Episodic officially started last Monday. If your materials aren't up to date, then you are going to miss the season. Your agents (and managers) are getting to busy to go through hundreds of photos, you should take care of those things during the summer. Get moving. If you are an actor, you should have your materials in order at all times. Otherwise you are a dabbler who wants to do some acting if something falls in your lap. Be honest with yourself. Are you doing everything you can? Do you have slate shots attached to every photo on Actors Access? Do you have skill clips up? Is your reel current? Resume? Be prepared. Be proactive.
If you are going out of town for Thanksgiving and/or Christmas/Chanukah and you know the dates you will be gone, you need to book out as soon as possible. There are jobs coming out right now that are shooting the week of Thanksgiving. If you aren't booked out by next week, we will assume you will be in town. But the sooner the better.
SIX TERRIBLE TRENDS WE ARE SEEING IN HEADSHOTS:
1) TANK TOPS
For some reason we are seeing more and more headshots where the actors (men and women) are wearing tank tops. Unless it is a fitness shot, DON'T WEAR TANK TOPS IN YOUR HEADSHOTS! We have heard from a dozen offices, half commercial, half theatrical lamenting this trend. Why? Because bare arms in photos make women look wider. And unless you are doing a character photo like a redneck or a bouncer (where it makes sense), there is no reason to make it a gun show guys (again, unless it is a fitness shot). Casting doesn't want to see side boob or armpit hair or nipples (men or women). DO NOT TAKE PHOTOS IN TANK TOPS UNLESS IT IS A FITNESS SHOT AND IF IT IS A FITNESS SHOT, WE SHOULD SEE A FULL BODY SHOT, NOT JUST A HEADSHOT.
2) SUPER CLOSE UP HEADSHOTS
Yes, we know it is called a headshot, but you don't need to be so literal. A good headshot should actually be about chest or waist up. Why? Because (especially for commercial shots) we need context. The thing about casting is that they are trying to imagine you as a specific character but they aren't going to stop and say, can she play a mom? They need to see it right away. The thing that allows them to see it is context. Are you dressed like a mom in a mom pose. They can't see that if they can't see anything but your head. Ask your photographer to shoot from the waist up. I can always zoom in if the shot is too far away. What I can't do is zoom out. So tell the photographer to pull back the frame OR use a photographer who shoots with a wider frame. If you are researching photographers and all their shots are super close ups in their portfolio, you should rethink using that photographer. They may be resistant to shooting farther away or they may not be any good at it.
3) TIPPY FRAME
Why are there so many shots at a 30 degree tilt? We have heard this from both Theatrical and Commercial. Don't make Casting tilt their heads to look at your photos because they aren't going to do it. Slightly off center, fine. A serious tilt is just weird. And if all the shots are at this angle? Something is wrong with the photographer.
4) SOLID BACKGROUNDS
A solid background screams school picture, looks unnatural, has no depth to the photo, and is super boring. Don't do it.
Ladies if you are showing cleavage in a photo, that's all Casting is looking at. They aren't going to look at your eyes, which is where the acting should be happening. Unless you are in a bathing suit there is no good reason for this. The interesting stuff should be in your face. NO NO NO NO NO Cleavage shots. If you need this to get called in (and you aren't a model) then you are going to only get called for a VERY specific type of role.
6) OVERLY TOUCHED UP PHOTOS
No one's face is flawless. Yes, get the zit touched out of your photo. DO NOT get your photos so retouched that you have no lines at all on your face or you have no freckles. If your skin looks unrealistically good, casting is going to think the photo isn't realistic and they don't know what to expect in the room. They want a realistic looking picture of a realistic looking person. Retouch fly away hairs, retouch a zit or a scratch. But don't overdo it. (Same goes for over whitening of teeth, a little is totally fine, and I have no problem with it, creepy glow in the dark teeth are no good).
Okay, this is coming up a lot, actors asking me what's the difference between agents and managers and do I need one or both.
Let me break down what an agent does, what a manager does, and whether you need one or both.
1) Licensed by the State. This a lengthy, involved process that includes putting up a $50,000 bond to the state guaranteeing your payments to your clients. You have to have separate accounts for client checks and the business so you don't EVER co-mingle funds. You have to keep the license up to date, renewing it every year. There is a background check complete with fingerprints. You have to register your business with the State as either a Corporation or an LLC.
