Contributed by: Justin Litton (IG: @mtncraft)
The scene is over. The director yells “cut,” compliments your performance, and asks for another take—leaving you wondering if your performance actually wasn’t that good—then before you know it there’s a film slate being clapped in front of your face. Let’s try that again. Acting on film is not easy, but it can be rewarding. Unfortunately, it can feel daunting enough just looking for how to get started.
If you are in West Virginia and you have acting experience or training, changes are high that your experiences have mostly been on the stage because there are plenty of opportunities across the state for theatrical actors all year round. When it comes to film and television, though, opportunities can seem pretty rare and resources to help anyone looking to go in this direction can be quite scarce— making the transition from acting on stage to acting on camera feel that much harder. Don’t let fear of the unfamiliar stop you from putting yourself out there. If you just allow yourself the opportunity, you’ll find that the West Virginia filmmaking community tends to be made up of very down to earth, enjoyable, creative folks who will treat you with respect because they appreciate that you are willing to help bring their characters to life.
As I got started making short films out of college and later transitioned into a freelance and then full-time commercial video career at Mountain Craft Productions, I often found the casting process to be the most difficult part of the process. Many years later, my company finds itself posting casting calls for commercials, campaigns, and short films pretty routinely, and the process has gotten easier. Each time we post a casting call, though, we find responses in our inbox from people who are auditioning for a video role for the first time. I’ve compiled the following information that I think will help you put your best foot forward when reaching out to production companies and agencies.
You may not actually be a professional actor or actress, and that’s fine. Think of a casting call as being like any other job interview. Basic professionalism will help you stand out. If you are emailing your information to a production company, agency, or casting director, make sure to take enough time to spell-check your email and to be formal. This is your first impression, and simply taking the time to format a nice looking email will help you stand out.
Want to make the casting director’s life easy and become their favorite? Make sure to cover your bases by including:
contact info (including your phone number)
clothing and shoe sizes
If you don’t have a Resume or CV, that’s okay. If you have any relevant acting or modeling experience, you should compile a list along with the years in which they happened. It can also be very helpful for a casting director to hear your voice, so any video of previous performances that you’re able to link to should be included!
If you have a nice headshot, you should include it. If the headshot is more than six months old, however, it’s important that you also submit a current photo because the director is going to want to know what you look like now—hairstyles (including facial hair) often change. Your current photo can be a cellphone picture. It doesn’t need to be professionally done— it just needs to be as current as possible and should be an accurate depiction of what you actually look like. Additionally, along with your headshot it can be helpful for the director to have a full body (head to toe) photo.
If the casting call specifies the dates that you’ll be needed, then it’s a good idea to double check your calendar and to confirm that you’ll indeed be available during the production dates. If specific dates aren’t given, try to provide a list of any dates where you know that you will have limited or no availability. With this information at hand, directors will have to spend less of their valuable time trying to track down information needed to lock down logistics, and your thoroughness will certainly be appreciated.
Leaving calls and emails unanswered has sadly become the norm in the professional world. Nevertheless, if a casting director contacts you with a question and you let the email slip through the cracks then you’re sending a signal that you may be unreliable, and that’s obviously not the impression you want to make. That said, you should also try and keep your emails to the casting director to a minimum and make them as efficient as possible because it’s very likely that they are being flooded with messages and are regularly communicating with a large number of people.
Okay, so you’ve received a call or email from the casting director and they’d like to see you audition. This doesn’t mean you’ve been chosen for the part, but it is an indication that they like you and are being considered. Congrats! Here are a couple more things to keep in mind for the audition:
Relax, be yourself, and have a conversation with the casting director and producers. Your acting chops are important, but it’s equally as important that you present yourself as easy and fun to work with. Also, show interest in the job by asking questions about the production, producers, or characters in the script.
Back to the job interview comparison… be on time to your audition. If you were assigned a specific time, make sure to be early enough to secure a parking spot and find the location. Arriving early and then waiting around until the director is ready for you is much better than showing up late.
If a script or piece of a script was provided to you before the audition, then it’s not only a good idea to have read over the part you’re auditing for, but to demonstrate that you’re familiar enough with the script to not have to look down at the paper the whole time you are auditioning. Wanna go one step better? Have your part memorized. If no script has been provided, it’s a good idea to bring a monologue with you that you’d like to perform just in case. After giving your reading, a director might ask you to read the part differently. This doesn’t mean that you’ve done a poor job. Sometimes a director will ask you to change things up just to see that you can demonstrate range as a performer.
Once the audition is over, you’ll likely be dismissed without a decision being made. There are usually multiple people trying out for the same role, and some time needs to be taken for the producers and director to deliberate. While it’s possible that you’ll be notified of your acceptance at your audition, you should expect to have to wait a number of days or even weeks before knowing their decision. If you are anxious about the process, then before you leave you can ask the director when they think they’ll make a decision.
If the director and producers feel that you’re the best fit for the role, then you’ll get a call or email welcoming you on board. Congrats! If you get a rejection email instead, then that’s okay. Try again when you see another casting call for a role you believe you can fill. At Mountain Craft Productions, we put all of our casting submissions into a database so that we have a resource to draw from later when we’d like to invite previously accepted/rejected actors for new roles.
To join our database, you can send us an email with your resume and photos to firstname.lastname@example.org at any time.
Justin Litton is a Charleston filmmaker and owner at Mountain Craft Productions, an award-winning full service production company and boutique agency based in Fairmont. You can learn more about Mountain Craft Productions by visiting their website at www.mtncraft.com.