So, last week, I participated in a SAG Foundation event with fellow casting directors Bruce Newberg and Erin Toner. We talked about everything from what online services we use (Breakdown Services, Actors Access, IMDb-Pro) to the likelihood of unrepresented actors getting seen by us (everyone gets a shot) and from headshots (no one cares if they’re in color, as long as they look like you) to demo reels (we love ’em short and online). Obviously, we didn’t always agree on “what works,” but that’s part of what makes these free events so awesome: Actors get to learn how things are done in specific offices rather than assuming that everything is done the same in every office. Just like actors aren’t all alike, CDs aren’t all alike.

One of the emails I received after the talk seemed to have something in common with another email that I had received about last week’s column on creating your own demo reel footage. Both supported my theory that sometimes all an actor needs, in order to start making things happen, is to just start making things happen! And that often requires a paradigm shift. We tend to get so caught up in all of the things we think we’re supposed to do that we miss out on doing things that actually might be a lot more powerful (and more fun)! For example: I said (at the SAG Foundation talk) that if actors took half of the energy they put into “finding the right agent, targeting mailings to CDs, getting a better agent” and put that into creating their own short films, showcases, or plays, the people they’re so eager to get in front of would seek them out!

But if you’ve been conditioned to believe that the busy, frantic energy you’re putting into mailings and meetings and researching people is “enough,” it might take a true paradigm shift for you to understand that you could choose to work smart, not hard.

Here’s the email I received from Chris Forsyth after the SAG talk.

Thanks for coming out last night. You are a kick! Funny, funny people you CDs were! It was great (although not a surprise) to see such divergent viewpoints on some of the issues. Just goes to show the actor even more why you really cannot go in the room trying to figure out what a CD “wants,” because two different casting directors may respond in two different ways to your choices. You just have to go in there and be committed to doing “your” thing, and do it well. That statement has such a “duh” factor for me now with all the lightbulbs going on, but I remember not that long ago having been stuck in that mentality of: “I wonder what they are looking for in this piece.” I cringe when I think of those auditions. It was such a heavy load to carry around.

Funny aside: Classes are great — assuming you study with a qualified and talented coach. They can really help you deconstruct and reconstruct yourself and your craft so that you have a more intimate knowledge of your organic self. So the rigorous constant rotation of classes I’ve found myself in over the past three years has been great and has really come full circle for me. But I was studying so much that I was doing it to the exclusion of “real world” events like these SAG events. These types of events create an atmosphere where you can put all of the “theory,” “technique,” and the “performance/critique” cycle aside and just “shoot the sh*t,” human to human style with the people we interact with on a daily basis in this business. It’s invaluable, and for proper balance, it also needs to be a part of the “study” regimen.

Anyway, ’nuff of that soapbox. Great seeing you last night.



I couldn’t agree more! It’s interesting to participate in these talks with SAG Foundation or at panel discussions during local film festivals. I always get feedback that’s along the lines of: “A-ha!” It’s as if actors can read everything I’ve written in these columns, but when they hear me (or several of us) talking about the same issues, it clicks differently. (And I guess that’s why I do both the writing and the talking, huh?)

But what makes me nervous is, that for every actor who has over-committed to the class-theory-performance-critique cycle, there is another who has over-committed to attending these types of talks. It’s like they are at every flippin’ event, listening and taking notes like crazy, but they never take an acting class or work on a real project in order to road-test the human-to-human stuff they’re making notes about.

So, it’s like everything else… do it along with other things. Try a little of all of it. Change it up from time to time. Don’t do one thing to the exclusion of all others. It’s like a meter’s needle pegged to one side, otherwise. And balance is what you’re seeking (I hope).

Now here’s the email I received from Dan Gilman about his “P-Shift” (I love that)!

The best part of your article is the “start at the finish” motivation that it inspires. This was a great article on the approach to shooting our own good footage. It is a way of getting out of the same old pattern some of us get stuck in by hoping our footage in student films, series, or pilots is presentable. Then of course, there is the dreaded outdated footage that is hung onto way too long just because it was a great role.

This can all be great footage and it is sure my goal to get as much footage as possible. The trouble is we are sometimes left at the mercy of the editor (who surely could of cut out other parts than mine), or left hoping our student film copies get mailed to us, or the worst, missing our footage by missing an air date that the video services can’t even get.

I know student films offer great learning experiences and help us to keep sharp and give us a reason to update CDs, etc. But to take a shot at what Charlene (Ashley Judd) said in Heat, “It is cost vs. reward, baby.” I know I have put a lot of trust and effort into helping student directors get material and to give them a chance to work with a dedicated person. But, that hasn’t left me with a lot to show for my efforts.

Sometimes doing the same thing is like a fly hitting a glass door over and over while it is trying to get out of the house. That is how I sometimes feel after trying to chase down material. By making my own short, at least I can be in something that is my type of role and is current and best of all; I know it will be in my hands in two weeks.

At some point the part of us that asks, “Is it authentic?” will most likely chime in. Well, I don’t think a person is going to fake out Law & Order or Rescue Me casting and be able to promote a short as a series regular part. What can happen though is it could lead to some call-ins that could lead to some legit series roles or film roles. I was told this is how Vin Diesel had his break. I checked it out on IMDb and there is a short story on how he made a 20-minute film to help launch his career.

A DIY approach is kind of like that P-Dime Shift thing and lets a person start from a complete package position instead of waiting for the big discovery to happen.

As a side note, I was just called in to audition for a student film. Oh, come on, universe! Are you not listening? Such is Karma….

Thank you, Bonnie, for the article.

P-Shifted. Dan

I share both of these emails as a way of reminding readers that success in this industry has nothing to do with ONE thing you do. It has to do with ALL of the things that you do, over time. And that if you need a paradigm shift in order to understand that you have a lot more power to shape your career than you might think you have, get to shiftin’!

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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