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NYCastings Top Booker of 2011 - Sandra Palmeri
Written by: Kelly Calabrese
Whoot! Toss Confetti!!!
Now please join me in a huge round of applause for this year's Top Booker - Sandra Palmeri who raked in 92 days of work, totaling over $25,000 just from submissions through NYCastings.
Indeed this is one fiercely inspiring success story. So without further festive rambling... here is how Sandra Palmeri made her magic happen...
Q & A with NYCastings Top Booker for 2011 Sandra Palmeri
Q: WOW, congrats. What helped to make 2011 so impactful?
One of the big changes that I made this year is to put a reel up on NYCastings. I originally put up a four minute reel. Then, I changed that to two reels - one for commercial and a separate reel for film. After that, very recently, I changed it again to one single reel, under two minutes, with everything from film and TV to modeling. I think that really helps because people can see who I am very quickly and they can make a decision in the first couple of frames... Do I like this girl? Do I want to book her?
Also, I always have my Blackberry on me and I try to submit as soon as possible. Sometimes I am busy working, but on the days that I have the liberty to submit right away, I do. I think it helps.
Q: Any other NYCastings tips that helped you book a ton?
Yes. Probably every month or so I update the pictures and even move them around. Sometimes I'll have one headshot up for a couple of months, if it is getting a good response. But then I'll move on to another. I think it is important to keep your headshots as current as possible with a range of looks.
Q: How often do you get new Headshots?
Once every year and a half. Also, I am always getting new tear sheets from jobs. I just got one from a medical shot and it's not a headshot but it's really pretty. I put that picture up on NYCastings right away.
Q: Do you use images, like the medical shot, when submitting?
When I submit, I keep it basic - please view my reel, resume and photos - and then just say thanks, Sandra. So I am asking them to view the photos and people do look at your pictures on NYCastings. I've booked a lot of jobs just off pictures. People will say they really liked a certain picture or they liked a jacket in a certain picture and want to know if I will bring it.
To me, the key thing in our business is the pictures. If your pictures don't look good, you are not going to get the call. That is your one chance. Even if the picture is an inch by an inch on the screen, it has to pop and make them want to learn what you are all about.
Q: How important are online casting sites to your success as a NY actor?
To me, I have to submit online. I can't just rely on my agent. I have to make my own work. It is pinnacle. It is the most important way I book work and for a potential client to see me. If I relied just on my agent, I'd book a much smaller percentage.
Q: Sounds like you are always at it. You have tenacity!
As far as the tenacity, I do keep at it. And once I book a job, I follow up with my clients. If I work with them once, I let them know that I am still around. If they are open to it, I send emails once every three months. I usually try and put something catchy in the subject line like "Sandra just booked an E.L.F. campaign for 40+ models." And then I start with something about the day and quickly get to what I'm up to with a link below to see more images or the commercial or whatever I've just worked on. I never ask for more work. It is a soft sell. Though, I did have one client ask me to stop. So I did. You've got to respect that.
Q: It doesn't intimidate you that a person asked you to stop?
No. You know, it's kind of funny. I was just analyzing my life the other day because I am reading "Eat Pray Love" and I was thinking of the apple falling close to the tree. My father was very creative. He was a cabinet maker and a dreamer. And my mother worked for an electronics company in sales and was always traveling and analyzing. And somehow, I got both their traits. I am creative, yet I look at this as a business and strategically look at how to achieve my goal. I take in what everyone says and let it feed me. It gives me more energy to move on.
You always have to look at the bright side. If you don't, in this business, you can get down quickly. Especially with the audition that I have this week. I had to memorize the script for the audition and I have been rehearsing. I know how many hours I am putting into it but I don't know what the casting director or producer will see - if they will realize the work I am putting into it. But I still work hard. I have to work hard to memorize and get into character and know who the charter is so I am prepared.
Q: Sounds like you live and breathe acting. Is it you full time job?
Some of my income still comes from my sales job, but I would say that I am a full time actor with other sources of income because on a daily basis I am working on my craft. When I am not applying for roles, I am working. This morning I had a booking for modeling, so last night I had to make sure that my nails were done, clothes laid out and nothing was left to last minute.
