All the interviews I’ve done thus far have been with agents and casting directors from the three major film industry markets- Los Angeles, New York and Atlanta. So speaking with casting director Rose Rosen, CSA, based in Tampa, Florida, was a nice change of pace. Warm and friendly, with an easy laugh, I definitely felt like I was stepping “out of town” for this phone interview, and learned you can truly make this industry work for you, wherever you happen to live. In addition to her doling out lots of great advice.
I read you cast Edward Scissorhands which got me very excited, it’s one of my all-time favorite films. How did you get that opportunity? What was it like to audition some of the amazing actors in that movie like Johnny Depp?
Well you should know I did the Florida casting for that movie. So the stars were in place. Sorry to burst your bubble [laughs]. But I was with Johnny every day for months on end. It was a good time. It was the start of my career. So it was very meaningful.
Yeah that’s an amazing start to a career! You are based in Tampa, Florida. Are there a lot of projects in Tampa? Or more throughout Florida?
I do casting throughout the US because I am a big proponent of self-tape. I’ve always been a virtual casting person since that technology started. So I cast people in all kinds of weird places for various clients. And I send a lot of people to the reality space, do a lot of unscripted programming. Not actors, real people if you will. I also do plenty of projects here in Florida. We do a lot of commercials, we do some movies. Right now we’ll be in a movie boom because of COVID. You can’t do anything in New York, you can’t really do anything in Los Angeles. You can come to Florida [laughs]! So yeah I’m already working on two episodics and one commercial. That’s just this week.
As you just mentioned, you do nationwide castings. According to your website, (http://castingbyroserosen.com/) “Rose has developed the skill of culling talent from many sources, all over the country, without the expense of travel.” I found that really interesting and wondered how have you developed this skill? And what are some examples of nationwide castings that you’ve done?
So I feel like I’m a relationship person. I have relationships with my clients. And if my client is shooting something in Minnesota, I will make another relationship or ten with the talent agents in Minnesota, and help them out and get it done virtually. And it works out great.
It’s a win for everyone.
Right. They’re used to how I work. And they know what I can do for them. I mean it’s the same thing for me to call a talent agent in Florida as it is to call one in Chicago. I don’t see what the difference is. I know what I’m doing and it works out.
The technology works either way.
Exactly. I’m all about taking care of my clients. You don’t need to go to Chicago or Minnesota or Philadelphia and work with a casting director you’ve never worked with before. Why should they have to break somebody new in? And to answer the other question. I cast something for wrestling in Philadelphia not long ago. The wrestling people are big here. They’re big everywhere, let’s face it. So I can help them out by finding some talent if they need it wherever they are in the country.
What is the most important thing someone starting out should know about the business of acting?
Follow directions. Follow directions! It is so important. I just did a one hour talk on YouTube about self-tapes. I think I said to follow directions, probably fifteen times in an hour. And I’m not repetitive [laughs]. It’s the most important thing I can tell you. Casting in general is similar right across the board. You’re going into a casting room, you see a lot of similarities. You’ll see the plain background, a camera. People behind the table. But the way people want you to enter the room, exit the room, etc. Everybody has a little bit of a different take on it. And then add COVID on top of it. I know people are doing live castings which I’m truly against at this moment. But I have heard of that happening. And then if you’re submitting a self-tape, there’s a lot of directions, and you have to do all of it. You get the self-tape done, and then you send it to me attached to an email as opposed to following the directions and sending it to (for example) a WeTransfer to somewhere else. That’s a big difference, that’s hours out of my day that I could be looking at tapes, trying to get people jobs and getting more clients. So yeah, follow directions, follow directions, follow directions.
Sometimes things that sound so simple are the most important. Can you explain the importance of professionalism, in casting and beyond?
Acting is a business and you have to treat it that way. Even if you’re part time, you have to realize that all the people around you are likely full time, and they’re spending a lot of money and a lot of time and energy, and each cog in that wheel is critical. Everybody around you is professional, so you have to be at that level. So if you’re fifteen minutes late, that’s big. Don’t be more than fifteen minutes early. But you can be more than fifteen minutes early and sit in your car. You know it’s just all the little things. Google etiquette on set and know that you shouldn’t go up to the director and start to tell him about all the things you’ve done. Really once again follow directions. Do what you’re told. Everybody is a part of the bigger scene, the bigger wheel, and you have to respect your part. It’s not unimportant but it has its time. If you have questions, don’t talk with the casting director. I can’t tell you how many times a day I have to pick up the phone with an actor saying, “How do I get cast with you?” I suppose I’m a nice person and I tell them you need an agent and we don’t speak with talent directly.
You sound like a very patient person.
I think you have to be in this business in general. But in my industry I think the casting directors that are not patient, get a reputation of being mean. I respect the actors and I want them to come to my auditions and feel like they’re worthwhile. If I could give them all a job I would. But I’m passing you along to the person making the decision. That being said, you send me a piece of crap self-tape I’m not passing that along. I’m the gatekeeper, I’m not passing on inadequate goods. But I’m all for if you give me a great audition, I want you to have the job.
