If anyone knows about the various markets in the U.S. for actors and casting, it would have to be Cathy Reinking. A veteran of television casting in L.A. from way back, including work on shows like “Frasier,” “Arrested Development,” and “According to Jim,” she spent 12 years in the belly of the beast before moving with her daughter to Colorado in the early 2000s.
She worked there for a number of years, including revising and updating her book before returning to California in 2009. But her latest move has put her at Ground Zero when it comes to production: Atlanta is the latest boomtown for television and film, and it’s the place Reinking calls home.
“It’s a perfect city for me,” she says via Skype. “There’s culture, it’s diverse, I can live in the city and it’s affordable, people are nice, it’s clean–it’s like a perfect city. People here complain about the traffic, but it’s NOTHING compared to L.A.”
But aside from the relative ease with which Georgians get around their burgeoning capital, the draw for people working in television and film is undeniable.
“Production is booming so much it’s kind of crazy,” Reinking says via Skype. “Big TV shows are coming here, like ‘McGyver,’ and ‘Stranger Things’ shoots here, all the Marvel movies are shooting here. ‘Bad Moms Christmas,’ ‘Baby Driver’ was shot here, they’ve got a big Robert DeNiro movie coming here, just huge movies. The list goes on and on.”
And Reinking says the Atlanta talent pool is among the deepest in the U.S., no small compliment from someone who graduated from UCLA’s theater program and then cut her teeth in the shark tank of Los Angeles casting.
“The acting pool is better than in Albuquerque or New Orleans where they also have some incentive programs,” she says. “I think part of that is that [Atlanta] is just a more liveable city than Albuquerque. I hate Albuquerque. It’s just not a vibrant city, and Atlanta is.”
So actors considering a move to the Southeast, take heart: there is plenty of work in them there hills. But also come with your best foot forward, as the competition is likely to be comparable to that of New York or L.A. Also, brush up on your self-tape game.
“There’s a lot of opportunities for actors here,” Reinking says. “And they do self-tape more than they do live auditions, so you have to get good at self-taping which is its own art form.”
But for Reinking, the key to booking roles isn’t in what method you use to audition; it’s actually deceptively simple: be genuine.
“I look for charisma,” she says. “And what charisma is, is an actor being their authentic self, and not trying to be someone else, or trying to second guess what we might be looking for. We just want your authentic self in that role. So don’t overthink it or try to be something you’re not, because it just doesn’t fit.
“[That] feels like acting,” she continued. “And the trick with auditioning for TV and film is it’s gotta feel like it’s not acting.”
Reinking has her own particular analogy to help guide auditioning actors along the right path: imagine the best first date you’ve ever been on, and emulate that person who seemed so attractive to you.
“We’re attracted to somebody who doesn’t talk about themselves that much, someone who’s genuinely interested in the other person, who is humble,” she says. “On a date you [want to] be a person who is fully present, who is comfortable in their own skin, all that. That’s what presence is. Being present as yourself.”
Btu Reinking is quick to point out that that sense of being present and comfortable in your own skin by definition implies that the genuineness cuts through all aspects of being human–it doesn’t mean hiding behind a false happy face.
“That’s both dark and light,” she says. “If someone is too light we’re going to get bored with them. And if they’re all dark we’re going to be repelled. So it’s a balance of your dark and light qualities.”
And in keeping with the dating analogy, Reinking says one big no-no for her when it comes to auditioning actors is looking desperate.
“Don’t apologize for your audition,” she says emphatically. “Don’t make excuses, like ‘I just got the material,’ or ask ‘Do you want to see it another way?’ Just [avoid] feeling too desperate. Don’t question it to much. Just do it. There has to be an ease to how you deal with the material.”
One piece of advice Reinking has that cuts against the grain is that actors should toss out the old adage of treating auditions like a job interview.
“I think it’s the opposite of a job interview,” she says. “In a job interview you’re going to put up your public persona. I think it’s more the private person that we’re looking for. You’re actually creating a family if you’re going to work on a project.”
The bottom line is that with casting directors like Cathy Reinking working in a city as lively and liveable as Atlanta, there are certainly worse places an actor could hang his or her hat. Ultimately, just remember to be yourself, and also that casting directors are people too.
“Never be intimidated by casting people,” Reinking says, laughing. “We’re just normal.”
Reinking’s book “How to Book Acting Jobs in TV and Film” (2nd edition) is available on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback editions.