1430 SE 3RD AVENUE, No.100
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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

DONE!! Actor survey contest winners soon to be announced.

by admin

I have finished reading the roughly 200 actor surveys that arrived in time for the contest deadline (there are another 50 to read, but they’re not eligible for the free career consultation; I will read them eventually, though).

I hope to have selected the three winners by January 1st, 2009. Keep your eyes peeled!

This process has been fascinating. I’ve heard from actors from all around the world: The US, Canada, Australia, Italy, France, the UK, Costa Rica, Chile, the Caribbean, Ukraine, Croatia and more.

Ages 8 to 70+. Every language, religion, ethnicity, persuasion (and combination thereof) that you can imagine. Aspiring actors in small towns and major cities; from beginners to veterans. Some who have been acting since they were three; others who are just starting out in their 40s and 50s.

Some of you work in other aspects of the film business (including an animal trainer); some found acting through other artistic pursuits, such as dance or singing. Some are parents or grandparents, and at least one is pregnant!

Thank you so much for sharing your hopes and dreams; your fears and frustrations. A clear picture is emerging as to what you’d like the focus of my book and other materials to be and I appreciate you being a part of the process.

There will be more opportunities to lend your voice in the months to come. Heck, I may even do some more contests; it’s kind of fun!

Calling it a day. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Two Van Sant films turn up on Hollywood Reporter Top-10 Lists

by admin

The Hollywood Reporter film critics’ top-10 lists are in and two of Portland’s own Gus Van Sant‘s films make the cut:

Milk,” the biopic starring Sean Penn, and “Paranoid Park,” which we cast!

Congrats to all involved.

Film critics’ top 10 lists all over the map
‘Slumdog Millionaire,’ ‘Milk’ among THR favorites
By Kirk Honeycutt
Dec 28, 2008

When it comes to crafting our annual Top 10 Films lists, The Hollywood Reporter’s movie critics have a time-honored tradition of casting a large and wide net, and 2008 is no exception. The picks here display an ample range of films, so much so that no single film appears on all six lists. Every list contains at least one film not found on any other list. And each critic has a different best film.

The “winning” film, appearing on five of six lists, is “Slumdog Millionaire,” Danny Boyle’s Mumbai medley of magic realism and breathtaking romanticism, which is shaping up as one of the most lionized films of 2008.

Three other films occur on four lists. These are Christopher Nolan’s marvelous crime melodrama “The Dark Knight,” Gus Van Sant’s political biopic “Milk” and James Marsh’s documentary “Man on Wire.”

After that, it’s wonderfully wild, ranging from that head-scratcher (for some of us at least) “Synecdoche, New York” to the oldsters-as-songsters doc “Young@Heart.” Gus Van Sant’s other 2008 release, “Paranoid Park,” turns up on one list. Such little-seen films as Fatih Akin’s German-Turkish drama “The Edge of Heaven” and Werner Herzog’s documented travels to Antarctica, “Encounters at the End of the World,” make appearances.

Link to full article.

Monday, December 29, 2008

And the Twilight Series Casting Questions Keep Coming in…

by admin

I am going to try to power through and finish the remaining actor surveys, so we can announce the three winners of the free 60-minute career consultations worth $100 apiece. In the meantime, here are some more answers to actor questions.

Hint: Before posting a question in the comments area, please read the answers I’ve already posted on the blog. We’re getting a lot of the same questions over and over. There are links on the right sidebar with tags and everything, so you should be able to find answers. Thanks!

Please keep in mind as well that there’s not enough time in the day to answer individual requests. We can teach you to fish, but we can’t do the fishing for you. 🙂 You should be armed with all the tools you need, though, if you just read up.

Without further ado:


Q: How do I get one of those personal phone consultations with you?

Q: Can a person get a phone consultation without having to win it? If so, how can I do that?

Q: Are you offering your $100 career consults to people, even if they don’t win the contest?

A: It’s not our intention, but since we keep getting asked, we may consider a limited number of requests on a case-by-case basis. Shoot an email to tools4actors [at] slateplease [dot] com to discuss.

Be patient; we’ve got a lot on our plates and are not fully set up to accommodate these requests. Thanks.


Q: hi lana! i have a question… well…first.. i’m mexican, i live in Nuevo León, i’m thirteen, and i wanna be Jane in New Moon.. i really want it! i don´t have any experience, but i know that I can do it very well…i speak english a 85% or more, but i can’t go for the casting cause you know.. “money”… but if i could send you a video i could show you that i can act very well… i really want to be JANE!! she is a very interesting character… please…!!!

Q: hello, I’m french and I know that it’s impossible for me to be considered by the casting director but my cousin lives in LA and i could live there for a moment, so maybe they would consider me? no?? and i speak english very well, I got US accent.

Q: Can an Asian be on the film? I’m an asian (Indonesia), am i still have a chance to be just being auditions?

Q: Hey do you think they would cast somebody from ireland? as i would love to be in new moon and i love acting although i have no experience except for the school plays i have done and i dont have an agent either do you have any advice on how to get an agent? thanks.

Q: I am a 16-year-old aspiring actress in washington, and i am completely interested in acting in the twilight saga. I am most interested in playing Kate from the Denali Clan though.

Q: Oh my goodness! I’ve heard some gossip or rumors of that they want the New Moon movie to be out in a year. If that is so, when does the cast stop? Who is really in charge? Where is the direct info.? What if you have a daughter who sometimes lives with a parent/guardian in California and sometimes on the east coast? What would happen (if the possibility were possible)?

Q: My boyfriend is 6’4″ and perfect dark skin long black hair, he would make a perfect wolf! I want information on castings or where to send his headshots please!!!

A: As I’ve mentioned several times before, our office is not casting “New Moon.” By all indications, it is shooting in Vancouver BC. Despite this fact, we are still getting flooded with questions.

Because I understand how the business works, I will answer two general questions, which should give you all the information you need:

“Is it possible to get hired on a film shooting in the US or Canada if I live overseas?”


“Is it possible to get hired as one of the main characters in a film if I don’t have experience and don’t live near the shoot location?”

(FWIW, I covered both of these before in this post and this one).

