Writer’s Strike Looms

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Please take a minute to read this very informative article on the possible writer’s strike by the Writers Guild of America (WGA) via The New York Times. With any luck, there will be little effect on our market. However, if the strike actually moves forward, then we are certain to feel it.

Here’s how.

FEATURE FILMS

We have just eased our way out of pilot season, and we are gearing up for summer features. Many are already in the works, and we are not necessarily going to lose any of that work in the coming months. The great news for us in Georgia is that there are always roles to be cast in features that are strictly marked for local hires.

UPFRONTS

Upfronts are held in New York in mid-May. It is an opportunity for the networks to announce their new fall and spring line-up to advertisers and the press.  Upfronts overall attendance is likely to be down with networks sending fewer to NY for the unveiling. Everyone seems to be holding their breath and waiting to see.

EPISODICS

If a strike does happen, episodic season will be affected. Pens go down. Pilots will not be pushed into production, and other shows already in production will shut down. The impact will likely push series premieres into October, and that is if the strike is short-lived.

HOW WILL THIS IMPACT THE ACTOR?

Auditions are slowing as pilot season winds down. That said, there are still some pilots for cable and streaming services that are being released and a few episodics are currently shooting. In short, it will mean fewer auditions during an already slower time for us. If the strike goes full steam ahead, we could be majorly impacted, leaving the start date of episodic season, usually in late July and into August, on permanent hold.

Let’s hope that the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television producers can find a compromise. At this point, it is hard to tell. As always, it pays to stay informed. Informed about the industry and updates on the WGA.

Be in the know.

IMAGES: Courtesy of Jan Kahánek/UnSplash

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You Should Audition Anyway

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Many of you reading this blog have been living in the SE and working in this market for a while, and for many of you, the casting directors working in this region know you. They have seen you audition for multiple roles. They have stuck with you through new headshots, new hair styles, lost weight and gained weight. They know you. Perhaps not well enough to recognize you in the aisle of the grocery store or remember your name, but they are familiar with you.

When submitting on a project, we cast a wide net. We are greedy, and we want as many of our talent to receive an audition appointment as possible. Casting will request those talent who fit the specs of the character and ask them to audition. Casting does not make their selections haphazardly. They do it thoughtfully. They want to pick the best talent, so they can get their job done.

When you receive an audition appointment from your agent, there has been a process to get you there. A minimum of a couple, if not a handful of people were involved in that decision. So trust us.

Keep in mind that the specs for a character can change. Or casting may be thinking out of the box, and they want to push the parameters of the immediate description. You may not have all of the information. Even if the character is a stretch in your mind. Trust us. Even if you feel it is not a character you can play. Trust us. Even if the age or description is not a perfect fit. Trust us.

Audition anyway.

When you are given an opportunity to audition, take it. Use it as an opportunity to be seen. Use it as a chance to stretch what casting may think of you, or even what you think of your own acting abilities.

Times are tough. Competition is fierce.

Audition anyway.

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

Images: RawPixel.com/Unsplash 

Erica Arvold: 5 Questions

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When it comes to fulfilling the title of “Casting Director,” there’s not much Erica Arvold, of arvold.casting, leaves unchecked. From constantly working on the next big feature or television show shooting on the East Coast, to writing a blog for the education division of Arvold Casting, to even maintaining an active and informational Twitter account (more on social media to come, stay tuned for a TTK post!), Erica Arvold is a supreme example of a hands-on, hard-working, and dedicated Casting Director.

Her perspective on the current market, how she got into the business, and what she does when she’s not a casting director are just a few of the things Erica passed along for ‘5 Questions.’

A special thanks to Erica for sharing her thoughts. Enjoy!

1) How did you get into this business and what attracted you to it?

By accident. My senior year at DePaul University’s Theatre School (formerly the Goodman School of Drama) I was restless and wanted to enter the real world so thanks to the Dean, I began a full internship with Jane Alderman Casting. I knew within the first hour of working that casting was what I had been longing for and that the many lists of actors I had made as a child actually had a purpose. Casting combined my love of actors with my love of art (casting actors is very much like painting) and my passion for business and entrepreneurship. It was the first time in my life I felt like I really belonged somewhere. And I never stopped…I can’t imagine life without casting.

2) You made the move from LA Casting to Charlottesville, VA where you created arvold.casting. Can you describe some of the differences in working in both markets?

