I'm wondering why in the July 17 issue you gave advice you "rarely give: Stay in the business." Do you usually advise people to change their career if it's not working? Some people take longer than others to get where they want to be.
New York City
It's not that I usually advise people to abandon their acting pursuits, just that I'm usually reticent to advise anyone either way on that particular decision. As unpredictable, inconsistent, and downright weird as our profession can be, no one can say who will have success or how long it may take. As you correctly observed, it takes longer for some careers to take off. Mine was a perfect example. But if an inexperienced or less-successful actor considering a career change had written, I wouldn't have urged that actor to stay in the business, because, for all I know, quitting might be the best thing for that person to do. Dying on the Vine's more established career suggests to me he's probably got a better shot at re-emerging, hence my rarely given advice.
In the July 10 issue, an actor was trying to get info on doing background and under-five work on soaps. I wanted to suggest another approach. In the mid-1990s, I attended a workshop held by the under-five/background casting director of General Hospital. The result was that I did under-fives for over five years on that soap. My first gig paid five times what the workshop cost. I did my research to make sure that she was there and not a receptionist. I don't know if these types of workshops are still held or held at all in New York (my workshop was in L.A.), but if so, it is an excellent way to get seen and get your pic in their files.
—Eug in Brew Town
As are many industry professionals, I'm strongly opposed to the idea of actors paying to make contacts and get jobs. Workshops should be what they're advertised as: educational opportunities, and nothing else. What's more, it's my understanding that it's illegal for prospective employers to charge prospective employees for job interviews. So, that's probably why I didn't suggest this method of pursuing background and under-five work in my response to Soap Seeker in that column. However, in the interest of presenting a spectrum of options, I wanted to include your letter in this week's column.
People get jobs from these workshops. But actors ought to think seriously about whether doing so in a way that is, at the very least, ethically questionable is consistent with the way they want to conduct their careers.
I admire your thoughtful and patient response to The Young and the Restless in the July 24 issue, in which you encouraged Y&R to deal with his/her frustration with young casting directors by treating them with compassion and encouragement. You have a point: Sometimes the "casting director" behind the table is an intern or a young assistant with little to no experience. They're sent to initial calls to prescreen and invite appropriate talent to callbacks with casting directors and creative-team members.
Our office doesn't send interns to run auditions, but since we're such a small office we sometimes have no choice but to send our assistant if we cannot attend. Regardless, calling these people "completely unqualified" is unfair. How do you know what their qualifications are? Just because they're young doesn't mean they're not qualified to determine whether an actor has the appropriate talent and look for a project, at least enough to send them to a callback for the casting director.
You are also overlooking the fact that they're under a certain amount of pressure from their bosses, so there is extra motivation to prevent them from screwing up. If they bring back the wrong people, trust me, they'll get an earful.
You acknowledged that many of them may feel insecure about their lack of experience; your advice to treat them as trusted collaborators is very insightful and I'm sure will be appreciated by young interns and assistants everywhere. By the way, one of the best casting directors I know is about 25 and has more insight, experience, and knowledge about the business than people twice that age. I'm 33, but people often tell me I look much younger. Because of that, and because I'm a woman, I'm sometimes misjudged as young and unqualified. Not to open up an additional can of worms, but I've definitely noticed that people prejudge me because of my gender as well as my age. It rankled a bit to read Y&R's claim that we get our knowledge from Vogue; it strikes me as sexist and unnecessarily catty. I read The New Yorker and Vogue; both have come in handy in my job.
When I meet performers with something special to share, I feel a connection to them regardless of age, and as long as they continue to grow I will always champion them and try to open as many doors for them as I can. There's something remarkable about this relationship, about growing in the business and taking the journey together. But I will only take that journey with someone who has a positive energy and strong work ethic—not with someone who walks into the room and judges me for being young.
—Joy Dewing, casting director
New York City
You make excellent points here. It's so valuable for actors to read a casting director's perspective on such issues, just as it is for casting people to read the actor's take. You're correct, of course, that young doesn't necessarily equal unqualified and that we shouldn't presume to assess an auditor's qualifications on first glance.
And I'm sure our readers will be pleased to know your office never has unqualified staffers running auditions. But, as you acknowledge, some casting offices do send those with little to no experience, and I think it's fair to say that one needs at least some experience to be called "qualified." Just as you can tell when an actor is green, there are telltale signs for us as well. And when an actor has taken the time to prepare materials, adjust schedules, pick out clothes, and travel by car, bus, or subway to an audition, only to be greeted by someone ill-equipped to evaluate what we're doing, it's heartbreaking and an insult to our efforts.
So there are good observations on both sides of the discussion. More important, your message of mutual respect and camaraderie is one well worth absorbing. I loved what you said about taking the journey together. It's my hope that actors and casting people alike will eschew the "us and them" attitude, as you have, and approach auditions as potential collaborators.