The answer is that it’s extremely unlikely. Here’s why:


The production company needs to hire someone who can legally work in the country where the film is shooting. This means you need to be a citizen or have a work permit already.

The production company will procure work visas for the stars, if needed, but NOT for anyone else. The reason is that working papers are hard to get! Just look at all the qualifications an actor needs to obtain an O-1 working visa for the US:

* You need to have received or been nominated for a major national or international award (Emmy, Oscar, etc.) OR

* Have documented proof (such as film reviews, publications, contracts or playbills) of at least THREE of the following:

a. You already have national or international recognition;

b. You have already performed or have been hired to perform a lead or starring role in a major production;

c. You have already performed a lead, starring or major role for organizations with distinguished reputations;

d. You have already achieved major commercial or critical success;

e. You have commanded, or currently command, substantial remuneration (i.e. salary) for your services compared to others in your field; or

f. You have already received significant recognition for achievements from recognized critics, organizations, government agencies or other experts in your field.

In other words, if you’re not a star, the production company is not going to bother with the risk and hassle of all this paperwork. There are plenty of experienced, legal actors available in the cities where the film is shooting.


You usually need to be a member of one of the actors’ unions, such as SAG, AFTRA or ACTRA in order to be hired.

Producers are required to consider all available and appropriate union actors for a role, before looking at non-union actors, otherwise they risk getting fined. If you’re not already an established actor, it’s unlikely you’ve got your union card (particularly if you reside overseas).


Stars or established actors will likely be hired to play the main characters, not unknown entities.

Remember that producers have to guarantee ticket sales, so that they can repay their investors. It’s a BUSINESS; their job is to reduce financial risk. Actors are therefore considered in more or less the following order, when it comes to hiring the main characters on a major film:

a. Stars

b. Established union actors who are about to become stars (i.e. they have another movie coming out soon that will make them famous by the time this film is released)

c. Established union actors with solid reputations, known to the casting directors

d. Lesser known, but highly qualified professional union actors who are represented by talent agents known to the casting directors

If appropriate actors are still not found, then casting directors proceed to search among:

e. Experienced, professional, represented union-eligible actors

f. Experienced, professional, unrepped union and union-eligible actors

g. Experienced, professional, repped or unrepped non-union actors

h. Students or recent graduates of reputable acting schools or conservatories

It is extremely rare after conducting such an exhaustive search, that an appropriate actor would not be located, but as a last resort, the casting directors can search among the following:

i. Inexperienced actors or “real people” who fit the demographic requirements of the role and who live near where the shoot is taking place (cattle call)

j. Inexperienced actors or “real people” who fit the demographic requirements of the role and who live anywhere in the country (national search)

k. Inexperienced actors or “real people” who fit the demographic requirements of the role, who live anywhere around the world (international search), and who have work papers in the country where the production is based

l. Inexperienced actors or “real people” who fit the demographic requirements of the role, who live anywhere around the world (international search) and who do not have work papers

As you can see, most of the emails I’ve been getting on this subject have been from members of the last two or three categories. Their odds are slim.


As mentioned in this post and this one, the minor speaking parts will be cast on location, using local actors. Location casting directors like myself will start from category C above and work our way downwards.

You may have a shot at one of these smaller parts, but the higher you are on the list, the better your chances.


Again, extras will be hired in the region where the production is based. You do not need experience to work as an extra, but you do need to live locally and be able to work legally. I discuss working as an extra at length in this post and in this one.

That’s it for now. Next time, I’ll try to answer some of your questions about talent agents.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Acting/Modeling Schools that Double as Agencies?

by admin

This is just a quickie post (I actually have lots to say on the subject in my former online course), but since I noticed an ad on my very own blog for an acting/modeling school that purports to also be an agency, I just wanted to pipe up and mention that I am not a fan of these types of establishments. 🙁

Here are a few red flags to look out for when vetting talent agencies:

1. Bona fide talent agencies are not schools; bona fide acting schools are not agencies.

Scammy acting/modeling schools sell their prospective students on the dream that they can submit them for paid acting or modeling jobs…IF they sign up for their (very expensive) classes.

News flash: They usually can’t. Most industry professionals don’t work with these kinds of establishments.

Now, it’s rare, but I have known excellent acting teachers in smaller markets who manage a select roster of actors. The ones who do sell their acting courses for a reasonable price, do not engage prospects in hard sales pitches and only agree to represent the very best of their students. No guarantees, no hype.

This is a tricky area, though. Larger markets typically frown on the practice of representing and teaching at the same time, because of the potential conflict of interest. Some smaller markets have to be slightly more flexible, due to economic factors. The key will be to find out if the teacher is respected in the local community (I’ll talk more about teachers in a bit).

2. Bona fide talent agencies don’t have offices in shopping malls.

Scammy acting/modeling schools often open up shop where there are a high number of young, gullible prospects: At the mall.

Respectable talent agencies have proper offices, in the parts of town where other industry professionals work (production companies, casting offices, etc.) and they don’t need to send their employees out on the streets trolling for actors or models.

3. Beware of anyone who calls himself/herself a “talent scout.”

In my 20-odd years in the industry, I’ve never met a so-called “talent scout”…except scam artists.

It’s possible you might get noticed one day in passing by a talent agent, a modeling agent, a casting director or a producer (and likely all they’ll do is give you a business card; no hype involved).

But a talent scout? The ones I’ve met were usually trying to round up starry-eyed prospects to sell them expensive classes or portfolios…or worse. Be careful.

4. Good talent agencies normally don’t advertise for actors.

They don’t need to. Trained, professional actors are banging at their doors for representation. Be cautious if an agency needs to run ads to lure actors in: It’s usually not a good sign.

I’ve mentioned this in previous posts, but it bears reminding: Real agents make their money by representing strong actors and earning a commission off the work they find for them. Agency/schools make their money off selling classes and portfolios.

5. There should be no hard sales pitch at a real talent agency.

A bona fide agent is interested in finding out if your skills, experience and looks would add to his roster and help him earn more money off the jobs he helps you find.

A scammy agency/school will lure you in, purportedly to see if you “have what it takes to make it in the business,” but soon, you’ll find yourself in a room with dozens of other hopefuls, listening to a long sales pitch about how they can make you a star. Warning: Their smooth talk can be very seductive and you may start to believe it.

