Professional Acting and the Reality of Casting
So, the million dollar question in every actors mind is usually "how do I get a part?" Well, let me tell you all about it...
The basic path goes something like this. Someone needs an actor, so they hire a casting director to find one. The casting director puts out a notice on 'Breakdown Services' (a company that specializes in providing 'legitimate' talent agents listings of what roles are being cast currently) that will list the physical attributes requested, a brief description of the role and whether or not 'sides' (a small portion of a script containing the audition material) are available and where.
Those talent agents then scour through their rosters and try to match suitable talent to the job description and submit that talent to the casting director by sending them a head shot and resume. In days past, the head shot would arrive by messenger service. Today, more often than not, the head shots, resumes and sides are all digitally delivered through services such as showfax.com, gobetween.com (and sister company screenplayonline.com) and actorsaccess.com. Newer services such as LA Casting and Now Casting are also providing those digital delivery systems as well.
It is very important to understand that casting directors receive thousands of submissions per part that they are casting for! Your head shot will literally receive a glance that will last about 1.5 seconds, if that. To give you an idea of the sheer volume and how hard it is to stand out, I recently cast a project where a friend told me in advance that they were submitting and I overlooked them five times before I even saw that they were there! Even if you think you are perfect for a part, don't be discouraged if you don't get picked...your face is literally swimming in a sea of humanity. Anyway, the casting director will strive to narrow those thousands down to a manageable number to audition (usually about a tenth of the submissions) and they will call them in to 'read'.
Now, recognize that the term 'read' is very misleading. If you are given sides in advance, you are expected to memorize the lines and deliver a full, emotionally realized performance. This is called a prepared reading and most actors out there fail to realize the importance of this. The casting director is looking for a few things during the audition, the most important being your PROFESSIONALISM. Their reputation is at stake and they will only choose actors that they can confidently get behind. Showing up to a 'prepared' reading unprepared will put you in the 'no' pile faster than you can say 'doh'. The next most important thing is how well you ACT, followed by how you LOOK. Most actors get that all backwards and wonder why they have trouble booking work.
If you were fortunate enough to have your head shot picked, the audition is the time to demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt your ability to do the job. Knowing your lines is the bare minimum effort you have to take! After you have them down, spend the time to interpret the material and understand what you are acting. When you come in, don't hold back! Bring the material to life and show off your chops. Remember that everyone in the room wants you to be good! A vibrant, professional, expressive performance really stands out, even if you're not right for that particular part. Don't worry about getting the job, focus on showing that you are a competent professional and you will become one of the actors that the casting director will actively think of when a new part comes up. This is affectionately referred to as the 'A' pile and that's where you want to be, because once you land there, the work can't help but follow.D.L. White is a film and television professional with nearly 14 years of experience in the industry. He recently completed his second book "Acting in the Real World: The Film Professionals Guidebook to the Job of Acting", which is available as a free download at http://www.actingreality.com