Well, this always makes me nervous but it also almost always turns out to be a good decision. My column was 80% finished and then I came up with a new idea… so I tossed out the old column (don’t worry, it’ll get finished up and used later, I’m sure) and here I am with loads of enthusiasm and very little time to churn out a piece about Hollywood’s biggest lies. No, I’m not talking about the ones like: Sylvester Stallone is 5′ 10″ or Joe Pytka is a pussycat or Lindsay Lohan’s rehab is working. I’m talking about the lies actors are told every day as they pursue their dreams.
Well, call me The Myth Buster, because I’m goin’ in. And I’m taking no prisoners.
“I can’t cast you because…”
This sentence always ends differently, but the most typical versions go like this: “I can’t cast you because you’re nonunion,” “I can’t cast you because you’re too good-looking,” “I can’t cast you because you’re blonde and we need a brunette,” “I can’t cast you because you’re too well-known,” etc. Yeah, sometimes you are too well-known to be “lost in a character,” so I know there are absolutely times when that last one will be true, but those others are just outright lies.
If you’re not in the unions and the production wants you in the role, the producers will Taft-Hartley you. It’s easy. It’s quick. And if they get fined for using you rather than a current union member (and that’s an “if” because, most times, they won’t be fined), the fine is $500 to $800, based on the length of the shoot. That’s it. Sure, casting may be given some guidelines (“Don’t show me anyone we’d have to Taft-Hartley”), but if you’re THE RIGHT ACTOR for the role, no producer is going to let SAG status or the threat of a fine stop him from casting you.
If your hair color or overall look includes something specific that you’re being told is why you can’t be cast (“Too good-looking,” “Too blonde,” even “Too tall”), it’s usually a lie. A whole team of professional makeup artists and hairstylists are usually on the project and these folks can do wonders with their tools to get you looking exactly like the producers want to see you. Even if you’re too tall to play the love interest of a diminutive star, if you’re THE RIGHT ACTOR for the role, the team will dig a ditch for you to walk in alongside your shorty. They’ll stick that star up on an apple box. Count on it. If you’re THE RIGHT ACTOR for the role, all of these issues are production details to address.
But these issues are often used as excuses for why actors aren’t cast for a very simple reason: You can’t easily argue your way out of them. Yes, you could counter, “You’re not SAG” with, “But I hear it’s really easy to Taft-Hartley the right actor,” but because they’re not actually concerned with that, it would be a frustrating conversation to have. Because the TRUTH is, you’re not THE RIGHT ACTOR. They’re not casting you because of one of the zillions of un-chartable reasons that actors other than THE RIGHT ACTOR don’t get cast. So, opening up dialogue with casting directors (by replying, “Can’t we dye my hair?” for example) is not a good idea. You’ve already NOT won the role. Don’t try to argue points of logic with that decision. You’re not going to bargain your way into the role by making the CD smack herself on the forehead exclaiming, “Oh, of COURSE we can dye your hair! Why didn’t I think of that? You’re hired!”
What you need to do is just know, when you hear those reasons, that you’re hearing lies. And really, unless the reason you’re not getting cast is that you’re really low on talent and you smell funny (two things you can easily fix through classes and deodorant), the reasons WHY you didn’t get cast are pretty irrelevant.
“I’m a producer!”
Shuuuuuuuure you are, buddy. So am I. So’s my cousin. So’s my cat. Look, “producer” is just about the easiest job title to adopt without having ever actually, y’know, produced anything to back it up. And most folks who are producers have titles like “exec producer,” “associate producer,” “supervising producer,” or “showrunner.” (And they’re not usually quick to throw those titles around at networking events or casual parties, seeing as that gets ’em targeted by every wannabe starlet or screenwriter.) Of course, you could meet a real, live producer who is legit and absolutely worth taking at face-value, but I recommend a good old-fashioned Google search or IMDb lookup on anyone talking about how he can change your life in this town.
“If you take this class…”
Ah, yes, a favorite lie among scammers and schemers everywhere. “If you take this class, I’ll sign you and you’ll book loads of high-paying acting jobs.” Also popular: “If you get headshots taken with this photographer, I’ll sign you and you’ll book loads of high-paying acting jobs.” Another: “If you give me money toward the administrative expenses of putting your headshot and resumé on my web-based actor database, you’ll book loads of high-paying acting jobs.”