But soon, you’ll be taken into a private room with a “talent scout” who will “assess your potential” (inevitably telling you that you’re destined to be the next big thing) then pressure you or your parents to pay up for the classes or photo shoots immediately. RUN AWAY FAST!!

6. Agency/Schools usually don’t have the best teachers.

At all. In fact, I know of only ONE dubious agency/school in my area that for a while had some good teachers, but they all ended up leaving, I think because they felt slimy about the company’s recruitment tactics.

The best teachers tend to work in acting conservatories, universities or as private coaches. Not in shopping malls. Not in schools that double as acting/modeling agencies. Save your money and avoid learning bad habits that will have to be unlearned: Only work with respected acting coaches.

If you’re not sure who is respected, do the rounds of all the theatres in your area (you can usually watch shows for free, if you volunteer to usher). When you see a really great show with fantastic actors, stick around afterward and ask the actors whom they study with.

Note: It’s a good idea in general to start networking in the acting world; you’ll learn a lot from your fellow actors.


Read this excellent article on the US Federal Trade Commission‘s website:

If You’ve Got The Look, Look Out! Avoiding Modeling Scams

What could be more flattering? Someone approaches you at the mall and says, “You could be a model. You’ve got the ‘look’ we’re after. Here’s my card. Give me a call to set up an appointment.” People have always said you’re good looking. Now, visions of glamour, travel and money flash before your eyes.

It’s true that some successful models have been discovered in everyday places like malls, boutiques, clubs, and airports. But the vast majority of would-be models knock on door after agency door before work comes their way.

Link to full article.

It’s also not a bad idea to check with the Better Business Bureau, before doing business with an agency, just to make sure there aren’t hundreds of complaints.

Better Business Bureau

BBB’s mission is to be the leader in advancing marketplace trust. BBB accomplishes this mission by:

* Creating a community of trustworthy businesses
* Setting standards for marketplace trust
* Encouraging and supporting best practices
* Celebrating marketplace role models, and;
* Denouncing substandard marketplace behavior

Hope this helps!

Leave me a comment and let me know what you think.

PS: Have any of you ever been the victim of an agency scam?

Friday, December 26, 2008

Call to Actors: Set Your Goals Now for 2009

by admin

At this time of year, I love reflecting back on the goals I set for 2008, seeing which ones I achieved, which ones I didn’t and setting new goals for 2009.


For three actors (or aspiring actors) who completed my Actor Survey in November, the New Year will be a productive time as well, since I’m close to announcing the winners of the FREE career consultation worth $100. I’m on Actor Survey number 152 of 200 and hope to have read through all of them by January 1st.

Each winner will receive a one-hour phone consultation, to discuss his or her career path in the acting business. With over 20 years in the industry and 10 years casting thousands of actors, I can provide guidance on training, finding out about auditions, moving your career to the next level, making connections and so on.

The advice is practical, real-world information, as you can judge by the curriculum of my former online course, which was taught in colleges around the world for years. I’m no longer offering this course online…but my upcoming book and collateral products will be even better, since I’m developing them with the help of actors like you.

The three lucky winners will start their year with a checklist of tasks to move one step closer to their goals. Very exciting!


Whether you win the casting director consultation or not, now is a good time to take stock of where you are in your life and where you’d like to be a year from now.

Here are a few ideas that might help:

1. Ask yourself: “What do I want the THEME of 2009 to be for me?”

It’s essential to set smaller goals, but I also like to have one overarching goal for the year. Last year, one of my friends decided that her theme was going to be “total immersion” in her writing career.

I loved that! It helped define all the other goals on her list and also helped eliminate everything that might distract from her goal of total immersion.

2. Be realistic when setting goals

You don’t know what you don’t know. Sometimes we set a really lofty goal, without realizing there are several other steps that we need to accomplish first. This can cause disappointment when our objective is not reached in the time frame we hoped for.

So be open to learning as you go along and adding sub-goals to your list, to account for the knowledge and expertise you need to develop in order to achieve your larger goal. As long as you keep moving towards it, you’re doing great.

3. Get inspired

There’s nothing that motivates me more than spending a small portion of my day gleaning knowledge, ideas and inspiration from other successful individuals.

Here are a few motivating books for artists that I’ve found useful over the years:

If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit
by Brenda Ueland

This classic book is a treasure for creative people of any medium, not just writers.

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win your Inner Creative Battles
by Steven Pressfield

All about overcoming Resistance to achieving your creative goals. Brilliant and irreverent. (Four-letter word alert.)

The Artist’s Way: The Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity
by Julia Cameron

A popular book leading you through a twelve-week program to recover your creativity and develop artistic confidence and productivity.


So, readers: What are your goals for 2009? What is your theme for this New Year?

I’d like everyone to post theirs below in the comments (or, if you’re not already on the mailing list, opt in on the right sidebar of this screen. Once you’ve received your subscription confirmation, shoot us an email with your goals. We can check back months from now to see how you’re doing.

I’m throwing down the gauntlet: Let’s see if we can get 100 posts.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Columbian casts light on Casting Associate Eryn Goodman

by admin

Our own Eryn Goodman, Associate Casting Director of our commercials division and Casting Assistant of our film division, is featured in this story on SW Washington’s The Columbian website:

She casts light on local talent
December 5, 2008
by Mary Ann Albright

Eryn Goodman has helped cast some major movies since joining Lana Veenker Casting in Portland more than three years ago, including “Feast of Love” with Morgan Freeman and Greg Kinnear, “Management” with Jennifer Aniston and Steve Zahn, and Gus Van Sant’s “Paranoid Park.” But the Portland resident and 2000 Vancouver School of Arts and Academics graduate recently saw perhaps her biggest project yet come together at a red carpet event for the vampire hit “Twilight.”

“Twilight” was filmed in Oregon and Southwest Washington, and Goodman, 26, was a casting assistant. She worked with agents and held casting calls to fill 10 small roles.

“We look for really talented people who are going to showcase the Northwest as best as possible,” she said.

Giving local actors the opportunity to break into the movie business is an aspect of her job Goodman particularly enjoys. Her work as an associate casting director for commercial projects at Lana Veenker Casting gives her even more opportunities to discover fresh talent.

