Let’s Talk Communication: Crucial Communication Skills for Talent – and Production

Communication

I was talking with a casting director the other day who was relating war stories from the olden times, back when she was just breaking in to the business. This is only a couple of decades ago give or take, but what she described might just as well have been tales from working in casting in ancient Rome or Medieval Europe.

She told me that as an intern, she opened “…between 100 and 150 manila envelopes with headshots and resumes every day” working for a top LA casting director. 

Every. Freaking. Day. 

Imagine the mountains of paper and photo stock she and her bosses had to sort through, not to mention the paper cuts she must have endured!

While it’s true that the internet, cell phones, and other modern communication apps and platforms have given us disturbing horrors like nasty unsolicited pics, unhinged late-night presidential tweets, and Logan Paul, at least we don’t have to deal with the time-consuming insane inconvenience and cost of mailing all that material like they did back in the day. 

Yet there are still plenty of people out there who don’t realize how easy we’ve got it these days, and they screw themselves out of work as a result. So let’s talk about a few things related to communication for actors and how we can make it easier on CDs and production teams to cast us!

1. All Things Email 

Slotting firmly into the “we forget how good we’ve got it” category is the ease of use and ubiquity of email. Sure, we’re all walking around with telephones in our pockets everywhere we go, but the truth is most production teams and casting directors are going to reach out via email if they’re interested in seeing you for something, or if they have a question – or if they’ve reached a decision and want to cast you! This means it’s a real crime of self-sabotage if you make it harder on them than it has to be. To wit:

  • – Set up an easy to type, easy to remember and clear email address, a la ActorJohnnyJohnson@gmail.com. If you’re still using the Hotmail account you set up in high school that’s a cutesy pun, a pet’s name, or a jumble of mysterious letters and numbers, stop it.  No harried assistant wants to try to correctly type in punkinjoy47692@aol.com, or kjjsttn6969@gmail.com. You’re making it harder on production people than it needs to be, and that’s a big no-no. 
  • – Check your spam folder. We’ve heard multiple tragic stories recently in which actors who were sought after for callbacks didn’t get the message until after it was too late because the email went to their spam or junk mail folder. Whitelist or at least keep an eye out for messages from production companies in every email folder you’ve got. These days most production companies are too busy for a personal phone call for each actor they want to see, so email is the most likely place you’re going to be informed.
  • – Answer the bloody things. Look, we can’t always be on top of our emails and text messages every second of the day. But you’ve got to find a way to check when you’re waiting to hear about a role. And you should always be waiting to hear about some audition or another, especially if you’re submitting for work on NYCastings. Make a habit of checking your email, and your NYCastings messages every day, multiple times a day. Again, email is the go-to for most of these companies, so if you miss the boat on responding, you are possibly missing out on getting cast.

2. Voicemail

First of all, if you’re up for a part for which you’ve self-submitted, answer your damn phone if it rings, even if it’s a mysterious number you’ve never seen before. Ask yourself this, which is worse: having to take a second to fight off a telemarketer, or missing a phone call from a production team saying they want to see you again? Of course, we can’t always answer our phones. So to that end, take a moment to set up your voice mail message so that it’s simple, sounds professional, and quickly identifies you as the actor they’re seeking: “Hi, this is the voicemail of actor and singer Kurtis Bright…” Now, of course nobody leaves voice messages anymore – except in a professional capacity, when it’s someone who doesn’t know you, hint hint. So make it professional! Your communication array is part of your toolkit as an actor. Just as you wouldn’t go to an audition with a shoddy headshot taken at a party by your buddy on his iPhone, you shouldn’t expect production teams to take you seriously if your voice message is jokey, confusing, ridiculous or non-existent.

3. Set up a professional website

In this day and age, it’s easier and cheaper than it ever has been to set up a professional-looking website that features all your previous work, photos, interests, video clips, etc. If you can offer CDs and production teams a simple link to click on to see more of you, you’re only helping yourself and getting to the front of the line right off the bat. Again, make it clear who you are and that you’re an actor, and make sure it’s clean and simple and not too busy, and that you update it often. Writing little notes alongside photos you post about recent work you’ve done (without violating your contracts!!) or fun activities you’re interested in is also a big plus to help show off your personality as well.  

4. Double-check all your info

Make doubly sure that all the info you’ve posted and that you provide at auditions is 100 percent correct: phone number, email, website, etc. Make sure you’re updating your resume often as well, and don’t be afraid to tell CDs about recent bookings you’ve gotten. 

One side note: there are people who won’t give a phone number to casting directors or production teams out of fear of being harassed or stalked, which is of course a legitimate concern in this day and age. We’ve all heard the horror stories. But in this context, this is a tough one. Of course, getting unwanted phone calls is alarming. However, you have to weigh the slim possibility that some unethical CD or intern on a production team will use your number to contact you outside the context of the work versus the possibility of missing out on the role of a lifetime. In my experience, people who use actor’s information unethically in this manner don’t last long, especially in this era of the #MeToo movement. Most legit CDs and production companies won’t tolerate that sort of behavior, and you should absolutely report it to the company higher-ups on the off-chance it happens. Of course, please, please be careful and discreet with your info. But I think most industry professionals would agree that to simply deny LEGITIMATE casting directors and production companies the option to contact you quickly by phone if they’re in a hurry is honestly a bit of self-sabotage.

5. Submit every day!

Get on NYCastings every day and submit! There is always a ton of new work available, and you’ve got to act quickly to get yourself to the front of the line. Also, when you’ve got new photos or videos get them up on the site as quickly as possible. Keep it lively and dynamic, and check that inbox early and often and you’re sure to see more and more offers coming in! 

 

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