Q: Do you ever feel unprepared?
I did when I shot a travel rewards program. I was playing the host and I got the script at the shoot, after my makeup was done and it was four pages without a teleprompter. I had worked with them before and they thought I could just do it. We worked it one paragraph at a time. My throat was so raw by then end of the day, I couldn't even speak. And my mind was constantly working to pick up the line and deliver it to camera.
Q: How do you keep your nerves from taking over?
Sometimes the nerves are there, but I allow my personality to take over and shine through my nervousness. For the film I shot over the summer, "The Class Reunion," I originally auditioned for the Principle - a stern role. Then, the director called me and offered me the role of Cindy because I was more flirtatious and a little more righteous than the character I read for. My personality just came through. I thought I gave them what I thought they wanted. But really, I gave them me. And the role was perfect for me. I saw some of the film and I am very pleased with my work and my co-workers. The film looks amazing.
Q: You just let yourself shine through and that works?
Yeah! Of course, sometimes it doesn't. A few weeks ago I got an audition and a callback for a national commercial, but I didn't book it. For me, I just always keep rolling with it and try to not get discouraged.
It's difficult sometimes when I speak with people who are not in the business because they think that I must be so disappointed when I don't get a role and I think... yeah, but there is another job around the corner.
Q: That's a great way to look at it! And it must help to not seem desperate?!
That is something I learned early on - you don't want to let them see you sweat. I have always been a big believer of "fake it until you make it." I learned that when I was a hairdresser. The owner told me that "you can be a great hairdresser with a horrible personality and have no one in your chair. Or you can be an OK hairdresser with a fabulous personality and you will work all the time." I worked all the time.
Of course, it is a very fine line of knowing who you are speaking with and reading them the best you can. Don't try and say what someone wants to hear, that would be fake. But if you see that someone is stressed out, don't sit there and make small talk. It's about knowing what to say and what not to say.
Q: So... You got discovered while working as a hair dresser, right?
Yes. I am going on my third year in this business as an actor but I got discovered as a model while hairdressing. I was modeling full time in my late twenties early thirties.
Q: What brought you to acting 3 years ago?
The economy changed and the company I worked for decided that everyone was no longer going to get a salary. All sales people were going to work on commission. So I decided to start modeling again and get back in the business. I called one of my old agents and spoke with my booker and got new pictures. I also started submitting to acting jobs and started booking background. And I remember I was on the set of "Ugly Betty" and someone backstage asked if I was an actress. I said no I was a model. But then they gave me a monologue to read and they told me that I was an actress. So, I declared myself an actress.
Q: How often do you study acting?
I am currently studying with AFTRA and they have classes for scene study, on camera and voice technique. I take them all on a regular basis. At least once a week. I also work with a couple of different actors from AFTRA on scenes. We met every week over the summer to help each other.
I feel that networking and getting a core group of actors together to see what works and doesn't work - really helps.
Q: And you often book repeat business?! Like for BLUM and FINK - you worked a lot with them this year.
Yes. I originally booked BLUM and FINK through NYCastings. They liked me when I met them. They thought I was the perfect personality, age and height. Also, because I have the sales background, when I am in the showroom I know how to work with the high-end customers. I don't say much. But when someone does ask me a question, I know what to say.
I feel as if I put a good reputation out. That if you booked me once, even if it was a year ago, you will remember me.
Q: Sounds like you have your act together!
I do have my act together and I don't know how! I guess, I observe people and try to make the best choices in situations.
In life you have a choice. You can choose to be one way or another. Every day you have choices from how you dress and take care of yourself to how much sleep you get. I also read a lot. That helps too because you can get a collective idea of what works.
My fiancé calls me a spin doctor. He says that I can spin something out of nothing,
With your imagination anything can happen.
Q: Any advice for NYCastings members for 2012?
I would wish for everyone to just keep trying and really learn from mistakes. Look at the opportunities not the negatives. That's really how you get through life the best way.
In my world, bright and shiny wins the race.
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