your application and contact you for it.

Make sure your face and hair are not over done! Remember you are not going out to the club; you are going to a job interview. Professionalism is an absolute must and begins with what you present to us visually. I have to be able to see you in different situations and scenes from the project and it becomes hard to do if your makeup looks like a drunken drag queen did it or if your lace front is showing on your lace front wig. Clean fresh makeup is your goal. I have to see what condition your skin is in, so I know if you can be used for close up shots and what you will look like in different styles of makeup. President Obama was once quoted as saying in all my years as a politician I never thought as president I would have to tell people to wash their face and hand. I now understand what he meant. As a fashion photographer I work with a lot of fashion designers who put a lot of work into the garments you will be wearing. I can’t tell you how many models have arrived at casting calls smelling like farm animals. They do not want your body odor trapped in their $5000 haute couture gown. They will make you buy it at that point.

Wigs and weaves (I know I am going to catch hell for this but truth is truth), are a big risk in casting. My personal opinion is stay away from them for the casting call. Take the time and style your hair or get it styled for the big day. It’s worth it! Having a wig slip off while you are performing, having a track come out or my personal favorite standing too close to casting lights with synthetic hair, will bring comedy to your casting whether you like it or not. While we will all get a good laugh about it for weeks to come, it will not get you the job if I have to worry about your hair melting on set. Keep it clean and natural, if you get the role you are casting for you are going to be put into hair and makeup anyway and again we need to see what we are really working with.

Clear your mind! Be focused when you come to castings. You will find as I have that there are a great deal of competition in the entertainment field and it shows most during the casting call. There will be people singing and dancing and going through all manner of preparation methods to get the same part you are trying to get. FOCUS!!! Don’t be distracted! It’s been said that the most important person in any meeting is you, because if no one else is there on time or no one even shows up you were there prepared and ready and that is what gets you hired!!! Clear your mind of everything that is going on in your personal life, the ride on the train on the way to the casting call, the weather, what your lover did to upset or pleasure you. Check all of that at the door, you have work to do.

Be prepared to stay the day in many cases. Call backs are common. Sometimes we want to pair you up with a previous artist to see how you perform together or we may have information that is important to you and the future of your career. Don’t just leave right after the casting (unless otherwise informed) because your boyfriend is double parked.

Sex doesn’t sell! If you have sex to get the job, what will you have to do to get a promotion? Beyond the personal ramifications’ to reputation and health, one must understand that you are treated the way you present yourself. A woman in a very tight and low cut outfit came to a casting and told us that she was upset because someone was staring down her shirt while talking to her on the elevator and she didn’t like being viewed as a piece of meat like that. My only response to her was well if you hold up a sigh people are going to read it! On the other side of the same coin, if you are asked for sex the answer is “NO!” If it costs you the role then it was not the role for you. You should remain professional at all times with all people at the casting as you never know who you are talking too and most of the time you don’t know who you are talking to until it’s too late. Flirting is a dangerous road to walk as is fraternizing. A good safe bet is if anyone at a casting tells you they want your information so they can contact you later take their business card and contact them after investigating them first. Remember if you give someone you don’t want calling you your number, YOU GAVE IT TO THEM!!!

We are running a business! Bare in mind that the producers of the show are running a business and don’t have much time to dedicate to the unprepared, the shy, poor or unprofessional attitudes, and lateness. We are not interested in anything other than the facts and the answers to your interview questions. Keep your answers short and to the point. Make sure your appearance is up to par when you enter the casting room. Have your materials ready for presentation at your audition. Make sure you are clean and ready to slip into costume in a moment’s notice. In most cases you only have 10-15 minutes for your entire casting interview, if that much and you need to make every second count. There are many candidates before you and after you and you have to stand out in a positive way in order to be remembered and most importantly hired. Don’t take the casting director or agents shortness personally, they have to interview many people and don’t have time to get personal with you. Remember it’s a job interview and not a coffee clutch.

SHOW UP ON TIME!!! Show up on the date and time specified by the casting call. If the casting call is for November 9th 2010 from 1pm until 7pm you need to be there November 9th 2010 at 12.30. I can’t tell you how many emails I get from candidates asking if they can have a special casting date or f they can come on another day to cast. NO YOU CAN”T! Someone who showed up on time on the correct date will get your part. Also, do not show up 6.45pm that day for the same reason. The person that shows up at 6.45pm when a casting closes at 7pm will more than likely be sent home without an interview because in the eyes of the casting directors and agents the casting call was not important enough to you to make it a priority in your day and will wonder about your reliability and consistency. Get there on time we are not waiting for YOU!

I believe with these simple understanding in place you should be far more prepared to conquer any casting call with confidence.

It’s your career, take it seriously!

What are your thoughts?

Rahim Baskett


MindSoulVision Photography




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