Nope. All three are 100% false. Big-ass lies. First clue: “book loads of high-paying acting jobs.” Uh-huh. Yeah. Ask your nearest SAG member how much he made on his last day of work. Consider that he very likely had to pay commission on that amount. And taxes. And and and. Also find out how long ago that day of paid work took place. And whether he’d say he works “loads.” No one goes from earning zero as an actor to “booking loads of high-paying acting jobs” because of one particular acting coach, one particular headshot photographer, or one particular web-based database. No. If you choose to sign with someone whose main criteria in having you on his roster is whether your check clears, by all means, help yourself to that life. But please know that we, in casting, know which representatives charge their clients (outright or via kickback schemes) and we don’t bother opening their submissions. Why would we? Their endorsement of you doesn’t tell us anything about your talent. It only tells us something about your bank account.
“It’s dead right now.”
No it’s not. Look at TV. Consider not just the shows on hundreds of channels but also the many commercials on the air. Grab a paper and scour the showings in movie theaters just in your area. Including art houses. Including festivals. Look at the “in production” guides in the trades. Flip through the pages of sides available at Showfax. Pop through iTunes’ video library. Think of the scads of corporations out there in which employees sit around a conference table watching some industrial training video that the rest of the world will never see. Something is always in production. Always.
Yeah, there may be times of the year when production slows down a bit, but even when it’s slow, there are actors out there working. Might as well be you. Ask any actor who booked nonrefundable tickets to a spa out of town during a “dead time” how dead it really was when he got the call that he was on avail for a national network campaign. It’s never dead. Never. It’s just an easy excuse for something else that isn’t working (um… like you! Get it? If you’re not working. Yeah? No? No. Okay… moving on).
“You’re not going out because…”
This one is really annoying mainly because it is so often used (and abused) by agents and managers who want to excuse away the lack of auditions their clients are getting. The sentence takes one of several shapes: “You’re not going out because your headshots are bad,” “You’re not going out because there are no roles for your type in the breakdowns lately,” or, if one of your team members doesn’t love the other part of the team, “You’re not going out because everyone in casting hates your manager.”
Nope. Even if you have bad headshots, even if you have a rotten agent or manager, even if your type is so dang specific that its exact description only comes up once in a blue moon on the breakdowns, there are still actors going out every single day and auditioning for something. Might as well be you. A creative agent will pitch an actor against type and a smart casting director who trusts that creative agent will bring you in against type just to change things up during sessions (in case producers might want to “go another way” after all). Actors with bad headshots go out as often as actors with excellent ones. Yes, they also get lectured once they’re in the room about how hideous their photos are, but the fact that their headshots are hideous doesn’t prevent THE RIGHT ACTORS from getting seen.
Sure, we’ll use a bad headshot, a “not the right type for this role,” or a crummy relationship with one of your representatives as a way to exclude you from the process when we need to do so, but the idea that you could be THE RIGHT ACTOR for a role and then not get the chance to audition due to any of these factors is ludicrous. Conversely, you could have the perfect headshots, be the exact right type for the role, and have our absolutely favorite agent or manager on the planet and still not get a shot at the role for any number of other reasons (you look like the director’s ex, you spell your name with a Y instead of an I and the producer has a thing about that, a deal on another project fell through and the casting director still blames your agent for that even though she still adores him). Whatever. You can’t worry about any of that.
Yes. You should have the best headshots possible. Yes. You should submit on roles that are reasonably within your type range and even sometimes those that are a little off the mark when your gut tells you to. Yes. You should have an amazing agent and super cool manager that all casting directors love dealing with. All of those things are great bonuses. But none of them are such major deal-breakers that we won’t call you in, if you’re THE RIGHT ACTOR and you don’t have those things going for you.
“You’re too talented.”
No such thing. Yes, you may be so talented that you are passed over for a one-line co-star because we know you’d be perfect for the top-of-show guest-star role coming up a few episodes from now and we don’t want to waste you! But that’s different than being told, flat out, “You’re too talented.” We WANT to surround ourselves with talented people. It makes us look really smart. It helps us get hired again.
A “you’re too talented” should be followed by a long run of repeat calls into the casting office where you heard that (hopefully, each time for a bigger role). If it’s the last thing you hear from someone who saw you audition, they didn’t mean it. Think about it. That’d be like telling the dreamiest of dreamy people you can possibly imagine that you find him too dang cute to date. Huh? Even if you couldn’t see yourself together long term, you’d at least find a way to take that arm candy to your class reunion.
What “big lies” are you ready to stop believing? Let’s chat, shall we? 😉
Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/000746.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.