This question keeps coming up! I have had a lots of concerned parents ask me if agents can charge a joining or admin fee. Make sure you watch my latest reel on Insta for my short, sharp answer!:
In your quest to be a successful, recognised, award-winning actor, you always need to be aware of what the people who are hiring —casting directors— are looking for. At first, this can seem extremely difficult so I’ve come up with a couple of things that will make it impossible for a casting director to forget you.
1. form a connection
The first thing you need to know if you’re going to stand out is the concept of connection. If you can establish a connection with someone, they’re going to be drawn to you. When it comes to connecting with casting directors, do your research before an audition. Create an advantage. Watch one of their films and make specific notes. Although you only have five minutes for your audition, make a quick statement to the casting director and let them know how well they cast that specific project and then get to your audition asap! Establish a connection in a unique way and leave an indelible impression.
2. be different
Here’s another important point you need to know as an actor: it’s of great significance that you raise the energy of the room you’re walking into. For the people on the other side of the table, seeing the same audition over and over can be exhausting. They are hoping that you can come in with a spark and light the room on fire.
You were called in to audition because of your ability to act and this is where you’re going to seal the deal. Chances are that the role you’re auditioning for has hundreds of other actors aiming for a chance to be cast. In my experience, 95 percent of them will audition the same exact way. Which is why casting directors are likely exhausted when you walk in. Can you imagine watching the same thing over and over again?
To step above the rest and get into that five percent, get creative with your script and delivery. Know that you can hit your mark an unlimited number of ways. Constantly ask yourself how you can make your auditions stand out. You won’t always get an answer right away, but you will always receive one in the form of a hunch or corresponding circumstance. Ultimately, when you can stay mindful through the audition process, the creativity available to you will be immeasurable. Use it and become unforgettable to every casting director you encounter.
Some of you asked me if you could submit your modelling photos to apply for an acting role. There are some major differences between an actor headshot and a modelling portfolio.
I shared my thoughts on this via a video, where I explained what what is typically expected when applying for acting roles to potentially get shortlisted for an audition.
If you’re interested in pursuing both or one or the other, watch to learn about the protocols in the industry. And if you want more advice like this, sign up to the newsletter to get free advice by clicking here!
Over the weekend, I held a Q&A via Instagram (@ohjackieo.talentagency). One of the main questions people asked me is ‘What are your joining fees’ or ‘do talent/model agencies charge joining fees?’
I decided to share my thoughts on this via a video, where I explain what costs are typical and what are the red flags you should look out for when joining a modelling agency. For those who aren’t aware, I recently opened my books for models, which is why I talk about modelling agencies in the video as well!
Please note: It is typical for an agency to recommend that you get professional headshots (as an actor) or a starter modelling portfolio (as a model) so that they can put you forward to relevant roles in a very competitive industry.
As for joining fees, that is another story, watch more below. If you’re interested in more advice like this, sign up to the newsletter to get free advice by clicking here!
There are a few different reasons as to why casting directors call you in (and why sometimes they don’t!).
You’re a match!
The first thing is that you’re a match to what they are looking for (or what they think they are looking for). When casting directors go through submissions they have an idea of what they are looking for. As they look at all the headshots that are submitted, you’re either a match for what’s in their head or you’re not.
It’s not personal. So don’t take it personally. It’s not something that you should take to heart whether they call you in or not, or make you question your ability to be an actor, skill or ability. It’s not about that.
It’s also not because you have a pretty picture. They’re not just calling you in because your headshot is pretty or handsome. It’s about the match to what they’re looking for. Their vision for the role. When a casting director reads a script, they have a vision as to what they want the role to be so they are trying to make that match with what they see (i.e. your headshot) and what’s in their head. It’s not personal. It’s not about being pretty or handsome.
Your headshot portrays the character
Before they even look at your resume, they look at your headshot. When casting directors see submissions, the first thing they see is your headshot, not your resume. They use your headshot as a decision-maker to decide if they want to click and see more. Your headshot is your entry point in so it has to be unstoppable.
It’s not just the casting director who makes a decision
Casting directors are also creative artists and they have an instinct as to how to utilise your talent, looks an abilities in the project that they’re casting for. They think “yes, there is something about them!” while at the same time, they need to take into consideration the requests of the producer, director, studio and network. So from an outsider’s perspective, while it might seem easy to shortlist actors based on headshots, casting directors actually have so much going on while viewing all of the submissions!
So don’t get bogged down in trying to understand why you didn’t get shortlisted for a role. You, with blonde hair, didn’t get shortlisted but your friend with blonde hair did – yes, you have the same colour hair but you don’t look the same!
Take away tips
- Know how to accurately represent your brand so that when a casting director looks at your headshot, they know exactly what to do with you in one glance.
