It’s Still about Respect

Here comes part two of my “How We Can Make Your Job Easier” topic on the issue of respect for actors. Let’s jump right into your emails.

If you’re going to book a producers’ session while people are in the waiting room for a preread, keep the door closed so we can’t hear. I for one would really appreciate it!

I was sitting in the waiting room at a preread this week and the CD’s assistant was booking the producers’ session for the next morning loud and clear for all to hear, obviously with girls who were not being preread at all. So when I got my “that was excellent, I have no notes” feedback from the CD, I knew the words held little weight because if it had been that excellent or if she hadn’t already had her picks, she would have invited me to the producers session the next morning.

Huge rant: CDs who have an obvious “favorite” in the waiting room and the CDs make sure EVERYONE knows that by giggling and giving the thumbs-up to the favorite right in front of everyone else.

Okay, obviously the thumbs-up to a “favorite” in the waiting room is totally inconsiderate, unprofessional, and just downright cruel to the others waiting to audition. Wow. This would be another one of those casting offices I would make a note of, in my “report card” diary. I don’t know that I’d care to go back to a place where that sort of thing happened. Was it the CD who was being so unprofessional or the assistant?

In fact, that question applies to all of the emails on this particular issue. Many casting directors are not close enough to where the scheduling action is going on to know that such behavior is going on. I once had an agent call me to report that an actor he’d sent to me had been called an idiot by one of my assistants. I was appalled. And I took action. That will never be an issue on my watch again!

So, quite possibly, you’re dealing with a similar situation and the casting director has no idea that such inappropriate experiences are going on in her waiting room. If you have an agent or manager, I would make sure a call gets placed.

As for the email that said, “obviously with girls who were not being preread at all,” I’d like to note that you can’t possibly know how many other people have been prereading for a role. There are times that we’re doing prereads long before anyone ever sees a breakdown for the project. There are just far too many variables for you to assume that someone receiving a call in front of you hasn’t pre-read or submitted tape already for the project. As for the “that was excellent” feedback, I’ll direct you to my article on the subject from the beginning of the “How We Can Make Your Job Easier” series.

From another email:

Consider that union status for union projects, even though you might not contractually have to. The child actor talent pool in particular comes with some unknown risks right from the start. Value that union status and give those kids a little respect for the professional work they have already done. They are a proven commodity.

I think that’s a very valid point. With children in particular, I find it is night and day, the difference between union and nonunion talent. It’s simply a matter of professionalism (yes, even by four year olds) and ability to handle the entire situation. That said, I will always call in actors (of any age) who are nonunion if I’m casting a project for which Taft-Hartley isn’t an issue (and that could mean it’s not an issue due to the level of contract or because the producers don’t fear the fines potentially involved). Everyone starts somewhere, and there are actors who can be entirely professional without having reached the union status they’d like to attain.

From several emails:

Thanks so much for your articles. It’s refreshing to hear how open-minded your casting process is. Unfortunately, as I’m sure you know, many offices do not function with the attitude of “may the best actor win.”

I think actors need to be clued into the hierarchy (or the rating system, if you will). There are definitely front-runners and then the rest of the pack when it comes to casting choices. Especially when you are young and staring out this is hard to fathom but even later it’s difficult. What chance does a “back horse” have? How do we deal with getting through the pre-screening to get to casting (live and in person) at all?

Here’s my rant. I can’t stand all the fakeness and dishonesty with casting directors, agents, and managers. Don’t say you’ll look at nonunion if you know darn well you won’t. Don’t say you only rep SAG people when I KNOW you have nonunion people on the roster. Don’t tell me it is slow and you can’t get anything for me when I know otherwise. There is NO need to soften the blow of rejection by blowing smoke up people’s tails. We’re used to rejection and if we can’t handle it, well then maybe we should find something else to do.

Honesty is still a big factor. This is a business. Let us handle our business based on mutual honesty.

I think there are so many factors to consider, when it comes to the issue of honesty in this business. Obviously, I’m a big fan of honesty and doing business as openly as possible so that people can learn from what is, traditionally, a very closed-off industry. Still, there are elements of my job that require less-than-brutal truth-telling.

Remember, artists are sensitive critters. There’s nothing wrong with being a delicate flower, but it’s certainly tough to do business that way. And show business is some of the most ego-bruising work on the planet. So, while you may believe that YOU could take it, if I were to tell you that the reason you’re not getting seen by me is because, the last time I saw your work I was so turned off that it took me weeks to even be able to see your headshot without cringing, the fact is, there may be another huge portion of the actors out there who couldn’t take it. And how do I know from which portion of the actor world you come? Are you the delicate flower whose dream I will crush if I tell you that you seriously need to give it up? Or are you the tough, “Oh yeah, I’ll show her” type whose resolve is stronger after that sort of comment?

