10 things I Look For in an Actor (besides acting chops)

You scanned casting notice. The synopsis sounds exciting. Better yet, there’s a lead role for someone in your age range. Awesome! You were told to audition for everything, so that’s what you do… Over and over and over.

The question is, “are the castoids getting back to you with an offer?” (Just a “title” I made up)

If you’re having trouble landing a substantial part in a decent film, read on! By the end of this article, you’ll be armed with simple, yet powerful, information that looms through the minds of the role-call decision makers.

I won’t candy-coat this information. I want you to kill your next audition. Are you ready?

Here are 10 things I Look For in an Actor (besides acting chops)

 

1. LOOK LIKE YOUR HEADSHOT and BODY PHOTO

We’ve received your online photos and bio, talked on the phone, set up an audition time. No demo reel? No problem, your bio looks good and your photos resemble the character we’re looking for. We’ll see you Saturday at 10:30.

Saturday morning arrives, you’re on time and ready to rock. You walk through the casting room door, and the first thing we notice is how much you perfectly resemble your head and body shots. I get excited and ready to consider you for the part.

Hey this happens sometimes!

Now it’s a fact that some people look different in photos than they do in person. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve received submission photos that pitifully misrepresented the person standing in front of me. Surgical cropping and flattering shadows might work for your Facebook Celebrity Page, but really suck when we’re trying to match actors to the characters envisioned for the part.

In the sales game, they call this “bait and switch”. In the casting room, we call it “a short audition”.

Like it or not, film is a visual medium, the brushes we paint with are chosen carefully, and roles are NOT handed out with equal opportunity.

This doesn’t mean you have to be Chris Hemsworth or Scarlett Johansson to be considered for a part. All you gotta do is “look like the person in the photo G-dammit! That’s why we called you.”

Bottom line, don’t be a photo-fraud! Make sure your pictures capture your character and tell the whole story.

 

2. LEAVE YOUR EGO at the DOOR

It’s almost pointless to note this issue due to the pure nature of egotism. Even if we clearly illustrate the difference between “heathy self-confidence” and “narcissism”, people will still fall under one of two brands:

(A) Those who are empathetic towards others.

(B) Those who think their ass-flower is the center of the universe.

Sure I get a little cocky from time to time–but I’m also consciously aware of how fortunate I am teaming-up with such an awesome, down-to-earth group of film-rebels. I’m incredibly grateful and damn lucky!

If you show up to an audition (taking note of these tips) I’m eternally grateful that you’re willing to share in the casting process with me. I’m not entitled to your presence, I’m graced by it.

It’s your audition, and you can float your boat however you like, just keep in mind, “what first impressions giveth, the ego can taketh away.”

 

3. SHOW UP EARLY

So why show up early? Why not just show up at the scheduled time?

Like the saying goes, “Some people would show up late to their own funeral, and you can be damn sure they’ll show up late for rehearsals.”

…Or something like that–Either way, In my experience, people who arrive early are usually on time, and people who struggle to be on time are notoriously late–because life does that shit.

Mind you, I don’t think they WANT to be late. I just think they believe that “other people’s” time isn’t as important as their own. And when they force my “on time” appointments to have to wait, the writing on the wall reads, “sign of things to come.”

My advice? Get yourself a tee-shirt that reads, “Sorry I’m Late” on the front. Keep it in your car for when you need it. If you’re on time, you’re good. If you’re late, throw on the tee-shirt. At least it’s honest, creative and you might get a laugh.

 

4. BE FAMILIAR with OUR WORK

More actors have read THIS script with me than all of our film scripts combined…

ME: So, have you seen our work?

ACTOR: No, I’m sorry. It’s been really crazy lately, and I didn’t get a chance.

ME: You haven’t seen anything we’ve done? What made you want to audition?

ACTOR: I just saw the audition notice and…

… scene.

I call this “spam auditioning”. All the actor cares about is getting the part, any part, standards be damned.

Do yourself a favor. Prior to the audition, take ten minutes away from Facebook, do an online search, and check out the filmmaker’s prior work. Like ’em or hate ’em, doesn’t matter. You’re forging some instant camaraderie.

After looking at their previous work, you might have second thoughts about auditioning (you can thank me later).

Much of Dirt Capsule’s film work is open and available to the public — Easy to find with the simplest of Google searches. Yet time and time again, actors will show up to the audition having never seen a frame of our work.

Personally, that would be the first thing I did in response to a casting call, much less, submit an audition request, and certainly before arriving at the audition!

DO THIS ONE THING, and your chances of landing the part will drastically increase! Research the filmmaker’s previous work. If there’s nothing to research, you might ask why.

 

5. HAVE EVENINGS and WEEKENDS OPEN

This reminds me of a running joke I’d hear when living in Los Angeles: “Oh, you’re an actress? Really? What restaurant?”

If you’re a part-time actor in a film industry city like L.A. or New York, you most likely want your weekdays open for casting calls and extra film work. Hence, the typical notion that waiting tables or bartending is a good way to go for the up-and-coming star-to-be.

…But things are a little different in Phoenix Suburbia.

In my experience, a majority of our cast and crew members work 9 to 5 day jobs so they can forge their projects in the evenings and on weekends.

