How Not to Respond to Casting Calls
Tomorrow's scene takes place at a costume party, so I require other actors. I am doing the casting for this project myself (add Casting Director to the hats I'm wearing). I went through the rigamarole of getting it SAG-AFTRA approved, so that I can use union or non-union performers. (I'm SAG-AFTRA, so I needed the union's approval in order to cast myself!) I put a Casting Call on Back Stage, and I got way more responses than I thought I would for my little passion project film.
And as a result, I now have a bunch of helpful hints about what not to do when submitting for roles... (Many of which you hopefully already know.)
Here is my do not list, from the perspective of a first-time casting director...
(continued after the jump)
- Don't send me a blank email with just a headshot and résumé attached. It comes off as rude, as though you weren't willing to put in any more time than the absolute minimum to be considered for my project.
- Don't send me an obvious generic form email (the "To Whom It May Concern" or "Dear Sir Or Madam" type). I literally received four emails with exactly the same wording (which I assume people found on some sort of "how to write a cover letter" website). I am so much less likely to consider you than a person who said the name of my project, mentioned my name or the name of my production company, and said what role they would like to be considered for. Even just that little touch of personalization goes a long way.
- Don't wait to be chosen, then ask, "Will there be monetary compensation on this project," and then drop out when the answer is no. The subject of money is on my original casting call, and you have just wasted your time (and mine) by not reading it.
- Don't write in your email that you are, "looking for pay," even though my project is non-paying/deferred payment. I would be thrilled if I could make this project for the low, low price of a dollar (which isn't going to happen), and I'm not going to go dig around for money to pay you, when I have so many other people to choose from.
- Don't submit for something that you are wildly wrong for. If I'm looking for people in their 20s and you are 60, you could better spend your time submitting for projects that are looking for people like you.
- Do not send me a modeling comp card in lieu of a headshot. This makes me think that you are a model, not an actor. (I, personally, would actually prefer having candid shots of you instead of a comp card, because I think it's a better representation of what you actually look like. Headshots are the best, as they show that you are professional and take acting seriously. I don't know if other casting directors would feel the same way.)
- Do not send me a professional résumé in lieu of an acting résumé. (Your food service experience and typing speed do not matter to me if they have nothing to do with my project. Your GPA also doesn't matter, even if it's for a Theatre/Acting school.)
- Do not include that you have a degree (or have attended "some college") in a field that is unrelated to theatre. (Unless it is related to the role, i.e. the role is a nurse and you have a B.S. in Nursing.)
- Do not put your tech credits on a résumé. (Knowing that you have directing experience actually works against you, because it makes me concerned that you're going to try to direct. And knowing that you've done lights or sound or costumes has nothing to do with your experience as an actor.)
- Don't include super old pictures of yourself. I know you think that showing me a picture when you had long blonde hair shows me a different look than your current short black hair, but what it really does is confuse me as to what you look like now. And if I don't have the budget to wig you (which I don't), then the only thing that matters to me is what you look like right now.
- Don't send me a résumé that has no acting credits of any sort, and then says "Modeling credits available upon request" or "Commercial conflicts available upon request". If you literally have NO acting credits, then at least throw your commercials or modeling on there so that I can see something that you've done without having to request it. (The requesting process takes more time that I'm willing to put in to one specific person when I have way more responses than I need.)
- Don't include your background, stand-in, and photo double work in the email or on your résumé. They really don't tell me what I want to know about you as a performer.
- If the posting says the performer must own their own costume, do not write a message that says, "Do not have a costume," or "Need costume." This is not helpful. (Also, do not send an email in which you do not verify that you have a costume or neglect to state what the costume looks like.)
- Don't wait until the last minute to submit.* I am still getting submissions now, and I finalized my cast a while ago. The people who waited (or who didn't check the Casting Calls diligently) missed the boat (which is too bad, because some of them had great submissions).
[*NOTE: I am not saying that it is not worth submitting down the line. If I get a last-minute cancellation, I still might call up one of the later submitters. I'm just saying that your odds of getting chosen for an audition or a role increase if you are one of the first submissions instead of one of the last ones.]
- Do not submit if you are not available on the project dates. And definitely do not send an email saying that you are available on other dates and imply that I should change my production schedule around you. (Spoiler Alert: I won't.)
- Do not include your marital status.
- Do not include that you have children.
- Do not include your sexual orientation.
- Do not have a confidentiality clause at the bottom of your email, asking me not to send your headshot and résumé to other people. I understand that you want to be careful with your information, but if a casting director is going to forward your information to other industry contacts, isn't that a good thing? I might forward your information to my director, but I'm not going to do it at the risk of being sued.
And some things to do:
- Check the Casting Calls frequently and submit to projects as soon as they are posted.
- Personalize your email/cover letter. Say things like "Hi [casting director]. I saw your Casting Call for [film title] on Back Stage, and I would love to be considered for the role of [awesome character]. This project sounds great, and I really connected with [thing that was mentioned about the script in the Casting Call]. I would be great for this role because of my experience with [something awesome I did in my past]." (But don't copy this exactly, as that would break that generic form email "don't" from the list above.)
- If there is something about my project that interests or intrigues you, mention it. It's flattering for me to think that we can connect over this project that means so very much to me. (Someone wrote to me that she'd always wanted to do a silent film like mine. Guess who got called in?)
- If you genuninely think a project sounds amazing, but there isn't a role for you, you can send an email saying something like, "[Your project] sounds great. I especially like [this part of it]. Your work seems right in line with what I like to do, and I'd love for you to keep me in mind for your future projects." Or, "If you end up needing [my type] for this project, I am available and I would love to work with you."
- Be positive! It's totally great to read things like, "I can't wait to hear from you," "I'm looking forward to meeting you," and "I would be honored to be a part of this terrific project." Even something like, "Call or write me any time," makes me want to do just that.
- Put your personality into it. One guy who responded to my post made me laugh with his cover email, and I thought, "I bet he'd be fun to have on set." So I'm giving him a shot, all because he had an unconventional email that stood out and made me smile.
- If the posting asks for a picture of your costume/wardrobe options, then try to send a picture! You get lots of points if it is a picture of you wearing the costume, but you even get points if it is a picture of costume pieces laid out on the floor (sometimes it's hard to take a picture of yourself, and sending a pic of just the costume is better than nothing). If you do not have a way to take a picture, then describe the costume in your email to the best of your ability, and say that you can borrow a camera from a friend if they would like to see a picture. (I don't know about other casting directors, but if your costume sounds like it has potential, then I'm willing to wait to see a picture.)
- BONUS POINTS: Use both of the accent marks in the word résumé. It shows that you know the difference between the noun "résumé" and the verb "resume", which makes you look well-educated. (Many people may not notice it, but I give little mental bonus points to the people who write it correctly. And if you have the chance to get bonus points, don't you want to take it?)
Now go forth and submit wisely!
Do you have any tips about what makes a good submission? Leave them in the comments!