Because we usually have no idea which type of person we’re dealing with (and we don’t want to cause either type to break from our actions), we’ll usually choose the “words of least resistance,” so to speak. If you want to know the truth, your chances at making it in show business are next to nothing, no matter how talented you are. That’s not personal. It’s statistical fact. If you’re the type of person who takes everything personally, then it’s best for you to assume you’re not getting called in because you need more SOMETHING. Training, SAG vouchers, better representation, a different haircut, whatever. Then go get that something! And if you’re the type who has no self-awareness and never assumes anything is wrong with your “package,” well, that’s a dang healthy ego. Take advantage of that strength and STILL make improvements in your craft. Know that we don’t tell you EXACTLY what to fix because there are others out there who will have to go into therapy if we were to say such direct things to them.

Also, we’ve got enough to do, casting, agenting, managing, producing. Hire a coach who will help you improve as an actor. Hire an image consultant who will help shape up your package. Do SAG extra work until you can get those vouchers. And if you really are the type who can “take it,” no matter how rough it is, push to hear it. When you’re told, “Sorry. We don’t rep nonunion actors,” say, “Actually, you rep so-and-so. He’s nonunion.” I mean, you’re already being told NO. May as well find out why, right?

Another email, from the parent of young actors:

If you deal with child actors on a routine basis, don’t spend every weekend all over the country looking for new kids. Don’t support the competitions as an entry vehicle for the industry. Focus on the families who seek you if you need new talent for your roster. They are the ones who have done their homework and have some sense of the reality of what they are doing. It’s unfair, and almost exploitative, to bring an unprepared family into this environment. (Dangerous for them, too!)

Boy, ain’t that the truth! How many tens of thousands of dollars do families spend, coming out to LA for pilot season before they’re ready to do so, simply because they got good feedback from a “big time Hollywood so-and-so” who was paid to come to their town and assess the chances of people who need to do a lot of work in their own market first? I’d hate to even begin to do the math!

How do we help combat competitions that are so extremely well-advertised all over the country, in order to get the word out about the harsh realities of show business (especially for the young actors out there)? Well, information is power. We can all keep sharing information as freely as possible, making sure out-of-market, aspiring actors are aware of the difference between something that’s as slickly-produced as American Idol and what the day-to-day pursuit of acting truly is. is a great start, particularly for parents of young actors. Oh, if only had the advertising budget of some of those “contests.”

The last issue of respect I’m going to cover this week is one that took me off-guard, when I received the email about it. Did you know that some actors see prereads as disrespectful? I didn’t!

While I have many good credits to my name, both supporting and leading in film and television, I have been out of the game for about a year and find myself back in what I lovingly refer to as “preread” land. Actors with solid credits read in a void for the casting director; no director, no video camera, nothing to record we were ever there to begin with. I have done many good auditions recently, received glowing feedback, and not gone any further because the casting director already had his/her “choices” to take to producers.

Why bother setting up these sessions if the CDs already have their lists? Why not wait until after the producers’ session and if the execs aren’t happy with the choices, then see new people. That way it wouldn’t feel like a waste of our time. This preread phenomenon is an insult to so many of us that deserve to be seen by the people doing the hiring or at least the courtesy of being put on tape so they may judge for themselves.

First, let me assure you: Prereads are not disrespectful. They’re a necessary evil. We “non-hirers” don’t do prereads out of some sense of formality to the process. We do prereads because there is no way that producers would EVER be able to be a part of the in-the-room casting process for as many people as we have to see, in order to discern which actors are the best match for the role. If producers didn’t mind the fact that it sometimes takes seeing a thousand people in order to know who the “top ten actors for this project at this time” are, there would never be the need for casting directors. But the laws of supply and demand dictate that we act as filters between the talent and the buyers. Heck, let’s go one step further! Agents and managers are OUR filters. They don’t automatically submit every actor they represent who might be right for the project. They carefully pick and choose which actors have the best shot at it. And we appreciate that!

The fact that you’ve been away from acting for a year tells me that you’re most likely prereading because the casting community hasn’t seen you in awhile. Even if you were a top-booking actor a year ago, if you haven’t been in a particular CD’s office lately, she’s going to want to see how you’re looking these days. Are you rusty? Have you changed, physically? Have you entered a new type category? Prereads help answer these questions.

As for the CDs already having their lists, I’m going to disagree with you on this. You don’t (and can’t possibly) know why you aren’t making it further in any casting process. Doing a great job in the room (preread or callback or producer session or screen test) is your job. So, to assume that you don’t make it beyond your stellar preread due to a list we already have put together seems silly. If we already have a list, why are we holding prereads? For fun? Maybe we’re treating them as “generals,” in which case, YAY! You’re getting a general. Nobody gets generals anymore! But no producer is going to pay a casting director to see people when an agreed-to list exists. Certainly the CD may have her ideas for who will earn callbacks, and you may have to come in and do such an amazing preread that you knock someone else off that list and take the spot on the callback schedule, but that’s why auditioning well is a very important part of the job.

Absolutely, some actors reach a level where they no longer have to preread. Their body of work speaks for itself, their demo reel gets them a callback, their agent’s pitch gets them a face-to-face meeting with no real “audition,” whatever. But until that’s you, you’re just going to have to take the preread process for what it is: part of the filtering we’re hired to do.

Next week, I’ll focus on another set of emails that follow this one quite nicely: being asked to audition for parts that simply aren’t right for you. Why do we ask you to do this? And what’s in it for you?

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 Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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