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Friday, February 6, 2015

6 Tips for Making the Small Roles Count

by admin

Coming off the heels of the critically acclaimed “Wild,” here’s some advice from Lana on making the small roles count, courtesy of Backstage.

Lana Veenker CSAWhen our office was hired to cast 40 supporting and featured roles in “Wild” (around 30 of which ended up in the final cut), director Jean-Marc Vallée wanted to ensure that each actor fit seamlessly into the fabric of the film, no matter how small the part. If even one actor felt like he or she didn’t belong, it could ruin the mood and the veracity of the film.
His attention to detail paid off. Not only did Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern turn out award-worthy performances, but the supporting cast, culled from talent proposed by casting director David Rubin’s office in L.A. and ours in Portland, has apparently been a frequent topic at Q&As and in the press. Even Bruce Dern said he hadn’t been this touched by a film in 60 years, crediting the entire cast for their performances.

So, how can an actor make the most of an audition for a minor or even non-speaking principal role, like many of the characters in “Wild”?

1. Come prepared. Just because it’s a cinch to memorize two or three lines, doesn’t mean you don’t have to do your homework. A well thought-out backstory will bring depth and originality to your character. And seriously, if you can’t be mostly off book for a handful of lines, you might be in the wrong business.

2. But don’t overdo it. Small roles often convey everyday occurrences or simple objectives. As we sometimes say in our office, “It’s not the movie about COP #3.” Just because you worked out your character’s life history in your preparation, doesn’t mean you need to stretch, “May I see your ID, sir?” into a soliloquy.

Get in, pursue your intention—as if this is something you do every day—and get out. Your homework will infuse your character naturally, without you having to hit us over the head with it.

3. Immediately establish the given circumstances and the moment before. Is it hot? Is it cold? Are you out of breath? Have you just woken up? Did your character just witness a crime? Does this scene pick up in the middle of a conversation or argument? Did you just hike 14 miles in the desert? Bring that into your performance.

4. Be present. You don’t have much time, so really listen and connect with your scene partners. Don’t just wait (im)patiently for your turn to speak, allow their lines to trigger your responses. Practice being in the moment.

5. Bring your A-game. Even the smallest role can generate your next gig. One female actor we hired for “Wild” had an improvised scene with one of the leads, but none of her lines ended up in the final cut. That didn’t stop the director from telling her he wanted to work with her again.

On another project, a director who recently landed his first big feature specifically asked us to read actors we’d cast in his low-budget thriller a year earlier. Their prior faith in him was rewarded with an opportunity to land a juicy role in a well-known franchise.

6. Do your best, then let go. If a realtor shows you a dozen houses, you may like things about each of them, but only one may suit your current situation. Perhaps you need a garage and a quiet street. Next time around, you might want something more central with a bigger yard. It’s all relative.

Likewise, what we’re seeking is the right palette. We’re not judging your acting ability as much as we are identifying an ensemble that best tells the story at hand. That’s out of your control, so just give it your all, thankful to be a part of this amazing industry.

Link to original article.

Casting director Lana Veenker began her career in London and, upon returning to her Northwest roots, founded one of the top location casting companies in the country, Cast Iron Studios.

Her recent projects include “Wild,” starring Reese Witherspoon, four seasons of NBC’s “Grimm,” ten episodes of “The Librarians,” and 64 episodes of “Leverage” for TNT. Gus Van Sant, Robert Benton, Guillermo Arriaga, Catherine Hardwicke, and Tim Robbins are among her past film clients. Commercial accounts include Nike, Apple, and Nintendo, and international campaigns from Shanghai to Santiago.

Veenker is a member of the Casting Society of America and the International Casting Directors Network. She frequently lectures across the U.S. and abroad, most recently at the Finnish Actors’ Union in Helsinki, Amsterdam School of the Arts, the Actors Platform in London, the Acting Studio in Berlin, Studio Bleu in Paris, and Prague Film School.

Veenker has been featured in The Hollywood Reporter, USA Today, MSNBC.com, MTV.com, AccessHollywood.com, and Wired, among others.

 

Friday, October 31, 2014

5 Tips for Thriller, Horror, and Supernatural Auditions

by admin

Auditioning for a spooky thriller or horror film? Embrace the fear and let it fuel your performance. Here’s Lana’s latest Backstage Expert column!

Lana Veenker CSAMy office has subjected our neighbors to a fair amount of screaming, sobbing, and agonizing deaths, after casting for supernatural projects such as Twilight and NBC’s Grimm (76 episodes and counting), thrillers such as Untraceable and Gone, and horror films such as the upcoming Cabin Fever: Reboot. But fear not: We’ve learned what it takes to excel at these types of genre auditions along the way. Enter if you dare….

1. Commit. It’s always important to immerse yourself in the world of the story, and even more critical in genre films and television. The situations and characters may be so outlandish, that it’s essential to truly invest and believe in them in order for the audience to come along for the ride. No matter how over the top the script is, dig deep to find your character’s underlying objectives, hopes, fears, strengths, and weaknesses, so that your performance remains rooted in authenticity. And educate yourself as well: When casting for Grimm we can always tell whether or not actors have seen the show by the way they morph into Wesen (the show’s monsters)…or fail to.

2. Discover. Thriller, horror, and supernatural narratives rely heavily on surprise and suspense, so avoid playing the end of the scene at the beginning, or telegraphing what’s going to happen next. Allow your character (and hence, the audience) to discover as they go along. Is your character the red herring? Don’t give it away by acting suspiciously. Does your character expect a knife-wielding maniac to attack her as she gets into her car? Unless it says so in the script, allow your character to be taken by surprise.

