Lessons from a Top Casting Director
A little while ago I had the privilege of interviewing top casting director, Stevie Ray (McGregor Casting). Stevie shared some invaluable insights into auditioning, showreels, and how to have a lasting acting career. I wanted to share with you the four most important things I learnt sitting down with a top casting director:
#1 Stop Blaming Your Agent
Too many actors blame their agents for their lack of auditions. Stevie wasn’t a fan of actors blaming their agents/managers. Instead he encouraged actors to take control. When did you last update your showreel or headshot? How are your online casting profiles looking? When did you last take an acting class? You need to make your agent’s life easier by being a proactive actor. So stop sitting around and waiting for the phone to ring, go out there and take control of your own career.
A few tips:
- Update your headshots
- Record a new self tape (or 10). These are ammunition for your agent.
- Update your casting profiles. Including adding new credits.
- Work on your US, UK or other major accents.
- Research what is being produced in your city, and communicate with your agent.
- Make your own work and collaborate with other actors, directors and producers in the industry.
- Join an acting class to keep your skills sharp.
#2 Keep Things Simple
Headshots and showreels shouldn’t capture every facet of your personality – there’s too many! Yes, it’s important to look good, and showcase your best work as an actor, but Stevie says that actors need to stop trying so hard. Keep it simple and let your acting do the talking. This principle of keeping things simple actually applies to all areas of your acting and career. Are your casting profiles full of clutter and outdated? Simplify.
A few tips:
- Limit headshots to 2-3 on your online profiles.
- Don’t feature a 10 minute showreel. 3 minutes max.
- Don’t list 100 accents and skills. Only the important ones, and ones you can actually do!
#3 Don’t be Scared to Reach Out
Stevie mentioned in the interview that he was actually happy to receive emails from actors – if they were genuine, and valuable. Don’t just say hello, but if you are working on a show and would like to invite Casting Director’s along, or have updated your showreel, you can definitely reach out. Every casting director is different, but how great is it to hear that a top CD is open to seeing your work!
Note: I would always discuss any outreach with your agent, you don’t want to get in their way.
#4 Make Choices
If you want to stand out in an audition, you have to inject into the character some of yourself, your ‘flavour’. Stevie seconded the classic advice of making “bold choices” and encouraged actors to be brave. It’s easier said than done, but great to know that top Casting Directors love seeing strong choices from actors. Do you have a gut response about a script or character? Follow it. Make a choice rather than just playing it safe. BUT, you then need to be flexible and open to the direction that a casting director will give you in the room.
Note: bold choices come from specificity. If you’ve really thought deeply about the scene and detailed it, it will be inherently bold. A bold choice isn’t wearing a funny hat!
STEVIE RAY (FULL INTERVIEW)
This interview with Stevie was such an inspiration for me and in a way I didn’t expect. He put the onus on us as actors to take responsibility for where we are at in our careers. So many actors, myself included, can become complacent. It’s a competitive industry out there, with a lot of hard working, talented actors, and if you are just sitting back then you are going to miss out.
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