This article was published on Backstage in their "Backstage Experts" column!
Ponder this for a second - audition appointments are technically referrals. Casting directors are making a word-of-mouth referral of actors to producers and asking for them to choose. And these are high stakes referrals, because the casting director’s future job might depend on it.
So imagine how risky it is for a casting director to give an audition appointment to an actor they have never met. In order to preserve their reputation as a dependable casting director, they have to make darned sure that every actor they bring in passes muster. This is why it’s so vitally important for actors to develop meaningful relationships with industry folks on an ongoing basis - actors must develop trust within the industry.
I once assisted casting on a major production. I had met a dashing leading man at a friend’s birthday party and had an instinct that he would be right for the lead in the project. But I had never seen his work - I had only met him socially and read his resume – so I only had my gut feeling to tell me that he’d be exactly what the director needed. You’d better believe I was sweating bullets waiting for the actor to arrive for his audition. Questions raced through my mind: “Will he be late? Will he be gracious to our audition monitor, or will he be difficult when he enters the door? Will he be able to take direction?” Not to mention that I was also hoping he’d be trained, capable and ready. The tension mounted higher and higher as I waited for him to arrive.
Casting directors often avoid this risk by bringing in only those actors they know, or they spend time doing “pre-screens” where they audition actors privately before deciding who to bring in for producers.
So how do you, the actor, make sure you’re referral worthy?
1. Have integrity. Make sure you respond to all emails and calls in a timely manner, and show up on time to all appointments. Do NOT cancel last minute —a casting director has saved a highly coveted slot just for you, and it makes a big difference if you’re missing from their casting options.
2. Be prepared. Know who’s in the room, and know your material. This includes networking situations: When meeting new people, make sure you’re prepared with what types of questions you want to ask to get to know them better, and be prepared to say a little something about yourself that will make a difference for those you’re meeting.
3. Be yourself! Let’s face it, we know when someone is being fake or holding themselves back, no matter how hard they try to appear natural. It is so refreshing when someone can just be themselves. Don’t be afraid to share your quirks and passions. As long as you do this while following tips #1 and #2, you’ll be just fine.
To get a bigger jumpstart on how to do this, you can read my articles on How To Leave Them Wanting More, and 3 Ways to Build Your Fan Base.
Oh, and by the way - that actor I brought in? Lucky for me (and for him), he was fabulous and knocked the director’s socks off. And I lived to cast another day!
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Erin Cronican's career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has done national tours of plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. To learn more, check out www.theactorsenterprise.org.