That’s how it should be. With virtual casting taking over during the quarantine, what are the protocols people should know?
It’s so critical you test your equipment prior to your moment. This is huge. You need to check your lighting, and make sure your sound is good on whatever you’re using. Once the directions are sent out, whatever that says, if you’re supposed to go on Skype let’s check out Skype, test it with a friend, make sure they can hear you. If you need an ear piece that’s fine, there’s nothing wrong with that. I want to be able to hear you and see you and have you in focus. You need to have a very strong Internet connection, you need to have great lighting on your face. If you need to invest in a $50 light, well I say maybe you should [laughs]. Yeah, it’s just small things. People used to spend thousands on printing headshots, that’s gone away. Now you have to spend money on keeping your profiles up in the various platforms that are appropriate and some at-home self-tape kits. A good camera, a good light. A tripod is huge. You don’t want your camera shaking. You want to be able to, if you’re alone, to push the button and then step into the shot. Although that being said it’s nice to have somebody do the shooting for you. A plain background, I think that’s essential, even for a virtual audition like Zoom. If you’re just chatting away on Zoom, I don’t care what your background is. But now you’re an actor and you’re auditioning. What you want to do with your virtual and your self-tapes is try and recreate the audition room that you used to go to. As I said they’re all similar. Good background, good lighting, good sound. If you need to spend another 50 bucks on a microphone, it’s not that big of a deal. But it’s worth it to check all this out now before it gets busy again.
Exactly, now is the time.
Now is the time to do a bunch of tests. You can do some original content, post it on YouTube. Do stuff. I have a #maskingmonologues challenge I just started, to honor talent wearing masks in public. Put that hashtag on Twitter and tag me (@roserosen), and I’ll look at your monologue. Please make it under a minute, and entertain me [laughs].
[Laughs] Exactly yeah there’s all sorts of things you could still be doing now.
Lots of things. I strongly recommend you take advantage of the time now, and instead of going out and getting infected, just stay home and work on your craft. All of us are doing free stuff. You could google me and hit my YouTube and hopefully learn something. There’s so many of us that are out there doing free things. I know that CSA has some kind of challenge for the actors. So there’s things going on. Spending hours on the Internet can really reap lots of benefits right now.
Since you do reality casting, how different is that from scripted casting? Are there any similarities or is it two completely different worlds?
It’s crazy how different they are. Like once I get down to the person, the interviews, they are like 45 minutes or over an hour for the unscripted content people. They want to know everything about you in order to consider you. My casting days are crazy. And I just sit there and I have a book basically of questions for them to answer. It would be like this interview on steroids. Just very intimate, they want to know all kinds of things. Because we’re getting involved in your life. We are literally in your life. And so we need to know how far we can go and who the players are and what you think about things and it’s all important. So that’s 360 degrees away from acting. They’re just not the same.
Since you do a lot of commercial casting, what’s some advice you can offer actors on how to book their next commercial?
Always start – either for an in-person casting or a self-tape – always start it with a smile. Start and end with a smile is actually the best thing. And I always love a smiley headshot. I mean you know we look at so many tapes. I just want to see some happy faces at the beginning and end [laughs]. I just think it’s a nicer way to move into seeing the talent.
And that kind of brings out their personality a little.
Sure. And have a good reputation of showing up and doing your stuff. I’m not saying you would have to do your makeup, but you might now with COVID, so have good skills with that. Have a good basic wardrobe, not expensive. Just gray, blue, black, etc. Real simple things that translate well. Always audition in simple clothes. Nothing distracting. Remember that it’s about you, it’s about your face. And bringing props and things like that will only take away from you.
What’s some advice you can offer actors on how to succeed at their next audition, whatever the category might be?
Once again follow directions. Just really show up fully prepared. Know your lines. If you have a question ask your agent before you’re in the room or before you start your self-tape. Don’t ask the casting director directly. But just show up prepared and be as professional as possible. Do everything that you’re supposed to do. And if you’re supposed to have that part, you’ll get it.
Exactly, that’s what it comes down to.
Right. It might not be your part, and that’s okay. You’ve got to realize that auditioning is the work. The job is just a side-note of the audition. Your work as actors is to go to auditions. And eventually that work will pay off by getting a job and getting a check. But that check is so big usually that it basically covers all the time that you spent on the audition. So the other thing I would say. This is not as a general audition thing. But just another important piece of advice, I would say to actors is save your money. Put money in the bank, because you never know where your next check is coming from and how big it will be. So particularly if you’ve got a big check, don’t spend it all. You must save, that will give you longevity in the industry.
Did I mention Ms. Rosen has over 20 years in the industry? Advice about longevity in the industry, from someone who has had longevity in the industry – advice well worth listening to.