Actors Can’t Read

I know. You already don’t like this column. Believe me, I don’t like having to write it. But having put out four breakdowns last week (yes, four), I’ve become overwhelmed at how many actors out there either can’t read, don’t understand what they read, choose not to read, or simply dismiss what they read. Whatever the culprit, the result is the same: frustrated casting directors. And, hey, why would you want to frustrate the people you’re hoping to enchant with your talent?

Before I get too deep into the rant, let me say for the record that I absolutely know that there are many casting directors who provide misleading, incorrect, or too little information about projects. I understand that there are times when shoot dates change and some actors ignore date conflicts assuming this could be one of those projects for which not much is set in stone. I also get that directors and producers sometimes cast against type, meaning that the original breakdown may be terribly specific and your wildcard, against-type submission is a surprise winner. None of this contributes to the type of actor illiteracy I’m upset about. I promise.

And since every single one of us is human, is capable of making a mistake, and is (hopefully) looking to do better in life, I’ll continue on and write this piece. Knowing all of this, what is it that has me all up in a tizzy? Three simple areas in which actors ignoring details in the breakdown cost me hours and hours of additional work.

Submission Instructions

I love hearing from actors. I welcome emails each week at the bottom of the Your Turn portion of The Actors Voice. I provide my email address and phone number on my website, I outline submission instructions at my contact page, I share my process in my FAQ, I welcome folks to add me at MySpace, and I even open comments at my blog. And every time I put out a breakdown through Breakdown Services and Actors Access, I check the little box that allows actors to submit notes to me, along with their submissions. I love these notes. I read them all.

Certainly, my least favorite notes are those that are clearly form letters copied and pasted in an attempt to build up the hype of the actor submitting. Whatever. I’m not impressed. If I wanted to read a press release, I’d visit your website and buy into the whole thing. That’s not a good use of Submission Note real estate. My favorite notes include links to demo reel footage (if not already hosted on Actors Access) and links to professional websites, provide some context within which I may recall your work (along the lines of, “You saw me do stand-up at the Improv last year”), or illuminate an actor’s perception of this particular project (“I read the script and really connected with the lead character’s plight. I’d love the opportunity to show you my take on this material,” or something even more specific).

Here’s what pisses me off, though: When I have included Submission Instructions — in all CAPS — that detail how you should submit on this project… for example:

PLEASE DO NOT SUBMIT FOR MULTIPLE ROLES. IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO BE CONSIDERED FOR MULTIPLE ROLES, PLEASE SUBMIT FOR THE ONE ROLE YOU ARE BEST-SUITED FOR AND THEN USE THE NOTES SECTION TO LIST ALL OF THE ROLES FOR WHICH YOU WOULD LIKE TO BE CONSIDERED. THANK YOU!

…and you choose to click “SUBMIT” on ten different roles for which you’d like to be considered. Here’s what you actually accomplish: I assume you cannot follow instructions and therefore are too clueless, careless, or stupid to be considered for this project. Harsh? Sure. And y’know what? When I’ve got a thousand submissions on one role, I’m going to use whatever criteria I can to help me filter down to my top twenty actors. If Darwin helps me do that, I’ll accept the assistance.

Please assume, if a CD has taken the time to detail Submission Instructions (which you scroll right past in order to submit electronically), that she wants you to follow those directions. Seriously, it’s like number 11 in an old Don’t Get Me Started column I wrote. Maybe I need to be grateful that actors are helping me cut them by ignoring instructions. But since I’d rather see actors succeed, I guess I’ll just keep scratching my head about the behavior and occasionally write a column about it all, to get the rant out.

