A week ago, I popped in at the SMFA Ninjas Facebook group to post a vague — but very effin’ cool — casting notice.
Why not call my favorite agents and managers? With whom I have history and relationships and shorthand? Why not post at Actors Access? Where I’ve been posting casting notices for award-winning feature films, groundbreaking pilots, and Academy-qualifying projects since 2003?
Because this was a quick favor. I’d had dinner at the home of an Emmy-winning showrunner friend of mine and he’d hit a snag on casting a couple o’ roles in this hugely innovative project he’s shooting in a few weeks. “Lemme see if I can help!” I offered. And on to my Facebook group the post went.
I shared very little about the actual roles because this was going to be an invitation-only self-tape directly uploaded to the creative team. I was hoping to see a few of my very favorite people who HAPPENED TO BE RIGHT FOR IT pop in on that thread so I could quickly email them the sides, the specs, and the private link for uploading their self-tape — something I would know they would NAIL because I was going to have either cast these folks before, coached these folks before, or done enough vetting of their work to know there’s no question they’d make me look good with what they turned in.
I specifically didn’t share details about TYPES because I didn’t want anyone to try and lean toward something they’re NOT daily bullseyeing in order to try and fit into these roles. More on that specifically where AGE is concerned in a moment. (It’s… interesting.)
Now, let’s back up and think about the whole “they’d make me look good” thing as it relates to all casting you may intersect with in your acting life: How good are you making the casting director look, in the eyes of the showrunner, the producer, the director, the network execs, the studio suits?
‘Cause here’s the thing: I recommended these actors WITHOUT WATCHING THEIR SELF-TAPES FIRST.
Think about that.
I so trusted these folks to nail it that I didn’t even say, “Please send me your link and then *I* will decide what to send to the team.” I simply trusted my gut, my picker, my ability to let ACTORS FILTER THEMSELVES OUT if left to their own eagerness… and off they went into the process.
What sorts of things helped me FILTER the hundreds of actors who responded on the Facebook thread in just a few hours? ASIDE from just not being the right TYPE, of course. So, I mean, what would make me totally discount someone who is otherwise RIGHT for the role?
- phone calls
- text messages
- platform jumping (messaging me at Twitter or Instagram when the posting was at Facebook)
- tagging me (um… it’s my thread; you think I need MORE notifications there’s a reply?)
- reaching out long after the thread was closed WITH A MESSAGE FROM ME that we’re all set… just to check
Because we had a super easy system in place in this thread. Pitch yourself. Right there. If I don’t already know you, show me something that helps me GET you. We went and looked. I invited total strangers to self-tape for this based off how confidently I felt their rightness for the role was clear from their online presence and our interaction in this thread.
What sorts of things made my confidence in anyone WIGGLE after they’d received the sides, the specs, and the private link for uploading their self-tape?
- ignoring the instructions in the email about how to submit
- pelting me with questions
- missing the deadline
- (basically, Actor Darwinism)
Other totally unavoidable things that I figure I should take this chance to mention in case you could use a quick check of your own protocol when submitting on things.
SUBMISSION TIP: If your social media presence doesn’t clearly show you have a life as an actor (meaning, your profile photo isn’t your headshot and your website or casting profile are not THE LINK available when I check out your social media “about me” area), reconsider. At least give us SOME breadcrumbs to lead us to your actor identity.
SUBMISSION TIP: When sharing a link to your demo reel, don’t make it password protected. Giving us extra hoops to jump through when we’re moving quickly to assess whether you’re right for a role pretty much guarantees we’re gonna move on to someone else.
SUBMISSION TIP: If you’re sharing a vanity URL to your IMDb page or Actors Access profile, please double-check the link. Have a FRIEND double-check the link. More often than you’d hope, we receive a link to your Actors Access profile dashboard (which is useless to us, as we’re not logged in as you and can’t see what you’re seeing when you grab that link) or to a “file not found” page at IMDb because you use .com rather than .me in that vanity link you’re sure you’ve memorized. Eep!
SUBMISSION TIP: Provide contact info with the submission unless it’s abundantly clear on your website. Make it easy for us to contact you if we want to cast you, please!
