In the world full of Kardashians, be YOUrself. Remember- YOU are a limited edition and there’s no one like you in the world, and there won’t be.
Acting is easy, the work and getting consistently booked is the hard part. We all know at LEAST one good actor, and very few bad ones. When people ask me who my favorite actor is I always say Kate Winslet and Joaquin Phoenix. But why? Why are they considered good actors? Because they have been doing this their whole lives. They bring something to the table, they are not afraid to cry and look ugly on the screen. They took their own personal life experiences and put them into their characters. Those actors don’t fake emotions, they live and breathe them. If a famous director is doing drama and wants a strong female lead, who will pull the audience in and most likely make them cry- he will go to Kate Winslet. If casting is searching for a chameleon male lead in the next indie film- Joaquin Phoenix would be a top choice. So! The question is- can you be authentic and real? Absolutely!
TIP #1: READ the instructions carefully and more than once. How the file should be labeled, what format it needs to be (.mp4 or .mov), how many takes you need to do for which scene, where to insert a slate (in the beginning or at the end), etc. Each casting has their own instructions.
TIP #2: Submit your audition ASAP, but take time getting to know your character.
Imagine this scenario: an agent submits 6 of his actors to a casting director. Deadline is the next day. Two of the actors are working double shifts, third actor submits an hour after the deadline, fourth actor is out of state and doesn’t have his self-tape equipment, fifth actor struggles with his lines and is overacting in his scenes, sixth actor submits asap and he nails down the self-tape technique. Guess who is going to get booked out of these six? Yes, actor #6 since he submitted ASAP.
TIP #3: DON’T OVERACT! Less is more. Save drama for the film, and soap opera for theatre.
When casting directors, producers and writers are watching self-tapes they see a medium shot of you, which starts from top of your head to mid-chest. They don’t see what your hands or legs are doing, they are seeing your eyes. EYES are the windows to the soul. EYES should do the emotion.
Since theatre is performed on the stage we get to see the whole body of an actor, instead of part of it. In theatre you can be everywhere since you got the whole stage instead of a small corner.
TIP #4: Have good self-tape equipment and an amazing reader.
First off, you need a camera and tripod. Usually those are sold together. It’s great if you have 4K on your iPhone, but some phones do not have a good camera (like mine). Therefore, get a camera! It doesn’t have to cost thousands of dollars. It can be simple, easy to use and it has to be able to record high definition auditions.
Secondly, we need to be able to see you clearly. We don’t want to see you glowing so bright as if you’re visiting us from outer space. Also we don’t want to see the shadow behind you. Here’s the lights I use, but make sure whatever you’re getting is fitting your budget.
Third thing is the backdrop. If you’re Caucasian- do NOT get white background. If you’re black or have olive skin- don’t get black background, otherwise you’ll blend it and we won’t be able to see you.
For drama- grey background.
For comedy- blue screen.
But NEVER use a green screen.
Fourth thing. We need to be able to hear you clearly. We do not want to hear your neighbor’s dog or your washing machine, or loud music coming from your roommate’s door. I had all of those things happen AT THE SAME TIME. No wonder I didn’t book the part. A lot of cameras have a built-in mic, but you can always get one off the amazon. Just make sure it matches your camera plug.
Lastly, you need a reader. Preferably a fellow actor who knows exactly what to do. Don’t ask your mom or your neighbor unless you have a quick turnaround and need someone ASAP.
There is a program called “We Audition” and you pay another actor to be your reader. Quite a nice paying gig if you ask me. Plus you get to socialize and learn.
TIP #5: Practice. Like people say- practice makes perfect! When we’re kids our brains are like vacuums- sucking every little piece of information. When we’re older, our memory is not exactly what it used to be.
I remember when I first started I had a terrible time memorizing lines and actions. But as I continued auditioning, my memory skills have become incredibly good and I learned my lines faster. Do yourself a favor- practice until you nail it!
TIP #6: Eyelines. Imagine you have a window around your camera. You cannot look outside of this window. You cannot look on the floor or at the ceiling. We need to see your eyes. Also, you cannot audition while your body is turned to the right or left, and especially away from us.
TIP #7: Break the rules. If casting doesn’t specify how many takes they want to see of a certain scene- surprise them! Give them two different takes. Do some improv in one of them. Do a comedic take and next one a dramatic one.
If casting doesn’t want you to use a gun in an audition- use a gun. Show them that you have experience in gun safety and are not afraid to use it.
TIP #8: Take classes. But only take them from actors who have been in the industry for a long time, who are constantly booking roles and who have legit credits on IMDb.
I took lessons from a fellow actor,James DuMont, and he is wonderful! He’s one of the people who helped me book my first co-star role! IMDb him, the guy is ALWAYS on set!
If a teacher worked as an extra or a grip on a film set, would you take Method acting class with him? Absolutely not! Do your research, trust your intuition and learn from the best!
TIP #9: Study the craft. Whether it’s reading a screenplay or a Uta Hagen book- you’re learning! Practice doing self-tapes at least once a week. Whether it’s from your favorite movie or a cartoon- do it! Not only will you have fun, but you will become better at memorizing the lines.
TIP #10: DO NOT show up in a costume to an audition. Don’t audition for Santa and show up as Santa Clause in the middle of the summer to a room full of guys who are dressed normally. Rather suggest the outfit.
Example: a Russian spy. DO NOT bring a gun to the in-person audition. I don’t care if it’s blank. DO show up in an outfit that suggests you’re a deadly assassin- black turtleneck and pants will do just fine.
TIP #11: DON’T be cocky. Oh yes, there are many actors out there who are rude, nonchalant and cocky. I used to know a guy named Evan, who thought he was a big shot and bragged about sleeping with over hundreds of girls, because he told them he was “an actor”. Evan was cocky, disrespectful, and immature. Don’t be like Evan. Be nice to everyone, from PA’s to directors, be grateful for every audition that comes your way and don’t lose hope that soon you will get to do what you love for a living.
TIP #12: DON’T post anything on social media that will compromise your job. If you get an audition and the casting specifically says “DO NOT post on Vimeo, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and other social media”, then guess what? DO NOT post a screenshot of your audition or worse- the whole audition. You won’t get booked and will not be seen by the same casting director.
TIP #13: Experiment and experience! Be in the play & shitty student films no one will ever see.
Do you remember when we were kids and used to play make-believe? Guess what? Some people get paid to do that! And I want you to be that person!
Go and audition for the play that’s looking for new talent in your town. So what if you’re old or weird? They have parts for that. Get up on stage and show everyone that you are perfectly comfortable singing and dancing in front of hundreds of people.
I remember the rush every time I went on a stage, whether it was a talent show or a school play. There was no other feeling in the world quite like it. The lights are all on you and you can barely see the people in the audience. The specific smell of a theatre. It’s so quiet that you can hear your heart pumping. Like I said- no feeling like it.
Submit yourself to student films. So what if they’re only going to be on YouTube or Vimeo? You’ll build your resume and get experience working on set, along with learning the set terms and working with people. I remember having so much fun in student films and eating a bunch of Chinese food. I also remember sleeping with my co-stars, which was quite nice.
Acting is fun and it gets easier. Remember- bring your experiences to your auditions and be unforgettable!