Conspiracy of Yes
by Bonnie Gillespie
When you think about all of the factors that go into casting a single role, it becomes clear that it's a conspiracy of events that lead to a YES.
Let's see... there's the breakdown going out in a place you have access to it, for starters. Assuming you have no representation out there pitching you on projects that come through "the real Breakdowns," that means the project needs to show up on Actors Access (or any of the places I covered in Agent-Free Auditioning) or your personal networking needs to have landed the project on your radar despite its absence from Actors Access or other legitimate direct-to-actors project listing services.
And if you do have representation (yay, you), that means you need those folks who rep you to see the breakdown, think of you, and submit (or even pitch--again, yay, you) you on the appropriate role. And then that submission needs to be seen by the casting director who put out the breakdown.
Easier said than done.
Just looking at submissions on A Long Tomorrow, we've received 13,389 submissions via electronic submissions at Breakdown Services and Actors Access, as of this moment. That's over thirteen thousand submissions in just two months. (Most of 'em arrived in the first week, as instructed, of course.)
Okay, so let's assume your headshot has made it to the computer screen on a project someone is casting. What are the odds your submission is given any sort of quality time, as page after page of thumbnails cross in front of us? The odds are better if your submission comes from an agent or manager with whom we have a great relationship, or if we already have experience with you (positive experience, of course) via previous audition, networking encounter, marketing efforts on your part, or even our online awareness of you and your work. Obviously, if your look is a slam-dunk for the role, you'll stay in the mix through that first pass.
At this point, you've already crossed a few hurdles: awareness of the project, submission on the appropriate role, and now acknowledgement by us that you're in the mix. Even now, it could turn out that you're not right for the part, or we've already cast the part by the time you've gotten on our radar, or they've written the part out, or the project's funding has fallen out, or the union status of the film now prevents you from participating, or the role now calls for nudity and that's not your thing, or any number of other issues we could attempt to predict.
So, let's say none of that stuff has happened (but still, respect that it could, as we're calculating the conspiracy of yes, here) and somehow you've made it farther than another several hundred (or several thousand) actors to stay in the mix with a few dozen who will be more seriously reviewed. Now, if you're at this point not due to an existing relationship (yours or that of your agent or manager--which would put you ahead without as much of the "little stuff" I'm about to mention), that means your look is right on. Your credits inspire confidence in us that you'd be low-risk on this role. The work on your demo reel lines up with what we need on this project. You're a good match for someone we've already cast. Everything is lining up enough that the thought of an audition for you isn't too far-fetched.
Yeah, I called all of that "little stuff," and it's not. Not at all. It's all a part of the conspiracy of yes, and we're not even at the yes, yet! We're just at the "you're still in the mix and we're just now scheduling auditions" stage of things.
Okay, so you get the call that you have an audition. Awesome! More with the "yay, you" of it all. Assuming you're the type to do all the right things, in terms of actor prep (which means you research the team on this project via the trades, IMDb-Pro, Casting About, and good ol' Google; get your sides--or, better yet, an entire copy of the script--and get to reading; and begin making creative choices about your audition way in advance of walking into the room), you help yourself toward your yes with each of those bits. Of course, you also make sure your schedule can accommodate the audition; get off work if you have to; switch a shift. Find out where the audition is and, if you've never been there before, find out how to get there, where to park, and whether you need coins for the meter or on-lot access granted ahead of time. Plan for how long it's going to take you to get there. Check Sig Alert to be sure you know what the traffic is generally like at the time of day of your audition, if you have enough days ahead of the audition to research that.
Phew! Exhausted yet? You haven't even entered the room!
So you do that. Yay, you! You found your way there, you made it on time, you've shown up prepared and ready to rock. You signed in, you made it through any waiting room games your colleagues are playing, and you didn't let anything shake you when you walked in the room. And that means stuff like a change in sides, a change in character description, a change in whether you're being taped or not, a change in who's in the room during your read, a change in the location of the audition itself--any of that!
And then you do a good job. You have fun; you don't suck. Best possible audition you can have, since you've shown us your work and your work was good.
More conspiracy going on: Allllll of that goes right and you're also the perfect type. There was no awkward small talk (or if there were, it went unnoticed by the folks who you worry you offended). You don't look like the producer's ex. Your talent, your choices, your chemistry, your work, your type all lines up. And even though there are several people on the creative team who have a favorite, you're the one who comes out on top. You get the offer. The role is yours.
Ah, not so fast.
Then there's the schedule, the negotiating of the deal itself. The terms and the timing can be some of the biggest elements of the conspiracy of yes! This stuff is where casting falls through many times. And you may never even know it.
Let's say everything works out. You're free during the shoot. It pays what your team agrees you need to be paid for this type of work. You sign off and begin packing for your trip to location, or your trip to the lot for a one-day guest. Whatever.
Point is, you booked it. Time to celebrate!
Now, I'm not even getting into conspiracy of staying in the project. Not getting cut before you shoot, or after. Or of staying the project but having the role rewritten and suddenly much smaller than what you'd agreed to accept. To even begin going into the myriad things that keep an actor in a part would be a "part two" to this week's column.
Here's what I want you to take away from all this:
It takes a huge conspiracy of many, many things for anyone to get a YES in this business. For an actor to be cast, for a show to be picked up, for a film to be greenlit, for an agent to land a top client, for an exec to be named a studio head. It's a conspiracy of too many things to even calculate sometimes. Think that through--and I mean all the way through--just once and then find away to stay grateful forhowever far you get in the process, every single time. It's a miracle anyone ever gets their "big break" in this town.
And because of that, I suggest that you just go on ahead and enjoy every single little break along the way. Wouldja?