- Focus on your craft. You’ve got to have the goods. Focus on improving your audition techniques, on top of good acting skills, you need to be able to audition well.
- Change your mindset so that you are fearless in choosing to let go of anything you can’t control, like the casting process. Control what you can like your headshot and training.
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Your résumé is instrumental in selling yourself and, unlike most aspects of the business, your résumé is something you have complete control over.
Casting Directors and Talent Agents want you to lead with your best foot forward when walking into an audition room, and that starts with what’s on your résumé. Here are some tips that I’ve rounded up over the years.
The film and television industry is cutthroat and so you may find yourself tempted to lie to stand out. For example, if a role comes up that you think you’re perfect for but has one special skill that you don’t have, would it be a huge risk to stretch the truth on your résumé to get seen? YES!
Casting Directors don’t always ask for proof but you never know when some might. In particular, accents/dialects. Unless you’ve had years of training with different accents, you should only list the ones you have studied. If you can’t legitimately execute the accent on the spot, well, you can be sure that Casting Director won’t ask you to come back in for another audition.
There’s absolutely no crime in being a beginner. Everyone was at one point. So don’t be ashamed. Present whatever experience you have in its best light, and put yourself out there
Keep up with trends, but know the basics.
This may sound a little snobby, if you have material that doesn’t adhere to the current forms simply screams, ‘I’m outdated!’ to big-market agents and casting directors.
Here are the basics:
- At the top: your full name, representation (or your contact information if freelance), and union affiliations (if any).
- Next: credits, grouped into ‘Film and Television’ and ‘Theatre’ (put your primary market first)
- Followed by: any special performing categories, such as ‘Hosting,’ ‘Webisodes,’ and so forth.
- Finally: a section for ‘Training’ and ‘Special Skills.’
Understand your priorities
Don’t list the name of the character you played in a movie or a series. The fact that you were hired to play James on ‘Breaking Bad’ means nothing. However, if you list that part as Guest Star or Costar, then we will have a better understanding of what you booked.
The only exception to this is the ‘Theatre’ section on your résumé where you can use the name of your character, especially with famous plays.
Less is usually more
When Talent Agents and Casting Directors look are your résumé, they look for things they recognise. For example, the production company, a director, a reputable accent coach, etc. They’re also looking for credits that stand out.
The goal of your résumé is to keep your it current. The credit is irrelevant if it’s outdated. For example, if you were a lead in a TV commercial when you were five and you’re now 25 then it’s best to remove that.
Keep your résumé clean so that we can find the most important details. Everything should be by and large in chronological order (without listing dates). Put your most impressive roles toward the top of your résumé, where they’re more visible.
Special skills should be special
The ‘special skills’ section should not just be landfill for unnecessary information. It should contain your special skills – skills that you’re trained in and years of experience.
Now get editing!
The headshot is one of the most important marketing tools for an actor. It’s amazing how many actors don’t invest in a professional headshot. When casting directors view your headshot, you want them to say, “Yes, bring that person in for an audition!” Not “Yikes, not that guy.” Read below for some tips from a casting director’s perspective.
Your headshot is your calling card. It will be used to submit you for different roles. So if you’re headshot doesn’t look that great, you won’t look that great. You want to be seen as a professional actor, not as someone who has no experience, therefore, the way you present yourself is everything. If you want to be taken seriously in the entertainment industry, you must have a good headshot.
1. Go professional.
Spend money on a professional headshot —it’s worth it. Don’t go to a friend who happens to have a good camera but isn’t a trained professional when it comes to headshots. People who are trained in headshots understand framing, lighting and all the nitty-gritty that comes with. Any photos from non-professionals should be saved for the ‘gram! Otherwise, it simply looks cheap and looks like you don’t really care about your acting career.
2. Remember: It’s all about your eyes.
It’s much easier for actors to work their magic on a moving camera than it is on a still camera. Just remember though, on-camera acting is all about your eyes and what is happening behind them. Similarly, your headshot should be the primary focus. There should be a story, inner thoughts behind your eyes. A good headshot photographer knows how to bring this out in you so that’s why #1 is so important!
3. Don’t use costumes or props.
It’s a no go. Your headshot shouldn’t have any hats, large pieces of jewellery, costumes. Why do people do this? Because they want to stand out. Secret is, keeping it simple and classy will get you noticed. Remember point #2 when it comes to headshots, let your eyes do the work!
4. Less is more when it comes to makeup
Your headshot is not a glamour shot. You don’t need to put on a lot of makeup. You want to look like yourself on your best day. Be yourself. Please don’t be one of those actors who come into the audition not looking like their headshot, this is one of the biggest pet peeves of a casting director.