“It makes you so proud,” she said of seeing actors from the greater Portland area on television and the big screen.

Link to full article.

Kudos, Eryn!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Speaking of great acting coaches: Videos on some of the best

by admin

Following up on yesterday’s advice to a parent whose 14-year-old wants to pursue a career in acting, here are some clips on two of the GREAT acting coaches of our time.

Uta Hagen:

Sanford Meisner:

Read up on them. Learn about them.

And here’s a short clip I just found by the insightful Judith Weston, author of “Directing Actors,” that basically covers everything I wrote yesterday about distinguishing a good acting teacher from a bad one!

Clearly, we’re from the same school of thought. 🙂

Monday, December 22, 2008

Q: How can my 14-year-old get started in acting?

by admin

I’ve read 134 of over 200 of the actor surveys! Time for a break and to answer another actor question.

As I mentioned in a previous post, our office has not been hired to cast “New Moon,” as it is shooting in Vancouver BC (we’re more than happy, however, to make our resources from “Twilight” available to the new casting directors).

We have other projects coming up in the New Year, provided that the actors don’t go on strike.

So, I’ll answer questions as to how things usually work in the film business. This should provide some clarification for those of you who are seeking answers regarding specific projects.


Q. I’m from Oklahoma and I’m trying to get my 14-year-old daughter some work in acting. How should I go about getting started? Do we need headshots and an agent before we even try? Can I get a good agent in Oklahoma or should we go to L.A.?

A. Does she have training and experience? Sometimes junior high or high school drama departments are led by qualified teachers, but I’ve also seen them turn out amateurish actors with very bad habits that need to be unlearned, so you might need to seek out a proper acting coach or school. Here are a few things to look out for in any acting class:


* Does the teacher talk a lot about “emoting,” making facial expressions or crying on cue? Or does he/she talk about objectives, obstacles and tactics?

A good acting coach teaches actors to focus on what they are trying to DO in the scene, not on what they LOOK like. “Emoting” never looks real. When an actor is really present in a scene, using different tactics to try to achieve objectives, the emotions come naturally and they’re believable. “Mugging” isn’t.

* Does the teacher use a lot of adjectives or verbs in his or her direction?

Beware of a teacher whose direction consists of “Try to be more angry” or “Do it again; this time play it sad.” This teacher is focused on the exterior (facial expressions), rather than the interior (motivations, desires, objectives) and this direction will result in a lot of mugging instead of real emotion.

Instead, look for an acting teacher who directs mostly using verbs that focus on what the character is trying to GET from the other person: “Make her give you the money.” “Get him to apologize to you.” “Grovel for them to take you back.” “Seduce him.” “Destroy her.” This teacher understands that emotions come naturally from pursuing objectives; from dealing with and overcoming obstacles.

* Does the teacher talk about listening and responding, being in the moment, playing off what the other actors give you?

This is usually a good sign. A true actor cannot plan her reactions in advance, because if she’s really in the moment, she technically doesn’t know what the other character is going to say next nor how he is going to say it. She needs to be available and open and ready to respond appropriately to whatever happens, just like in real life.

A bad sign is if the teacher tries to get actors to plan their reactions in advance or constantly gives “line readings” (in other words, says to the actor “Deliver the line like this: ‘I never said you STOLE the money!'”).


Okay. Say your daughter has good training. Can she get some experience outside of school? Local professional theatres? Also look around for auditions for independent films; there may be an opportunity to build up an acting reel, if she gets a few well-produced, professional looking scenes.

Just be sure to research the filmmakers and the project beforehand, to make sure they’re on the up-and-up. A lot of indie filmmakers choose to shoot under one of the Screen Actors Guild‘s low-budget agreements, which can be reassuring to actors and their parents that certain standards will be maintained (such as working hours, minor labor law protections and workers compensation insurance). You can read up on some of these contracts at

Talent Agents

Once she has some training and experience, and preferably an acting reel, she can put together an acting resume (which I won’t go into today; in the meantime, there are a lot of books on acting that talk about what belongs on an acting resume and what doesn’t) and a photograph and first try to contact a LOCAL talent agent in the nearest large or medium-sized city. Before moving to LA, you need to find out if she can compete in a smaller market, and also try to procure a SAG card, which is much easier to do in a regional market than in LA. So start with a local agency. A Google search should turn up a few in your area. Also read my previous post, “More of your acting questions answered” under Question #4, about finding SAG- and AFTRA-franchised agencies.

NOTE: I wouldn’t spend money on headshots at 14, until she’s met with an agent. The agent may have recommendations or certain requirements, so it would be a waste of money, if you had to have them redone. Just use a photograph that looks like your daughter in real life (NOT a glamour shot), in which the face is clearly visible (no hands on the face, no hats). You can get professional headshots taken after the agent agrees to take her on.

As I’ve previously stated, a talent agent only earns a commission off the jobs that her actors book. She should not be pressuring them to purchase her acting classes or headshots, or charging exorbitant registration fees. She may be able to recommended acting coaches and photographers, but she should not be getting kickbacks from them. See Question #4 of the above-mentioned post for further info.

I’ll have to tackle more of these issues at a later time! For example, there are ways to find out about auditions happening in your area, if you know where to look.


Friday, December 19, 2008

More of your acting questions answered…

by admin

I’ll try tackling a few more of your questions, before I get back to my actor surveys. I’m sure those of you who submitted your surveys are anxious to find out who the winners are! I’m on survey #103 of over 200, so I’m about halfway there, but it’s a lot of reading! Keep checking back here for news or sign up for the RSS feed (on the right sidebar).

There will be more opportunities in the future for readers to participate in the development of my new book for actors, so stay tuned.

Okay, without further ado: Your questions!

1. I am wondering if you think it is a good idea to take the site Acting411 as a good source of information for addresses and casting information. If not, where? I am interested in sending my information in for the Natalee Hollaway story, but I am not sure how to go about it. The agent that I talk to, but reluctantly sign with, tells me that I can submit myself for anything I want. I just don’t want to be doing it wrong and end up being a pesky aspiring actor. Do you have any advice?