3. Don’t play the obstacle; overcome the obstacle. Novices often try to play emotions and obstacles rather than intentions. But when actors focus on conveying adjectives (happy, sad, angry) instead of verbs (charm, attack, diffuse), their performances suffer and become artificial. No audience can get behind an actor who is mugging, especially not in the exaggerated situations of genre stories, so spend less time thinking about showing, and more on what your character is trying to do under the circumstances. The emotions will take care of themselves. Don’t play fear. Hide or control the fear. If your character limps, don’t play the limp, overcome the limp. Drunks don’t try to act drunk, they try to conceal it, manage it, pursue their goals despite it.

4. Know your archetypes.Villains require strong justifications and backstory for their actions (their need for revenge, attention, power), and likable or intriguing characteristics (charm, humor, intellect) to accomplish them. Note that calm, understated villains can be more frightening than loud, threatening ones (recall Javier Bardem’s chilling character in No Country for Old Men.

When playing the Hero, identify weaknesses you need to overcome in order to grow into the You who can save the day. Pursue objectives with heightened resolve when faced with the unusual and overwhelming obstacles found in genre stories. Root your performance in reality to differentiate yourself from the crazy characters that surround you.

Are you the Victim? Witnesses and innocent victims are usually anchored in realism, whereas victims of stupidity or hubris may present an opportunity to have fun with the character. In either case, don’t be afraid to go for it when your character is supposed to shriek in terror or die a painful death, but do pay attention if the CD is shouting, “Cut, CUT, CUT!!!” We gather pretty quickly that you can scream; we don’t need our neighbors calling the cops.

Authority Figures (detectives, doctors, experts) tend to demand down-to-earth, truthful performances, but identify whether the circumstances that confront them are run-of-the-mill or unusual. Supernatural phenomena may be completely normal in some stories. Weird creature names and terminology should roll off your tongue if your character is used to saying them. Research proper pronunciations (or ask!) before memorizing lines. It’s a dead giveaway to producers that you’ve never seen their show when you can’t pronounce terms common in their scripts.

Playing a Character role? The nosy neighbor, the disheveled hermit, the alien being, the creepy voyeur: These are the kinds of parts that you can really experiment with in genre film and TV. Since you may only get one take in the audition, though, preface by saying, “I’m going to try something fun here, but I can always rein it in, if it’s too over the top.” (This is preferable to asking for a second take.) Be prepared with a very straightforward, understated reading, in case they ask.

5. Use your fear. Auditions are nerve-wracking, so channel that energy into your character. It’s easy to convey fear when you’re already feeling it. Not to mention that a good blood-curdling scream releases tension and helps vent frustration. Relish it!

Link to original article.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

23 Must-Follow L.A. CDs on Twitter

by admin

This week, Lana somewhat curiously made Backstage‘s list of the top Los Angeles-based casting directors to follow on Twitter.

While it’s an unusual honor–seeing that she’s actually based in Portland, Oregon–there are quite a few CDs on this list whom actors may want to track down on Twitter and follow themselves.

(We also spot at least one New York-based CD, but nonetheless, the advice is good!)

Screen Shot 2014-09-20 at 12.17.20 PM

You’re an actor—you already know that the going can get tough. And if you live in L.A., you’re familiar with seeking out the tiniest edge that will slip you ahead of your competitors. To help you find that edge, we’ve compiled a list of 23 must-follow casting directors on Twitter (listed alphabetically below). Whether they’re tweeting about audition tips or just reacting to what they’re watching on TV, their insights can be beneficial. Besides, it doesn’t hurt having your name pop up as a notification in their Twitter account.

1. Amy Jo Berman

Amy Jo Berman is former Vice President of Casting at HBO and for 14 years has overseen the casting of over 150 films, mini-series, and series. She is the founder of Audition Polish, a membership-based audition coaching program that has helped actors around the globe nail their auditions on the first take.

2. Risa Bramon Garcia

Risa Bramon Garcia is partnered with Steve Braun in The BGB Studio, dedicated to revolutionary acting and audition training. For the past 30 years Bramon Garcia has worked consistently as a director, producer, casting director, writer, and teacher, collaborating with some of the most groundbreaking artists in the world.

3. Tracy Byrd

Tracy “Twinkie” Byrd is a Brooklyn-born and raised casting director with more than 24 years of experience in the industry. Byrd has the vision to spot actors who can bring complicated and nuanced story lines from page to motion picture. Her work on the Sundance/Cannes-winning film “Fruitvale Station,” Stomp the Yard,” “The Blind Side,” “Notorious,” “Jumping the Broom,” and “Sparkle” prove as much. Byrd has spent decades channeling her super power of finding the perfect person for every character.

4. Dream Big Casting

Casting Directors Sherrie Henderson & Dan Velez of Dream Big Casting say its misson is, ” … to provide affordable casting with creative passion and the determination to leave “no stone unturned” (as the great Mali Finn used to say), at the level of any other casting director working in Los Angeles today, or anywhere worldwide.”

5. Danielle Eskinazi

Danielle Eskinazi is an award-winning casting director. With more than two decades casting films, television, theater, and commercials, Eskinazi has cast such talent as David Bowie, Rosanna Arquette, and Woody Harrelson, while also launching the careers of now-successful actors including Hank Azaria and Milla Jovovich.

6. Geralyn Flood

From Twitter: “NYer for life, LA for now. Sometimes I cast actors in shows you might watch.”

