Only One Chance to Impress a Casting Director?


First, thank you for the work you do! I’ve been out here for little over three years now, and your column on Agent-Free Auditioning was a great breakdown of the scene as far as I’ve seen it. I also completely agree that it’s about relationships! When you first get out here, it’s all just all so daunting and you feel alone and it seems like everyone is out for themselves, but if you pay attention you start to see people do help each other and one CAN get to know people.

I’ve volunteered at Sundance for eight years and at the fest you get these kid volunteers coming in that think that Robert Redford is gonna pull them out of a screening and make ’em a star. They tend to treat other volunteers like, “you’re just another rube volunteer who can’t help me.” I laugh and tell them, “it’s EXACTLY that rube next to you that — if you treat them like a person — is going to become a friend and not now or next year, but perhaps in time, with your help, will ‘make it’ and because you helped him/her they’ll hopefully remember you.” Most of them don’t want to hear that though! Oh, to be young again (but not stupid)!

This spring, I got my first theatrical audition for a four-liner waiter on a show on Comedy Central called Workaholics. I don’t have a theatrical agent; it was through the CD Alyssa Weisberg (Star Trek, Cloverfield). She had seen my piece in a performance show out here called Mortified two years ago. It took me about a year of trying to work it out, but got to sit down with her last year for a half-hour to ask advice. She is way out of my pay grade so I didn’t even bring in my headshot but she was super nice and I’ve stayed in light contact with her via Facebook these last two years and then out of the blue, I got a call.

I was nervous about it; I had about four hours to prep. I didn’t even necessarily worry about the job; I just wanted to not disappoint her. I just wanted to come off as competent, but in some ways it was almost worse because I know she was going to be pulling for me. Well, my fears came true. I realized after she gave me a little information that I picked a bad choice for my tone (I was reading him as big/dumb/nice and she was looking for annoyed/curt). I felt like it would be bad to say I needed a moment to correct my bad choice so I just winged it, and felt wooden and stiff. We tried it again, and it was a tiny bit better, but I was too much in my head and not in my body.

I wanted to ask you if it truly is that you get one shot and if you don’t deliver, you’ve kinda burnt that bridge. I fear she may think, “he’s a nice guy, and I wish him the best, but I’ll never call him in again.”

It’s a pretty dumb question, and I know it won’t change a damn thing, but my brain wants to pick it over and find any learnable lessons from the wreckage.

Thanks for your time!
Shaun Parker

Ah, Shaun, thank you for this. Great questions and ones many actors wrestle with, I’m sure. Let’s break this down a bit.

You were already on this casting director’s radar due to your work in Mortified and your good work staying in contact in a professional and unassuming way. That’s why you got invited in when there was a role right for you. Excellent work! It’s actually a really good example of how “booking the room” (see this week’s column on that topic, above) with both your earlier work and the staying in contact part of things can lead to future opportunities.

Now, your concern is over how you feel you blew that opportunity, once you did finally get into the room thanks to this relationship. You said you went into it not wanting to disappoint the casting director, and feeling as though the stakes were high because she was pulling for you. I’ve got some news for you! We’re ALWAYS pulling for actors to do good work, have fun, be awesome, all that stuff. So, start by — next time — never worrying about disappointing us or not rising to the task of making us proud. That’s not why we call you in. We want to see your take on the work. Period. And we think you’re a good match or we wouldn’t invite you to show us your work.

Of course, you’re not asking me to provide strategies for next time. You’re asking whether we give actors another shot, or if we see a failed attempt at a good first impression as a reason not to call you in, in the future. Okay, so here’s where I’m going to ask you whether you give folks a second chance, just in general. You meet someone at a party. They’re nervous and edgy. Do you assume they’re always that way, or maybe just having a bit of social anxiety that may not exist upon your next encounter? In general, human beings develop an opinion about people based on a collection of encounters, not just one. Sure, first impressions are everything, but the good news is, you’re worried that your THIRD impression is going to keep you off this casting director’s list, even though your first and second impression obviously were each (or together) enough to get you in the room for that third face-to-face.

Yeah, it may mean you’re not going to be called in immediately, when there’s a role that fits your type perfectly, next time, but you’ll certainly be on the list. I mean, our job is to bring in actors who are right for the role. When that’s true, you’ll be on the list, but maybe farther down it because you were seen as “too in your head” or “not ready for the opportunity.” Still, we all know that people have good days and bad days. Generally, we add what we experienced with you that ONE time to what we’ve experienced with you ALL of the times we met you.

So, shake it off, stay in touch, keep doing good work, and trust that you’re preparing yourself for a better approach to the room next time. Don’t worry about how to take care of us or what we need or how much we want you to succeed. Just come in and be awesome. (Have fun; don’t suck.) And when you’re not awesome, know that we’re not replacing our entire opinion of you every time week meet. We’re simply adding to our collective understanding of who you are, with our every encounter.

A reminder: We’re still looking for great tips from actors out there who navigate their survival jobs in such a way that allows you to fully participate in many of the networking experiences that help build relationships in this industry. Please, folks, let’s collaborate on a future column to help Robert out with his dilemma. Thanks!

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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