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Audition Apprentice - What it takes to get hired, with CD Amy Gossels
Written by: Kelly Calabrese
You're Hired! - That's the call you hope for post audition/ call back... and Casting Director Amy Gossels knows how to help YOU make the best impression during the audition process.
Since graduating Magna Cum Laude from Brown University and graduate work at Rhode Island School of Design, Amy Gossels, has been the casting director, and in many cases a producer, for more than seventy film productions in New York. Ms. Gossels has also cast and produced more than thirty award winning short films, print campaigns and a wide range of television projects, including The Comedy Central Specials "Night of Too Many Stars" hosted by Jon Stewart and all the commercial challenges on NBC's "The Apprentice" and "Celebrity Apprentice" (2009-2010).
As an independent casting company, Amy Gossels Casting continues to work "non-stop" despite current economy challenges.
"We have been booked seven days a week," shares Amy Gossels. This past year "has been one of the best years ever because we know what we are doing, can deliver quickly and we put together great casting sessions for our clients who are very loyal to us. And we are always getting referred by the directors and producers who work for us because we aim to exceed our client's expectations and do."
Since Amy Gossels knows how to exceed expectations in this competitive entertainment industry, NYCastings sought after her business knowledge and insight...
Q&A with Amy Gossels of Amy Gossels Casting:
Q: How does an audition compare to a business interview?
Certainly an audition is not just your delivery of the copy. The audition starts when you walk in the door and ends when you walk out of the door. It is important to have a confident, prepared and friendly demeanor from start to finish. You don't want to walk in flustered. Some people may be running late but you don't want to draw attention to it.
An actor may come in and say, "I am so sorry but I got on a defective subway." But the bottom line is we may not have even noticed that you are late inside the studio. You should always come in as if everything is fine and do your best work. Do not get into any personal drama.
Get your sides and read every material available, including the breakdowns, shoot dates and boards. Don't waste time mingling with other actors. Get into the mindset of the job you are going in for and then walk in confident, friendly and prepared. It's about being professional. And then, your work should speak for itself.
Q: When an actor walks in - is the job theirs to win or theirs to lose?
Of course we want you to do well. If we bring in people who don't do well, it makes us look bad. But you still have to prove you are right for the role. No one should walk in thinking they've got it. You have to walk in thinking you are right for the role, own that and then show us.
Q: How important is a polished, professional looking headshot?
Very. Just getting in the door in the first place is 95% based on that because we get hundreds and sometimes thousands of headshots. And sometimes we share these headshots with our clients who help pre-screen. You should have a certain spark, something interesting. Your eyes should be very alive and connected. Something should come across that makes us want to know you.
Q: When it comes to correspondence - do thank you letters and follow-up make a difference?
I think a thank you note is always lovely. Just don't expect something from it. You can't think of a thank you letter as getting major points. If you were not right for the job, it won't make a difference in terms of getting another audition. But it shows you are considerate and thoughtful. And sometimes if you book a job you can send a little thank you something. It shows that the actor appreciated us.
Q: Can an actor send something too creative or not acceptable.
Not really. I have had some people send home baked things which are not the best idea. But mainly people send lovely things chocolates, flowers, gift baskets or Starbucks gift cards and that's lovely. That makes a nice impression. I am not saying you need to send something. I just want people to know it is appreciated when they do.
Q: You cover commercials, film, TV, Promos etc - is there is a different type of hire?
Not really. If you are a great on-camera presence, you are going to be right for all of them. If you have likeability, a presence that people connect with.
Obviously with film, you want to have more of a background, more training. There is more to it because you have to carry a full blown story and it is very subjective as to what the director has in mind. But anyone who is a great talent will be good across the board.
Q: When it comes to seeking advice / mentoring – you teach commercial workshops that give 7 minutes per actor one-on-one. What difference does this make?
The commercial scripts are only 30 seconds so we do the script many times and I give subtle notes and adjustments that the actor doesn't get in casting sessions. In a casting session, you might get one or two or three takes but you are not going to get notes on what to tweak.
I can transform someone's audition in three minutes. Someone can walk in and give an audition that is horrible and by then end of our time they can be transformed. I can't tell you how many people send letters about the jobs they book afterwards. Even if you are really seasoned, there can be one subtle thing you are not aware of that can be a deal breaker. It can be something as subtle as not staying connected to the camera after you finish speaking. I have had people come back several times to work on new material.
I think an actor's instincts with commercials are the opposite of what they should be. A lot of actors come in and perform their script. They think they should sell and be smiley and I try and get the most natural, organic and appropriate read for any copy, which is applicable to any commercial because commercials today aren't selly or super smiley.
You can never guarantee getting a callback because you might not be the right type. There are all kinds of variables that you have no control over. We may be seeing all ranges and types and then half way through the casting session the client decides they want a blonde. You can not guarantee a callback but there are ways to make it much more likely in terms of the work and overall presentation. Some things can kill your chances. Subtle things that give the client an impression that you are not seasoned enough. So I try to help each actor come across as seasoned and confident and right for the job as possible.
Q: Your Casting Associate Eliza Khan (who has been casting in New York for the past 10 years herself!) offers insight to the entertainment casting biz before and after your workshops. That's an unusual benefit. What added advantage does this offer an actor?
Eliza goes over your resume and pictures. She breaks down what you should and should not be doing in terms of being pro-active. And she lets you know about all the productive resources out there because some are rip offs and some are lifelines for actors.
Q: Do actors ever get FIRED - aka black listed from a CDs office?
The people who do get blacklisted are those who call the office all the time and are very aggressive. Don't call the office. Don't show up late to a job or make us look bad because then we won't call you in again. Other than that, it doesn't happen.
Q: Any networking advice for building a career?
Go to the one-on-ones and get yourself in front of the right industry people, get their feedback. There are a lot of organizations setting those meetings up. And, submit yourself through the online resources.
I also strongly advise training, especially if you want to do commercials. There are very specific skills and you can get a lot out of the right on-camera class.
It's good to work with a casting director who is actually casting a lot of commercials because they know what works. We do on-camera classes and so many people are getting jobs afterwards. We don't even advertise our classes and they always fill up with a waiting list.
It is so important to give yourself that opportunity to train on-camera because it is like exercising a muscle so when you do go in for an audition you don't fall back on the wrong instincts. It's critical to have those skills so you can nail the audition.
If you want to get hired, "it's about nailing it on the first take."
For more information about Amy Gossels' Workshops email… firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also view Ms. Gossels' bio at http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0331652/
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