2) Are legally the ONLY people who can negotiate or sign a contract for a client to work on a production. Managers CANNOT legally do this. Period. It is against the law.
3) Are constrained by state law on the amount of commission they can take, 10% for SAG-AFTRA jobs, 20% for non union jobs.
4) Reputable agencies are franchised with either SAG-AFTRA (as we are) or with the ATA. You can check on SAGAFTRA.org to see if the agency you are signed with or looking to sign with is franchised with one of the two organizations. I don't know what the process is for ATA, but I do know that for SAG and not for ATA, your office must be in a commercially zoned building and may not be located in your home (or any home). For SAG it must have a separate lobby or waiting room, your state license must be conspicuously posted, the name of your agency must be on the building directory or outside your office door, and you must not share your office suite with another business. We strictly adhere to these requirements. And Agencies are inspected by SAG-AFTRA for compliance before they are franchised.
5) Agents submit, pitch, and negotiate work on their clients' behalf for commericals, voice over, television, film, internet, new media, and all kinds of other acting related work. Agents only get paid a percentage of your work in the area in which they represent you. So, if you are with an agent commercially, you only pay them a percentage for anything falling under that umbrella. You are essentially paying them for acting on your behalf in negotiating, reading, approving, and signing your contract.
1) Are NOT licensed or regulated by the State. There is no state agency that oversees management companies, so it is your responsibility to do your due diligence and research the management company you are considering signing with because there is no state bureau guaranteeing your money. Anyone can open an LLC and call themselves a manager. So do your research!
2) Are Not franchised by SAG-AFTRA, but can be "affiliated" which essentially means that they are in good standing with SAG.
3) CANNOT negotiate your deal or sign your contract for you. AT ALL. PERIOD. So once you get an audition, their work is done. If casting calls to book you, they MUST turn that booking over to your agent and if you don't have one, then you yourself must handle your own booking. A manager may not EVER negotiate your contract. For any reason. I cannot stress this enough. Managers who do this have been found by the courts to be acting "as agents" in violation of State law and forced to return their clients' money.
4) Offer general career guidance, advice on headshots, reels, classes, workshops, all the day to day career advice that helps shape your next steps. They get a percentage of every single thing you book in all areas, and this is what they are getting paid for. The percentage varies from 10-20%.
Obviously the main difference as stressed above is that managers offer career guidance and help you find an agent (and some do get you auditions) whereas agents do the actual contracts and negotiations on your behalf. Most agents do not go through all of your photos and your reel and discuss what classes to take. Some do, some don't. But these are things that most managers do handle.
Do you need an agent? Are you booking work? Do you need someone to help you find work and negotiate your contract? Do you need someone to chase down your money and be sure you get paid?
Do you need a manager? Do you need help shaping your career? Do you need help finding an agent? Are you someone who likes a lot of advice and input? Do you need help choosing photos and clips for your reel?
Agents and managers can be invaluable. You just have to know which to go to about certain things. I am an agent who really likes to select my clients' photos because they are the most critical thing to getting the clients auditions. But I don't like to go through clips to put together a reel. I just don't have enough time to do that. That's something that a manager is good to help with. Each agent and manager has strengths and weaknesses so be sure to do your homework and find the right fit for what you need in your career.
This was the message just sent out by broad-cast to all the Agents (fortunately it did not apply to me as none of my clients with auditions for this project cancelled):
"37 talent cancelled their auditions today. This is not acceptable.
Agents with cancellations - i will be taking a break from your future submissions on other jobs."
When you don't book out and I have to cancel your auditions, it really does impact everyone in the agency. REMEMBER TO BOOK OUT!!!
When you have a voice over audition, you need to remember one key thing, which is that voice over is not reading, voice over is acting. You should put the same sort of thought into a VO script as you would into an on-camera script. Who is your audience? Who are you in relation to them? What is your message? What is your approach? What is the tone? What is the pace? What are the key words in this script that I should hit? How old is this character, how well-educated, how formal or casual? If you are just reading it, you are missing the point.
