Judy Keller Loves Actors

Prior to launching her New York–based company, Judy Keller Casting, in 1992, Keller worked as a casting director in the print department at William Esty and was head of casting at Rosenfeld, Sirowitz, Humphrey & Strauss. Until 2000, commercials and voiceover work represented the lion's share of her projects. Since that time she has moved into independent features and Off-Broadway projects, in some cases as both casting director and producer. Among her commercials are new campaigns for Staples, Poland Spring, Hellman's, Budweiser, Dentyne, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, L'Oreal, Verizon, and Snuggle. Film credits include "Everything's Jake" and "Eavesdrop." "Trust Me" is a film in preproduction, and independent features that she is producing and casting are "Michigan," which will begin shooting shortly, and "Kidnapping 101," which shoots in spring and summer of 2011. Keller also cast "Eavesdropping on Dreams," which she is bringing to Off-Broadway in the 2011–2012 season.

Arresting Attention

I absolutely look at unsolicited submissions by unrepresented actors. But I am old-fashioned, and I prefer to receive these through regular mail, not email. Generally, I like post cards or one good 8-by-10 glossy. Headshots that reveal intellect, smarts, and a wonderful expression in the eyes appeal to me. I really look at the eyes. They are the windows to the soul. Your headshot should leave me with a clear vision of who you are.

On the résumé, I'm interested in seeing where you have studied, as well as your theater and film work. It's useful for me to know the kind of parts you've played. I love student films on a résumé. They tell me you want to work, will do it for nothing, and have had some experience on a set. However, I don't need to see extra work, unless of course you have no other credits. But please be honest. If you have done extra work in a film, don't pretend it was a role. If you've done commercials and voiceover work, that should be on the résumé, but only the major campaigns.

I love special skills, including dance, acrobatics, juggling, and fluency in different languages. I do a lot of voiceovers in foreign languages, such as Hungarian, Russian, Polish, and Czechoslovakian. For commercials, I like actors who have comic or improvisational skills. In fact, I often find commercial actors at UCB or Caroline's.

Digital Details

For the most part I prefer not to receive unsolicited video reels, unless the submission is in response to a specific casting notice. For example, if you are submitting on Breakdowns, you can include a link to your reel. These reels should contain only snippets of professional work. The absence of a reel won't prevent me from bringing you in if I like your look and think you may be right for a part.

However, I don't mind receiving unsolicited voiceover reels; I may actually have a chance to listen to them. Ideally, the audio contains professional voiceover work. But if you don't have professional credits, I have no problem with your reading commercial copy. But it must be recorded in a professional studio.

If I'm interested in you and thinking about bringing you in, I may look at your website. I like simple websites where I can click on to a résumé, video reel, or a voiceover audio and get to them quickly. A headshot should be on the front of the website.

I do not want to be contacted on Facebook. I recently set up a Judy Keller Casting Facebook page and within short order had 400 to 500 actors who wanted to be my friend. I understand why actors do that, but it just doesn't work for me. I have a Facebook page to keep up with clients, old and new, but not to "friend" actors I've never worked with or even met.

Audition Strategy

At the audition, I love it if you take direction well, are prepared, and are makeup- and wardrobe-ready. By that I mean you shouldn't look like you've just rolled out of bed. But I especially appreciate it if you've done your homework. For example, if it's a voiceover audition and we tell you we're looking for someone to sound like a particular celebrity, you should know what the celebrity sounds like. For an on-camera commercial, I have no problem if you come dressed in costume for a part. I might say we don't need it, but I like it if you bring it.

You don't have to be quite as camera-ready for a feature. But being familiar with the script is very important. If you have an agent, it's a good idea to ask if you could read it beforehand. There may be twists and turns in the script that reveal something about the character that may not be evident in the sides. If, for whatever reason, you have not read the script or even the sides before coming to the audition, it's beneficial for me to know that. You can say something like, "Look, I've been away. I just got back and haven't had a chance to read it yet." If it's a cold reading and you do it well, it'll be that much more impressive.

Though I know other casting directors don't like it, I'm fine with an actor asking questions at an audition. I especially like questions that help define the character emotionally, such as "Do you think this person is happy or sad?" Questions like "Should I use my hands?" or "Should I sit down?" are fine too, though if there is no chair in the room I probably don't want the actor sitting. Still, the question of the chair might introduce an interesting approach that I hadn't thought of. Also, if you don't feel the audition is going well, I have no problem if you want to start again. A common mistake at auditions is coming in with such rigid ideas of how the character should be portrayed that you are not open to direction or flexible enough to do it another way.

Communication Etiquette

If you get the role, a thank-you note is lovely. However, if you don't get the part, I'd rather not receive thank-you notes. It's overkill. Post cards are okay a couple of times a year, but much more than that is also overkill. If you're doing some important work as an actor, you can surely mention it. But, truly, it's fine if you write, "I auditioned for you several months ago. Hope you're well. I just thought I'd say hello."

But don't ever call me unsolicited. That's a major no-no. On one Sunday afternoon I got a call on my cell phone from an actor I did not know, who said, "I just called to say happy holidays." I thanked him and slammed down the phone. That actor will not work for me. Actors should be assertive, not aggressive. He was aggressive. I'm also happier if actors don't drop by my office to say hello or even to leave their 8-by-10s. Please spend the money and mail it to me.

All that aside, I love actors. I love casting. I love the whole process.