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Sig De Miguel on the Importance of Integrity in the Casting Process
As a casting director, De Miguel has worked on such feature films as the BAFTA Award–winning "United 93" Robert De Niro's "The Good Shepherd," which starred Matt Damon and Angelina Jolie; "The Matador" "The Man" "The Cooler," for which Alec Baldwin received an Academy Award nomination; and "A Love Song for Bobby Long." In addition to studio films, De Miguel has cast independent films, including "Union Square" "Chapter 27," which starred Jared Leto and Lindsay Lohan; the Toronto International Film Festival Audience Award winner "Stake Land" and John Cameron Mitchell's "Rabbit Hole," for which Nicole Kidman received an Academy Award nomination.
We open every submission that is sent to us, so we consider everything, actors with and without representation. We go through agencies, and we receive submissions through digital providers as well. If you are sending a self-submission, the important thing is to have it be as specific as possible. When you do mass mailings to casting offices with just a headshot and a résumé, there is a chance they may not be noticed. By sending a self-submission for a specific project, there is more opportunity for a potential audition.
As far as submissions go, everything is moving toward the electronic realm. It's easier this way, and because it wastes less paper, it's better for the environment. It is also less expensive and more convenient for both agencies and actors. I'm all for technological advancements that benefit everybody in the industry.
A Lifelike Image
Headshots can be complicated to decide on because opinions on them are always subjective. Each individual is going to respond to a different thing. In simple terms, I feel a headshot should a) truly look like the actor—even though that seems like an obvious point, you would be surprised at how often this is not the case—and b) be a strong, memorable picture that stands out and captures the individual's personality.
There comes a point, when an actor is established in the industry, where the headshot is not as important. For actors who are starting out in the business, I'm of the belief that headshots should capture the essence of who you are. When an actor starts in the business, there's definitely an essence, a quality, a type in the performer that he or she should know well and know how to market. It is by knowing yourself very well and wisely advertising your type that you tend to open the first doors.
When it comes to deciding between landscape and portrait headshots, I think it's very subjective and it depends on the actor. For feature-film headshots, I don't have a personal preference between those two types. Since we're in the age of color photography, I would caution actors against choosing headshots that are overly made-up or glamorized. Overall, it's very important that the photograph capture who the actor is in day-to-day life.
Credits and education are always the first things I look at. For me, they are the most important things on an actor's résumé. When it comes to deciding whether to put down extra work, the actor should be selective and honest. As long as they're truthful about it, I don't have a problem with it, because everybody has to start somewhere. When they receive principal credits, then they can remove extra work. Things like student films and Internet productions are also great. We are seeing a rise in Web production, and some of it is ultra-professional, thanks to the advent of affordable digital technology. When it comes to putting together a reel, actors should be selective and choose material that is of good quality and showcases their work.
I honestly don't tend to pay a lot of attention to the special skills section of a résumé. I feel that too many actors pad out this section with skills that are more conversation pieces than useful skills, or more often than not with skills that they are not truly experts at. As the title suggests, actors should be well-trained, experienced, and adroit at these skills. I've been in casting situations where a director saw a dialect on a résumé and asked the actor to do the dialect in the audition room. For example, when I worked on "The Good Shepherd," we needed native actors fluent in Spanish, German, and Russian, and I had to ascertain if the actors auditioning were fluent. I speak Spanish fluently, but for the German and Russian dialogue portion of the auditions, I worked with fluent German and Russian readers. In case situations such as that arise, I advise actors to only list skills they are truly special at.
For actors who don't have a lot of film and television experience, I am a big proponent of buying a camera and practicing at home. Even though it has been discontinued, the Flip is a good-quality, inexpensive camera that can be very useful for this type of practice. I strongly encourage on-camera audition rehearsal. Actors should strive to come across as knowledgeable professionals in the audition room, regardless of their experience or lack thereof. They should have a strong awareness of their frame and know how to use the audition space accordingly. Practice makes perfect.
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