7. Gohar Gazazyan

Gohar is a Casting Director with Bialy/Thomas & Associates. In her six years with Bialy/Thomas, Gohar has collaborated on the casting of a variety of projects including numerous television series and pilots as well as feature films and theatre.

8. Bonnie Gillespie

Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. She casts SAG-AFTRA indie feature films and series.

9. Jeremy Gordon

Jeremy Gordon is known for his work on “We’re the Millers,” “The Wolverine,” and “Knight and Day.”

10. Ivy Isenberg

From Twitter: “Casting Director living in LA, Credits include TripTank, Call of Duty, ROBOT CHICKEN, STARGATE SG-1, CURSE OF CHUCKY,etc-PROUD TO BE A GEEK !!!! ;)”

11. Matthew Lessall

From Twitter: “Casting Director, lover of film, television, theatre and of course, great acting…”

12. Caroline Liem

Caroline Liem is a casting director, audition coach and teacher based in Los Angeles. She has cast independent films, studio features, and television pilot/series.

13. Marci Liroff

From Twitter: “Casting Director, Producer, Acting Coach, Animal Rights Activist, Social Media Consultant, food lover, & all around cool chick.”

14. Ricki Maslar

Ricki Maslar, CSA is a successful casting director and producer with over thirty five years’ experience in the entertainment industry.

15. Killian McHugh

From Twitter: “Commercial Casting Director / Workshop offered with a unique, effective approach that yields national bookings and exponential self growth.”

16. Helen McCready

From Twitter: “I am an independent casting director for feature film and TV.”

17. Mike Page

From Twitter: “Manager of Casting for TNT & TBS. Just your basic Colorado guy who moved to Hollywood. Haven’t yet given up my faith in humanity. ;)”

18. David Rapaport

Casting Director for “Arrow,” and “The Flash.”

19. Cathy Reinking

From Twitter: “20 Years in the Casting Trenches (Emmy-Winning Network TV, film, theatre, web).”

20. Jen Rudin

Jen Rudin is an award-winning New York based Casting Director and audition coach, and author of the book Confessions of a Casting Director. She owns and operates Jen Rudin Casting which casts for film, television, animation and theater.

21. Russell Scott

Casting Director at Bialy/Thomas & Associates.

22. Stuart Stone Casting

“Stuart Stone Casting has an uncanny ability to find the most engaging, fresh and original talent in any medium.”

23. Lana Veenker

Casting director Lana Veenker began her career in London and, upon returning to her Northwest roots, founded one of the top location casting companies in the country, Cast Iron Studios.

Thanks, Backstage! It’s an honor to be listed in such great company.

Link to original article.

 

Friday, June 27, 2014

13 Travel Tips for Actors

by admin

Today’s expert column for Backstage is close to Lana’s heart. Check out her travel secrets from a lifetime of vagabonding the planet!

Lana Veenker CSAA former expatriate who has traveled extensively over the past 30 years, Casting Director Lana Veenker shares her pointers for actors who wish to embark on—and make the most of—an overseas adventure.

1. Don’t assume it costs a fortune. Most of my life, I traveled on a shoestring. With a little planning—as well as free or low-cost lodging sites like Couchsurfing and AirBnB—it’s possible to travel on a budget. And worth prioritizing, so be creative and make it happen!

2. Network and make friends. Uncover events at your destination through actor organizations or sites like MeetUp, Couchsurfing, and Facebook. Connect with local actors via Twitter or other platforms prior to departure, and you’ll have friends to show you the ropes upon arrival. (Using common sense, of course: safety first!)

3. Take in some history and culture. Gain understanding of your craft by visiting the birthplace of Western theater, Shakespeare’s hometown, or the hallowed grounds of Chekhov, Zeami, Fugard, Beckett, or García Lorca. Prepare for a dream role by immersing yourself in the culture, habits, language, and accent of that character.

4. Get some training. Enroll in a class or workshop while traveling. I’ve dropped in on improv classes in New York City and hired an acting coach in Cambridge to help me polish a Shakespeare monologue. Also use your time abroad to work on other skills: I’ve taken tango and yoga classes in several countries I’ve visited.

5. Attend a theater or film festival. I once saw 39 plays in two weeks at the Edinburgh Festival. I’ve also been to film festivals such as Raindance, TIFF, and the Berlinale. (In fact, I wrote the first draft of this article on a train leaving Cannes!) Not only are festivals great for networking, you can glean knowledge at the Q&As and conferences, and discover fascinating international work.

6. Soak up some shows. Catch some local plays or films. While at theater school in Paris, I would regularly pick up the Officiel des Spectacles from a newspaper kiosk and circle all the free and low-cost productions that week. Many cities have half-price ticket booths for same-day performances, and free open-air cinemas in the summer. Museums and monuments can provide additional inspiration, and many are entrée libre.

7. Learn a language. Whenever I travel, I always try to learn the language. As a result, I speak French and Spanish, and can dabble in a dozen others. Take an immersion course from a native speaker and practice on a daily basis. Hint: Avoid hanging out with anglophones while traveling and force yourself to communicate in the local tongue as best you can. Podcasts and apps like DuoLingo can also help from the comfort of your smartphone.

8. Perfect accents and dialects. Similarly, visiting a foreign country is a brilliant opportunity to refine your accents and dialects. After a decade overseas, I even considered becoming a dialect coach. Those skills have since proven useful in my casting career: I can almost always tell whether or not an actor’s accent is believable!

9. Enjoy some old-fashioned reading and writing. During flights and train rides, unplug from work and social media, and immerse yourself in some quality reading. In India, I read works by Vikram Seth, Khushwant Singh, Mahatma Gandhi, E.M. Forster, and Paul Scott. Indulge in some creative writing, inspired by your escapades. And keep a journal of your travel experiences: they may become fodder for your masterpiece down the road.

