Without your ever knowing it, you may have auditioned for me. I saw you. You didn’t see me.
Or, without your ever knowing I may have sought your talents but you shunned my interest and so I moved onto to another actor.
How are both or either possible?
The Internet—where much of the modern casting process begins. Casting directors, talent agents, directors, and occasionally producers go online seeking substance that every actor must display for career momentum. What is it? Think you know the answer? A website?
Bzzt! Wrong answer. Thanks for playing. (But a website is mandatory if you’re to be considered as a serious business-oriented actor who is a true professional in all aspects of your craft, i.e. talent, training, and marketing.)
The correct answer is: an actor’s online media.
Tight-fisted producers and unsteady economics are forcing casting directors to forgo budget-busting, live pre-screen auditions. Thankfully technology allows any actor almost anywhere to upload digital media of themselves online, and these are the first pre-screen targets by many casting offices seeking your talents online without your knowledge often follows this order:
A breakdown service utilized by talent agents and casting
Google—which should lead to your website
These three choices are nearly tie for first priority of casting’s digital media pursuit of you. Every actor needs, needs, needs digitally recorded examples of their work online. Your website should ideally be: YourName[Dot]Com.
As an actor, you’re a business. Recorded digital media online of one’s work is a supportive business tool. If you insist that having such a valuable tool in your arsenal of being an actor is too much work, unnecessary, a waste of your time, pain in the ass, etc., do yourself a favor and get out of the audition line now. You’re not a smart business actor. You’re a shyster fooling only yourself.
Think online media doesn’t do an actor well?
On a recent project for which agents submitted their clients and actors also submitted themselves, I perused through the nearly a thousand pictures and resumes. I culled the actors I already knew and believed were right for the role(s), and I offered an appointment. I was then left with a precious dozen empty slots in my live auditions for the creative team. I soon sought unrepresented actors I had an interest in but didn’t know. I went sleuthing for these actors’ online presence.
Actors easily found online with digital media representing them and their talents matching what I sought received appointments.
Actors without anything online—not even a website—received zero consideration. Yes, I had their picture and resume. Modern casting requires digital media support an actor’s picture and resume.
There was one actor who will never know how close he came to an appointment but epically failed because he wasn’t an effective business actor.
The morning I readied for that day’s round of auditions for the project, I received an e-mail from the producer a forwarded e-mail from an actor. The actor was scheduled to come into the auditions and asked if her boyfriend could be seen also. The yes or no call was mine. Time was limited. I had 15 minutes to jump into my Honda, and drive to catch my New York-bound train for the session. But before departure I sought this actor. Did he have online media?
Typing the actor’s name into the search field at the breakdown service site returned: “No matches found.”
I googled the actor’s name. Several results returned. None of which were a website for said actor. Just his name attached to cast lists and reviews.
I checked YouTube and Vimeo. (Why the hell am I going beyond what most casting directors would do for an actor being un-actorly and hiding his face?!?) No results returned.
Facebook? Yes! There was a profile, but no online media links. But, if I’d the useless curiosity I could investigate further the actor’s wall postings detailing what the prior night’s enchiladas had done to his bowels. I, like he, moved on. No appointment.
This actor is potentially losing appointments from other casting directors as well for the actor’s lack of online media. If digital samples of his work were available online for other casting personnel to watch while the actor slept, showered, toiled at his survival job, or was waiting in line at an EPA, he could be doing several additional auditions a day simultaneously and not be present. A student of mine recently won an excellent regional theater gig without her ever going to an audition, meeting the director, or applying for the role. Her digital media online and business-actor savvy landed her the job.
Having online media on your website is not just helpful for getting initial audition appointments. Video and audio files also have helped actors nab call backs as the creative team in an audition studio ventures online during auditions between actors and seeks further material to support a recently seen actor’s live audition.
Be a smart business actor. Have yourself represented online with digital media of your work/skill set.
And please, make sure the media is exceptional. One misguided actor sent me a phone video of her, alone on her bed, singing “Defying Gravity” a capella.
Oh sweetie, you ain’t even defying that JC Penney bedspread.
Paul Russell’s career as a casting director, director, acting teacher, and former actor has spanned nearly thirty years. He has worked on projects for major film studios, television networks, and Broadway. Paul has taught the business of acting and audition technique at NYU and has spoken at universities including Yale, Temple, and the University of the Arts. He writes a column for Backstage and is the author of "ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistakes and Achieve Success as a Working Actor." For more information, please visit www.PaulRussell.net.