By the time a role is casting, it’s often too late to meaningfully compete—unless you have a solid pre- and post-game strategy.
Once breakdowns are released, a given role has been kicking around with producers for a while, sometimes even years, having already talked at length about who should play the part. They may have even made offers to people they know. The traditional casting process might just be a formality or a “just in case” or “to see what else is out there.”
While this may not be news you’re happy to hear, you shouldn’t feel defeated. All it means it that you need to have a super tight pre- and post-audition strategy in place.
It’s possible to book series-lead-level jobs before those roles ever reach a casting office. How? By building career-launching relationships with the people who actually cast you: producers, writers, showrunners, and directors. You’ve heard it a million times but it bears repeating: this town is all about relationships.
Get to know the people who create projects and forge real friendships. There is a proper way to use those relationships to leverage getting access to early releases of scripts and sides before they ever go to a casting office.
Follow up! Don’t reach out after every audition, of course, but do for the roles that are important to you. Touching base on preferred parts with a method in place can give you valuable data and feedback about your audition performance.
Not having a strong post-game strategy is perhaps worse than not have a strong pre-game one. Following up with casting or production after important auditions is vital. It’s part of being pleasantly persistent.
I have an actor client who is with a rep who doesn’t believe in her and thus doesn’t pitch her for major roles. He criticizes her acting and demands she put a lot of things on tape to prove herself. The whole professional relationship is off-balance and veering into unhealthy territory.
Your agent and/or manager should not only absolutely trust in you and your work, but they should also like you! If your reps don’t have faith in your ability enough to pick up the phone and pitch you hard, you need new reps. Period. Staying with an agent or manager who lets you languish on their roster without pitching you is like dating someone who won’t introduce you to their friends; it’s a relationship that isn’t going anywhere.
So we worked together, putting her on tape for a major feature film. Two weeks later, she came to class looking somber and unhappy and said her rep hated the video—that the acting was “too big” and they both had concerns given the absence of a response from casting.
I asked what she thought of the performance. “Now that I’ve had some time to think about it,” she said, “I really thought it was totally wrong and totally off.”
I reminded her that she loved the work, that it was fun for her, and that I wouldn’t have given it my stamp of approval if I hadn’t thought it was her best acting. I prodded her: Was she sure her agent had sent the tape? Did he follow up? Did she?
Neither of them had. So I did.
I sent a simple but powerfully-worded email to the person my client identified as the CD, only to later find out that he was also the writer/director/producer. He immediately responded, telling me the actor was one of the top three finalists and that she was also his favorite. He explained that she ultimately wasn’t selected for the part due to something out of her control. He finished the email by saying that he would be interested in working with her on a different, upcoming feature project. This was a major audition win for her, but she would have never known about it because neither she nor her agent had followed up.
Here’s what this helps us realize:
- Actors must always believe their instincts.
- Reps who don’t believe in you will stagnate your career.
- Stop listening to people who engage in fear-based decision making.
- Following up is often as important as the actual audition.
- Pursue relationships with these people before you pitch for roles so you can feel better about checking in on the status of projects you’ve been submitted for. Did they get the tape? Did they have a chance to review it? Is there anything they’d like to see? Do they have any feedback?
It’s too easy to succumb to negativity in this business. Resist the urge to throw up your hands and say, “I guess they hated my performance.” Getting feedback can help you refocus the lens of your work, offering you invaluable clarity.
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The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.