In Los Angeles I was lucky enough to work on many different sized film and television projects including some major studio pictures. Making lists of name actors, navigating the nuances of offers and negotiating deals was a huge part of my job. I read a zillion actors from LA as well as all over the country and I was able to witness many careers take off, which was (and still is) immensely gratifying. Casting in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast is somewhat similar to the LA experience, especially when I am hired to cast the entirety of an independent film (it’s really no different). Collaborating with the director, producer and writer is my personal comfort zone and that can happen in both television and film regardless of where I am based. I am also often hired to serve as ‘location casting director’ for film and television, now that I’m in Virginia. In these cases, I condense and streamline our casting efforts to a specific region. Depending on the project’s needs, our region can be defined as local to Richmond, VA only (very seldom the case), the Mid-Atlantic & and sometimes the entire East Coast (including NY – occasionally the case). A majority of the time when my company is hired as ‘location casting’, our main responsibility is to cast the day player or co-star roles. But, as regional actors become more and more seasoned (and as the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast markets continue to attract production), I find that actors here are sometimes considered for larger roles. Being based in the Mid-Atlantic for nearly a decade now, I’ve had the honor of witnessing actors grow at an extremely rapid rate, both in their craftsmanship and in their professionalism. I have had the pleasure of casting local and regional performers in their first tv/film roles, and have even cast actors in career-changing projects.

Being based in the Mid- Atlantic for nearly a decade now, I’ve had the honor of witnessing actors grow at an extremely rapid rate, both in their craftsmanship and in their professionalism.

3) arvold. is involved in much more than simply the business of casting. Can you tell us more about it?

We have three stand-alone departments (production, casting & education) that together support our overall mission to help ‘raise the bar’ in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast markets. I like to think of our three departments as the three legs of a tripod. 1. We produce. We are a start-to- finish production company for original content. We also provide consulting and production services to many independent film and commercial projects. I consult a bunch and our line producer stays on her toes. Credits include indie films Josephine, Coming Through the Rye, Wish You Well, Elemental and others, as well as several commercials and multimedia projects. 2. We cast. We helm & oversee the casting process for independent films and often serve as location casting directors on television series and larger studio films. We conduct quite a few searches throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions, and we cast many commercials and multi-media projects. Credits include Loving, TURN: Washington’s Spies, House of Cards, A Wrinkle in Time (lead role search), Stranger Things (series regular search) and Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, among others. 3. We educate. As the daughter of a professor, I believe we are and will always best students of one another. Our education department is committed to providing master classes for actors (no workshops here, only deep intensive work), panel discussions and events for all film artists. By sharing our knowledge with one another we collectively contribute to the growth of our industry. arvold.education collaborates with several schools and universities on the East Coast and holds master classes in Charlottesville, VA and Atlanta, GA.

4). Where do you see the TV/Film business in Virginia going over the next decade?

I hear that there are more films and television shows coming to Virginia. A couple of series have based here successfully over the past few years (namely AMC’s TURN: Washington’s Spies), and the state is a proven and viable destination for more. Virginia is attractive to historical projects (such as the aforementioned series and Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln), is a magnet for independent film (some are contemporary too), and is encouraging to area filmmakers who create their own content. I have helped produce a few indie projects (Josephine, Coming Through the Rye, Wish You Well, Texas Rein, Faux Paws, Elemental among others) and the support from the VFO towards each production has been simply incredible. Word must be spreading as the number of project inquiries my office receives has increased. I think the next decade will present a really nice balance between studio films, network series and independent films.

5). What is your favorite pastime or activity when you are not hard at work with arvold.?

Being with my family. Whether on a road trip or camping (being in nature and not having cell service) or cooking a big meal and playing games…this is how I recharge. Also, witnessing my son grow up is one of my favorite things. Oh, and I row.

I feel it is the actor’s job to bring something to the table, which includes their own interpretation of the character and the scene.

* What is your biggest pet peeve?

When actors ask what I’m looking for. I feel it is the actor’s job to bring something to the table, which includes their own interpretation of the character and the scene. I hope that the actor’s own artistic instinct takes over when they begin to read the sides and that’s what I want to see first. Then we can play and discuss…because we’ve established a baseline.

* What piece of advice would you give to actors?

Train. Seriously train. The competition especially in the MidAtlantic and Southeast is getting tougher and tougher as casting from all areas of the US and the world is at our fingertips. I actually think this healthy competition is wonderful because it raises the bar for everyone (filmmakers, crew members and actors alike). So, take your craft seriously, practice it daily, grow and be the best that you are able to be.

Check out Arvold Casting’s YouTube channel here.

