It's 3 a.m. the Monday following the big game and while many are out still celebrating the awesome finish, this photographer was hard at work. Except this morning I wasn't wearing the hat of photographer, but that of the casting director. You see, I remember the days, though not too long ago, that you would have to go into an agency and ask to see their talent files to find a prospective model or two. Or you could call up the agent, give him or her the demographic of model you wanted, and in 48 hours, there would be a stack of comp cards or dossiers for you to sift through. There were many different ways to even accomplish this. Some placed all the head shots on the table and see which ones stood out, others flipped through the binders for a detailed inspection and then there were those who would just throw them up and whatever jumped out off the floor was their model. Luckily today, we do not have to go through such tactics… often. Many agencies today keep their databases online. This makes it great for the casting directors, but also for the talent at that agency. A casting director can go on there and see many faces at once, or narrow down only to a few. I won't mention the agency that I was reviewing, but I was very impressed with the layout of the profiles and the ability to not only see their portfolio, voice overs, and video reels, but even listing whether or not the talent was union eligible or SAG. Depending where the project is being shot, this is very crucial information. As I was reviewing though, I came across a few good prospects that would probably have gotten looked over because of their profiles. While in the end, it is the casting director who determines what a "perfect" profile is, there are some things that help more than hurt.
This has been touched on many times before. A good head shot is make or break. It is often what gets a casting agent to look deeper into a profile. My preference has always been a frontal look. I want to see what symmetry the talent has or if anything is "off." Orientation in the shot, whether slanted or straight, is also another preference item, as well as whether or not black and white or color. What is usually not up for debate is the need for this image to be good if not GREAT!
Depending on market and purpose, other shots that should be included are full body or ¾ shots. When a caster looks at a profile that has mostly head shots and upper body, the first thing that goes through their mind is that this person has something to hide. The last place a caster wants to find out something is in the casting room. Make it easier for them to hire you by giving them the information they desire. Also for men and women, these full body shots DO NOT have to be in underwear. They can be in swimsuits, athletic gear, or anything that would show the true shape of the talent. Also try to get your images to reflect not only the jobs that you have done, but the jobs that you want to do.
One thing that is great with these new profiles is that you can submit an audio recording of yourself, giving you more opportunities to get work. Think of the voices of Bart and Lisa Simpson, compared to those of Buzz Lightyear or Mufasa? Such dynamic ranges of voices are only surpassed by the range of needs. Some tips for the voice over.
- Practice live reads. If possible read the script 2-3 times in your head before saying it out loud.
- When practicing, read phrases and sentences that deal with alliteration and repeating sounds. Such as: The orange choo-choo train traveled down the track, or The Irish wrist watch wears well in Wellington.
- Emphasize the correct parts of the text with not only amplitude but timing as well.
- Above all, ANNUNCIATE. Pronounce each part of the words as you say them.
Video reals are great! This is probably one of the best tools that a casting agent has to immediately assess a talent at one time. The caster can see what that person looks like in motion, get a feel of how that person's presence is on screen or film, and also able to hear that talent's voice all at the same time. With such powerful tools, it can also go wrong very quickly. Here are some tips when it comes to video reels, dealing with monologues and introductions.
- BE BRIEF! When all possible, try to keep the monologue to under 60 seconds, 30 is best. This is your "elevator speech" of sorts, so time is of the essence. You do not want the viewer to become bored and for the reel to become monotonous.
- There really shouldn't be any music while you are talking. And if you do choose to play music, then make it the Battle hymn of the Republic…. On second thought, let's leave the music out altogether.
- If you are going to do a longer monologue from a reading. When all possible, memorize the lines. There is nothing more distracting than seeing the subject's eyes shifting from right to left, or even worse, looking hard off-screen to see the next line.
- Be well lit. Get a $40 video light or work lamp from a hardware store if need be, but try to make you look as flattering as possible.
I hope this helps a little. If you have any other tips, or even questions, feel free to comment. Thanks.