Essential Acting Elements

Casting Director Tony Pichette speaks scientifically about the casting process

How often do you meet a casting director who majored in Theatre and minored in Chemistry? Not too frequently! That is why I had to ask Casting Director Tony Pichette about his view on the periodic elements… of the acting business. Luckily, for NYCastings, Tony agreed to lend his sense of humor along with his insight about this ever changing, reactive industry.

It all began with a molecule of passion. Tony Pichette decided to learn more about the world of acting by getting to the core of it all… in the mailing room at mega agency Paradigm in NYC. A couple of equations later, he ended up assisting with the casting of voiceovers before moving his skill set over to Kipperman Casting where he still casts national and regional commercials (both on-camera and V/O) for major clients such as: Arm & Hammer, STAPLES, Boston Market and MTV.

Along the way, Tony came up with his own set of life equations. Instead of doing what was expected of him, he did a little bit of everything as he learned to build from the ground up, assist himself, be open to suggestions, get to know what works for him and understand the randomness of it all while blowing a thing up or two for the fun of it. (That part goes back to the Chemistry lab in college, of course!)

For some major advice, here is how Tony Pichette equates the elements learned in life to the casting process:


= {N} Networking + {We} Work ethic + {Bn} Being Nice

Actors need to know the people who book jobs. They need to network and have a strong work ethic. When I talk to actors, they think they’ve done everything but we can always do something different to change our course. There is always something to do and people to meet, even the guy in the mailroom..

Also, there is always going to be other actors out there, no matter who you are. So you shouldn’t give someone a reason to not like you, a reason to not bring you in.


= {P} Preparation

Always have some way for another person to get a hold of you and see your work, whether that be a card or headshot. Nowadays headshots are almost old school but you should always have one on you, as well as a card with your website.

You must have a website because if people are interested they will look you up.

And have a reel. People always ask me “should I have a reel?” And I always say, “yes, why not.” Every answer is yes. All options are yes because you never know what is going to stick.


= {B} Balls

Actors always wonder, “should I do this?”

Yes, you should.

Sometimes a casting director will not care what you do on the first take or the second take but it has to be something different. There has to be some sort of separation between the two. It’s not about getting the script right. No one cares about getting the script right. No one ever gets the script right. You have to try things. Some of the best actors seem a little wacky because they do not have that thing that stops them.

Also, pay attention to when the casting directors gives you clues about what they want to get from you. If someone says, “be happy” and you were smiling a little, pay attention to the casting director’s body language and words. If they say they want you to smile “way more,” then you need to adjust accordingly.


= {Bb} Big balls

Let the director see something in you that they wouldn’t unless you tried something. Actors often say, “I wish I had done this or that.” Your whole job, your whole thing, is about that room. You can meet a million people and create opportunities but it all goes back to that room.

Everything is the same in that room until BOOM you just blow things up.


= {H} Humble + {Ab} Assume the best

Be modest, humble and receptive to what people are telling you. Don’t think they all hate you. Don’t expect the negativity in people. Assume that other people have their own issues. Assume that they have their own things going on and assume the best of intentions from them. Then you will be able to work with them and say, “ok, I wasn’t smiling enough. Let me try that.”


= {Sa} Self awareness + {Td} Translating direction

Understand that if you are an energetic person, naturally full of life, then your scale might be a little off because of who you are. Everyone has a scale. Your scale of happiness may be a 4 to 10 with four as your nothing. So when someone says, “be happy,” you have to move your scale over and adjust. Know if you have to hold it back.

Sometimes actors get frustrated because they are doing what is natural for them but they have to understand their instrument.

Many times, when I meet with someone, I just talk with them for a while as I tape them. Then we watch it back and see how they twitch, so many things come out of them. This is something you can correct on your own. You can tape yourself and watch it. But if you aren’t aware, how can you correct it? You have to be self-aware and then move on to trying things. Once you get that down, you can move on to call backs and get bookings.

People think it is such a big mystery – what separates one person from another. Yes, it is hard work. But there are some minor things that you can control. Sometimes, with auditions, you just need to get out of your own way.


= {Wh} Work hard + {Tw} Treat people well

I truly believe that if you work hard and treat people well that it will pay off. Understand that working hard does not mean doing something minor. It means working hard. Also understand that 1 plus 2 does not = 3. It is not a sure thing.

When I teach people I say, “This will only be true 80% of the time.” You can know what works for most people. You can know what will improve the chances. But you can not know what will work 100% of the time.

Your goal for commercials, over anything else, is to keep getting seen. The goal is not to be booked. As long as you keep getting seen by the casting director, you can consistently improve. Making those steps is something definite. It is finite feedback because many times you do not get any feedback.

Also, you have to let someone find you. Let someone work with you. So many times, I offer advice to someone in class and they are only thinking, “Are you going to bring me in?” That is not the end goal. The end goal is to learn.

To learn more about Tony Pichette visit his website

Tony works with college students. He visits schools and shares information about getting started in commercials and the acting business.

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