Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Joe Reich: Veteran Casting Director

"Be an Applicant

Not a Supplicant"
Veteran Casting Director
   “There is a big difference between a supplicant and an applicant. Actors will not be taken seriously until they approach casting directors as applicants.”

   “We prefer local hires,” says casting director Joe Reich “but in a changing environment we also keep Hollywood actors in mind as a ‘just in case’. Many New York and Hollywood actors are willing to travel to locations and work as ‘local hires’. It’s a mobile industry. You have to be as ready, as prepared and as good as every competing actor no matter where you live,” is the advice Joe Reich, a single card casting director, meaning his name appears alone on the screen at the beginning of many of the projects he casts. Reich adds that when you audition the casting director already knows who they will bring with to do the job and how to reach them, should he not find the talent he or she wants during local auditions.

   “Your photo must communicate your inner life, it must project through.”

   “What I care about is your eyes, the emotion behind those eyes and that takes an old fashioned close-up head shot.”

      The project casting director will usually work through a local casting director for day players and extras.

   “If that person is not up for the job, then my impression of the local market will be a poor one and I will bring more talent with me.”

Click on "read more" below for more advice and observations from CS Joe Reich.

    Reich’s almost 50-year career includes 21 years as a staff casting director for Universal Studios on such series as “McHale’s Navy”, “Quincy”, “Simon and Simon” and “Airwolf”. He has cast well over 2,000 hours of television, plus motion pictures, live theater and most recently interactive media. Along with Stephen Spielberg’s casting director Mike Fenton, he founded the Casting Society of America (CSA), a voluntary association created to set standards within the casting industry.

   Cautioning first that every casting director’s expectations and requirements are different, Reich told a conservatory audience his feelings on the key tools of our industry.

The Audition:
   “Do the best you can do. Remember that you may be the best apple, but if I am hiring oranges...”

   “A casting director is middle management, the funnel, the gate. We take the grocery cart down the aisle and fill it up, to give them what they are looking for. I cannot get you the job. Only you can do that. If you impress me as being right for a role, you still have to sell the director and many times the producer before you are hired.”

   “There is a big difference between a supplicant and an applicant. Actors will not be taken seriously until they approach casting directors as applicants. Remember, qualified professionals do not beg for a job. They apply and if they do not get the job, they move on and apply someplace else. If they do not get the job and another one opens, perhaps that application will be reviewed and they may get the next opportunity to come around.”

   “The difference between a supplicant and an applicant usually is that an applicant says to themselves  ‘I hope you like me but if you don’t it’s OK because somebody else will.”

    “We have to interview and audition for jobs the same way you do. Even after all these years I usually read my resume before every interview to remind myself that I am right for the job!”

Being In Character:
   “Do not come dressed as the character! I hate it. Wardrobe is not your job. If you have to have the hint of a costume to help you in your audition, do that, but not an entire costume.”

   Remember that every casting director is different in what they prefer or expect. A few like to see you come in costume, most prefer you come in the suggestion of a costume, but “I want to see the actor, not a costume.”

On Your Marketing Tools:
   “If you don’t think a lot of yourself, why should I?” explains Reich.

   “Your photos, resumes, cover letters, tapes and ongoing study of your craft tell me whether you care enough to be a professional.”

   “Don’t send me flowers, handwritten cover notes, your panties or lollipops. Gimmicks and un-professionalism get tossed, thrown away.”

On Photographs:
   “You get three to five seconds to sell me, that’s all the time I have. Make it the best opportunity!”
    “Your photo must communicate your inner life, it must project through.” says Reich, who adds that for headshots, actors should always play to the lens, not the photographer or any off camera object.

   “Too many actors present old photographs or pictures that do not represent them properly. If you walk in the door and do not look like your photo, then you are wasting both of our time.”

   “Your photographer is your doctor, your agent, your personal salesman. It is as important to pick the right photographer as it is the right doctor or lawyer. Eyeball the photographers work, pick what is best for you. Pictures are the only representatives you have to get to me if you are not already known by me.”