I can’t speak for other casting directors or other websites, but most of the castings we do are not open to the general public, unless we specifically advertise them as such. It won’t hurt you to self-submit; you never know when your headshot will land on someone’s desk at the right time. But for major roles, we usually start with actors who are tried-and-true or who come highly recommended from agents we respect.

For smaller parts, we might dig through the piles of mail to see if there’s someone new we want to bring in, so if you’re unknown to us, you’ll have better chances there. But generally you need to live in the area where the casting is taking place.

If we advertise a role publicly, then by all means, send in your submission. In our case, we typically put out a press release, post the information on our website, on our MySpace pages (LVC and RBC) and possibly even on Craigslist in the city where the casting is taking place. Back Stage is also known as one of the top resources for casting calls, but it requires a subscription.

I know that the Ross Reports maintains a pretty comprehensive list of casting directors and their submission instructions, but I think it also requires a subscription to Back Stage.

2. Lana, I too have a more general question regarding the business. What are your thoughts on aspiring actors paying for memberships on sites like “The Casting Workbook”? Is this a professional and reputable way to put yourself out there or more of a lost cause?

Those sites can be useful, if they’re actually used by the local casting directors. Casting Workbook is used pretty widely in Canada, so if you’re based there, it could be helpful. We’ve used CastingNetworks in LA and San Francisco for commercials and non-broadcast projects, and we’ve used NowCasting in LA for films. And of course, the Players Directory has been around for over 70 years and is considered an authoritative resource for casting directors (it’s also now being run by NowCasting).

There may be others out there, but I’m not familiar with them. Just be wary of subscription websites that promise to submit you for castings all around the country. There are sites that steal our press releases, post them on their own websites as if they were theirs and swamp us with mail from all over the country, when all we really want are local actors.

Typically, casting directors only want to see people who are based in the region where they are casting, even if you say “you’re willing to travel.” There are too many fantastic actors in our own backyard; why would we want to deal with the hassle (and potential catastrophe for the production) of an actor who has to travel back and forth across the country for multiple auditions, wardrobe calls, rehearsal and shoot dates, all which could change at a moment’s notice? No thank you! Find the casting director(s) in the cities closest to you and start there.

3. Hello, I am new in this blog. I have been reading your information about casting and many more. I thank you for the details you passed it on to every one of us who strive to become an actor. I am currently residing in Chicago for 3 yrs now. I realized that it is difficult to get a role especially when you are hearing impaired and looks very young. I’m 31 and my appearance for the role that I’ve been auditioning did not go through because I look very young. I have done several project here in Chicago and do have 3 agencies. All of my agents are fantastic. Back to my question to ask you, for an African American, Hearing Impaired and female, why is it difficult to get a role?

I’m afraid it’s difficult for everyone to get roles! If you’re in a minority category of any kind, there are fewer opportunities…BUT you also have less competition. So if you fit the requirements of the role, you actually have a relatively good shot at getting cast.

If you’re in a category where there are lots of opportunities, that may seem to be an advantage, BUT there’s also a lot more competition. The odds are stacked against you.

In both situations, the only thing you can do is try to be the best actor you can be. Study with the best acting coaches you can and keep improving your skills.

That being said, the market is opening up and non-traditional casting is in much higher demand than ever before, particularly in television commercials, where our clients seem to want as much diversity as possible.

Hollywood is not far behind. We recently worked on the Diane Lane film “Untraceable” and got to meet the wonderful (and deaf) actor Ty Giordano, who also recently played the role of Huck Finn on Broadway in a revival of the musical Big River that featured both deaf and hearing actors:

The opportunities are out there. Just keep improving your acting chops and go for it! 🙂

4. So where would I find a list of suitable agents, who are not frauds of course, in the LA and/or South Orange County area? Like can you recommend one? Or know of one?

Screen Actors Guild (SAG) maintains a list of franchised talent agencies. The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) also maintains a list of its franchised agencies. That’s a good place to start.

Remember, a bona fide agency only earns money when you do (i.e. a commission off the work they find for you). They don’t try to sell you classes or photographs, or charge you exorbitant registration fees. You will need training and headshots, but real talent agencies don’t sell those. They may give you a list of recommended acting coaches and photographers, but they shouldn’t try to coerce you to hire a specific one (that may mean they’re getting kickbacks; not good).

5. Thanks so much for clearing things up, although I do have a few questions. I live in Canada and it is extremely hard to get American auditions especially without an agent. Do you know any good Canadian agencies? Also, can they get me on an American gig?

The Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA) has branches across Canada that should be able to provide lists of recognized talent agencies.

You need to have a work permit to work in a country other than your own. Unless you’re a star, the production company will not procure one for you. So it’s not likely a Canadian agency can get you an audition for a job shooting in the States, unless you already have work papers or dual citizenship. And even then, most casting directors prefer to work with actors who live in the region where the job is shooting. So you’d be better off moving to the city where you want to work (as long as you are legal to work there).

Okay, that’s all I have time for tonight!

Let me know what you think in the comments.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Soooo many burning questions…so little time!

by admin

Because we worked on “Twilight,” we’ve been getting swamped with questions about the sequel for months on MySpace, in the blog comments and elsewhere. Just so everyone’s clear, our office has not been hired to cast “New Moon,” but we understand that it’s frustrating not knowing what’s going on, so I’m happy to answer questions as to how things usually work when it comes to casting. Hopefully this will provide some clarification for you.

Unfortunately, there’s not enough time in the day to answer readers’ questions individually, so if you’ve sent a PM or email, you’ll have to keep an eye out here to see if I’ve answered the same question for someone else. We’ll eventually have an actors’ forum, where you can also answer each others’ questions, but for now I’ll try to address them when I can on the blog. Be sure to sign up for our RSS feed, using the Subscribe link in the right sidebar, so that you stay in the loop about our other projects. (What is RSS?)

Now, to your questions:

Q: Quick question about the working-out-of-the-country bit, if you could answer it when you get a chance: my daughter is planning on trying out for the part of Jane (a vampire in Italy)- if by some crazy chance she is considered for the part and that part is filmed in Italy what would that mean for a 12/13 year old from California?

A: When an actor is hired to play a lead or supporting role in a film that shoots in a foreign country, the production company handles work permit issues. For smaller day-player roles, though, casting usually takes place on location, especially if actors fitting the specifications of the role are widely available there.

