So the new Ulmer Scale came out this month. I’ve talked before about James Ulmer and his bankability index as it relates to name actors and determining risk as producers secure financing for their films. I use my Ulmer Scale every single day. If you want even more insight into this valuable casting tool, read Patrick Goldstein’s piece, “The Ulmer Scale: A True Test of Hollywood Star Bankability?” in the LA Times.
The first thing I do with each new edition of the Ulmer Scale, the Forbes Star Currency Index, or any other ranked list of name actor bankability is re-rank my own master casting list, which includes the names of “name actors” as well as “qualified name actors” (the actors you may only know by role, rather than by name, so if I say, “You know. He’s the so-and-so character in such-and-such,” and then you can picture him, that’s a “qualified name”), and actors I have cast before or cannot wait to cast someday, regardless of their verified bankability.
As I opened the pages of my casting wiki and began re-prioritizing actors, I thought about how Ulmer calculates “career risk” and how actors’ behavior can cause their bankability to rise or fall. Yes, I’m talking about issues such as jumping on sofas or calling police officers names that rhyme with “sugar hips” or cussing out crewmembers while cameras roll. While some “bad behavior” is a publicists’ dream come true (because it gets a star back in the public eye by any means necessary), for some actors, their own bad choices are their downfall.
While you may or may not yet be on Ulmer’s list — or any casting office’s master casting list — if you hope to be there someday, a plan of action that includes your own risk management is probably a good idea, starting right now. Behave as if cameras are always rolling and you’ll cultivate a public persona for which you can proudly be accountable. (You’ll be held accountable either way. Best to be proud of how you’re behaving.)
Until you’re on several master casting lists around town, you can ready your self for being there by making good choices, training regularly, networking with quality people, doing your own form of Rookie Orientation, preparing for transitions in representation so that you’re not sidelined when it happens, and basically being ready. Always.
One of my favorite stories about being ready comes from a film I cast four years ago. There was this actor who basically was lucky to even get an audition for the small supporting role on which he was initially seen. He had no agent, was only recently SAG-eligible, and was new to LA. I took a chance on him for this tiny role and he blew me away. I asked him to read for the lead (even though we were making name actor offers for that role, and not auditioning anyone for it at all). He just happened to have downloaded the entire script (not just the sides for his little supporting role) and pulled it from his backpack, flagged and dog-eared and highlighted. He asked, “What scene?”
I was so sure he would need to get a copy of the script, read that character’s lines, decide on a scene to use, prep for the audition, come back later, etc. But no. As part of his prep for the minor character, he downloaded the entire script, read it, made notes, wanted to read for the lead and was ready when that opportunity was presented to him. I was amazed at his commitment to his craft and this project. And, of course, he was brilliant in that audition, booked the role, kicked ass with it, won a series of film festival awards for it, fell in love with his costar, and all of those other cool things that Hollywood dreams are built on.
He was ready.
Later, I asked him about that fateful day in which he was so awesome in his audition for the supporting role that he got the opportunity to read for the lead. He said it was very simple. When he was training in New York, he had a coach who told him, whenever he got an audition, his job was to find the entire script — no matter how hard it was to obtain in advance — and read every word, making notes about the characters — all of them — in order to be taken seriously. Of course, he would later learn that this was not a requirement for auditioning. But because it was set up as a non-negotiable back when he started out, it became a part of his conditioning as an actor.
I tell actors they should always be reading scripts. They should use Showfax and download sides, put themselves on tape, use the material for a workout in acting class, find scripts and read them while on the treadmill — whatever! There should always be some script-reading going on in the life of a professional actor. The above story illustrates clearly why that could be a great business decision. Being ready.
Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/001031.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.