10. Visit film and theater schools. Ever considered studying abroad? Drop in on a school to ask about prerequisites, summer programs, tuition, and scholarships. Hint: Talk to students while you’re there to get the inside scoop on the establishment.

11. Find out if you can audition for anything. Without a work permit, it’s difficult to pick up gigs overseas, but back in my actor days, I was able to do TV and theater on my student visa. Do some research and inquire locally about the requirements. If you’re a student or recent grad, check out BUNAC.

12. Talk to expatriates. Thinking of relocating abroad? Seek advice from expats on visas, bureaucracy, job hunting, and living on the cheap. Hint: You could get in trouble if you overstay or try to work on a tourist visa. Use your vacation time to research your target country, then return with the proper paperwork.

13. Track expenses and keep your receipts. As an actor, some of your expenses may be tax-deductible. Seeing “Hamlet” at Shakespeare’s Globe? Clock it as research and ask your accountant which expenses, if any, you can write off. Be sure to keep personal and business expenditures separate.

Link to original article.

Casting Director Lana Veenker began her career in London and, upon returning to her Northwest roots, founded one of the top location casting companies in the country.

Recent projects include “Wild,” starring Reese Witherspoon, NBC’s “Grimm,” which just completed its third season, and 64 episodes of TNT’s “Leverage.” Gus Van Sant, Robert Benton, Guillermo Arriaga, Catherine Hardwicke and Tim Robbins figure among past film clients. Commercial accounts include Nike, Apple and Nintendo, and international campaigns from Shanghai to Santiago.

Lana is a member of the Casting Society of America and the International Casting Directors Network. She frequently lectures across the U.S. and abroad, most recently at the Finnish Actors’ Union in Helsinki, Amsterdam School of the Arts, The Actors Platform in London, The Acting Studio in Berlin, Studio Bleu in Paris and Prague Film School.

Complete her survey to be entered into a contest for a free career consultation here.

She has been featured in The Hollywood Reporter, USA Today, MSNBC.com, MTV.com, AccessHollywood.com, and Wired, among others. Follow her on Twitter @lanaveenker.

Monday, June 9, 2014

8 Tips for Starting a Life and Career in Portland

by admin

Are you an actor considering a move to Portland? Check out Lana’s latest Backstage article, which also appeared in the June 5th print edition!

Lana Veenker CSASo, after hearing all of the buzz about Portland, you’ve decided to relocate to the Rose City. As you settle into your new digs, learn from the locals how to get dialed in to this Northwest acting community. Here are some tips from myself and Portland actors.

JOIN
Become a member of organizations like the Oregon Media Production Association, the Portland Area Theatre Alliance, and the Alliance of Professional Performers Northwest, and participate in their networking events. SAG-AFTRA also holds free events and workshops and has an engaged, active board in Portland (the Portland SAG-AFTRA office recently closed, but the Seattle Local covers both markets).

FOLLOW
Many Portland actors have found industry-related Facebook pages such as Portland Casting Hub, Northwest Actors Network, and Portland Film and Video Networking to be great resources for networking and even finding acting gigs. Be sure to also join the long-running Yahoo Listserv PDXBackstage. It’s mainly geared toward theater actors, but in Portland almost everyone crosses over, so you’ll find useful info even if your primary interest is screen acting.

SEE
Go see plays and films by local companies; you’ll find out who the players are and figure out which ones you want to work with. There’s a strong indie scene in Portland, so there are plenty of opportunities to see works by regional filmmakers. Most actors work on plays between film and TV gigs, so you’ll want to follow the theater scene as well.

TAKE
As soon as you’ve gotten your bearings and determined which school or coach is most suitable for you, take an acting class. Your fellow actors have their ears to the ground about upcoming audition opportunities, and your coach may even be willing to refer you to a talent agent if you’ve got the chops. Plus, it’s always best to keep your tools sharp. Portland may be small, but it’s still competitive!

GIVE
Volunteering for the Oregon Media Production Association or for the various local film festivals, such as the Northwest Filmmakers’ Festival, the Portland Oregon Women’s Film Festival, and the Portland Film Festival, can earn you brownie points with industry pros and help build valuable relationships. Cast Iron Studios frequently participates in charity events, such as our annual Meals for Monologues in December.

DO
If you’re new to town and you want to get seen by the decision makers, you need to be doing theater and indie projects, especially if you’re short on credits. Agents and CDs will soon find out who you are if your name keeps popping up in theater programs and in the end titles of local films and Web series.

DON’T
If you’re relocating from L.A., don’t bring any Hollywood attitude or spin with you. It won’t fly in Portland, where people place value on authenticity and the work. If you’re a jerk, word will spread very quickly in a town this size. Not to mention just because someone spent time in Los Angeles, it doesn’t mean they’re necessarily a better actor.

BE
Be open, be willing to pitch in, and become a part of what we’re trying to build outside of the system, and your efforts will be rewarded. Armed with solid training and credits, thoughtful and professional networking efforts, and a willingness to participate and give back to the community, you can move up the ranks quickly.

Many thanks to all the Portland actors who contributed their ideas and insights to this piece. The Northwest acting and filmmaking community is a wonderful family to be a part of!

Link to original article.

Casting Director Lana Veenker began her career in London and, upon returning to her Northwest roots, founded one of the top location casting companies in the country.