SUBMISSION TIP: Take advantage of your Web of Trust! It’s relationship-building you’ve invested in *so that* when things like this happen, you’re plugged in and have a shot others don’t have!
Finally, here’s a fun fact about our #1 rule at the Self-Management for Actors Facebook group (NO PROMOS): Approximately ZERO people who have violated our self-promo rules in the Facebook group bothered to post in the casting thread to actually be considered for a paying union series regular gig in an innovative interactive pilot from an Emmy Award winning showrunner. Hmm… they’ve been so eager to ignore our big rule and try to promote themselves as castable — so self-involved they can’t be bothered to read the rules when they’re doing all that promoting — that perhaps they’re also too self-involved to even notice when there’s an opportunity right there in front of them.
Casting these roles via Facebook was such a great filter for so much whactor nonsense. When I tweeted about something that was truly baffling to me — how VERY many actors with headshots of the look, vibe, feel of “I’m 40” submitted for roles waaaaaaaaaaaay outside of their castable age — I got pelted with some very defensive replies about what’s wrong with casting (um, okay… glad you could vent at me about too many actors going to callbacks on projects I have nothing to do with), how the industry regularly casts outside of true age (yep… we also cast non-superheroes to play superheroes… crazy how this whole world of make-believe comes together, huh?), and how they’re SURE they actually DO still play 15+ years younger than their actual age (okay, good! Then I’m not TALKING about you; I’m talking about a ton of people who have to be NUTS to believe that the flirtatious bartender meant it when he said you couldn’t be a day over 22, lady-who’s-older-than-me. And hey, even if you DO decide to believe it, to base your business decisions — like how to submit — upon something someone who’s working for tips said to you once?!? That’s not good business, honey).
People get defensive.
It’s really not necessary. It’s not an INSULT when I say you look *any* age. It’s my assessment. When my job is to assess. On behalf of the production. I am casting.
Your age is not an insult. Ever. That YOU turn it into one is how you give away a lot of power. (So I really hope you DON’T turn your age — or any age — into an insult.)
Thing is, something happens at some point — your Age 28 Epiphany, your quarter-life crisis, your Saturn Return — that makes it impossible for you to play under 25 anymore. You’ve now experienced something in life that — except in rare cases — makes it challenging to believe you haven’t seen what you’ve seen, felt what you’ve felt, been where you’ve been. Sure, let ’em tell you that you have a youthful energy. Let them say you look GREAT for 30 and could still play a teenager. Let your bookings prove you play younger than your actual age. No problem!
But you’re gonna agree with me, I bet, there are more than a few photos in this thread that look to be submitted by people a decade or more past the playing age we were looking for.
Save your stories about my beloved Beverly Hills, 90210 or any other specific example you want to share of how people are cast outside their actual age all the time. I know that. I’ve written about that. Multiple times. Talked about it on a Facebook Live and put it up over at the YouTubes. I know. I’m not talking about playing outside your real age. I’m talking about the people who — at ANY age — look too tired, too lived-through-it-all, too parent-of-college-kids even in the photos THEY chose to use in a pitch for themselves as 16-18 or 22-25. See it? Even seeing it a few times is enough to make a person gun-shy.
And that’s *not* an emotion you want us to have about you.
Let’s chat about this!
Comments are open just below and I’d love to continue the convo!
PS — London SMFA ninjas! Details are filling in on the time I’ll be spending with you in November. I’m sharing more about two events on the books already. Don’t miss out!
PPS — Get in Gear for the Next Tier LIVE participants! Our Day 20 Q&A call is tomorrow! Catch us live for all the joy and support you know we have for you! You’re doing GREAT and you’re right where you’re meant to be. <3 PPPS -- SMFA ninjas of LA! Our summer day-long intensive is now open for enrollment! These always fill up so be sure to grab your spot for so much badassery packed into a Saturday!
PPPPS — Keith and I are packing up to head to Upper Limit Camp this week. Don’t know about upper limits? Oof! Please grab your copy of The Big Leap so you never again have to wonder why you shoot yourself in the foot just when things are getting really good.
I’m sure I’ll have lots to share from my time with the Hendricks Institute in the next BonBlast. ’til then… stay ninja!