Where Do I Find Auditions?

A working actor helps you get work

Archive for February, 2014

Jason Buyer interview

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Hi Everyone,

This interview was supposed to be included in the last update but it doesn’t seem to have made it based on some of your feedback.  If you DID get this interview in your download, please let me know at david@wheredoifindauditions.com

In the meantime, enjoy this interview with former CD Jason Buyer that I really learned a lot from!

 

Jason Buyer – www.jasonbuyer.com

Bio
The Casting Playhouse offers private one-on-one mock audition technique classes as well as group classes for all levels.  The Casting Playhouse not only teaches audition technique, but self-confidence and control in uncomfortable yet realistic audition situations.  Meet Jason Buyer, the CEO of The Casting Playhouse, now in NYC.  Jason began casting extras and commercials in his home town of Chicago, Illinois, nearly twenty years ago.  His casting background and experience is extensive.  Jason was the senior casting coordinator at Warner Bros. TV, the casting associate at UDK Casting (Ulrich/Dawson/Kritzer), and the former casting associate at Weber and Associates Casting at MGM, working on and casting dozens of pilots and episodic television shows in Los Angeles.  Jason continues to stay true to his roots, completing principal casting for the Columbia College and UCLA Directing & Writing Programs as well as the webseries, ‘The Consultants,’ and the pilot presentation, ‘Odds On The Acts,’ from creator Chris Bearde.  Jason has also been the invited keynote speaker at numerous universities, Ohio State University, The University of Cincinnati, The University of Georgia, Clemson University, Columbia College, Chicago, Valparaiso University, The New School of Drama, Stonestreet Studios, etc. conducting marketing seminars for their graduating seniors and theatre students.  Jason is also an adjunct professor for Columbia College, Chicago, running the Semester In LA Acting Program.  He currently teaches adult classes at Anthony Meindl’s Actor Workshop & Weist Barron Acting Studios in New York.  Jason’s book, Inside The Audition Room: The Essential Actors Handbook For Los Angeles is available at Samuel French Bookstores in LA, Amazon.com, and The Drama Bookshop in NY.

 

Were there any other ways aside from having representation that an actor could get in front of you?

 

Most of the time auditions would come from submitting or pitching an actor into our office.  I would say ninety percent of the time an agent or a manager would submit or pitch an actor for a pre-read appointment.  I did have my own workshop files when I was a guest, so cold reading workshops is another way to get in the door.  When I first moved to LA, casting was not done online.  There was a one day break between getting the breakdown completed and releasing it to the agents and managers.  Now everything can be done online, and a breakdown can be done pretty quickly, at a moment’s notice.  In a pinch, I would go through my file of workshop actors and bring them in, if they fit the role.

 

Were there any other ways you’d meet new talent aside from representatives or cold reading workshops?

 

I would see a play or attend a showcase every once in a while.  However, no one really cares too much about seeing theater on the West Coast.  School showcases are great, but then there are the (non-school) showcases where an actor pays a flat rate to perform.  School or class showcases are the way to go.

 

Referrals are huge.  If I know your work, or if an actor friend of mine can vouch for you, there’s a good chance we will take the risk and bring you in to audition, or even meet you for a general meeting, just to get to know you.  Casting directors will usually find the time to pre-read an actor.  If the actor is horrible it won’t matter.  You will just wasting my time, and it will be a long time before I bring you back.  But if the actor is horrible in front of the producer or director, that makes me look bad.  So anytime I would call someone in from a workshop, it was always be for a pre-read first even if I have seen your work previously.  Even if you blew me away at a workshop, I’d still bring you in to read for me first.  You can be a great workshop actor, but mixed in with a bunch of other actors who have series regulars and guest star credits on their resume – you might not be as good as I had originally thought.  I won’t take the chance.  It doesn’t hurt me to pre-read you first.

 

What do actors who get a lot of callbacks have in common?

 

Most of the actors who get called back did a really good job of owning the room while making specific choices with the material.  I talk a lot about not giving away your power.  Every actor has a lot of power walking into the room, so even though we are auditioning you, try and turn the tables a bit and make it feel as if you are auditioning us.  Take control of your power:  make sure you’re not apologizing all the time.  Make sure you’re not asking us to do it a second time.  Make sure you’re not judging your work as you are working.  These are all things that we see from the casting side.  It’s quite obvious when you have given up your power.  We don’t think, “I’m going to give this person six thousand dollars for a guest spot for a week because he seems nice.”  The character probably isn’t fearful – the actor may be.  A lot of it may come down to allowing yourself to feel comfortable in an uncomfortable situation or setting.  It’s certainly not easy to do.  You don’t always have to be the best actor to book the job, but it certainly helps.  Sometimes it can just be about type.  Although he may not be the strongest actor we have seen that day, the director might choose him because he fits the part physically.