I’m not saying that we don’t squeeze a weekday gig in here and there, or that we haven’t made scheduling adjustments for an outlier or two. But for all intensive purposes, we gotta go where the schedules flow.

Unfortunately, that kinda screws potential actors who depend on evenings and weekends for their primary income. Just something to think about, depending on your goals and what kind of opportunity you’re looking for.

 

6. ACT LIKE A PROFESSIONAL WHEN OFF CAMERA

There’s nothing better than working with a professional. I’m not talking about the over-serious types who think the set should be run like a nazi war room, but rather the kind of person who makes it easier for others to do their job.

A lot of actors don’t realize how important it is to act professional even when their mugs are off camera. They think down-time is clown-time to get high, take group selfies and play grab-ass with the actresses.

We’re not runnin’ a convent, but we are making a movie. Keep the boil to a simmer till we wrap for the day, then we can all go clown around, get stoned and fuck a llama. Anyone? Anyone? Damn, we never do what I want to do.

Even worse, are the actors who complain during down time. Yes, I understand you’re missing an important meeting with the president. Just try to suffer through this whole “making you a star” thing. We’re moving as fast as we can.

Keep yourself occupied with activities, study with other actors, ask questions, memorize your lines, listen to music through headphones, even take a nap if you have to. Just relax and don’t disrupt the flow man. Now about that llama…

 

7. LIVE WITHIN TWENTY MILES of HOME BASE

This is something I learned from my days of playing in a band. Most of the “revolving door” band members lived outside the twenty mile mark of our studio practice space.

The reason for this is obvious. Shit gets old. Everyone’s on a tight budget, and it’s a simple matter of economics. People are more reliable when they don’t have to cross timelines for fittings, rehearsals, meetings, promo photos and even production.

This is no fault of the actor of course, it’s just how the chips fall.

That said, we’ve made exceptions, and still do on occasion. But 8 out of 10 times, when I bypass this requirement, I kick myself later.

 

8. DIG DEEP and TAKE RISKS

Some actors leave it all on the field. They throw themselves into a character with reckless abandon. They don’t just conquer the performance, they conquer themselves.

They’re bold, and they stand apart from the rest.

For them, it’s more than just an art-form. Acting is an avenue of growth and self development. It’s a way to push boundaries and challenge social norms at the risk of ridicule, failure and possible rejection.

They eat critics and shit rainbows.

My heroes.

 

9. BE EASY to WORK WITH

Who has time for assholes? Raise your hand! Anybody? Anybody? No? Hm, that’s strange. It appears, we all just want to work with cool people who are easy to get along with.

Now some would say, “ass-holes are an inevitable part of any major film project.” And to that I would quote Shakespeare. “Tis sheer happenstance, the moment a substantial budget touches a film project, the bells of Egopolis do ring and the gates of Dickdom do open!”

… At least I think it was Shakespeare. I’ll double-check my sources.

Anyway, I’m not saying’ that every R.O.I. sandwich comes with dick fries. But I’ll order the salad if it’s an option.

 

10. MINIMIZE YOUR PERSONAL BAGGAGE

I saved the best for last because it’s probably the one I deal with the most.

We could call this “unavoidable obligations that aren’t your day job”. Or I suppose we could call it, “Your drama that affects everyone else”. We could also call it, “The reason I’m not calling you back”.

All of those work for me. Let’s get more specific.

On the rational end, we have school, side jobs, legal obligations, child obligations, spousal obligations, financial obligations, scheduled vacations… etc.

On the irrational end, there’s personal drama, jealous boy/girlfriends, psychotic behavior, irresponsible behavior, bad habits, personality disorder’s, disruptive quirks, substance abuse… etc.

Rational or irrational, it’s ALL BAGGAGE the moment it AFFECTS OTHERS!

Don’t shoot the messenger just yet. Seriously, I’m here to help. I love 97% of the actors I work with. They’re like family, and when I hear that they’re going through rough times, I sincerely want to help. However, when they’re caught in a shit storm with no umbrella, day after day, month after month, year after year, it signals an internal problem.

For those who’ve yet to audition, here’s a word of advice: Nobody wants to babysit your problems! To the extent that your baggage affects others, you’ll measure a loss in opportunity.

Roxanne has 4 baggage issues to deal with.

Maddison has 1 baggage issue to deal with.

You’ve got a film to make, both are equally good and right for the part. Who do you choose?

3 – 2 – 1 – BING! Johnny, tell em’ who won.

 

SOME FINAL THOUGHTS

If you’re serious about acting, do yourself a favor and scan this article again before your next audition. If you’re prepared with a monologue, a positive attitude and some decent chops, these tips will drastically improve your chances of landing a great role in a high-quality film.

Other directors may deal with different issues, but I’m sure these tips will help you either way.

 

BY the BY…

If you’re familiar with our work, you may notice a number of reoccurring actors in our films. The reasons for this are listed in the article above. Do we tap new blood sometimes? Of course we do, and quite often. After all, it’s hard to create in a vacuum.

Maybe I’ll get the pleasure of working with YOU one day. In the mean time, cover these issues, land some auditions and get your ass in front of the lens.

Much luck to you and your efforts.

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