In response to my article, 10 Tips for Surviving a Bad Audition, an actor I know sent us this (edited) message:
You speak of a “next time.” What if it takes an actor literally years to get another opportunity to audition? If an actor blows it in 2009 and hasn’t been called in for a decent role since—in spite of keeping up with classes, losing weight, keeping a current look and headshots to match, in spite of lots of self-reflection and therapy, in spite of doing all the things you recommend, but still can’t get a foot in the door anymore—what then? I would love to hear your thoughts about how an actor can survive being blacklisted, and advice on how to redeem oneself. Thanks!
Surprised that she thought our office had blacklisted her, we contacted her for further information. She described a disastrous appearance on a show we’d cast her in a few years back, and thought that we’d stopped calling her due to bad reports from production. She lamented having only had four auditions in four years, and regretted having fallen out of our graces.
It was enlightening to hear her side of the story, and easy to see how she had come to this interpretation of events. We appreciated her candor. The funny thing was, we didn’t consider the actor blacklisted at all!
Her message taught us a few things about how the casting process feels from the actor’s side. Here are a few things to consider from the casting side.
1. Are you sure you’ve been blacklisted? We never heard a peep from production regarding this actor’s performance. As far as we knew, she’d done a great job. And she had a memorable turn in a feature film we cast a while back, so for us, there was no problem! (See also Tip #5 on blunders from my last article.)
2. Find out if you’re really to blame before you start blaming yourself. Sometimes productions and casting sessions themselves are stressful, disorganized, and rife with conflict. Actors may be unaware of the climate they’re walking into and blame themselves when tensions flare.
3. Try not to take things so personally. It’s not always about you. Not long after I started casting, an actor I knew to be talented seemed very nervous in the audition room. When I asked if everything was okay, she burst into tears, saying that we hadn’t called her in to read a single time since her first audition for me six months prior. She thought she’d been blacklisted.
The truth was, I had only just opened up shop, and had hardly landed any casting jobs myself during that period. It wasn’t that her first reading was terrible. It was that I was unemployed!
4. Consider other possible reasons why the phone may have stopped ringing. These are not in any way directed at the actors above, but are general reasons why an actor may not be getting called in.
We love you, but…
Things are dead around the casting office.
We’re casting a film and there are no roles in the script for your type.
We’re casting only one TV series, and you’ve already appeared on it.
We’re casting mostly non-union gigs, and you’re union.
We’re casting mostly union gigs, and you’re non-union.
You’ve moved into a new category (due to age, weight, etc.) that’s harder to find roles for.
You were on the audition shortlist, only to be bumped off due to the limited number of timeslots.
You were on the schedule, until your agent informed us that you were unavailable.
You’re going up against really stiff competition and didn’t make the cut. (Sorry!)
You’re too good for the small parts, so we’re holding out for the right opportunity.
You’ve come in too frequently in a short amount of time and clients want to see new faces.
You’ve been off your game recently, so we’re giving others an opportunity while you get your head back together. We’ll circle back.
You’re too green. We’re waiting for you to gain more experience before we call you back in.
A specific client has irrationally decided they don’t like you. We’re waiting to be working with new clients, so we can start bringing you in again.
We’re simply unaware that you haven’t been in in a while. It’s hard to keep track!
5. If you’re pretty sure things have gone awry, ask your reps to do some sleuthing. A quick call from their reps to the casting director’s office could have quelled these actors’ fears and saved them a considerable amount of stress. It would have also brought their circumstances to our attention, so we could make sure we weren’t unintentionally overlooking them. (I generally would not recommend an actor inquire directly with casting, but to use an intermediary to neutralize the info.)
6. Let it go. Positive you made a bad impression somewhere along the way? Make amends through your agent—if they think it’s a good idea—shake the dust off, and let it go. Maintain a positive attitude and look towards the future.
7. Show them what you’re really made of. Early in my career, after messing up on a casting job, a producer told me, “You’ll never work in this town again!” I’ve proven her wrong several hundred times. You can do the same. Just keep getting better.
Focus on your craft. Go out and get some new credits. Produce and star in your own movie or web series. Keep honing your skills. Concentrate on your marketing and training. Remind casting directors that you’re actively pursuing your career and getting work. Make them want to find out what all the fuss is!
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Recent projects include NBC’s "Grimm" and 64 episodes of TNT’s "Leverage." Gus Van Sant, Robert Benton, Guillermo Arriaga, Catherine Hardwicke, and Tim Robbins figure among past film clients. Commercial accounts include Nike, Apple, and Nintendo, and international campaigns from Shanghai to Santiago.
Lana is a member of the Casting Society of America and the International Casting Directors Network. She frequently lectures across the U.S. and abroad, most recently at the Finnish Actors’ Union in Helsinki, Amsterdam School of the Arts, The Actors Platform in London, The Acting Studio in Berlin, Studio Bleu in Paris and Prague Film School.
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She has been featured in The Hollywood Reporter, USA Today, MSNBC.com, MTV.com, AccessHollywood.com, and Wired, among others. Follow her on Twitter @lanaveenker.