The other day, I was sitting on the floor, surrounded by stacks and stacks of headshots, attempting to match up actors for prereads on the film I’m currently casting. I recall interviewing casting directors and hearing them talk about sitting on the floor and thinking that had to be a clever phrase, not where most of the CD’s job was done. Nope. It’s true. We sit on the floor among thousands of headshots, making smaller stacks out of the larger stacks, pairing people up, matching family member-types, comparing credits, all of that.
On this particular day, I had an actor friend over while I was sorting these photos. He and I were talking about various industry and non-industry things while I categorized and matched up actors, and then he spotted a headshot with no name on it. “Wait a minute,” he said, “Does that girl not have her name on her headshot?”
“Oh yeah,” I replied, quickly finding another dozen or so actors whose headshots do not include a name printed in the border. When I flipped over one of the headshots to find out the actor’s name, the non-trimmed-to-fit resumé that was stapled only in one corner flapped around, further catching my friend’s attention.
“Wait a minute,” he said again, “Is that how that submission came in?”
“Yep. Lots of them come in like this,” I explained, and further flipped through headshots to which non-trimmed resumés were haphazardly attached. Most of these submissions, by the way, came from agents and managers. My buddy was shocked.
“Why do we spend all our time trimming resumés to fit the headshots, stapling precisely in four corners, or any of those other little things?”
“Oh, well, you do that because it’s one of the few things you control about this whole process,” I replied.
The next day, as if on cue, another actor asked on an online discussion forum whether CDs really do prefer stapled-on to glued-on resumés. Are you kidding? Do you really think CDs have a preference? Heck, maybe some do. But never in my life have I heard of a CD falling in love with an actor’s headshot and resumé, feeling eager to bring that actor in to read for a role, and then stopping cold, saying, “Oh, wait. I can’t bring this actor in. He used a glue stick.” C’mon… nobody cares. If you’re the right actor for the role, you could have a handwritten resumé done in crayon on the back of your photo. We’d still bring you in.
I find that actors like to concern themselves with these tiny details because they’ve basically become trained to ask CDs in workshop settings what their pet peeves are. Heck, when I started interviewing CDs four years ago, one of my weekly questions was about pet peeves. It’s an easy question to ask. It’s also pretty irrelevant. I know for a fact that most CDs would rather talk about what brings them joy in their day-to-day life, what makes an actor really stand out, why they choose to cast the projects they cast. But actors ask what bugs CDs. And that’s why CDs say things like, “Horizontal headshots bug me.” Truth is, they don’t bug anyone so much that the right actor won’t get seen because of having chosen a horizontal headshot.
Now, that said, let me state for the record that I do believe actors should take great attention to detail in submitting to an agent or manager for representation. What you’re showing an agent in a submission is, “This is how I promote and market myself. Would you like to be a part of my team?” So, a sloppy submission or lackluster cover letter could cost you a meeting, in this case. But when you’re submitting to a CD on a project, a Post-It note with the name of the role is just as lovely as the best-written cover letter on the planet. We’re crunched for time and sorting like crazy, getting ready for prereads and trying to cut down the submissions from thousands to the few dozen actors we’ll actually bring in. Sure, I love a nice cover letter that indicates the actor sending it knows who I am and what I’m working on (showing me he or she has done some actor-homework), but it may not make a difference in getting that actor called in on any particular project.
So what’s the deal with the phrase I used as my title, here? Actor Mind Taffy. Well, I used to use the phrase “mind taffy” when talking with another actor friend about her career. She was the worst when it came to spending days wondering how an audition went, rather than just doing the work and then moving on. I finally told her, “Look, you’re just pulling mind taffy by trying to figure out how you did or what they’re looking for. It’s not going to get you anywhere and you’re just going to end up with sticky fingers. Stop playing with it and move on.”
I just really love the visual of seeing an actor sitting round, pulling taffy all day, thinking it’s going to give him some great insight into the process. So, the next time you try to get into the head of a CD to find out whether your stapling method is offensive or if the choice to use a pink Post-It note rather than yellow was somehow the deal-breaker on this particular gig, just know that you’re engaging in Actor Mind Taffy and that it may feel like fun, but it’s not particularly productive in the long run.
Now, even though this column originally came about in the days of hardcopy submissions, there are still plenty of examples out there about how actors get mired in Actor Mind Taffy. Waiting room games, the post-audition psych-out, second guessing bold choices… where are you most prone to play with the sticky stuff?
Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/000060.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.