You’re a snowflake.
And we know you’re unique. But we do hear a lot of the same questions from aspiring actors, so we’ve collected some of the most common ones here along with our answers.
Q:How do I break into the business?
A:Breaking in is a simple two-step process, but you’d be surprised how many aspiring actors think they can skip right over these first two crucial steps. Step one: get training. Step two: get experience on smaller projects and work your way up. You can’t go from never having flown an airplane to being the pilot without going through some rigorous training and logging a lot of flight hours. This business is the same way. Producers and directors aren’t looking for someone who has never flown before. Read as much as you can about acting and the business. Take classes with the best acting teachers (watch out for scams in this department). Get some theatre experience. Audition for independent films. Eventually, you’ll be ready to approach talent agents and casting directors, but not until you’ve logged some flight time.
Q:How do I find out about castings? How do I submit myself?
A:We can’t speak for other casting companies or websites, but most of our castings 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 start with the actors who are tried-and-true or who come highly recommended from agents we respect. For smaller parts, we might dig a little deeper 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. You are always welcome to submit your headshot and resume to our database (instructions here), and snail mail us flyers and postcards about your upcoming projects (instructions here). But be aware that we usually work with represented actors. Sign with a vetted Northwest talent agency, and you’ll be submitted for all the projects you’re right for. Keep in mind that most of the time, you need to live in the area where the casting is taking place. When doing open calls, we typically put out a press release to the local media, post the information on our website and possibly even on Craigslist in the city where the casting is taking place. P.S.: If you are an experienced, professional actor with a long, beefy resume of Broadway, network or major studio credits, and you’re visiting town for a spell, by all means drop us a line.
Q:What should I include on my resume? What does a headshot look like?
A:Rather than go into great detail here, we recommend checking out how other actors have done it in the links below. You’ll want to make sure your marketing materials are as sharp as your acting skills, if you intend to pursue acting as a profession. Here’s a link to over 7,000 acting resumes. Pick a template you like, copy or recreate it in a word processing document and insert your information. If you don’t have experience in a certain category, write “New to Industry,” and focus on your training, skills and the other areas where you have strengths (i.e., theatre). A well-crafted resume is crisp, clean, easy to read, one page long and focused on experience relevant to acting. It does not include your Social Security number. Here’s a link to 76,000 headshots. If you’re serious about an acting career, you’ll eventually need a professional headshot. If you’re heading to an open casting call, a simple digital photo will suffice. Notice how the actors are framed in their photos, how their faces are easily visible (no hats, sunglasses, etc.) and how the best photos are in sharp focus and draw your attention to their eyes. A good headshot is always taken in front of a neutral background without friends or pets in the frame. Fluffy will have other moments to shine.
Q:I don’t have any experience. Do I need to be a member of a union in order to get a speaking role?
A:When a project is being done under a union contract (i.e. SAG-AFTRA in the US), 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). That said, we do consider non-union actors for union projects when we can’t find an appropriate union actor. And of course, we hire non-union actors when we’re casting non-union productions. If you have great training, and lots of theatre or indie film experience, you shouldn’t worry about your union status. Focus on gaining experience, and your SAG-AFTRA card will take care of itself when the time comes.
Q:Where would I find a list of suitable agents, who are not frauds, of course?
A:SAG-AFTRA maintains a list of franchised talent agencies. In Oregon, you can also check out the SourceOregon directory under Talent Agencies (Principals) or Talent Managers for a list of vetted companies that represent actors. Beyond those lists, look into listings with your local film office or ask actors in your community. Remember, bona fide agents and managers only earn money when you do. They don’t try to sell you classes, photographs or charge you exorbitant registration fees. An agency 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’s a red flag that may mean they’re getting kickbacks—not good).
Q:What do I do at an open casting call?
A:These are our three basic tips:
- Be professional. The casting company’s job is to find the best and most professional actors for the parts. They don’t want a foaming-at-the-mouth fan bent on causing a disturbance on the set when people are trying to work. Nor do they want to be stalked incessantly with multiple emails and phone calls. That type of behavior isn’t professional, and it’s going to get you noticed for all the wrong reasons.