 

What do actors who get a lot of bookings have in common?

 

Besides the fact that they all have excellent representation (agent and manager), they come in with strong choices.  You don’t necessarily have to give a repeat performance of your original read.  Try to keep it fresh without giving me something new.  Use what you brought in to the original reading.  You did get called back after all.  We probably don’t want to see a carbon copy of what you just did because it’s going to feel stale.  Keep it honest and engaging.  Own your choices and just surrender.  In the producer’s session, it’s pretty clear who books the job and who doesn’t.  It might come down to one or two top choices, but it becomes pretty clear to the people in the room – the director, writer, producer –who’s going to get the job.

 

Why is it harder to find legit auditions than commercial ones?

 

When casting commercials, we are looking for real people.  It doesn’t necessarily matter if you are a union or non-union actor for a commercial because a commercial CD can and will Taft-Hartley* an actor and get him into the union.  Commercially, we will most likely see you even if you aren’t in the union.  For film and television, we bring in roughly ten to twelve people for the producers to see.  Six to eight people for a co-star.  A casting director might pre-read ten, twenty, fifty people if he has time to do so, all based on your representation and the union status of the project.  If you are a non-union actor who is submitted for a union project, you may not get the opportunity to audition.  If you a non-union actor who gets the rare opportunity to read for a union project and you end up being the choice that for that role, it’s possible we will end up going to our second choice because you are non-union.  Again commercially, we don’t really care.  The other problem is that more and more feature film actors are doing television which makes it more difficult for everyone (except for the actor who has the offer).  You will have to be with one of the better agencies to even get the opportunity to audition for a major feature film.  Audition information for major feature films may not even be released through the breakdowns.  Casting directors will just call the top talent agencies and managers and ask who they have that fits the breakdown.

 

Sounds discouraging.

 

It is.  Just know that your representation does matter, especially in the world of film and television.  In Los Angeles, you can have only one theatrical agent, one commercial agent, one print agent, one voice over agent, etc.  They can all be from the same agency, but only one of each.  In New York and Chicago, you can freelance with many different agencies.

 

So even if you have several tv credits, unless you have better representation, it’s harder to get in the room?

 

Credits certainly help.  Having a great reel will help.  But it will always be harder getting in the room without good representation, either by an agent, a manager, or both.

 

Is there one direction or note you find yourself giving a lot to beginning actors or actors in general?

 

It depends if you are asking me as an acting coach or casting director.  When I cast, I don’t bother to look and see who represents you.  I’ll read you regardless of who you’re with as long as you physically look the part.  I know that I will be able to work with you and give you exact notes, based on what I need.  I always know what makes up a good audition and what seems lacking, and I can easily express what I need.  I feel like there are so many actors that are so focused on what they have to do that they stop listening and being in the present.  I think the best advice I can give any actor is to make sure that the story is the most important thing.  Let go of what you have to do as an actor, and allow yourself to be in it – be in the now.  If you make the story the most important thing, you won’t worry about remembering your lines or if you messed up.  Listen and stop judging your work as you are working.  Stay in the scene and enjoy your new reality.  You don’t need to make it so difficult.

 

Can you give a specific example of actors putting the story before themselves?

 

Actors get in their heads all the time, always thinking about what they have to do.  So much so that they stop listening.  If you can just allow yourself to be in the situation that you are in and not worry so much about memorizing your lines or cue words that trigger your response, then you will be in much better shape in the audition room.  Try to let go of control and live in the unknown.  As an audience, we want to feel connected to something.  It’s really about staying true to what is happening now.  A casting director is an audience first.  If you’re so focused on what you have to do as an actor – whether you’re going to get the job, or how you are going to pay your rent… all of that acting bullsh-t that comes from inside your head (This isn’t what the character is thinking, after all), then your audition isn’t going to go very well.

 

Is there one thing you wish you could magically stop all actors from doing in auditions, or have them do?

 

Anytime you leave the audition room and then come back and ask do it again, I think that’s a huge “no”.  I’ve probably read 10,000 actors to date, and I’ve never had an actor come back into the audition room, read again and actually book the job.  It’s never happened.

 

You mean they literally left the room and asked to come back in?

 

Yes.

 

How many people do that?

 

I’ve probably seen a dozen or so.  Not a lot but it happens.  Most of the time the actor is asking to come back in because in his brain he is thinking that he could have done a better job.  It’s just one of those acting things that almost every actor does.  You’ve just got to let it go! Love your work and be okay with the choices you have made.  Don’t always think that it will be better the second time around.  Most people don’t get a second chance.  Be great the first time.

