Actors Casting/Breakdown websites and services: To Pay or Not to Pay?

To Pay Or Not To Pay?

Well, it depends.

A friend recently asked me about a casting website for voiceovers in England. I didn’t have any real feedback for her regarding that particular site but it made me think about the casting venues that I do know and that I use here in the US on a daily basis.

First off, let me dispel some myths.

Just because a website promises to book you work and put money in your pocket it doesn’t guarantee anything. At best it will fill your email box with lists of the many auditions currently happening in the city and offer you a chance to submit yourself.

In some cases, for those of us who are currently without representation, it can get our foot in a door that may have previously been closed - for example perhaps an ad agency has exhausted its resources with agents and CD’s and is looking for new talent beyond the pool they’ve already tapped. Actors Access and other such sites are a goldmine for them.

But as far as booking work and making money goes the casting website industry has ZERO control or influence. So I wouldn’t depend on it as a career replacement. It is a good supplement to your income but you have to be diligent and “on it” when it comes to submissions because castings happen so quickly that if you sleep on it you’re likely to miss out. That being said, don’t ever not submit yourself to something because the breakdown is a day or two old. If it is a perfect role for you and you have a free schedule around their listed shoot/show dates go ahead and send out for it. It might be worth the risk - and as far as risks go, its pretty low-impact.

Most of these sites ask you to pay them.

For some sites it is a marginal fee, for others it’s a pretty hefty one.

Actors Access has free registration but paid sumbissions. NYCastings is free, but it doesn’t have a personal filter system to help you narrow down the jobs specifically to you. Backstage is free to register I think but to use their system to submit to a job you have to pay a yearly fee.

So the answer is, if you’re serious about finding work on your own you have to pay.

Overall I would do some SERIOUS research before using or paying for any site/service. Ask your actor friends what they use, how it’s worked for them, etc. Be VERY selective about who you give your credit card info out to. Especially online.

The next blogs will go in-depth with specific websites to help you narrow down your choices.

Hold Yer Horses

Don’t celebrate until the check’s in your hand and the spot’s runnin’!

I don’t know if you’ve seen this season’s Mad Men, but they illustrate this point brilliantly with the Patio commercial story-line.

I cannot tell you the amount of jobs I have been hired or on-hold for that have fallen through. Just last week I was posing for the cover of The Wall Street Journal weekend edition and after an hour and a half of work the editors called the photographer and pulled the plug on the story. The photographer hung up the phone and literally came over to the set, unplugged the lights and with a shrug said we could go; I have been booked for a feature film and after weeks of script rewrites and contract negotiations it fell through; I’ve been in a voiceover booth after an hour of recording and had the ENTIRE script re-written, re-recorded and then thrown away because the job was suddenly no longer relevant to the client. If you’ve seen the special features to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind then you will know that Ellen Pompeo was cast as Jim Carrey’s girlfriend. It was a big role and they shot the whole thing. But, when Michel Gondry got into the editing room he realized that the girlfriend story-line was holding up the action of the rest of the film, so decided to cut it. She’s not even credited. I’m sure Ellen Pompeao was gutted! But, as we all know now, the next year she went on to be the lead in Gray’s Anatomy. So it wasn’t to big a loss.

There are absolutely no guarantees in this industry. You can think you have it all and are finally on a roll only to end up right back at square one with nothing to show for yourself, your time, or your talent. Most of the time, you will at least get paid for the work you do. But sometimes even that isn’t guaranteed. Thing is to be aware that there are a ridiculous amount of variables when it comes to producing a print ad, a commercial, a film, a play, etc. They can fall through for any number of reasons. It’s not necessarily a reflection on you or your work.

My good friend and acting coach John Osborne Hughesonce told me that what’s for you won’t go by you. I cannot even explain how much that phrase has helped when it comes to my life in this field. Best thing to do to stay sane (!!) is to show up, do the best job you can and then forget it ever happened. And that applies for auditioning and call-backs too.

What to Wear? What to Wear? - The Commercial Audition

I was just about to get started on the follow-up to What To Wear? What To Wear? and tell everyone what I’ve been told to wear to a call-back. But just before I did, I went to my very own callback and and had a bomb dropped on me.
Well… That’s a tad more credit than the situation deserves. But… What’s an acting blog without a little drama, right? (yuck - barf-bags are in the pocket of the seat-back in front of you).
One of the Casting Directors was hanging out in the hallway with us actor-folk as we waited patiently to be brought into the audition. One of said actors waiting made an embarrassed comment about how he hadn’t realized that he’d worn the same thing to the first audition. Now, I was just about to console him and say with pride that I’d heard you were supposed to wear the same outfit and that he was just fine when the CD said with a chuckle “Oh! You’re like one of those actors who thinks he’s supposed to wear the same thing to a callback because that’s what your agent or teacher told you.. !!” followed by “Man! I’ve seen some directors actually laugh at seeing an actor show up looking identical to the first audition.” There I was, shifting uneasily with my fellow actors and chuckling along as he continued to tell us that it was a moronic notion.
Oh. Did I mention that I was dressed in the same outfit as my first audition?
I cried out pitifully that I’d heard that same advice, to which he answered gently that it was merely important that I just look like the same person who had auditioned before and that nothing be drastically different. Don’t change the hair too much; If you wore casual to the first audition, it’s probably wise to wear it to the second/third/fourth etc, etc.
I subtly grabbed my cardigan off the bench and eased into it just as my name was called to meet the directors and prayed they wouldn’t notice my t-shirts repeat-performance…
The point of this posting is to help you understand what to wear to your callback. I have been told again, and again, to wear the same thing. But, obviously, there are other schools of thought. Wear the same thing? Wear something different?
I think the key from today’s experience is that its mostly important that you look like the same person who was at the original audition. The directors and producers called you back because of how you looked and performed in the first audition, so it’s in our best interest to give them that same package again since they’ve literally re-ordered it for another look. In addition, if some directors have had an adverse reaction to seeing an actor in the same outfit there is a potential strike against us before we even speak. And we need those directors to be thinking of nothing but how great we are - we need all the help we can get in those stuffy little rooms. So, while I respect the opinions of the folk who have told me previously to do one thing, I am going to go with Mr. CD:WEAR SOMETHING DIFFERENT.
But, lets also remember to look like the same person (I know that sounds weird, but we can look VERY different in a suit versus a T-shirt and jeans versus evening-wear). If you had your hair up before, it’s probably a good idea to wear it up again. If you were sporting some stubble, don’t shave before the audition if possible.
This topic is wide-open for interpretation and I’m sure there are plenty of other opinions out there, so I welcome feedback from the field!