- Fit the specs. If the breakdown says they want Native Americans within a certain age bracket, they mean it. The most experienced, professional, trained and legal-to-work actors who fit the specs will be given first priority. In our experience, only after exhausting all possibilities among experienced talent who meet the requirements will casting directors begin to consider actors who don’t completely meet the specs, or people who fit the specs but who are not actors.
- Follow instructions precisely. If the instructions are to send an email with specific information, include all the requested info. Don’t email every other person on the company roster. If the instructions are to attend an open casting call, show up at the correct date, time and location and bring anything you were asked to bring. Don’t show up a day early. If it says “no phone calls,” they really, really mean it. All of this may seem obvious, but hundreds of people fail to follow instructions, which prevents casting companies from focusing on the people who do follow instructions.
Q:How can I sign up for a Tools for Actors workshop?
A:It’s easy. Check out our Workshops page for more information.
Q:Do you offer Tools for Actors workshops online?
It’s definitely something we’re looking towards making available in the future. Check out our Workshops page for updates and news.
Q:I don’t live in the Pacific Northwest. Will you bring a Tools for Actors workshop to my city?
A:Quite possibly. Check out our Workshops page for more information.
Q:Can I job shadow or intern with you?
A:We occasionally take on casting interns, preferably ones who make arrangements through an accredited school program. If you’re local to Portland and interested, send us a note through the Contact page. We’ll be in touch if anything becomes available.
Q:Are you hiring?
A:The short answer is: it’s unlikely. Every now and then we may find ourselves in need of additional front desk help. If you’re interested in this part-time work, you can send a cover letter and resume to talent[at]castironstudios[dot]com. We will keep your information on file for 1 (one) year.
Q:I’m not local to Portland, but I’d like to find an internship with a casting director near me. How do I start?
A:Not all casting directors are going to offer internships, but sending a general inquiry via email or postal mail is a good way to start. Introduce yourself in your letter. If you’re in school and want or need to receive credit for your internship, it might be a good idea to include some information on your school’s internship program requirements. Don’t forget to include your resume and contact information.
Q:Can you pass something on to a celebrity for me?
A:No. We can’t forward your information, casting or music suggestions, script ideas, tokens of love or autograph requests to the filmmakers, crew or actors. Try a Google search for an actor’s fan mail address, which will certainly get your missives closer to the star than anything we receive will.
Q:Is it possible to get hired on a film shooting in the U.S. or Canada if I live overseas?
A:It’s extremely unlikely. 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.
Q:I just want to be an extra. How do I do that?
A:Extras will be hired in the region where the production is based. If you reside in the Northwest, check out our Submissions page for information on working as a background performer in Oregon. You do not need experience to work as an extra, but you do need to live locally and be able to work legally. No one will provide travel or work visas for background actors.
Q:I’m under 18. How should I go about getting started?
A:Do you have training and experience? Sometimes junior high or high school drama departments are led by qualified teachers, but they can also 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: * 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. * 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. * The teacher talks about listening and responding, being in the moment, playing off what the other actors give you. A true actor cannot plan her reactions in advance, because if she’s really in the moment, she 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. As for experience: Try to get some experience outside of school in local professional theatres. Also, look for auditions for independent films; there may be an opportunity to build up an acting reel if you get a few well-produced, professional looking scenes. 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 SAG-AFTRA‘s low-budget agreements, which assures 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 SAGIndie.org. Also check out Bizparentz Foundation for some great guidelines resources for child actors and their parents.
Q:I have training and experience. Should I move to L.A.?
A:Before moving to L.A., you need to find out if you can compete in a smaller market, and also try to procure a SAG-AFTRA card, which is much easier to do in a regional market than in L.A. Once you have some training and experience, and preferably an acting reel, you can put together an acting resume and a photograph and try to sign with a local talent agent in the nearest large or medium-sized city. Check out our Submissions page (or the FAQ above about suitable agencies) for resources. Don’t spend a lot of money on a headshot until you’ve 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 you in real life.