Second, READ THE DIRECTIONS YOUR AGENT SENDS YOU. Each casting office has their own way they like things to be labeled and slated. If you aren't reading the slating and labeling instructions because your agent usually has you do things the same way every time, you are going to piss off your agent. What they won't tell you is that with all the VO auditions they send out, listen to, and post, if you don't have yours right, they are probably not going to bother to tell you, they are just not going to submit it. And then they may not send you many VOs because you don't read instructions.
If you don't know for sure how to pronounce something, look it up. Don't just guess. Or ask your agent. It's an enormous waste of my time to listen to an audition with words mispronounced because I can't send that to the client.
Don't confirm VO auditions unless specifically asked to do so. I send out on average a dozen projects a week for self-tapes (depending on the season). And I usually send them to 20 or so clients per audition. When my work email goes off, it makes a ding sound. I stop whatever I'm doing to check the email because it could be an audition or a confirmation or a booking. But if it's you just saying "Got it." ???? I would find that out in 2 days when you turn in or don't turn in your audition. Email with purpose. If you have a question, absolutely, but read the email I sent twice before asking me a question because 9 times out of 10 I answer the question in the original email. Remember, there are hundreds of you and only one of me. I know you feel like I have one agent. But I don't have only one client, so please value my time.
Send your VO auditions on time. If you don't, I can't send them in. I have a deadline. When the deadline I give you comes, I have an alarm that goes off. I listen to all the auditions I have, and upload them all as a zip folder. I can't send in late ones. I don't have time to wait on you. It's not fair to me and everyone else.
The first and last lines should be memorable and are the most important lines with the exception of the name of the product (if it is a commercial). Start strong so they will pay attention. Finish strong so they remember you. And make CHOICES. What is going to set you apart from the 1000 other VOs they are going to listen to?
Comedy scripts should be zippy, drama should be deliberate (not Shatner-esque). Make your pauses count. Pay attention to the intended length of the spot and keep an eye on your time. Most spots are laid out in 15 second chunks so it will be either 15, 30 45 or 1 min long. Figure out the length of the script to anticipate the pace of the script.
Yet another Casting Director message about not booking out. SERIOUSLY, YOU MUST BOOK OUT!!! Fortunately she wasn't talking about me or any of my people. Because you've all read the bookout policy, right... RIGHT???
"Hi. 28 Cancels. 28 cancels and that's with still having 30 people unconfirmed so I can't wait to see where we net out.
Are you doing anything to penalize your roster for this behavior??? ARE YOU??
I don't know...if I was an agent and I had an understanding at the amount of time and effort that is put into making these jobs happen and I had people on my roster that saw this as a &%^$ing hobby I would DROP THEM or you do this thing called put them on probation. Maybe, just maybe, if they understand that there's consequences to not giving a %^#$ about booking out maybe they would learn to do so. What do you think? Can I count on you to start letting the talent know that this is NOT A GAME it's a JOB INTERVIEW. No book out means when the talent is back in town they can let you know and then after their probation week you start submitting them on projects so they can learn to respect everyone else's time. But wait... what if they leave me then? GOOD RIDDANCE, bye Felicia."
This message was just posted on a project from Casting Director Jodi Sonnenberg:
"The last two weeks have truly been a nightmare with people being submitted that are not in town and even a massive amount of people that are confirmed and then not showing up. It doesn't seem to matter if it's a SAG or non-union job anymore..it's really becoming so difficult to get people to come for some reason.
Thank you everyone. I know summer is tough for us all that are still working but you can perhaps send a mass email to your roster reminding them that they need to let you know when they are out of town, at summer camp, had to get a day job or simply don't want to work. There are actors out there that do and that's who I want to work with."
Seriously, Librarians, this is why not booking out makes us nuts, because it makes casting nuts. And it makes all of us look bad. Don't make me cancel your auditions. Book Out! Even if you haven't had an audition in awhile so you think you're safe. You're never safe. Even if it is the weekend. Please help us look like the badass agency we are. Gracias! Happy 4th of July!
The office will be closed on 4th of July (because everywhere else in town is going to be, so why would I be the only human working). However if you are planning to be out any other day, you need to book out. There are things casting on the 3rd and the 5th. A friendly reminder to book out.
This week, summer finally arrived. But, Julia, it's been pretty warm out for weeks. And school's been out for a month.