If a CD posts “NO PHONE CALLS” in the breakdown, don’t call. If a CD posts “ELECTRONIC SUBMISSIONS ONLY” in the breakdown, don’t call and ask how to submit hard copy. No matter what the CD posts in the breakdown, do not call and say, “Hey, I’m just checking to be sure you received my submission for today’s breakdown?” Are you kidding me?!? Did you really just call me, interrupt my hectic day of dealing with THREE different directors on the breakdowns that went out today to make SURE that technology didn’t fail you and that I saw your submission? Look, I know Mercury is in Retrograde and all that, but sometimes you’ve just got to trust the process. Believe me, I can hear the other side of the argument: “Well, actors with agents have an edge because those agents are calling and pitching actors for the roles. I want to stay competitive.” Great. I’m all for that. But y’know what? Never ONCE has an agent called me and said, “Did you get the submission?” Agents may call and say, “Hey, look, you seriously need to see this kid for this role. Magical stuff.” But the phone call takes about one minute, tops. Your phone call, in which you tell me you want me to know how very very very much it would mean to you to get to read for me, just makes me shudder (along the lines of connecting with a stalker). Be a professional. Submit like a professional. Move on like a professional. Creeping people out gets you on a list you’d rather not be on.

Submission Deadline

Yes, of course, shoot dates get pushed. Yes, deals with name actors fall through and we suddenly need a non-celeb actor for a role. Yes, attachment of a new player bumps up our project and — within an instant — we’re busting tail to try and get our cast locked. BUT… if a breakdown is released on Monday with a submission deadline of Tuesday because prereads are late Wednesday with callbacks Thursday for a Friday shoot, what the heck are you doing submitting to me ON Friday? And, if you are submitting despite the deadline (you totally know you’re too late, but you also know that stuff falls through and want to be on the radar just in case), why not use the NOTES section to say so? Take an extra moment and include a note that says, “Hey, I know it’s past the deadline. Just in case… keep me in mind. If not for this, then maybe for the next one. Thanks!” Is that so hard?

Okay, I know that not every CD accepts notes in electronic submissions. Fine. Then do me a favor… TRUST that we will actually put out a revised breakdown if we are still seeking an actor for a particular role. And if you really really really want to submit on a project after the submission deadline has passed, at least choose NOT to submit if the audition dates and–holy cow — the production dates have passed! I mean, come ON!

This Role Requires Nudity

I’ve covered this sort of thing in the columns When Not To Submit and Information Please, but it needs saying at least once more, it seems. If the breakdown mentions that a particular role will require nudity, believe that. Don’t submit and say, in your submission note, “But I won’t do nudity.” *thud* (That’s my head hitting the desk, at this point.) I only just cast the first feature film of my career involving nudity late last year. It was a totally eye-opening experience, simply due to the amount of extra paperwork required per role cast. Nudity riders are fascinating things! This week, however, I put out breakdowns for a short film and a stage play that each require brief nudity. Wanting to be certain there was NO miscommunication, I made sure to provide not only information about which roles required nudity but also links to the entire script for each project (for free, hosted at my casting website). That way, if an actor read the “nudity required” notice about a particular role, he or she could easily download the script and discern the context before submitting.

So why am I getting bombarded with phone calls, emails, and submission notes asking questions about the context of the nudity? I seriously created a template after the first dozen or so emails. Now I just copy and paste the answer… but I really shouldn’t have to answer these emails at all. Ooh, wait; I’m having an epiphany as I write this! I should — just as I mentioned above about multiple submissions — let Darwin win out here. I mean, if a CD provides you with a character description, provides you with a link to a free source for downloading the entire script, and the role in question is listed (and exists in the script) as one for which there is nudity, for the love of GAWD, believe it!

Okay, I’m getting more frustrated as I write this. The point of this rant is: I get that you crave information. I get that you are in a business that involves a whole bunch of risk-taking and not much calculation of what works and what doesn’t. But I also believe that, when you are provided with information and you choose to disregard the details in favor of your enthusiasm or passion, you’re gonna piss off the people in the industry who are in the business of assessing risk and weeding out the high-maintenance dillholes.


Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!


Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/000421.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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