Feedback

Everyone wants it, and I absolutely understand. There are a limited number of professions where you pour your heart and soul into something, most of the time you send it off, and you receive nothing in return. Crickets.

In this business, you have to be able to find a way to see the audition as the win.  In a room chocked full of people, with hands raised, butts lifted off seats, you got picked! And not just by one person. We receive breakdowns, look over the roles, go through our roster of talented actors, and we pick the individuals that best fit the description. You are then submitted. Now, your miniature, 2X2, headshot is sent on to casting. They receive hundreds of these tiny thumbnails. For any given role, they can receive anywhere from 500-1000 submissions. From this huge list, they now have to also pick you before you ever receive the taped audition notice.

Now where is the feedback here? It lies in the audition appointment.  If the same casting director asks to see you again, there is your feedback. Boom. They like you.  If you receive multiple appointments on the same show, then they really like you.  I have actors voice their frustration about auditioning for the same show many times.  [Insert exasperated tone]: “I have done 19 auditions for this show!” Well, there’s your feedback.  They really like you.  In fact, I am willing to wager a guess that you are going up the chain pretty far.  You may even have been sent to producers and have gotten into the top mix on more than one role.  Ultimately, things did not go your way this time.

All that being said, as an agent, we will try to get feedback for you whenever we can. We do ask, and there are some casting directors that will take the time to review tapes and send back notes. But with the pace of things being what they are, it is difficult to make time for it as the next job or booking takes precedence.

Another option is to ask your agent for feedback. I have a coaching and directing background, so I am happy to take a look at an audition. I cannot do this with every single one, but if you have concerns, then I am happy to provide feedback.

Ultimately, this is a business about gambling.  It is your job to reduce the odds.  Here’s how: do absolutely everything you can to knock your audition out of the park every time.  Ok, so you will not feel incredible about every audition that you do, but you need to approach it coming from a positive place. Next, arm yourself with as much training as you can. Every actor should be in an ongoing class, and they should also be enrolling in additional workshops. That is the cost of doing business.

As our market grows, more and more actors are coming from other, larger markets. In order to compete, you must have the training, so that you will be picked—over and over again!

And, what I say today, may not be true tomorrow.

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OLUBAJO SONUBI: 5 Questions

I got to sit down with Olubajo Sonubi of OAS Casting over lunch and speak about his involvement in local casting, as well as his biggest pet peeves when it comes to his job. He was honest and kind, which is something we should all value in this market, and it was a great pleasure to pick his brain about his personal take on casting. Many thanks to Bajo, and I hope you enjoy this segment.

For more information on Olubajo Sonubi, please visit his website.

rsz_sonubi.jpg.300x439_q1005 QUESTIONS, A PIECE OF ADVICE AND A PET PEEVE
w/ OLUBAJO SONUBI of OAS CASTING

1. What are the challenges of going from casting on The Vampire Diaries to Containment or the pilot, the Untitled Paranormal Project?

The biggest difference tends to be the creative team behind it. That’s the biggest change. Regardless of whether you’re switching genres, you have different people who have different tastes for their projects. And then obviously the other consideration is, what kinds of actors work better for what projects? Ultimately, the fact is that even when you switch from the Untitled Paranormal Project to Containment, to The Vampire Diaries, there’s a type that will work for any of those. It really depends on what kind of spin the actor can put on it for that certain genre. It’s all about the actor and the choices they make.

2. What surprises you the most about working in our market at this particular time?

What surprised me the most is actually what everyone would say: the amount and volume of work that has come in. That was a good surprise and a very welcomed surprise. Another thing is having our market keep up and adjust to those transitions. Some things are happening faster, others slower. The level of talent has definitely grown, and we’ve had an influx of talent from LA and NY that has forced local talent to step up their game, and I’m appreciative of that. But there’s still a lack of expertise, and we still need to get better. That’s not a complaint, it’s just part of the job. I think the challenge is all of us getting used to that, managing our expectations from people who come from LA and from here.

3. Everybody approaches casting through a different lens, so how does your actor’s eye inform you as a casting director? 

It goes without saying that I feel incredibly fortunate that I get to use a degree I earned every single day. Given that I have an acting background, I believe it gives me a better rapport with the actors. Just with the by product that I’ve seen so many plays, been in so many plays, and been in acting classes, I think I have an eye for what comes off as authentic and believable in acting. I feel confident that I can identify someone who can act, and sometimes I recognize that I just don’t like their choices. That has nothing to do with their ability or level of talent.Even if someone disagrees with me, it can be about taste at that point.