Image: Courtesy of Erica Arvold/Twitter

THINGS TO KNOW: Shoot/Hiatus Schedules

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I recently had a client ask about me about his absence of auditions from a particular casting director. They wondered why they had received numerous auditions (a few weeks prior), but there had been nothing recently. As it turns out, the episodic wrapped a few months before, and the casting director did not have any new projects. So casting did not forget the actor, they are simply not working on anything currently.

Most casting directors work between one and five projects simultaneously. If they are bigger or have more a larger staff, like Fincannon Casting, they may have more projects. Of course, casting directors make every attempt to have steady work that keeps them busy throughout the year, but the reality is that there will be inevitable breaks. Their work is not always steady; an extremely lengthy shoot schedule for a full season may take up to 6-7 months, but many shoot in a number of weeks.

When we send out auditions, we include a host of information, including 2 key points of value that can help you decipher a project’s itinerary. For episodics, there will be an episode number listed and a shoot window. The episode number will tell you where they are in the season.  Historically, TV shows shot approximately 21 shows in a season.  This number is no longer accurate. Now shows are all over the map, sometimes they only shoot six episodes.  A longer season is 18 episodes. However, most shows stick to the number once they establish it. If you are unsure, Wikipedia or other sources will tell you the number. We also send the shoot window for a given episode, so you can gauge how long it takes to shoot each episode, unless it is cross-boarded where they shoot more than one episode at a time. There will also be holiday breaks to account for as well. With these two pieces of info, you can pretty accurately do the math and determine a show’s schedule.

For example: Random Show, Episode 307, shoot window June 6-15. If you backtrack by a week and a half per episode, it started shooting the beginning of April. If it shoots 14 episodes, it will wrap around the end of August.

If you do a little research and track out dates, you can figure out the schedule and hiatus period for your favorite shows. It is good stuff for you to know!

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

Image credit: Sven Scheuermeier/Unsplash

5 Questions: Melissa Goodman & Ric Reitz Of SAG-AFTRA ATL

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Guaranteeing correct treatment on set, assuring fair financial treatment, and defending the overall rights of actors is not an easy job. Yet Melissa Goodman and Ric Reitz dedicate their days and nights to it as representatives of the Atlanta Local SAG-AFTRA office. Goodman, as the Atlanta Local Executive Director, and Reitz, as the SAG-AFTRA Atlanta President, hold busy schedules with the thriving TV/Film business in Atlanta, but I got the chance to sit down with both one recent afternoon.

Weighing in on union rights, right to work versus not, and what SAG-AFTRA really does for the actor; Goodman and Reitz are knowledgeable, fearless representatives and every local working actor should be familiar with them.

Stay tuned for the next installment of ‘5 Questions’ coming very soon!

THINGS TO KNOW: Episodic Genres

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I recently received an audition from an actor for the show Rectify. If you are familiar with the show, then you already know that it is specific and subtle. Rectify is a slow burn and very southern. The actor who auditioned was southern, but most actors work hard to get rid of their southern accent, replacing it with what we refer to as a standard Amercian dialect/accent. This versatility in speech is mandatory for any proficient actor. Just because we work in the south does not mean that every tv or film project is inherently southern.

However in the case of Rectify, they are almost always looking for a southern accent. In fact, casting often notes that if you are not southern, they do not want you to attempt it. For those of us who are southern, there is nothing worse than a bad imitation of what southern is and sounds like. This particular actor added in a very strong southern accent, and the audition itself was over the top, aka BIG. It was not submitted. We watch every audition that is turned in to casting for both quality and to be sure that all of casting’s instructions are followed.

When I reached out to speak with the actor, give feedback and explain why we had not submitted it, I asked if he had seen the show. The actor said no.

You should not submit an audition on a show without having viewed a trailer or clip of it at the very least. It is best to watch a few episodes. The show does not need to be your favorite, but you need to know the genre and style of the piece in order to bring that to the audition. I would argue that this is as important a tenet of acting as knowing your objective or who you are talking to in the scene.

If you are working and living in the southeast, then you should be familiar with every show that shoots here. There is a ridiculous amount of really good television on right now. I cannot keep up with all of the shows I want to watch, but I do not attempt to submit on projects that I have not watched.

If the show is new, then get on the internet and do some research. If it is not new, you should still get on the internet. It is an amazing resource that is right at your fingertips. Use it. Know what you are auditioning for–know the story, the characters, the feel of it. Do not simply rely on the information provided to you by your agent. Do your homework.