Recent projects include “Wild,” starring Reese Witherspoon, NBC’s “Grimm,” now in its third season, and 64 episodes of TNT’s “Leverage.” Gus Van Sant, Robert Benton, Guillermo Arriaga, Catherine Hardwicke and Tim Robbins figure among past film clients. Commercial accounts include Nike, Apple and Nintendo, and international campaigns from Shanghai to Santiago.

Lana is a member of the Casting Society of America and the International Casting Directors Network. She frequently lectures across the U.S. and abroad, most recently at the Finnish Actors’ Union in Helsinki, Amsterdam School of the Arts, The Actors Platform in London, The Acting Studio in Berlin, Studio Bleu in Paris and Prague Film School.

Complete her survey to be entered into a contest for a free career consultation here.

She has been featured in The Hollywood Reporter, USA Today, MSNBC.com, MTV.com, AccessHollywood.com, and Wired, among others. Follow her on Twitter @lanaveenker.

Monday, January 13, 2014

12 Major Faux Pas to Avoid on Set

by admin

Last month, Lana asked actors to submit their biggest on-set gaffes to help prevent other actors from committing the same mistakes. Here’s her latest column, based on the valuable (and cringe-worthy!) examples they submitted, courtesy of Backstage.

(Names have been omitted to protect the guilty, but feel free to take credit for your fantastic submission in the comments, if you dare!)

Lana Veenker CSAEarly in my career, I was invited to the set of a film I had cast. The producer seated me near the monitors and gave me a headset, so I could see and hear the action. Imagine my horror when my cell phone went off in the middle of a take, ruining the shot. I’ll never forget the crew’s faces as I panicked to turn the thing off.

The good news is that it has never happened to me again.

In hopes of sparing you from similar faux pas, I asked around for the best examples of actors’ worst on-set nightmares. Kudos to ye who submitted these fantastic tips, all based on actual occurrences. Read and take heed…or prepare to bleed!

1. Working with cameras and mics.
“One of my most embarrassing acting memories was forgetting I was miked.”
Between takes, the crew can hear your every word. Never make fun of, hit on, gossip, or gripe about your colleagues. This is one of the most common on-set blunders.
See also: looking into the camera; not being off book.

2. Handling food and drink.
“During the lunch break, I dipped my tie into the BBQ sauce and soiled my white shirt.”
Protect your wardrobe from spills and stains. Also avoid overeating—or eating the wrong foods—on a shoot day, otherwise, as one actress put it, “your stomach may improvise its own lines.”
See also: pocketing craft service items for later; chewing gum on camera. 

3. Blocking and moving around.
“Once I walked into the lead actor’s line of sight during a take, and let me tell you, he was furious.”
Similarly, if you fail to watch your back-to-one, you just might kick your “unconscious” co-star in the head, not realizing how close they are to your feet. There’s a lot happening on set, so be hyper-aware of your surroundings.
See also: missing your mark, tripping on cables; bumping into lighting instruments and set dec.

4. Interacting with the set and props.
“I peed into a toilet that was actually part of the set.”
Know what you’re allowed to use and not use on a set. If unsure, ask!
See also: taking a bite out of waxed fruit they were going to use later as a prop.

5. Negotiating hair, make-up, and wardrobe.
“I thought I blew my audition for a guest role, so I cut my hair very short the next day. When I booked it, they freaked.”
Ask before changing your look whenever you’re up for—or have booked—a role.
See also: shaving your beard after your character has been established; forgetting sunscreen and getting sunburned on set; not bringing everything Wardrobe has requested or not wearing exactly what they asked you to wear.

6. Making people wait.
“I had to pee for at least an hour, and when I finally did jump off set, I failed to tell the AD. When I returned, I got the ‘Where the hell were you?’ vibe and they never hired me again.”
Relieve yourself before being called to set. Always inform the first or second AD if you need to leave for any reason, and pay attention in case your name is called. Everyone’s tired; they don’t want to wait for you.
See also: wandering to craft service for a latte without telling anyone; heading to base camp when everyone else is returning to set.

7. Losing focus.
“Don’t listen to the lead who tells you funny anecdotes and keeps at it until you break. SHE gets away with it because she is a mega star. You are not going to get out of it unscathed.”
We all like to have a good time on set, but remember that production is on the clock, and every minute costs money. Be friendly, but don’t allow others—including the names—to distract you too far from the task at hand.
See also: freaking out, swearing, or having a meltdown after blowing a line.

8. Knowing your place.
“I sat in the star’s chair for 10 minutes before the director approached and sent me to base camp. I recall a group staring at me, including the lead actor, who was very tired.”
Set regulars may seethe when actors or background usurp their assigned chairs. Don’t do it, unless you’ve been expressly invited.
See also: announcing impatiently to the director after a take, “We got the shot, we’re moving on!”

9. Behaving awkwardly or unprofessionally.
“I once stared straight at the lead actor when I was an extra. Like, intensely staring. I thought we were having a moment. We were told the next day that we were not allowed to make eye contact with the actors.”
Everyone gets a little star-struck at times, but try not to unnerve co-workers by gawking, blurting out how much you love their work, or otherwise acting weird.
See also: cracking insensitive jokes; blatantly hitting on someone; being intoxicated on set.

10. Knowing whom you are working with.
“I asked the lead where the coffee cups were, because I thought she was Craft Service.”
Another actor nearly scolded a famous director for calling “Cut!” not knowing that the director was playing a small cameo opposite him. Read the call sheet, and if necessary, research the VIPs you’ll be working with prior to arrival, so that you recognize them.
See also: initiating small talk with a crew member about a celebrity who committed suicide, only to find out it was his father; raving about a famous actor to his ex-flame, then discovering Make-Up has been instructed to make you “look ugly.”