Q: I am French and I live in France, but I nevertheless sent a photo therefore me is possible give up a cross my chances to be taken. Of a very way I made me not too much phantasms. As you said it “hope helps and makes dream”.

Q: My dream is to play Jane. I’ve got Italian origins, but… I live in France ! Why do all the good movies shoot in the USA ????

Q: Can you give some info about the Italian casting? or for extras casting in Italy?

Q: I’m Australian/Italian, and I hold an Italian citizenship and passport, what would this mean for me in relation to the Italian casting?

Q: Hi Lana! I’m Italian and I’d like to know more information about the italian casting…just for an appearance!

Q: This makes me depressed to be living in New Zealand! ARGH.

A: If you live in Europe, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be considered for the North American casting. You may have a shot at the Italian casting, if you live in Italy, particularly the extras casting. But as far as we can tell, nothing has been announced anywhere to date.

If you live elsewhere, well, you may be out of luck. 🙁

Q: What about Canada? Is there a chance the casting could happen here in Canada? Because I heard “New Moon” was being shot in Vancouver.

Q: Does anyone know where in Vancouver it will take place?

Q: Hi, I was wondering where to send my resume and picture to? Thank you.

Q: I live in NJ, not CA or WA. What do you think that the chances would be of any sort of casting in my area? I know that they’re shooting in some of the same areas again, so I doubt my chances are high. I would only be interested in extra work for New Moon or playing Bree (if she was left in the movie, which she might not be) in Eclipse. She’s a pretty minor character, but she appears to be fifteen, which is my age.

Q: I’m an actress, but I live in Georgia. I have agents here, but a manager in California. I remember a small part in Eclipse where there were a bunch of newborns, some teenage girls. I was wondering if that will be cast locally, also, since it’s not a lead or an extra.

A: It appears that “New Moon” is set to shoot in Vancouver, BC, but no information has been publicized about any casting taking place anywhere yet. Patience.

Lead and supporting roles are likely to be cast out of LA. Day player and extras roles will be cast in the cities where the shoot is taking place.

Q: I’m 18, Native American and I live in WA. I have NO acting experience other than playing “pretend” as a child. What do you think my chances are for the role of Leah Clearwater?

Q: Okay, so I have zero acting experience in the business sadly, but I was interested in playing the role of Leah Clearwater and I live in NJ how are my chances?

A: Production companies will always start with trying to hire the most experienced, established actors first. If they can’t find anyone who fits the bill, then the CDs (i.e. casting directors) may hold an open casting call. But there are a lot of experienced, professional, union actors out there who will be considered first.

See my post: Are the lead roles REALLY reserved for just the famous actors?

Q: What are the chances for anyone with no experience to be in the movie…even as an extra?

Q: I live in Toronto and am visiting Vancouver for the March Break. Is there any possibility I can be an extra in any scene during that time frame?

Q: What if I live in Ohio and I want to be an extra, just to have this experience and participate in a movie involving Twilight? So I just need to send the casting agency headshots and my resume? Also what is the age requirement? I am 14.

A: Extra work does not require experience, but it does typically require that you be based in the city where the shoot is taking place. If you are not based there, it is highly unlikely you will be chosen; there are too many risks involved.

See my previous post entitled: Breathe, Twihards, Breathe under Location and Extra Work.

Do you have friends or relatives you can go stay with on location for a few weeks? At least then you’d be on hand to attend any open casting calls that may be publicized, register with the local extras casting company (once it’s been announced) and cross your fingers that you might get a phone call. This may help your chances somewhat, but will not guarantee in any way that you will be needed.

You must also be able to legally work in the country where the shoot takes place. No one will provide work permits for the background actors.

As for the age requirement, the needs differ with each shoot. When it comes to minors, producers generally prefer to hire older people to play younger, due to child labor restrictions (the younger an actor or extra is, the fewer hours he or she is allowed to work; producers want the flexibility to shoot longer hours, if needed).

So if you look young for your age, you have an advantage. If the script calls for extras age 10-12, for example, producers may choose to hire 12- to 14-year-olds who LOOK younger instead.

If the script doesn’t specify age ranges and producers have the choice, in the US they will generally try to hire actors who are at least 16. Eighteen and older is even better, because they can legally work the longest hours in a day. The laws may differ in other countries.

Q: I was wondering if you knew where the cities for the extras castings would be located. I live about 170 miles from LA and was just wondering if there would be any there. I’m a 16-year-old young man, kind of a medium tan color with green/blue eyes (they change colors). I have a some acting experience when it comes to plays/musicals and O was wondering if there was any part that you think I could be able to play.

Q: If I want to be an extra, when can I register for it? I live in CA and I read that there were going to be Extras Casting in Los Angeles.

Q: I would like to be an extra in New Moon, and I live about 2 miles from the heart of Seattle. Any chance they’ll be shooting around here (or within WA/OR state) again? Thanks!

A: It appears that “New Moon” is set to shoot in Vancouver, BC, but no information has been publicized about any casting taking place anywhere yet for the principals or the extras. There will also likely be some extras casting in Italy, for people based there. No news as to when or where.

Q: Pretty please tell me that you ARE NOT going to recast Jacob!!! Please keep him!

Q: Are you really planning on recasting Jacob? I know Taylor isn’t the biggest guy, but I know a lot of girls at my school wouldn’t be very happy. We love Taylor because he is so close to our age and cares about all of the fans.

A: I’m afraid I don’t have any say in that! It does look like something is in the works regarding the role of Jacob, according to

If the CDs need our help with anything else, however, we’ll happily provide them with the resources we’ve gathered from location casting the first film. 🙂

Monday, December 15, 2008

"Milk" wins three New York Film Critics Circle Awards

by admin

Gus Van Sant’s biographical film, “Milk,” about the politician Harvey Milk was named best picture, Sean Penn won best actor and Josh Brolin won best supporting actor, as reported in the New York Times.

Congrats, Gus! Well deserved.

Link to article.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Back to those surveys!

by admin

I have been sidetracked this week by computer & network problems, bookkeeping, bills and invoices, tons of email, various meetings, non-casting projects, event coordinating and all kinds of company development stuff. Not to mention the holidays and all that.

