I cast extras and principals with Extra Talent Agency, and I have to disagree with a statement in your recent column "Rotten Request, Dumping a CD" (June 18–24). Although I wholeheartedly agree that the creepy email you received is some sort of scam, your assertion that "those with legitimate gigs don't have to troll Internet profiles—or malls—screening potential talent" is simply not true. Though my colleagues and I have never frequented malls or asked actors to pay to attend an open call, we have searched online profiles at BackStage
.com and other sites when looking for specific talent. If casting professionals never search online profiles, why does BackStage
.com include that service in the Casting Center? I can think of three jobs in which I cast someone I first saw in a BackStage
I am in complete agreement with you about the scam emails, the mall model scouts, and the pay-to-play open calls. But these days, more and more actors are creating and controlling their image through an Internet presence, and I don't think they should be discouraged from doing that. They should just exercise caution when responding to queries and only work with legitimate and recognized companies and professionals.
Extra Talent Agency
Thanks for rightly pointing out that I was too general in my response. I agree with you that legitimate casting services may occasionally search actor profiles when looking for very specific types. However, I hope you agree that a background job, where the casting service is trying to populate a world with specific looks, and a theatrical job, for which acting is required, are two different things.
In my estimation, the main reasons for an actor to create an online profile are 1) for self-submission on that particular site and 2) to have a Web page that he or she can direct people to instead of mailing a headshot and résumé or sending a huge email attachment. The online profile is a wonderful marketing tool. My point was simply that casting people don't usually search blindly through the database of any service—including BackStage.com. Ahh, if only we could just maintain snazzy websites and wait for the phone to ring!
Someone I had worked with before was holding auditions for a project. He told me he would love for me to audition, but I was unable to make it to the scheduled calls. He said he'd do whatever it took to have me read for a particular character—he actually said he would come to me.
He sent me the script early, before anyone else had seen it. I read it and said yes, I was interested. He then emailed back, prodding me for feedback about the character. So I spent quite a bit of time reading the script and writing out my feedback and questions. I didn't hear back from him, and the audition date came and went. I emailed him ever so politely to ask how things went, and he wrote back thanking me for giving him lots of ideas. He then told me he had already cast the role.
What happened? Is this just a newbie mistake? This is not the first person to ask me for feedback with the strong suggestion that I was under consideration for the role. Is it a trick? Or am I just being naive? I am also a writer, by training and in my previous life.
via the Internet
Several possible things could have happened here. You could have been used for your writing acumen, as you had worked with this person before and he probably knew you had writing experience. He could have decided, based on your feedback or not, to go another way with the character and didn't know how to tell you that you were no longer under consideration. Or he could have simply found someone else who blew him away at the scheduled auditions, which you couldn't make. I think this last guess is the most likely.
Still, since we're guessing, here's another possibility: He didn't like, or even actually want, your feedback.
Years back, I had a friend who was a novelist. When he finished a book, he would give it to a few of his friends to read. He said he wanted our feedback. I figured he asked me because I was an actor and he wanted thoughts on the characters—their points of view and motivations and all that. I read the work diligently and made detailed notes. Then I sat down with him and went through my notes one by one. He was nonplussed. Annoyed, really. I gave him the notes in person, so I saw it clearly, though he never admitted his feelings. I think what he really wanted to hear was: "Hey! This is wonderful! I love it!" And instead I said, "This is great; here are some thoughts," then proceeded to go on for 20 minutes. I meant well, but in retrospect I lacked—what do they call it?—tact.
In your case, perhaps this person was less sure of himself and his work than he let on and felt threatened by your feedback. Perhaps he was worried that you didn't actually like the script, because you had feedback, and thought it would be easier to work with someone who just said, "I love it!" I'm not saying you did anything wrong, but this might be a chance to learn something about when and how to comment on others' work.
The next time someone asks for feedback on something you'd like to act in, I suggest you keep your thoughts brief, positive, and to yourself until you audition. By all means, don't email them. Email is notoriously rotten for conveying subtlety and tone. In person, you can mete out your thoughts while taking into account the person's responses—going only as far as seems welcome—and clarify anything that needs it. At the audition, if you're pressed for more than you're comfortable giving, say something along the lines of "Oh, this piece is just so interesting and complex! I'd love to spend more time examining this character, so I hope I get the role. Then we can pore over this stuff in earnest!"