11. Being upfront about your abilities.
“I was asked to force the lead actor to the ground, handcuff him, pick him up, and slam him on the police car hood. Instead of admitting this was incredibly intimidating, I tried to pick the handcuffed star off the ground, and accidentally dropped him.”
Speak up if you’re nervous about doing something, and don’t pretend to know a skill that you don’t. Otherwise, you’re inviting disaster.
See also: volunteering to jump over a stair rail in a chase scene and then eating it; not mentioning you’ve lost your voice until you’re on set and have to be replaced.

12. Maintaining confidentiality.
“I posted a photo of myself in the make-up chair of a TV series. I was then told that was a career-ender.”
Networks and studios are paranoid about plot points and casting choices being disclosed prematurely, so photos on set are a no-no. The same goes for commercial shoots: products and marketing strategies are confidential prior to release. Do yourself a favor and put the smartphone away.
See also: spoiling the season finale of a TV series on Twitter, invoking not only the rage of fans, but a public lambasting by the executive producer. 

Link to original article.

Casting Director Lana Veenker began her career in London and, upon returning to her Northwest roots, founded one of the top location casting companies in the country.

Recent projects include “Wild,” starring Reese Witherspoon, NBC’s “Grimm,” now in its third season, and 64 episodes of TNT’s “Leverage.” Gus Van Sant, Robert Benton, Guillermo Arriaga, Catherine Hardwicke and Tim Robbins figure among past film clients. Commercial accounts include Nike, Apple and Nintendo, and international campaigns from Shanghai to Santiago.

Lana is a member of the Casting Society of America and the International Casting Directors Network. She frequently lectures across the U.S. and abroad, most recently at the Finnish Actors’ Union in Helsinki, Amsterdam School of the Arts, The Actors Platform in London, The Acting Studio in Berlin, Studio Bleu in Paris and Prague Film School.

Complete her survey to be entered into a contest for a free career consultation here.

She has been featured in The Hollywood Reporter, USA Today, MSNBC.com, MTV.com, AccessHollywood.com, and Wired, among others. Follow her on Twitter @lanaveenker.

Monday, November 25, 2013

11 Tips for Monologue-Challenged Actors

by admin

Lana’s latest expert column, courtesy of Backstage.

Lana Veenker CSAEach December, our casting company joins others across the country to host a Meals for Monologues event. Anyone and everyone can be seen by our casting directors in exchange for a few cans of food. Actors are given two-minute time slots, during which they can perform one or two monologues of their choosing. We have a blast discovering new faces—and new facets to actors we already know—and our local food bank reaps the benefit.

Do you dread monologues? You’re not alone. Since we typically use sides in auditions during the year, many actors fret about what to prepare and what to expect. Let these tips transform your monologue from a loathsome chore into a mini-performance.

1. Find out what types of pieces are acceptable. Should you do one monologue or two contrasting ones? Classic or contemporary? Serious or comedic? How long is your time slot? Will you be asked to sing? (In our case, we request contemporary monologues, since we rarely cast period pieces or musicals.)

2. Know whom you are auditioning for and what types of projects they cast. What are the names of the people behind the table? Can you find their photos online so that you recognize them upon arrival? What are they currently casting and what do they typically cast? Knowing your audience will help you select an appropriate piece.

3. Choose a monologue that features you in a role you might easily be cast in. If you’re a young leading man type, don’t attempt King Lear or Caliban. Choose something in your wheelhouse, especially if you’re just starting out. Help the casting director picture you in a suitable, age-appropriate role. Don’t make their job more difficult.

4. Or, go against type to demonstrate your range. If you’re an experienced actor always getting called in for the same types of characters, try mixing things up. If casting directors only think of you for comedic parts, knock their socks off with a poignant, dramatic piece. Nail it, and you just may renew a casting director’s enthusiasm about your work.

5. Avoid monologues you’ve written yourself—unless you’re really, really good. Performing your own material is risky. Casting directors may focus on the quality of your writing, instead of your acting. They may assume you haven’t been hired on any real projects, that you have problems memorizing others’ material, or even that you may be difficult to work with. Keep the casting directors focused on your performance, not wondering why you didn’t choose a published piece. If you do present your own work, make sure it’s flawless, and don’t say you wrote it when you slate. Just state the title and role you’re playing and jump in. If they love it, you can always reveal the author’s identity afterwards. (Wink, wink!)

6. Read the whole script. This goes without saying. Give yourself the best chance by understanding your role in its full context. Even if you find a piece in a book of monologues, go back and read the original script as you research your character.

7. Know your monologue backwards, forwards, and inside and out. Nerves on audition day are par for the course so be sure that you’re fully prepared and that the monologue is so much a part of you that you could improvise the whole thing, if need be. Just found out about the audition and your monologue isn’t entirely polished? Better to wait for the next opportunity. You don’t want the casting director’s first impression to be you going up on your lines.

8. Time your monologue precisely. Choose pieces that run a little short of your allotted time. Practice performing them with a stopwatch to make sure you don’t go over. It’s no fun to have the casting director interrupt you mid-sentence to inform you that time’s up.

9. At the audition, state your name clearly, along with the title, role, and writer’s name. When entering the audition space, don’t be so nervous that you launch right into your monologue without an introduction. Let the auditors know who you are and what you’ll be performing. Allow your personality to shine through during your slate, demonstrating the fun and positive human being that you are. Smile and gain your poise. Those first few seconds are critical.