    “Composites are no longer in vogue. Another fad that is fading is the three-quarter shot. They are to be used only when they do actors justice. Remember that trends come and go, so be sure to keep up with what is happening on the streets of Los Angeles or New York. Who cares how you look when you are twisted or wearing your Sunday clothes, what I care about is your eyes, the emotion behind those eyes and that takes an old fashioned close-up head shot.”

   Three shots are suggested, but one good shot is all you need to start with. Reich suggests that any photograph should say who you really are.

   “An actor should have ‘a studio executive shot’, a casual shot and a commercial shot.”

On Resumes:
    “I am looking for a commitment to the profession. I want to see that you are serious about this, that you are current and that you have training.”

   “Don’t list extra work or high school theater from ten years ago, but do list anything that will tell me who you are.”  

   “There is an exception if that’s all you have to show, since I will know you are starting out. However, do not try to make yourself look like a star based on community theater and extra work.”

   Who you are includes, if it is applicable, something about yourself. For example, if you are an attorney, say so. If you are a rodeo cowboy, say so. Acting starts with the reality of yourself, who you are and what you do and experienced in your own lives.

   If you are out of the profession for a prolonged period but the job you were doing includes skills or character types that you feel could be put to use as an actor, put something on which explains why.

  Do not say it in so many words, but perhaps under skills you can write “cab driver” or “corporate executive.”

   “Use your judgment and ask if this life experience will be seen as a benefit by those auditors who look at your resume.”

On Videos:
  “It is important to an actor to have film on themselves. If you present a video, remember that I am giving you my time in viewing it. Make sure it is professional, preferably from actual performances. A poorly lit or unprofessional video will be tossed and fast! It has to be your best work presented the best way you can. It does not have to be featured performances. One lady turned “walk-ons” and a few lines on ‘Murder She Wrote’ into a great tape!”

   Digital files by e-mail or other submission should only be sent if requested by the casting director. Do not assume they take digital submissions. DVD is the currency, just as CD’s and MPEGs are for audio, but “I will still look at a VHS tape if you have one.”

On Training:
   “The best training is four or more years academic. Acting is the study of the world around you, of people, or events. A well rounded four year degree will give you more than any single acting coach.”

   “This is a young business, so do not put your career on hold while you pursue your education, but do not neglect your education either. There are ways to do both, actors do it every day.”

   “Study life, read, experience things you have never done before, explore the world around you and remember it when it may come in handy for a character, scene or situation.”

    “Actors should continuously study, continuously be working.”

On Casting Directors Who Teach:
    “As a professional I should be paid for my time teaching, but I cannot promise you work. I will know you, have a chance to see you, nothing I do can change that, but that does not mean you will be right for something now or remembered when the right role comes across my table.”

   There has been much controversy within the CSA and in the California legislature over the implications of a casting director teaching, primarily that there is an implied but unspoken promise of the potential of a role. No such potential exist, according to Reich, unless you are right to the part and even then “I am more likely to find you by seeing a play or from your previous work than from coming to a class I may be teaching.”

   Reich says casting directors can offer an actor the opportunity to look at themselves through a casting director’s eye, and indicate areas to work on, scene study and some insight into character. But Reich cautions that just because someone gets a job as a casting director, that does not mean they know how to teach or that they understand the craft of acting.

   “But I am very good at both.” he jokes.
On The Interactive Future.
   We are entering a new age for actors, according to veteran casting director Reich, the interactive age. Reich whose interactive experience includes casting and production supervision of “Netrunner.”  “Netrunner” utilized 85 actors and several hundred extras in a Hollywood motion picture style interactive game format.

   Interactive games and the technology they create will mean more work for actors throughout the country, including Las Vegas. Unlike motion pictures, they are not star driven. “The game and not the actor marquee value are what makes the cash register ring,” relates Reich. The real boom will be in voice work and performance capture. The wall may come from low cost talent and production pools.

   “Improvisation and strong short term memory are skills for the future actor, as technology not only makes it possible to try new things, but to do them live or as if they were live, without fear of a loss of quality.”

    “The producers need better actors, who can improvise, read the same lines with multiple meanings and emote along multiple story paths, or dialogue trees.”

   For example, depending on the actions of the person playing the game, an actor may respond “yes”, “no” or “maybe” sending the player and the actor into an entirely different chain of events, entirely new scenes. This means more dialogue, more action and more work for actors.