That stuff is irrelevant. Because in acting-land summer is when EVERYTHING slows down. Not everything stops, but shows are in reruns, people are on vacation, and not a lot happens in L.A.
Don't freak out.
This is normal. It will pick back up during August when fall pilot season rolls around again. There will be some stuff casting (some Voice Over, some commercials) but on the whole, there is about 1/4 to 1/3 the amount of activity as during the fall and spring.
This would be a great time to take that improv class I've been nagging you about. (I haven't been? Consider this the nagging.) Go get new headshots. Honestly, do I love your photos? Do you?
If you are trying to figure out when to travel. Now. Now is the answer. But of course you are going to book out. Because you always book out. Right?
Bottom line, if you are worried because you just signed with this new fantastic agency with nothing on the walls at the office except a talent agency license and a Disney castle, and you aren't going out at all... don't. You will. Because I think you are great. And I'm working my ass off for you. And maybe it doesn't show yet, but I'm putting your face in front of Casting Directors, and tweeting about your comedy shows, and sending CDs emails about what my awesome clients are up to. And in the fall the work will show.
So, stay cool. Stay hydrated. And don't freak out.
Figure out what your wheelhouse is.
What characters or types should you be getting in the room for? It doesn’t matter what your actual age or personality is; I want to be able to see the role that you are going in for. Perception is reality. Know how you are seen by casting. If you don’t know, ask your agent. If you are one of my clients, you should 100% talk to me about what looks I need before you spend your money on pictures. You need to have pictures that sell the thing you are going to be best for. Every other look is just gravy.
Don’t go to a friend for your headshots.
It is strange, but we are actually more self-conscious around our friends than strangers. If you want to get a relaxed and natural session, go to someone who doesn’t know you. They won’t be as likely to feel the need to spare your feelings. And, if a stranger can’t see what you are trying to convey, you aren’t conveying it.
Pay for the hair and makeup person!
I can’t stress this enough. Real world hair and makeup is not the same as on camera hair and makeup. Also, you can’t see your own face from inside yourself, so you don’t know if you have fly-aways or a weird blush line or whatever. It is worth every penny.
BUT… make sure that the hair and makeup they do is something you can come close to replicating or would want to do for auditions. You should talk to them about your general audition style. I also suggest bringing in your standard go-to makeup so they have your color scheme in mind.
Hint: Don’t take pics first thing in the morning. Your face doesn’t settle until you’ve been up and blood has been circulating for about 4 hours, so that’s why the first pics from a lot of sessions look rough. Afternoon is superior for looking the best. If you have to shoot a morning session, get up early so your face has time to wake up.
Do your research.
Look at the photographers’ websites. Don’t just marvel at the pretty pictures of pretty people. Do they routinely take pictures of your type and role wheelhouse? No? Just pretty people? Move on. They may take great pics, but if they don’t have comedy pictures, and you are primarily comedy, they aren’t really what you are looking for.
If you have friends who go on a lot of auditions, see who they used.
Most agents have a list of photographers they like. I know I do. I am happy to share it. But NO agent should insist that you have to go to a particular photographer. I always ask that actors send me the website of a photographer I don't know so I can raise any concerns up front before you shoot and waste your money and time.
Select a photographer that will give you your photos to have and to own forever.
On USB or dropbox or whatever, you don’t want to have to keep going back to the photographer every time your agent says that they want to take a look for something different in your latest session or you change agencies or meet with a manager or whatever.
Don’t ever let your pictures be funnier than you are.
No props. No funny slogans on t-shirts. No goofy background. Because now I’m not looking at the thing I should be looking at which is your face. Don’t ever let your glasses be the most interesting thing about your picture. If you are going to wear glasses, make sure they are glare resistant or take the lenses out of the frames. But make sure you own said glasses because if I am submitting pics with those glasses, I expect you to wear them to your audition.
Close your mouth.
Opening your mouth a tad to show a more genuine smile is totally fine. It is the “laughing” pic or the “mouth agape” pic that I hate. I don’t want to see your dental work. You laughing doesn’t make you funnier, it makes me wonder what is wrong with you, you weirdo.
Don't exclusively use solid color backgrounds.
It screams "School Picture Day" or "Photo ID" and those are never good things to have your photos say. Something going on in the background of a photo adds depth and interest.