10. Own the space and think of it as a performance. Once you begin your monologue, forget about it being an audition. Claim the space and invite the audience into your world, as if it were a real performance. (It actually is.) We want to be moved, entertained, and drawn into the story. Strut your stuff!

11. If time runs out before you finish, end gracefully. If your audition runs long and someone calls “TIME!” don’t get flustered, angry, or apologetic. Simply stop, break into a huge smile, say thank you, and exit confidently. Going over won’t damage your employment prospects, but having a meltdown in front of the CD might.

Link to original article.

Casting Director Lana Veenker began her career in London and, upon returning to her Northwest roots, founded one of the top location casting companies in the country.

Recent projects include “Wild,” starring Reese Witherspoon, NBC’s “Grimm,” now in its third season, and 64 episodes of TNT’s “Leverage.” Gus Van Sant, Robert Benton, Guillermo Arriaga, Catherine Hardwicke and Tim Robbins figure among past film clients. Commercial accounts include Nike, Apple and Nintendo, and international campaigns from Shanghai to Santiago.

Lana is a member of the Casting Society of America and the International Casting Directors Network. She frequently lectures across the U.S. and abroad, most recently at the Finnish Actors’ Union in Helsinki, Amsterdam School of the Arts, The Actors Platform in London, The Acting Studio in Berlin, Studio Bleu in Paris and Prague Film School.

Complete her survey to be entered into a contest for a free career consultation here.

She has been featured in The Hollywood Reporter, USA Today, MSNBC.com, MTV.com, AccessHollywood.com, and Wired, among others. Follow her on Twitter @lanaveenker.

Friday, April 19, 2013

What Casting Directors Are Looking For on Your Resume

by admin

Check out Lana’s latest Expert Column, courtesy of Backstage:

Lana Veenker CSAI have news for you: No one reads resumes.

Okay, that’s not entirely accurate. But it isn’t far from the truth either. I learned this while working at my first casting job at a London office that specialized in international features and mini-series.

Before the days of electronic submissions, we assistants were in charge of opening the daily mail and sorting through the stacks of headshots. Every available desk was piled high with manila envelopes. The casting associates would rip them open, glance briefly at the photos, and throw them into the appropriate pile according to role and project, or into the “Reject” pile.

As a recent convert from the acting world, I would flip the headshots over and peruse the resumes, much to their amusement.

“No one reads the resumes!” one of the associates chortled.

“But this guy went to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts! He has worked with Peter Brook!” I raised one poor actor’s resume, horrified.

“Let me see,” she countered. I showed her. “Nah, he’s a reject. Toss it.”

I took her cold reaction like a stab to the chest for all my years of acting and for all the actors I knew who were pining for a film career. Placing him gently in the “Reject” pile as if it were his final resting place, I bit my tongue and vowed never to become so jaded.

I’ve learned a bit since then. Now, I realize that she recognized most of those actors from prior auditions or from film and television appearances. She knew they needed to be of a certain caliber for the producers to consider them. Her many years of experience enabled her to make quick judgments.

Nevertheless, her comment stuck with me because I discovered there was truth in it. No one reads resumes, even when they do read them. What they actually do is scan them.

That’s right. Just as people scan headlines when reading the news, casting directors and other industry folk scan actor resumes and only absorb the information they’re looking for.

When we glance at your resume, we’re looking for things we recognize: A production company, a director’s name, a well-reputed acting coach, etc. We’re also looking for credits that stand out. A guest star role on a network show carries more weight than one on an unknown web series (although that is quickly changing with the rise of high-quality web productions. If your web series is garnering 10 million hits an episode, you might want to include a parenthesis to that effect).

The key is to keep your resume crisp and clean so that our eyes go straight to the most important details. Put your credits by and large in chronological order (without listing dates; those only date you), pushing your more impressive ones towards the top where they’re more visible.

If the director is well known, but the production company isn’t, be sure we see who the director is. By the same token, if the studio is highly reputed, but the director is a newbie, ensure that the studio’s name stands out. If you’ve yet to land any impressive credits, make certain that you’re training with the best of the best.

I still feel a little pang whenever an actor’s hard work goes unrecognized, but nowadays I understand the need for speed in the casting process. Like my former colleagues, I’m now able to glean much of the information I’m looking for with a quick glance at the page. You can help by giving us things we can scan and internalize quickly. Short and sweet wins the day.

_____________________________________________________________

This article was adapted from one of Lana’s Tools for Actors newsletters. Subscribe here!

Casting Director Lana Veenker began her career in London and, upon returning to her Northwest roots, founded one of the top location casting companies in the country.

Recent projects include NBC’s Grimm, now in its second season, and 64 episodes of TNT’s Leverage. Gus Van Sant, Robert Benton, Guillermo Arriaga, Catherine Hardwicke and Tim Robbins figure among past film clients. Commercial accounts include Nike, Apple and Nintendo, and international campaigns from Shanghai to Santiago.

Lana is a member of the Casting Society of America and the International Casting Directors Network. She frequently lectures across the U.S. and abroad, most recently at The Actors Platform in London, IfiF Productions in Vienna, The Acting Studio in Berlin, Studio Bleu in Paris and Prague Film School.

Complete her survey to be entered into a contest for a free career consultation here.

She has been featured in The Hollywood Reporter, USA Today, MSNBC.com, MTV.com, AccessHollywood.com, and Wired, among others. Follow her on Twitter @lanaveenker.

Link to original article.

