Exactly 14 years ago, Backstage (then Backstage West) interviewed me. I was of interest not only for casting network TV with Jeff Greenberg, but for directing a Theresa Rebeck play. I’ve now been invited to contribute as a Backstage Expert and I’m thrilled.
There has been much change in the casting industry since 2000. Although what constitutes great acting and what makes for a great audition have not changed, what has changed substantially is the technology. Little did I know when I started casting 20 years ago, I’d now need the skills of a filmmaker.
1. Video cameras. You must own one. It’s imperative that an actor own some sort of digital camera (with a tripod) as well as have a basic knowledge of converting, editing, and uploading auditions on a computer via the Internet. Not only are you required to self-tape now but you must also practice auditioning on camera. The presence of the camera in the room changes the dynamic of the interaction between actor and casting director. It makes it harder for an actor to emotionally connect with the material and with the reader. Sometimes you have to stand a certain way in front of a wall or screen, which might feel awkward and self-conscious. Questions might float in your mind like “Where do I look? At the reader or directly into the camera?” This will, of course, avert your concentration from the task at hand, which is to be attractive and draw us in. You must be prepared to get in front of our camera by practicing on yours.
2. Electronic submissions. It’s not only easier for you or your agent/manager to submit on roles, but it’s a lot easier for us, too. I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent opening manila envelopes and organizing each 8x10 into piles. Now I send out a breakdown and receive submissions instantly, usually four columns of 25 rows per “page” per role, which means I get your headshot as a thumbnail. I don’t have time to click on each thumbnail headshot to get the larger view, so your headshot—now more than ever—has to be spectacular since it’s so small. Spectacular in that it has to look like you and be compelling, not necessarily wacky or “stand out.” In addition, if you don’t have a demo reel of some sort, and we don’t know you already, we most likely will pass. We just have too many folks to choose from.
3. Social media. In the age of social media, yes, you now have the opportunity to “friend” us, but if I confirmed all the actors who befriended me, I’d have a million friends. I can only speak for myself, but I like to keep my personal Facebook page to actors I am aware of already, and who are truly friends. There is a fine line between an actor connecting with me and overstepping boundaries. Direct emails and posts on my Facebook page are intrusive, while Twitter is not. In fact, I’ve grown to love interacting with actors on Twitter, but I’m not so much interested in reading an actor’s blog (more of a time constraint than a dislike) as I’m interested in good acting. If you send or post a demo reel on social media, it better be great. As with meeting someone live, first impressions are everything.
Cathy Reinking has been a working casting director for 20 years and has accumulated hundreds of credits, including network TV: “Frasier,” with Jeff Greenberg & Associates for 8 seasons, “Arrested Development,” Manager of Casting at NBC when “The Office” was created, and multiple network pilots; Indie Films: “Herblock,” “Jackie’s Back,” “The One Who Loves You,” “Storage”; Web series: “Miss Mustard Glade,” “Frat House Musical,” “Jeff & Ravi Fail History”; Theater: National tour of “Spank! Harder,” currently running, The Fountain Theater, LA Theatre Works; Commercials: Honda & Nike. Author of “How To Book Acting Jobs in TV and Film: 2nd Edition,” which can be found on Amazon, iTunes, and The Drama Book Shop. Co-creator/writer/producer and casting director of “The British Invasion,” now on FirstRunTV. Her biggest joy is now watching her daughter, Kate, 26, perform. Follow Reinking on Twitter @CathyReinking.