 

Another pet peeve of mine is when an actor erases the punctuation on the paper.  It drives me crazy!  Some actors tell me that their old acting teacher told them not pay attention to the punctuation on the paper.  It’s not about you and what you want to do.  It’s about the story and moving the story forward.  If you take out the punctuation in a half-hour sitcom audition, you probably will kill every single joke.  The script is the blue print for what the writers are looking for.  We want you to be free and creative within the confines of the story.  Drives me nuts – and makes no sense.

 

An actor once told me in a seminar she was teaching that actors should put a button on the end of a script.  Like a last little tagline, I guess to be more memorable.  Is that a ‘no, no’ or is that good advice for legit?

 

I think it’s a great piece of advice for commercials.  I don’t think it will work when you are auditioning for film and television.  I don’t think it will hurt you though.  If you are putting a tag line at the end of a television or film audition, you’re basically done.  It may even lighten the mood.  Commercially I know it works, not sure about using it with your theatrical auditions, however.

 

Any other advice to new actors or to actors in general?

 

It’s a business.  I would recommend every actor volunteer at a casting office once a week to learn about how the business works.  Everyone needs free help these days.  A lot of actors feel like if they go to school, they take a class, and they have a headshot, they are ready.  A lot of actors are also hesitant on seeking outside advice because all you need is one job to call yourself an actor – even if it’s extra work.  I feel like the more knowledgeable you are about the business, the smarter career decisions you will make moving forward.  I learned a ton just as a casting assistant from sitting in the audition room and taping all of the auditions.  It was great seeing all of these huge celebrities coming in and auditioning.  Your business needs to be an equal combination of marketing and talent.

 

What is the craziest thing you’ve seen someone do in an audition?

 

Well, this wasn’t in an actual audition, but there was somebody who came into our casting office who dropped off a pizza with a headshot attached inside the box.  The actor hand delivered it and said, “I’d love to be called in.  Is there anything I can do?  Can I do your laundry?” I’ve been fortunate, and although I’ve seen actors make hundreds of mistakes inside the room, I’m lucky that I haven’t seen anything crazy.  I would just remind actors not to come across as desperate.  I did a cold reading workshop in Los Angeles several years ago and read this actress who I thought was pretty good, but who didn’t blow me away.  I had no plans of keeping her headshot or bringing her in to audition in a pinchI just wasn’t blown away that day.  That was Octavia Spencer.  OopsYou just never knowShe won an Academy Award for The Help.  She’s doing really well for herself – clearly she didn’t need me to bring her in.  A long time ago, we cast a show called ‘Soldier of Fortune’ and brought in a bunch of people to read for the role of the clerk.  There must have been five or six lines, and one of the girls I brought in was Selma Blair.  She wasn’t a big star at the time, but as soon as she was done with her audition, I knew she was going to book it – which she did.  She was very confident in the room and made great choices for a role that had a couple of lines.

 

Anything else, maybe about representation….?

 

At the end of the day, it won’t matter who is representing you as long as they are doing their job and getting you out.  Are you getting the opportunities to succeed?  There are some big actors who are with smaller agencies.  When I was starting out in casting, one of the guys we used to bring in all the time was Bryan Cranston.  He was with the House of Representatives for a very long time.  He always did great work and was always respectful.  He’s now with United Talent Agency – but at the time he had a great relationship with a smaller agency, and his agent got him out all the time.  It’s just so important to have someone who really believes in you.  This could be an agent or a manager.  Maybe both.  You just need the opportunity to showcase what you can do.

 

*from the SAG-AFTRA website:  “The Taft-Hartley Act is a US Federal labor law enacted by Congress in 1947.  As it relates herein, the law allows a signatory producer to hire a non-union performer if that non-union performer possesses a quality or skill essential to the role and an available union performer with the needed quality or skill cannot be found.  When hiring a non-union performer for a SAG-AFTRA covered role, you must submit to the union a Taft-Hartley report with the performer’s information, the reason for hire and the performer’s headshot.”

Written by David Levin

February 21st, 2014 at 4:35 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

FREE Download available

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After a little initial calendar confusion, the ebook of “Where Do I Find Auditions?” is available for free on Amazon from now until midnight Monday Feb. 3.  You need a Kindle app to read it which you can download for free to almost any device here:  http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?docId=1000493771

And here’s the link to the book itself:  http://www.amazon.com/Where-Do-I-Find-Auditions-ebook/dp/B00AXRBN1K/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1391371330&sr=1-1&keywords=where+do+i+find+auditions

Feel free to share with some actor friends you know but maybe not EVERYONE you know cause then the world will become flooded with actors!

If you find the book helpful and want to leave a review on Amazon, that would be great.

Thanks and enjoy!

David

Written by David Levin

February 2nd, 2014 at 3:06 pm

Posted in Uncategorized