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

Image Credit: Tracy Thomas/Unsplash

FELDSTEIN/PARIS CASTING: 5 Questions

Chase Paris and Tara Feldstein of Feldstein/Paris Casting are by far some of the most active, honest, and busy casting directors in the local Atlanta area. We recently met for lunch, and I followed up with a few questions for them for the third installment of 5 Questions. They weigh in on their experience working both as an agent and a CD, plus their most rewarding projects and infamous Twitter lunches. They are a wonderful source of information for casting in the south east region.

Special thanks to Chase and Tara for their time. Enjoy!

1. How has your past work experience informed and influenced your work as a CD for Feldstein/Paris casting?

It’s been incredibly beneficial. Having seen both sides of the table, I feel like my eyes have been opened up to the entire decision making process. It took some transition to go from working for the actors to working for production, but I think I’ll always partly be an advocate for the actor when possible, and that’s due to working so closely with them as an agent.

Some may find this hard to believe – but because of my experience as an agent, we try to cater as much of our process as possible to making the agent’s and actor’s jobs easier. Granted we don’t meet every need and request, but we at least try!

2. Which projects or types of projects (no need to give names unless you want to) have been the most rewarding for you to work on? What has made the projects gratifying and productive?

The Accountant and The Founder stand out to me. Both creative teams, especially the directors relied on us heavily for our input, and we put together an amazing cast full of locals in prominent roles. Productions can often be wary of local talent which limits our creative involvement, so when we’re able to spread our wings and show what we (and our local talent!) can do, it can be very rewarding. It also doesn’t hurt that both films are getting early box office and reward buzz.

On the TV side, we recently wrapped Atlanta, which I loved because it felt so genuine to the city. Donald Glover grew up here and just wrote what he wanted to see, but having lived here my whole life, it’s refreshing to see a project that takes place in Atlanta that isn’t the “LA” version of Atlanta, which can happen at times. We were also forced to dig deep to find new talent, which is always fun!

3. What is the best way for an actor to get to know you?

Twitter lunches are the best way to get to know us one-on-one, which we’re finding is more important than we thought previously. But we both still want to get to know you as an actor above anything else, so good auditions and pitches from your agent are the best way for US to get to know YOU.

I don’t know that it’s necessary for YOU to know US – we’re both boring suburbanites with 2.4 kids and a dog. =) We’ve made a push this year to be more social and get out in the community more, so there might be other opportunities to see us, but I think talent should be more concerned with US knowing THEM than the other way around. Plus, we’re pretty boring!

4. How has your outlook on the business changed since you started Feldstein/Paris?

For me, it was really eye opening to see the true level of talent we have as a market vs. only seeing what was in my talent agency. It’s astounding what we have to work with at times, and if you don’t get the chance to see what all is out there, you can be blind to it in your own little bubble.

It’s also amazing to see how much the industry has grown down here in the past 4 years, and it’s only picking up steam.

It’s also amazing to see how much the industry has grown down here in the past 4 years, and it’s only picking up steam. It can be a daunting amount of work at times, but that’s also why we feel like we need to work at such a fast pace on everything.

5. You both have amazing families, so how do you balance your work and your family? You guys make it look kind of easy, and I know it is not.

The funny thing is we don’t really plan too hard. We have the luxury of working from home, so we get to be around our families a lot, which really is one of the best perks about what we do. At first we poured every bit of free time in to the job and sacrificed a lot of personal time, but recently we’ve been carving out 1-2 hrs a day for personal time, be it the gym, quality time with kids or spouses, etc.

I’ve found that very valuable, and it’s just about committing to it and not giving yourself over every waking moment. We love our jobs so it’s easy to just default to work, and we do that often as is, but we work hard for our families, so we don’t want to neglect them!

Pet Peeve: What is a pet peeve that you have about our market/actors?

Other than self-tapes with a smart phone that’s being held in portrait mode – I’d say it is actors being patient with the market. It’s evolving; it’s getting better, more and better opportunities are coming your way, but it’s moving slowly, and you can’t force it to move faster.

Just because the work is here doesn’t mean you’re entitled to the large roles in that work, not yet at least. We’re still a local market, we may be a bigger one, but we’re still a tier down. It wasn’t that long ago we were happy with a fraction of the work we have now – please keep some perspective and be patient!

Advice: What is your best piece of advice?

Be yourself. Most of our roles don’t require a ton of acting, we need you to be yourself in that role, not try and fit outside of your mold. The actors that work the most in this market are still working within their type – if a role feels like too much of a stretch then it’s probably not a good fit. Go in and do the best YOU for each role, and I believe you’ll book constantly. If you find you have to keep ACTING for each role, it’s probably not working!

