Casting My Own Project Made Me a More Successful Actor

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I am an actor. I also write when inspiration strikes and have started producing my own content (like all the other actors you know). Recently, I needed to hold a casting call for one of my projects and being on the other side of the table was eye-opening, to say the least.

I released my casting call for two men to play a couple. One was foreign with a distinct accent, the other was a non-white American. The character breakdowns were extremely specific. For one role, I specified he must be able to convincingly do an accent from another country (not British or American) and could preferably speak that language.

This short was an ultra low-budget passion project, and while it was deferred payment, I was able to offer a small day rate to my actors. Very small. Still, the submissions started flying in. For these two roles, I amassed over 250 submissions. Surprisingly, about a third of them came from agents and managers, some whom I’d previously met in showcases and classes. I was surprised that my project was attracting such interest. There was one manager who even tracked down my email address and directly asked that I consider his client. One found me on Facebook messenger and asked there. I was taken aback by the commitment of some of these managers to this project. It felt very intrusive at times and as an actor, I couldn’t decide if these were actions I’d want my own representation to take.

Less surprisingly, many actors that applied didn’t fit the character descriptions in the slightest. About a quarter of these submissions were female. In my breakdown, I asked that those applying for the foreigner list what accents they could do along with what languages they spoke. Not only did few agents or managers offer any relevant notes along with their submission, most actors also didn’t, meaning I had to watch their reels to see if they had an accent or spoke another language. Some actors stated they could do a great British accent, something I specifically wrote that I wasn’t looking for.

READ: 21 Things to Make Casting Directors Happy in the Audition Room

I know, submitting is a shitshow. It’s hard to read every word of a casting notice and character breakdown. It’s hard to make sure you’re 100% right for a role. But doing that small bit of extra work will make it so much easier for a casting director to think of you as an option. Read the breakdown and write a thoughtful and relevant note. That’s all!

Out of the 250 actors who submitted, only 28 were genuinely appropriate for the two roles. About a third of them had been submitted through agents, so when I sent a “CMail” to notify them of the auditions, I was relying on these reps to inform their clients of the opportunity. Some never responded to the message. I have no idea if they ever told their clients about the audition.

Out of these 28 actors who presumably read the sides and knew the plot of the short film, 18 confirmed. The day of? 12 showed up. Of the six that didn’t audition, I genuinely thought they would have been great for the roles. They had a very good chance of getting cast—but they didn’t show.

If you confirm that you’ll attend an audition, go. That role is yours to lose. You were one of the hundreds to submit to a role and you got called in, which means you’re probably right for the part. If you can’t make it at the last second, send an email. Ask to submit a tape.

It’s one thing to not pay attention to breakdowns when you’re submitting, but if you’re called into audition, read the sides! Read the damn breakdown! Of the people who showed up to audition for my “foreigner who was not from England or America,” two asked if they could do it in a British accent and one asked if he could do a New York accent.

The two we ended up casting were more than perfect. In the room, they were practically off-book, knew the character and made it their own, took direction well, and were a joy to watch and interact with. They were prepared and they fit the breakdown. Easy as that.

Holding my own casting call has made me much more empathetic to the CDs behind those big tables. It has made me a more conscious actor when submitting to roles. It reiterates the sentiment that not booking a role doesn’t mean I was a bad actor. The actors who showed up were great actors! I knew they would be because I read their resumes and watched their reels and even researched our mutual friends on Facebook. Some weren’t necessarily right for the part, and others were clearly unprepared.

If you fit the breakdown well, you’re going to get called in. If you’re respectful and prepared, you’re going to do a great job auditioning. At the very least, you will be positively memorable to the casting director and that’s a win regardless if you book the part.

Linnea Sage is an actor, voice-over artist, writer, and producer in NYC. She currently stars in the comedy series “WILDCATS” on the Fullscreen Network, as well as voicing superheroes in the Marvel video game, Avengers Academy. Follow her @LinneaSage on Twitter and @Linnayeahhh on Instagram.

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Linnea Sage
Linnea Sage is an actor, voice-over artist, writer, and producer in NYC. She currently stars in the comedy series “WILDCATS” on the Fullscreen Network, as well as voicing superheroes in the Marvel video game, Avengers Academy. Follow her @LinneaSage on Twitter and @Linnayeahhh on Instagram.