Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The value of a good audition is not in booking the job: A tale about one casting director

I received an e-mail from Mike, an actor and former student, who wrote to tell me about his audition experience two weeks ago for an episode of a new television series. While the name of the show isn’t important, the story about his audition is.

Mike wrote:

"I auditioned yesterday for a new TV show. When I entered the room for the audition, the casting director examined my resume and asked my union status. I told her I wasn't in the union; I’m not even SAG eligible yet. She let me do the audition anyway, which was only a single line. She was pleased with the audition (or so it seemed). However, she proceeded to tell me how she couldn't use me because she had used all her Taft-Hartleys earlier in the season (the audition was for episode 14). She explained (in great detail) how new shows that use young actors often use their THs faster than shows that have been on for a while (she used “CSI” as an example). She was very kind and honest about the situation and asked me to send in a post card when I am union. I've made sure to focus on the positives here and not dwell on my current non-union status and the job I think that that current status cost me."

I have written before about this issue, but it’s worth another look.

Was Mike wrong to go in to this audition knowing that he was non-union? Was the casting director wrong to audition him knowing that he wasn’t eligible for hiring?

The answers, for me, are both “no” and “no.”

An opportunity to audition is a gift to meet, network with and impress a casting director. The actor’s job in any audition situation is not to (necessarily) get hired, but to make a favorable enough impression on the casting director so that the actor will have the opportunity again and again to audition for that person. Getting the job is great, but getting asked back is what careers are built on.

Mike was right to be honest about his union status when asked. The casting director will find out eventually and better it be from the actor in an audition situation than from the union after the casting director has hired him for the job.

The casting director may or may not have known Mike’s union status when she called him in. If you’re in the union or if your SAG-Eligible, it belongs on your resume. It didn’t appear on Mike’s, which was truthful and honest on his part. You would be surprised how many actors lie about this on their resumes only to have it come back and bite them in the ass later.

Casting directors rarely have the time to meet with new actors. Rarely do they have the time to do so. I admire this casting director for taking the time to meet with Mike. Whether or not he was hirable, she did him – and potentially herself – an enormous favor. For Mike, she gave some attention and interest that felt very empowering to him; for her, she became familiar with a new (young) actor she didn’t previously know who she will watch out for later, when he is hirable for her. This is a very good thing. Now, Mike knows a casting director he didn’t know before and one who took the time to advise him in a way that was supportive to his career.

Incidentally, a young client of mine found herself in the same position with the same casting director last week. She got called in for a role she was indeed right for, but later learned she couldn’t be hired for because of her non-union status. So what? She got to meet with a casting director who clearly likes actors and she, because of a great audition, opened the doors to opportunities down the road with this casting director.

Recognize opportunity when you see it and when you get it. It’s not about jobs, it’s about business.

Thank you, Mike. Good student; empowered actor!

If you have an experience in the business of acting you would like to share, please submit a post here or e-mail me directly to blemack@TheBusinessOfActing.com.