My Agent Didn't Tell Me
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Kim Swanson's POV: Missouri
Kim Swanson is a repeat contributor to The Actors Voice: POV and, here again, she has brought us a great list of tips for actors who want to be professional at any level, regardless of geography. So often, actors show up and throw their reps under the bus for whatever it is they don't show up bringing, knowing, or doing. Tsk, tsk. With this list of MUSTS, the agent or manager isn't even a factor. All of this is already a part of the professional actor's toolkit.
My Agent Didn't Tell Me
"But no one told me to..." is a common theme I hear over and over, even out of the mouths of some of the most seasoned, professional actors. Well, here are a few things you can never claim, "no one ever told you," because from here on out, this will be information you will live by. Hopefully, this will be a simple refresher for you and this little checklist will just boost your confidence, because you already do all of these things.
1. ALWAYS take MULTIPLE copies of your headshot and resumé with you to each and every audition and shoot. It doesn't matter if your agent already sent it over. It doesn't matter if you got the audition because the client has everything electronically. It doesn't matter if this is a callback--or your second or third callback--and you've brought them with you to every audition before. You spent time, energy, and money on those fabulous headshots, so use them. They are one of your absolute most effective marketing tools. When you walk into an audition room and ask, "How many copies of my headshot and resumé would you like," you just informed everyone in the room that you are professional and on top it. This is part of YOUR JOB. (And, you should ALWAYS have spare copies in your car, just in case you get a last-minute call.)
2. Have a monologue prepared. Actually, have two. More often than not, casting directors, directors, and clients are more interested in your audition with their script, however, in those instances when you are asked to give a monologue, you don't want to be the one actor who doesn't have one (or two) ready to go. When you select a monologue, choose something that suits your general look and type, as the jobs you will audition for suit that, as well. When selecting monologues, it is wise to have one which is dramatic and one which is more comedic. If you are having difficulty selecting something, ask your agent's advice and direction. Never choose a well-known scene, or a scene from the same show you are auditioning for. I guarantee the direction you give yourself will not be the exact same as what the director would give. You'll spin your wheels trying to read their mind and figure out how they would want you to read it.
3. Update your headshot AT LEAST every two years. (If you are under 18, update more often.) Handing over a headshot that is more than two years old tells the client that you don't believe in your abilities and talent enough to invest in yourself, so why should they?
4. Keep extra clothes in your car. These should be things that are appropriate for auditions which also look good on camera, and should be items that don't detract from you or slot you into only one type of specific role. It's a terrible feeling when you know you don't look your best and are on your way to an audition, or you get a call from your agent for a last-minute opportunity, and you don't have time to go home to change. And, you certainly don't have time to rifle through the laundry basket for something to iron so you look sharp.Click "read more" to read the remaining pointers and learn more about Kim.
5. Ask for sides (script, dialogue, copy) in advance. There are different thoughts on whether or not you should memorize copy in advance, but regardless of your preference, you absolutely should be strongly familiar with it. If you aren't going to memorize in advance, you'd better be amazing with your cold reading skills, or you won't be considered. If the casting director has asked that lines be memorized in advance, then DEFINITELY memorize in advance. You are an actor. If you can't memorize, then you are in the wrong business. The best tool you have to express with are your eyes, and if they are looking down on a piece of paper, rather than up at your partner (or to camera if the CD requests that), you are killing yourself in that audition.
6. Don't send gifts to casting directors. More often than not, they aren't welcome. We don't like feeling bribed, and we don't like being in the position of sending them back. It's a time-consuming hassle, and we don't want to hurt your feelings. A simple thank-you note is perfect.
7. Assume the director has no imagination. In other words, don't go to an audition in your work clothes from the part-time construction job and expect they can envision you clean-shaven in a suit. They can't. Why do you think stars get cast in the same types of roles over and over? It's because directors and audiences have a difficult time seeing them any other way. This does not mean that when you audition as the executive that you need to be in a three-piece suit with brand new shoes, however, a shirt and tie would definitely help them see you in business much more easily than those sweatpants and running shoes.
8. Arrive EARLY. Arriving at your actual call time or audition appointment time is NOT on time in this industry. Just as you never know if a shoot will run over, you never know if it will be ahead of schedule, or, perhaps there is a last-minute change in the shot list or location due to weather or other unforeseen circumstances. Arrive early and be prepared to PATIENTLY wait. It's a simple way to stamp "professional" and "easy to work with" next to your name. I personally recommend arriving at least a half-hour early. A little down time to breathe can only help your mindset before you audition or shoot, and you want every advantage you can get.
Above all, ask questions. Don't assume anything. When in doubt, over prepare. Better yet, ALWAYS over prepare. Would you like to be the one actor who saved the day for a casting director or director because you thought ahead? Do you want to be the one actor on set who gets asked back for another day, or even another shoot with the director, producer, or casting director because you were such a dream to have around? Of course you do! Just go be that person. Take command of your own career and don't EVER say, "but my agent didn't tell me."
This is great, Kim. Thank you. Wonderful reminders, whatever the market, for the most part. I particularly love this phrase, about all pro tips you've shared: "It's a simple way to stamp 'professional' and 'easy to work with' next to your name." Yes! And I just the other day tweeted about the importance of under-promising and over-delivering. It's such a good idea to be over-prepared, as you suggested, because you can never know what's going to be expected of you, nor what conditions you're going to walk into (even if you have worked with this particular crew before). That constant sense of adventure is part of what makes this career so much fun, isn't it? Yay!
About Kim Swanson
As a performer, Kim Swanson began performing as a dancer at the age of four. She studied dance with the most respected master instructors in the field of dance and went on to dance with several dance companies including "Jazz Works," "La Troupe de Jazz," "The Company," "The Toledo Ballet," "L' Jazz," and "Giordano Dance Company." She continued her stage career, appearing in George M! and A Chorus Line. She also appeared in several national television commercials, print ads, and on film. After working as a professional dancer and actress, she opened The Studio, Inc., one of the most respected dance training facilities in the St. Louis metropolitan area, which is currently in its 18th dance season. The first two projects Kim completed casting for won Emmy Awards. Since then, she became the first casting director in the state of Missouri to become a member of the CSA. She has completed casting for international feature film projects--the first of which earned best movie, best actor, and best actress awards in Beijing--music videos, national television commercials, and print advertisements, having completed casting for more than 200 projects. In addition, she has become an advocate of young talent, and assisted many in their pursuit for ethical representation within the film community. Hanson Entertainment Industries, Inc., currently maintains a database list of more than 4500 talent. For more information about Kim Swanson, please visit CastingByKim.com.
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