4. What’s coming up next for you?

I’m a free agent at the moment, since we’re wrapping up with The Vampire Diaries, and we finished up the Untitled Paranormal Project pilot. We’ll see what happens with Containment. There’s a short I’m doing for a friend, it’s a small project. But I’m not really sure what’s on the horizon next, so I’ll wait and see.

5. What’s the first thing on your bucket list?

Strangely enough, mine is very industry related.

Ultimately, my goal is to be able to tell interesting, universal stories. What’s very personal to me are stories that include more people of color and women. Basically, voices that don’t get heard that often. That’s one of the challenges I see and it’s maybe because I’ve spent a lot of time working in the industry with women. I don’t know what it’s like to have a non-female show runner. Julie Plec is someone I work with. It’s not odd to me, it’s what I’m used to. I hope that it spreads over the industry, where the same kind of universality which is afforded to a lot of stories told from the west, Caucasian stories in general, I hope can be given to anybody.

People think Black Americans have it bad… I’m thinking about Asian Americans and Latinos… When is the last time you saw an Asian American as a romantic lead? At least here in America, that shouldn’t be the case. And I’m wondering what part I can play in order to make that happen. If I end up being able to direct or produce one day, these are the kinds of things I’d want to work on. I don’t know where the industry will take me; I’m really enjoying casting right now.

Travel wise, I’d love to hit every continent at some point. I’m from Africa, I’ve been to North America. I have not been to South America yet, or Australia, or Europe.

6. What’s your biggest pet peeve as a CD in terms of actors?

I have three big pet peeves. One is not following directions. And I get it, I know it can be complicated, and it can vary with the casting director. I hope at some point it becomes a standard. But when we ask for you to label the file, understand that it’s not for our health. It’s a fairly simple, small request. That’s what bugs me. It slows us down, and since the turnaround is so quick, it doesn’t make it easy. Separate the files. I need you to do those things, and it annoys us when that doesn’t happen.

Speaking of self-tapes, landscape not portrait. Please. You think the word would have gotten around by now. Get yourself a good reader, someone who can move back and forth with you. Sometimes your reader kills it if they don’t know what they’re doing.

This is my other thing, too, I have what I think is a very approachable and friendly demeanor. But what I think actors don’t know now is that when you come to see me in the room, don’t try and cross and shake hands with me. It’s a small thing, but I will initiate. It’s a common courtesy. It wasn’t happening before, but the reason why I mention it is because it’s happening more and more. I get it; I understand, but especially during flu season. You need understand it from our perspective. It may be one handshake for you, but it might be my 50th.

7. What’s the biggest piece of advice you have for an actor?

As an actor, you need to understand basic business skills. Starting from simple budgeting; it’s a really good idea. It’s fairly general in our society that we don’t do that, but when you get to a certain level, you should know how much you earn per day. Along with that, you should have an understanding of marketing as well. You are an entrepreneur, and if you don’t have that mindset, then you need to surround yourself with people who do. Your agent only gets 10 percent, so that means 90 percent of the work is still on you. You need to understand that a lot goes into it.

When your agent reaches out to you, you need to reply ASAP.

Get a better understanding of the industry as a whole as quickly as you can just to understand the part you play in it.  We’re in the age of HULU and YOUTUBE; look up a clip of the show before you audition for it. That’s part of the business and marketing aspect, pick up a business book and take those things and apply it to understanding the market, and the product you’re selling: yourself.

If you get an opportunity to work behind the scenes in any capacity, you should take it. That goes back to understanding the business and understanding what role you play in it. If you can get even the smallest role, take it so you can learn more.

Image: Courtesy of Olubajo Sonubi

5 Questions: Bajo of OAS Casting

The second voice featured for my ‘5 Questions’ segment is Olubajo Sonubi, prominent local casting director of OAS Casting. Over lunch, Bajo and I got to speak about how casting changes on different projects, what’s most surprising about our market here in Atlanta, GA, and his biggest pet peeves.

Stay tuned for the second installment of ‘5 Questions’ with Olubajo Sonubi.