   Most interactive has been in high tech and high special effects genres, but that is changing as the technology matures.

   SAG has an interactive contract, with Reich indicating that the union will strengthen the contract with each new negotiation. “You have to start somewhere and SAG was the first union in the industry to start with a base contract.”

Changes In How We Do Business
  “The industry is becoming more and more mechanized, computerized, automated and less and less human.”

   As younger casting directors begin to dominate, the human element and the element of hands on in person relationships will begin to fade. You will only be as good as your actual work, and only considered for work similar to what you already have done. However there may always be the exceptions: casting directors who can think and have a vision of potential well beyond what is on your reel or on your photographs.

   Reich sees fast moving changes in how casting directors do business and how actors will have to function in the technology age. Already video reels are replacing or required with photographs for many roles, letter perfect computer generated resumes and polished production broadcast quality audio and video demos have become part of the required actors sales tools.

    When working as a staff casting director at Universal Studios in the 1960’s and 1970’s, Reich said he was allowed to be creative. There was the time and incentive for casting professionals to attend plays, interview newcomers and new faces and to work with the talent. Casting directors were a part of the creative process.

   “In the 60’s, it was you and the director, and if you had a good relationship the director would allow you many choices and a great deal of creative control,” says Reich, “But in the 1970’s came the producers and the corporate types, increasing into the 80’s until on some projects you have to deal with as many as twenty decision makers after you have presented the actors you feel are right for the roles.”

    Even though he uses computer bulletin boards, and is on “the Vine”, Reich will not use such services in the casting process because he feels it is dehumanizing. On a practical side, he says, why should he need computer photographs  “when I already have more than my files can handle and receive more every day.”   Making decisions by computer bulletin boards, committees, by resume and film credits are becoming more and more common. It’s not what an actor can do but what you have done. When you add videoconferences and high-speed computer transmission, it will not be how talented an actor is at their craft but how many of the tools they can afford and how well they know how to use them.

On Agents:
    “I don’t understand an agent who submits more than the required two or three people for a role. Shotgun agents do not get called again. It works against their actors to be caught in the middle of the mob.”

     Being an agent is about relationships, about how the agent, who works for the actor, interacts with the casting director, who is “middle management” for the producer. A good agent will know if you are right for a part and know enough to take a chance if they feel the casting director is open to alternatives.”

On Managers:
   “Management contracts are bull! You have to be aggressive. You are better off spending your money on cold reading workshops.”

    Reich reminds actors that cold reading is key to landing the job and in television and interactive, your ability to do the job once you are hired.

    While acknowledging the occasional need for professional management, Reich indicates that the professional managers are few and far between.

   “We keep a list on who these so called managers are and if they are on your resume, I will toss it! You will not get in the door.”

Showcases and Generals:
    Showcasing remains a positive way to be seen and potentially “discovered”.
   Each casting director is different in how they approach viewing talent. Reich says he no longer has time to see entire plays or stay for entire showcases, but he may show up for one act or for a few scenes if time permits. He will interview talent he finds interesting or feels has potential.

    “We all want to be the casting director who discovers the next rising star. It may not be practical, but it is a matter of ego and pride.”

   “Generals” is the industry term for when a casting director views talent he or she may not be particularly in the market for, but whose photo and resume grabbed their attention. Reich tries to do this on a weekly basis. He is open to photograph submission.

On the union:

   Without the union there would be no professional work, and even the potential to earn a living, much less become successful financially, would disappear. Join both SAG and AFTRA, and if you qualify join Equity. In the eyes of a casting director being a member of the unions is the first step to being committed to your craft and the road to being professional talent.

Twelve Points of View
From Casting Director
Joe Reich

1. Casting Directors are middle management, not agents.

2. Casting Directors “audition” for jobs just like you do.

3. Casting Directors should be “actor friendly”.

5. Be an “applicant” not a “supplicant.”

6. Always do the best that you can, it’s your audition time.

7. Your Agent works for you.

8. Do not use Talent Managers.

9. Invest in your “sales tools”.

10. Invest in your “craft”.

11. Taking a Casting Director’s class is not the same as an audition. You are not being considered for work, you are working!

12. Stay on top of new technology, it is the future.

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