Which means I’m behind on my surveys!!

BUT…today I have to sit around for three hours at the mechanic’s while the timing belt is replaced in my car and I’m taking the laptop!

I just hope there’s wireless…. 😮

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Are lead roles REALLY reserved for just the famous actors?

by admin

We received this email in response to a comment Lana made in her post entitled Breathe, Twihards, Breathe.

Lana wrote:

Except in rare and publicized cases, lead roles in big movies are typically destined for established, name actors.

A reader responded:

I disagree with your statement that roles in big movies are destined for established, name actors… This is Rob Pattinson’s first lead role ever and only his second major role (the only other noteworthy one being in Harry Potter)! What distinguishes a great talent/casting agent from an average one is that the great ones are constantly looking for new and exciting actors, for people who have presence, skill and charisma and are yet to be discovered. This is even more true for a teenage movie because many people do not have long resumes at such a young age unless their parents are extremely persistent. All famous actors had to start somewhere and a casting manager/director took a leap of faith with them, often times casting them in a supporting or even lead role after just a few minor projects before (think Julia Roberts in Mystic Pizza or Rob Pattinson in Twilight).

Thanks so much for your comments!

Overall, we agree with most of what the reader posted, but with a few subtleties and clarifications. To wit:

1. Lead roles are typically destined for name actors

In every major film, there are a certain number of roles that are “above-the-line” (i.e. the stars) and the remaining roles are considered “below-the-line” (the rest of the cast).

The budget for the below-the-line roles is fixed. For example, the producer knows he or she needs to hire 12 supporting actors and intends to pay them all SAG scale (the minimum day or weekly rate allowed under union rules), plus their agency fees.

The budget for each of the above-the-line roles needs to be negotiated. The producer knows he or she has four leads to cast and has reserved, for instance, $10 million dollars for this. If a big, very famous actress is hired and her agent negotiates $8 million for her alone, that leaves $2 million for the remaining three leads, if the producer doesn’t want to go over budget. So he or she may decide to cast two slightly less famous actors at $4 million apiece, and spend a million each on the remaining two leads. Or whatever.

For these above-the-line roles, the production company and its investors want to get the most bang for their buck. Which actors will put most seats in the movie theatres, to ensure the investors earn their money back and make a profit for themselves and the production company? It is a business, first and foremost.

2. If not name actors, then established actors will most often be cast in the lead roles.

The reader is correct in saying that up-and-coming actors have a great opportunity in teenage movies. No one expects young actors to have a resume as long as George Clooney’s. In most cases, however, when casting the major roles, producers choose to bank on the most experienced young actors, in order to reduce their risk.

Keep in mind that thousands of actors who are unknown to the general public are NOT unknown to casting directors. 🙂 The leads in “Twilight” had already been doing the rounds in LA or New York for some time, going out on multiple auditions for various projects. Sometimes, they may have been cast in small roles or they may not have even been cast at all, but they made a positive impression on the casting directors, so that when the right roles presented themselves, the CDs knew whom to call.

Example: Anna Kendrick, who plays Jessica in “Twilight,” may not have been known by your average moviegoer a year ago, but casting directors knew that she had been nominated for a Tony Award on Broadway when she was just 13; they likely had seen her demo reel of other film and TV performances; they knew which other projects she had recently booked AND they surely had auditioned her dozens of times before. That’s how they roll!

In fact, I don’t think any of the actors hired to play the Cullen kids or Bella’s friends had fewer than eight or ten IMDb credits prior to “Twilight” (not counting the many other credits that haven’t been posted to IMDb; trust me, there are many).

So, while it may SEEM that many of the actors were unknowns, to industry people they weren’t. 🙂 They were proven entities that casting directors could feel confident recommending to the director and producers. Does that make sense?

3. The really great talent agents and casting directors are constantly looking for new and exciting actors, for people who have presence, skill and charisma and are yet to be discovered.

Yes, absolutely! This is one of the favorite parts of our job.

The entire teen cast of Gus Van Sant’s “Paranoid Park” (which we cast) were complete unknowns, with the exception of Taylor Momsen. In that project, however, Gus specifically wanted untrained actors, so that was an unusual circumstance.

We placed Solomon Trimble in “Twilight,” Alex Mentzel in “Feast of Love” (opposite Greg Kinnear) and many other young actors in their first Hollywood films. It’s hugely gratifying when this happens.

Solomon was not unknown to us, though: He had previously auditioned and been cast by our office in other smaller projects, so we were aware of his skills and professionalism.

Young Alex had been doing theatre for quite a while and also demonstrated his work ethics through several rounds of auditions.

Note that neither were cast in above-the-line roles. In most cases, actors need to first demonstrate their ability to carry a lead role in a smaller project or a smaller role in a big project, THEN reach for the next rung, if they want a producer to take a big risk on them.

So get to work and start getting those first credits on your resume. You never know where it might lead!

We hope this clears up a few things and thank our readers for taking the time to comment.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Gus Van Sant’s "Milk"

by admin

Go see this film!

Milk” starring Sean Penn, directed by Gus Van Sant

Truly wonderful. Kudos to Gus and all the cast and crew.

PS: Funny that a lot of the cast has been up in Portland over the past year or so: Sean Penn and Emile Hirsch working on “Into the Wild,” Joseph Cross starring in “Untraceable,” and Josh Brolin (visiting his wife Diane Lane) during “Untraceable.” Not to mention Gus.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Breathe, Twihards, Breathe: A few answers to your questions

by admin

Since we have been flooded with emails, here are a few words relating to any future casting of the Twilight series:

Until production gets underway and filming locations are confirmed, no auditions will be taking place anywhere, as the casting and extras casting directors haven’t even been hired. Open casting calls, if there are any, will be announced in the cities where they are taking place. Be patient, grasshoppers!

By the way, there’s no need to send headshots and resumes to the production company; they’re not doing the casting and your materials will end up in the trash. Let the casting directors sort through the thousands of submissions; that’s not the production company’s job.