Images: Courtesy of Feldstein/Paris Casting

Series & Features Throughout The Year

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THE CALENDAR

We spend a lot of time talking about the basic calendar year for TV/Film. How things fall, etc. With the recent additions of platforms like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and the number of New Media projects, the structure is less defined, but there is still a basic outline.

Yes, pilots are spread out throughout the year, but we are still seeing the majority of them between January and early April. This year we started later and had several things drizzling in throughout April. Those pilots are shot and in the can before UpFronts which take place the 3rd week of May in New York. At UpFronts, the major television networks gather to preview upcoming fall and midseason series. The decisions about whether or not a pilot will be picked up and moved into a slot on network rosters happen here.

The shoot schedule for episodic season starts up as we go into the fall. We often see some shows coming back as early as July and into August. Episodics are generally shot through the fall and wrap as we move into the holiday season or take a hiatus, returning after the first of the year to shoot the back half of the episodes.

We have features shooting throughout the year, but there is usually an abundance during the late spring and summer months between pilot and episodic seasons.

UPDATES

We had mixed news about some of our pilots over the past few weeks. The Jury, Hail Mary and the Untitled Paranormal Project sadly did not get picked up. Notorious, Making History (which may well shoot in LA), STAR (Untitled Pilot), and OZARK were picked up.

Another bit of good news: Sleepy Hollow is getting another season.

If you do not already have it marked as a favorite, you should. TVbytheNumbers provides a wealth of info and is a terrific resource for network and other shows.  There are up-to-date ratings, notices and predictions about cancellations and renewals. Check it out here.

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

Image Credit: Pawel Kadysz/Unsplash

Headshots For Kids

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I have done a few posts on headshots, but they have been primarily for adults. Several parents have requested some guidance on shots for kids as well. So here it goes. Many of the points for the adults remain true for kids .

If you do NOT have an agent yet, I recommend either waiting until you have an agent to get new headshots done or having a single one look session where you get a dramatic and a commercial shot only.

Your first audition is your headshot. You want to get casting’s attention with your headshots.

For kids, it is even more important to take new headshots about once a year. The face and bone structure change dramatically. Kids move out of the rounder baby faces and begin to develop a more mature look. The headshot needs to reflect who they are right now.

  • The magic number is between 4 to 5 different headshot looks.
  • Shots should be mostly straight on. Craned necks and backwards shots are often awkward and not flattering.
  • No hands. PLEASE!
  • Keep clothing very simple.  A headshot session is not the place to show off your favorite clothes. Please avoid plaid shirts for boys. The pattern is distracting.
  • No bulky sweaters or heavy scarves. It is best for clothing to not denote a particular season.
  • Avoid jewelry: no earrings.
  • Hair and any make-up should look natural. If my attention is called to the make-up, then there is likely too much of it.

LOOK 1 — A+ Student/Commercial Look

A bright colored t-shirt or plain collared shirt that compliments your coloring.

SHOT a) A joyful, smiling shot.

SHOT b) An emotionally open and available shot. You are kind and will assist old ladies across the street. This should not be a big smiling shot.

LOOK 2 — Edgy/Dramatic Look

A darker t-shirt or collared shirt. It can still be a color, but it should not be a bright, primary color. You can pair it with a jacket—jean, leather, etc.

SHOT a) A trouble-maker shot. This is the kid who is not making good grades and may have even landed in detention. Be careful not to make this shot over-the-top. It needs to be a believable character.

SHOT b) Repeat of LOOK 1.b).

LOOK 3 — Alternative

There are a few different ways you can go with this shot. You can change your shirt again or add a sweater to LOOK 1. The big change here is a switch in your outward appearance. If you wear glasses, then get some shots with the glasses. DO NOT get a character pair of odd or ill-fitting classes to use for “comedy.” This generally backfires.

Another outer change is to shift your hair. For girls, do a pair of braids or pony tails. For boys, add some gel to change the style of your hair.

SHOT: Repeat LOOK 1 a) and b).

  • The looks and shots listed above will give you a range of different shots to upload onto casting sites.
  • These are merely suggestions of what you can do for headshots. I encourage you to now extrapolate and adjust these thoughts based on what your agent or your kiddo brings to the session.

At the end of the day, we want to showcase two things in your headshots: the range of characters that you can play and the best, natural and authentic you.

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

IMAGE CREDIT: Asil Ansari/Unsplash