How Actors Can Set Themselves Up for Remote Casting Success—According to a Filmmaker

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Photo Source: Documented America

Documented America founder Corinne Jayaweera is using her filmmaking expertise and experience telling real human stories to make an impact in the world around her through PSAs and documentaries. Jayaweera has also shared her skills to support Women In Film’s PSA program by producing or assisting in the production of PSAs for organizations like A New Way of Life, Habitat for Humanity Restores, and a four-part miniseries for Women In Film on gender parity. Her recent project for Documented America, “Why I Vote,” tackles topics related to voting. “My focus is on telling meaningful stories with heart and impact so I enjoy bringing to life the human stories behind societal and political topics,” she says.

Jayaweera was introduced to Backstage a while ago, and says, “Since the beginning, I have had such great experiences casting wonderfully talented and kind actors, so I have continued participating in the Backstage community.” When it came time to cast voters that would be representative of the diverse voices across America for her recent PSA series, she posted a call on Backstage, and wants to share tips for actors so they can maximize their chances of working with filmmakers like her.

Your guide to the perfect self-tape.

Follow the Instructions.
For the PSA series, Jayaweera did the first round of casting from taped submissions. “My favorite submissions were from actors who actually followed the instructions and took the time to personalize their written and video introductions—ideally with a slate.” With self-tapes being the audition solution for the foreseeable future, make sure you are giving the filmmaker what they want.

Make sure your reel highlights you.
While viewing the initial submissions, Jayaweera found that many actors had reels with scenes that didn’t highlight the actor. “Sometimes screening was difficult because applicants did not submit reels that showcased them rather than others with them in random scenes. That left me having to hunt and try to remember who I was looking for. In many cases, I called the applicants to try to help them with their reels, but unfortunately, I often didn’t have the time to further consider applicants who did not submit good reels,” says Jayaweera. Most filmmakers will not take that time to work with potential collaborators, so do the work to ensure your reel highlights you. You don’t have to include every single piece of work you’ve done if it doesn’t make sense for the project you’re applying for, think of it as extra support for your audition and choose scenes that feature your work prominently in a way that will contribute positively to your chances of getting the role in question.

Make your application as strong as possible.
Although each project has specific criteria, in general she says having the fundamentals taken care of is a good first step for making the cut. The submission should have the actor’s current info and be up to date. “The reels must contain photo and contact info and focus on the scenes of the applicant.” For self-tapes it’s also important that the actor have a general understanding of good lighting and video capture.


Professionalism and communication is key.
After narrowing the submission pool, she moved on to phone interviews to get a better sense of the actor’s personality and energy. “The best way for applicants to stand out is with personalization and thoughtful communication.” Jayaweera was looking for good positive energy and clear enunciation. “It is true that just because an actor was not right for the particular project doesn’t mean they did not make an imprint on me. I have certainly cast applicants for later projects even when they originally auditioned for an earlier project and were not cast.” An actor’s responsiveness was also important. Since the project was remote, Jayaweera says “it was important to find people who were up for self-filming and following direction remotely.”

Remote work requires a different mindset.
One challenge Jayaweera faced in casting a project with such a fast turnaround during the pandemic was that the actors were playing two roles: actor and crew. “I quickly learned that I needed to communicate differently with the talent as they were not only the talent but also the film crew. Fortunately, actors are accustomed to submitting virtual auditions so working remotely was not as challenging as it may have been even a year ago as all of our mindsets and experiences have been adapted.”

The videos can be found on Facebook and YouTube.

Looking to get cast? Apply to casting calls on Backstage.

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Melinda Loewenstein
Prior to joining the Backstage team, Melinda worked for Baseline StudioSystem tracking TV development. When she's not working, she enjoys cuddling with her cats while obsessively watching every television show to ever air.
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