In “New Moon” and any other sequels, it is extremely likely that the actors who are playing the leads in the first film will be coming back to play their respective roles in the sequels. Don’t bother sending the casting directors letters saying “I missed the opportunity to play Alice in ‘Twilight,’ but could I audition for that role in ‘New Moon’?” Not going to happen! ☺

Lead Roles
Except in rare and publicized cases, lead roles in big movies are typically destined for established, name actors. Producers have to cast people who are already famous in the leading parts, to raise money and to reassure their investors that people will show up at the box office. That’s just the business. They are also typically required to hire actors who are members of one or more of the acting unions (such as the Screen Actors Guild). If you don’t have a track record, you need to start building one by getting some training, auditioning for smaller projects and adding credits to your resume.

99% of the time, producers will not pay to travel an actor to play a role (unless he or she is famous; see above). So, to be considered at all for a role, you should either look for films casting in your area or move to a city where films are being cast, in order to be a local.

Even if you’re willing to pay to come out for a few days to work on a film, no one wants to take the risk on an out-of-town actor. (What if you miss your flight? What if the shoot keeps getting delayed and you have to replace your plane ticket five times? What if we change the schedule and we need you RIGHT NOW for a wardrobe fitting…and you’re 1000 miles away? What if we fly you all the way out here and it turns out you’re not right for the role or you’re crazy or irresponsible?)

Yikes! Too much stress in an already stressful business. It’s safer to hire actors we know and love, and who live within the vicinity of the shoot. There is no shortage of willing and available talent in our own backyard. Our job is to reduce the risk of problems for our producers, not increase it. So get to know your local casting directors and start there.

Extra Work
This is one thing you can do without acting experience, but keep in mind that you can only work as an extra in the region where you live. If there’s a movie you want to be in and it’s shooting halfway across the world, you need to either move there or have a place to stay for a few weeks (and even then, there’s no guarantee you’ll definitely be needed). Also, for those who have been contacting us from overseas, you need to be able to legally work in the country where the film is shooting. The production company won’t hire you without a valid work permit or proof of citizenship. Unfortunately, those are the breaks!

Hope this helps. We’ll post more answers to your burning questions here, so be sure to bookmark us or add us to your RSS feeds (see links at the top of the right sidebar).

Good luck!

Monday, December 8, 2008

A wonderful testimonial and update

by admin

We just received this great card from a student who took Lana’s Marketing Tools for Actors course through her local college:

Thanks, Sahna! We’ve received hundreds of testimonials over the years, but it’s always appreciated when students take the time to share their personal success stories with us.

UPDATE: As of September 2008, Lana is no longer offering her course through colleges and universities…but the good news is that she’s updating and expanding the material–with the help of actors like you–and will soon make it available to the general public.

If you’d like to participate or just be kept in the loop, be sure to join our mailing list in the right sidebar. We won’t spam you or share your email address.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Holiday Season: Make a Difference

by admin

This may be somewhat off-topic, but as everyone knows, non-profits are really struggling these days.

As a company, we’ve decided this holiday season to make donations to various charities in the names of our clients, instead of sending them gift baskets, chocolates or other treats. Saves everyone’s waistlines and helps those who really need it!

Here are some of the non-profits that Lana Veenker Casting donates to throughout the year and additionally this season. Please check out their websites and consider doing the same. It feels great!

Run for Congo Women

Started by Lisa Shannon, a filmmaker and screenwriter from Portland, Oregon (and one of Lana’s closest friends), it benefits victims of the world’s deadliest war since WWII. The latest outbreak of violence over the past few weeks has forced more than 250,000 to leave their homes, bringing the total number of displaced to more than 1.2 million. LVC has sponsored almost a dozen women and their more than 60 children, and has inspired others to become sponsors themselves. Watch the video.

Portland Area Theatre Alliance’s Valentine Fund

PATA’s Valentine Fund provides emergency cash when crisis strikes a member of the local theatre community, such as an illness or catastrophic event. It holds a special place in Lana’s heart, after an actor and close friend in her former theatre company was hit by a car on his way to a performance. The Valentine Fund helped him pay rent while he was unable to work.

Oregon Food Bank

Oregon Food Bank reports that requests for emergency food have skyrocketed in recent months. A $10 contribution helps them collect and distribute enough food to fill an emergency food box, feeding a family of four for three- to five-days. LVC has often held fundraisers and made donations to Oregon Food Bank and encourages you to do the same.

Oregon Red Cross

When the three-year-old son of a local actress was diagnosed with leukemia (A.L.L.) last year, Lana Veenker Casting helped organize a blood donation drive in his name. The Red Cross has a continuing need to replenish its supplies and needs all blood types.

Abby’s Closet

Inspired by the final prom scene moments of “Twilight,” Lana Veenker Casting collected donations for Abby’s Closet at the recent cast and crew premiere party in Portland. Abby’s Closet helps young girls’ prom dreams come true. Long, formal gowns and accessories appropriate for high school girls are needed. (Prom, bridesmaid or other special occasion dresses are perfect.)

Here are some other organizations that LVC has often supported. Spread the love!

World Forestry Center
Oregon Humane Society
Amnesty International
Film Action Oregon
Muscular Dystrophy Association
Susan G. Komen for the Cure
Human Rights Campaign
Portland Rescue Mission
Oregon Public Broadcasting
Sierra Club
Easter Seals
Northwest Children’s Theatre
Oregon Bus Project

Happy holidays!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Actor Survey Closed!

by admin

Thank you to the hundreds of actors who participated in our survey! We are overwhelmed and excited by the response.

It will take some time to read through everyone’s responses, but even what we’ve read so far is amazing.

Once we’ve selected the winners of the one-hour career consultation with Lana, we’ll make an announcement here.

NOTE: If you didn’t get the chance to complete the survey, you still can, although you won’t be in the running for the contest. We’d love to hear from you anyway!

Stay tuned for other ways to participate in the making of Lana’s new book and other materials, and for lots of FREE content to help you find your way in this crazy biz.

PS: If you haven’t signed up for one (or both) of our MySpace pages (Lana Veenker Casting for actors and Rutabaga Background Casting for information on working as an extra), be sure to do so.

Remember you can also follow Lana on Twitter to see what she’s up to and be the first to find out when we post audition news, urgent casting requests, actor opinion polls and miscellaneous free stuff.

We love you, actors!!! Keep dreaming big.