Strickman-Ripps, Inc. Casting + Research shares how to get REAL acting gigs
Countless companies rely on testimonials, market research, and man-on-the-street interviews to help sell their products and services. This demand for engaging people means another opportunity for actors to make $$$ – IF – they know how to best represent themselves.
When it comes to finding genuine people, Jill Strickman-Ripps rules in casting and research. Jill founded Strickman-Ripps, Inc. Casting & Research in 1992. Prior to starting the company, Jill was producer of Still Photography and Special Projects for Photographer/Director Neal Slavin where they focused on finding authentic people.
“That’s how I got started,” Jill Strickman-Ripps shares. “Then I got involved in market research, getting people’s opinions, and ended up starting a casting company. Now we are a one stop shop, whether you need actors, real people, or a combination.”
At Strickman-Ripps, their team gets all kinds of requests from people with diabetes, to flight attendants who sweat a lot, or even brides-to-be with corns on their feet. For some of these gigs, you need to be something very specific. But overall, you just need to be… yourself.
To help more NYCastings members find a place in this real market, we asked Jill to share her expert opinions.
(Q&A with Jill Strickman-Ripps)
Part One: What actors need to find within themselves.
Q: How does an actor, be real?
A: When actors come in to be themselves, and this happens in many situations, the most important thing is for the actor to not push their acting. What we are interested in is who you are as a person. For Select Comfort, we had people come in who had trouble sleeping in the same bed. What happened was that the actors started saying, “I am an actor and this is what I’ve done.” It is not about acting. It’s about you and your spouse and sleeping problems. You need to be aware what they are looking for. Most of the time, especially in the commercial world, they don’t care about your experience. For a short commercial, they want a look and a personality. Be yourself and don’t focus on your acting career.
Q: Are there any mistakes to avoid when auditioning for a “real” person spot?
A: Actors tend to go over the top. You want to show range but take your cues from the casting director. A good casting director will let you know what they want and they will bring you back in if you get lost. Be in tune with what the casting director asks for and the direction they give you. Sometimes casting directors will say, Take it in your own direction, but just really try to pay attention to what they are saying.
Q: Physically, are there ways to seem more natural?
A: Many times people say, “I do not want to see anyone too slick, too groomed, too tan, or with too white of teeth.” You have to look great and natural but don’t overdo it. Usually, they want someone to look how they do on the street, how you would look in everyday life.
Q: Is there a manner of speech that comes across more believable?
A: With real people, the style is usually an interview as opposed to a script. Be engaged and conversational. The good thing about working with an actor is you don’t have to pull them out, they will already be out, but really listen and engage with the person.
Q: What happens if you don’t like the company’s product?
A: Testimonials legally have to be done in a research environment so unless an actor was recruited through a research setting, legally, they would not be asked to do a testimonial. Infomercials are something different but I say, in general, being truthful is really important. Whatever you do in life you want to have integrity. If you don’t want to bash something, that’s ok, don’t say anything. However, if they ask you if you like something, I would say to be honest. For my part, people come to me because I do find those who are authentic. For our style, one who is a liar is not going to work. We will detect it.
Part Two: What actors need to know.
Q: On the research side, what should actors do to be more prepared and aware?
A: If you are going in to speak about a product, which is what we do here, then research the product. Google the product and see what is going on, what the trend has been, and what the news says. If you are going in for a doctor, read what it is like to be one. That will give you a feeling, strategically. Things will make more sense when you go in for the audition.
Q: How long should answers be in the interview?
A: In that situation, you can ask the casting director upfront if they want the short or long answer and they will tell you what they want. In general, a short answer is better. If they are interested, they will ask for more.
Q: What should actors know about testimonial work versus regular commercials?
A: Going in and reading copy, reading a script, is a completely different talent than being able to have a conversation. It is like apples and oranges. That’s why when people ask us to bring in real people to do tons of copy we are like “forget it.” It takes training and skill to be able to do that well.
Q: What more can an actor do to become right for “real” casting?
A: Everyone wants people who are interesting and have passions. Passions in life like cooking, skydiving, hiking, biking are the kind of things that interest people on the creative side. Be able to talk about your love for them. Casting directors want people who are alive and passionate. Some actors can come across as self-absorbed and then people on the other side of the camera start to roll their eyes. Those actors behave as if it is all about them, they are not listening, and it’s not a reciprocal feeling in the way they communicate.
Q: Is there a trend in “real people” casting that actors should know about?
A: Any kind of multi-racial thing is appealing and mixed families. We get many requests for actors and their entire families. We also get calls for actors and five of their closest friends. It is good to have your friends organized incase the call comes. We use actors to find these requests because it is a quicker way to do it. Actors could prep their family a little before the opportunity comes up. They could get the idea in their head so when it does come up, they are ready.
Q: Are three any tools or skill sets that come in handy?
A: Being able to do video chats, being able to put you on camera and submit it, is important. Have a set up that is ready and looks decent because many times there are submissions with things like “tell us your biggest hair problem.” For this, the best background is simple, well lit and without too much clutter.
Q: Is there anything that actors should be more aware of?
A: Social media checks. A company hired an actor and then discovered something pornographic about them on the web. Everything you do on the internet can be found. If clients are looking at someone on a tape, they may Google the actor. Be aware of your image and be careful about what you put out there.
Another thing is that actors should not spend a lot of money sending out their headshots by UPS or FedEx. It makes us feel bad because they are spending money they should not be spending. The truth is that we are so saturated with people and if you don’t fit what we are looking for, at a certain time, then you are not in our vision.
Also, do not send too many blanket emails about what you have been up to. Unless a casting director is asking for it, you will be deleted. Sometimes the squeaky wheel gets the grease but you can’t overwhelm. You have to be strategic. Be thoughtful.
To get jobs, I do think the casting sights are very important because that is what we use. Just don’t be loose about what you submit for. Sometimes, people are so far off the spec it creates a bad rep for them. Be strategic about what you submit for but do use these sites because we do all the time.
In general, if you are going to come in to Strickman-Ripps, you have to be authentic and honest about who you are and what you like. Don’t lie, because the people who hire us expect the people we use to be genuine and we can detect it right away.
Thanks Jill for sharing the real deal with us!!
For more information of Strickman-Ripps, Inc. Casting + Research, visit: www.strickman-ripps.com