 

Thursday, January 31, 2013

5 Things To Know Before Heading to Hollywood

by admin

Courtesy of Backstage:

Lana Veenker CSAFor a regional casting director, it’s tremendously fulfilling to midwife actors through their big move to Hollywood. But too often, actors take this leap haphazardly, convinced the red carpets will unfurl for their boundless talent and good looks.

Many actors I’ve watched scuttle off to L.A. over the past decade were gifted with charm, talent, and good looks. What they lacked was preparation. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed when they pushed off the curb, most return a few years later, hardened, cynical and full of war stories.

Hollywood has no pity for the weak of heart or pocketbook. Your drive to carve out an acting career in the palm-lined “Jaws of Hell” must be so fervent that the thought of not doing it makes your skin hurt.

Convinced that you must try your hand in the City of Angels? Then for the sake of all that is good, position yourself for success with proper planning.

Behold five elemental items that belong in your arsenal, long before you pack your sunscreen:

1. Chops. I cannot emphasize this enough. The talent you’ll be competing against are hungry and masterful. Secure top-notch training and a few real credits before setting sail. No world-class schools, theaters, or productions chez toi? Consider moving to a larger market first to hone your skills. Classes at Second City and a turn at Steppenwolf in Chicago will impress more than a dozen hometown community theatre credits.

2. SAG-AFTRA Card. It’s easier to snag your SAG-AFTRA card in a busy regional hub than in L.A. Why? Producers get fined for hiring non-union actors on union gigs, unless they can prove no suitable union actors were available. That’s a tall order in a metropolis teeming with unemployed guild members, but doable in a market like Portland, where the pickings are slimmer. Get it before you go. Once you’re in L.A., no one wants to help you procure your card.

3. Connections. Reputable regional coaches, schools, talent agents, and casting directors often have connections in Hollywood and may be able to help you land representation or get a toe in at the top casting offices. A director you befriended on location might recommend you to an agent, manager, or other contact upon arrival. Got friends or family in the industry? Hit them up!

4. Money. Take lots of it. More than you think you need. By the time you touch down, your expenses will multiply: gas, food, parking…parking tickets! You’ll need new headshots right away. Those small-town ones will never fly. And you’re not moving to L.A. just to slog at a day job and spend the rest of the time in traffic, are you? Just think: if you only had to work part time your first year or so, you could spend the remaining hours taking classes, doing showcases, networking, and hustling—things that are important to do when you’re new to town, before you’ve lost your luster and become jaded.

5. A Plan: Make your move when you’ve got momentum from a few high-profile bookings, film festival accolades, or a gajillion hits on your web series. Generate buzz before you go, then know your plan when you hit the ground. Don’t think you can wing it and get discovered at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. You need a plan for your housing, training, representation and day job (a field guide like Bonnie Gillespie’s Self-Management for Actors can help).

Once you’ve got all these, then you can bust out the sunscreen. (You’ll need the periodic R&R to preserve your sanity and renew your sense of possibility.) Now go get ‘em!

_______________________________________________________________________

Casting Director Lana Veenker began her career in London and, upon returning to her Northwest roots, founded one of the top location casting companies in the country.

Recent projects include NBC’s Grimm, now in its second season, and 64 episodes of TNT’s Leverage. Gus Van Sant, Robert Benton, Guillermo Arriaga, Catherine Hardwicke and Tim Robbins figure among past film clients. Commercial accounts include Nike, Apple and Nintendo, and international campaigns from Shanghai to Santiago.

Lana is a member of the Casting Society of America and the International Casting Directors Network. She frequently lectures across the U.S. and abroad, most recently at The Actors Platform in London, IfiF Productions in Vienna, The Acting Studio in Berlin, Studio Bleu in Paris and Prague Film School.

She has been featured in The Hollywood Reporter, USA Today, MSNBC.com, MTV.com, AccessHollywood.com, and Wired, among others. Follow her on Twitter @lanaveenker.

Complete her survey to be entered into a contest for a free career consultation here.

Link to original article.

Friday, December 7, 2012

6 Real Auditions Gone Horribly Wrong

by admin

My latest Backstage Expert column is whipping up a firestorm in comments on the Backstage website!

I knew I was writing it with a cheekier tone than my norm, but some feel it comes across as offensive. Have a read and see what you think:

6 Real Auditions Gone Horribly Wrong

Casting Director Lana Veenker reveals disastrous actor choices in the audition room…and what to do instead.

By Lana Veenker | Dec. 6, 2012

1. Kissing the client is never okay.

  • Situation: The actor insisted on kissing my hand—even when I tried to pull away—then grabbed my producer’s hand and slobbered on hers, too!
  • Thought Process: The actor thought it would make him memorable. It did…for all the wrong reasons.
  • Why it didn’t work: Germs! Eww!
  • What to do instead: Enter, wave a quick hello, and find your mark. If we make a move to shake hands, great. Otherwise, assume we are germaphobic and don’t want your clammy hand in ours.

Link to full article.

There’s at least one actor who gets my obscure sense of humor, having posted on her Facebook that “There should be a Portlandia skit that rolls all six of these into one disastrously wonderful audition fail.”

YES! Exactly!

Now imagine Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein in an audition room, and reread the article. Still offensive?

More importantly, are you likely to ever make these mistakes yourself, now that you’ve read about them?

What do you think: Should I stick to my usual warm and fuzzy ways, or kick up some dust from time to time? What’s the more effective approach, from a learning standpoint?

Let me hear your thoughts in the comments below.

~Lana

 

PS: Oh, and Backstage inexplicably changed “he” to “they” in example #4. The sentence should read: “The director told me he didn’t have enough time left on Earth to risk having his ear talked off on set.”