NO CLEAVAGE! EXCLAMATION POINT! I want to be drawn to your eyes, which is where all the interesting stuff SHOULD be happening. If your shirt is super tight and you are showing a bunch of skin, I feel like you are missing the point of a HEADshot. (Bathing suit photos for models is obviously an exception)
No tank tops or busy/excessive jewelry. (Unless you are a model, then you need a pic in a solid black tank and jeans)
Layers are good.
No white or neon. It screams at me when I look at thumbnails and not in a good way.
No solid black. It just doesn’t read in pictures.
BEST COLORS IN PHOTOGRAPHS AND AT AUDITIONS ON CAMERA: Green (Kelly green or forest green meaning Celtics green or Packers green, not neon or olive) and Purple (all varieties, but lavenders and lighter purples (pastels) are best on fair & very dark skin, whereas darker purples (plums) are best on medium skin). They both read beautifully on camera and look good on everyone.
Natural light is best.
Try to avoid the weird horizontal camera shots.
They don’t work well for headshot reprints because if I have a stack of people in front of me, how likely am I to turn your headshot to take a look at it when I’m flipping through? Also, all commercial casting (99.9%) is through digital submission and those shots don’t translate very well to thumbnails on most casting platforms. There are exceptions.
Don’t select your own headshot from your session.
You are looking for a good looking picture of you. I am looking for the character I am selling. You are not going to like the same pic as your agent or the casting offices most of the time. I want to see my clients’ entire session, but some agents just want to see selects. Make sure that you don’t narrow it down below 30 pics, because now you are driving the selection instead of giving your agent all of their options.
DO NOT PUT UP HEADSHOTS ON CASTING PLATFORMS WITHOUT RUNNING THEM BY YOUR AGENT FIRST!!!
I can’t be more adamant about this. Also, as to LA Casting, no offense, but it doesn’t matter to me what pics your manager likes. Legally they can’t sign a contract on your behalf. So, your agent’s vote is really the one that matters. Don’t tell your agent that your manager likes X pic better or that you are going to put up a pic that your agent hates because your manager likes it. I will tell you right now, if you make it so I have to hide a picture I don’t like every time I submit you, it is going to annoy me. Don’t make your agent’s job a hassle, because if I have to hide a couple of your pics (if I tell you I don’t like a couple of your pics, it is the same thing) I may be less inclined to submit you for everything if you are not spot on perfect for it, because going through and hiding a bunch of pictures is time consuming and a pain. Don’t be a pain.
1) DO wear the same wardrobe to the callback as the first audition. DO follow wardrobe instructions in the audition notification, but when in doubt, wear what you have on in the headshot that was submitted for the project.
2) DO keep your LA Casting and Casting Frontier up to date!
3) DO check The Library Agency website “For The Librarians” page every day for special castings and email me within 24 hours to be submitted for these roles. The password is “oscar".
4) DO NOT call my cell phone or text me unless it is an emergency and you cannot reach me at the office phone number first. Emergencies are on set emergencies (contract issues, inappropriate behavior by other cast or crew, dangerous situations), something preventing you from getting to an audition on time (car accident, previous audition running long, etc.). You may ALWAYS call for emergencies day or night. NOT emergencies: headshots, wanting to drop in, etc.
5) DO NOT call me before 10am or on the weekends (especially during football season) except for emergencies (see above).
6) DO NOT EVER call a casting director yourself for any reason ever. This includes audition time changes. If there is an issue that needs a CD’s attention, that’s what I’m here for. Calling a casting director, producer, or director is grounds for immediate dismissal from The Library Agency. DO NOT do ANY contract negotiating with production. This is a direct violation of your contract with The Library Agency. Essentially, your job is to do the acting and keeping your materials up to date. My job is to do everything else.
7) DO NOT call to see if anything is coming up for you. There is no way for me to know if there will be auditions. DO NOT call to see if I’ve heard anything about the auditions you had, how you did, whether you will be getting a callback, etc. I don’t keep that sort of info to myself. If there was something for me to tell you, I would tell you.
8) If a question can be asked by email, ask it by email. I much prefer email to phone or text.
9) If I don’t answer your email immediately, I’m in a meeting, eating a meal, at the doctor’s office. I answer most email within 2 hours, so unless it is an emergency, please be patient.