"The label you give yourself cannot impact external forces that are not motivated by your own psychology or influenced by a third party's pre-existing consciousness of you. We are all presented with reasons to struggle which come from completely external forces; to pretend that one is not struggling is either arrogance or an admission of defeat. To admit that one is struggling is a sign and a source of strength." - Evan A. Baker

Friday, July 28, 2017

Self Tapes

You guys.

I've been concentrating on television writing, taking classes, reading books, studying my little heart out to really understand the craft so that I can keep working as a storyteller.

Wrote a pilot and sent it out to friends for notes, and OH MY GOD. One of my friends with a development deal at Sony (with two celebrities attached, so you know, he's kind of a big deal) liked my pilot so much that he offered to help me create a presentation for it and use his contacts around town to help me pitch it to studios.

Is that weird? Yes. Yes, it is. Because it always feels like that's how the other half lives. But now, I'm living that life too. And I'm in pre-production, gathering up crew and locations, and making sure my director, DP, and Production Designer are ALL WOMEN, and will all GET PAID. One of my male actors (a recurring on Silicon Valley) has even offered to waive his fee so I could put that money towards my women crew. HOW AWESOME IS THAT? Oh, and my producer friend? Also doing all this FOR FREE.

You know why? Cause they believe in me. And that feels fucking awesome. Because even though I've been writing this blog, helping new actors get their bearings in LA since 2009, and even though I wrote a freaking book, I still sometimes don't feel like a writer. It's weird.

I gotta get over that, you know?

Oh! And I had one actor email me that he read my post on how to audition for the CBS Diversity Sketch Showcase, and he got a Callback and wrote to tell me thanks! You're welcome, Rene!

Anyway, the Point of this Post

Right. That.

You ready?

For my pilot presentation, I put out 3 different breakdowns on Actors Access, asking for self tapes.

Here's what I found learned that I think you may find helpful:

Some actors, for some reason I could not understand, did not find a scene partner, and just recorded themselves saying their own lines.

I'm really not sure why they thought that was a good idea. Acting is reacting. So when you just read your own lines, you're already eliminating half your scene. And I get it, the other character had a few chunk of lines, but as a casting director, I needed to see how you reacted to what he was saying. I needed to see your disbelief, your disgust, your intrigue, all within the six seconds he was talking.

Some actors went for 'realism' and went on location.

One of my sides took place in the doorway of an apartment, so two different actors took their cameras and recorded themselves doing their scene in the doorway of their own apartment. Don't do that. It's distracting. You're showing me that you care less about your performance, which is all I care about, and more about location. How many times did you have to redo your tape when a neighbor walked by?

Some actors used a blank wall while others didn't have one so I saw their entire apartment. 

And you want to know what's interesting? The actors who've studied their craft, the ones who created a character, the ones who were really good; they had my whole attention. The ones who were still new and green? I checked out their place. Ooh! A bookshelf. Messy clothes.

Because that's the thing about self-tapes: I only need 5 seconds to judge you. If you don't wow me in those first 5 seconds, I can move on! So the lesson here, is to make sure your first 5 seconds are really, really good.

What does that mean?

Well... that's what class is for. Audition technique is really something you need to learn.

Another thing you should learn?

80% of the tapes I received were 'good enough.'
I thought, you know, I could work with this person. I can tell they're good enough that I could direct them to give me what I want. They're fine.

But for each role, I had my top 3, and what struck me was that I only had ONE person per role who fucking NAILED IT and had everything I needed in regards to what I was looking for in the character. That's it. ONE.

Are you that ONE? Sometimes you will be. Most of the time, you won't.

Sometimes you'll kill it in your audition but then the role gets taken by someone the producer knows. 

That is a fact of life, and it sucks. For instance, one woman was sooo good! And even though she was in that character's age range, I couldn't cast her because she'd look too young around the other actors I had already cast.

And then, after much discussion, my producer convinced me to take the role, because then we can tout me as the creator/writer/star; the next Mindy Kaling.

And if anyone is like, "We love the idea, love your writing, but don't think you can lead a series and we really want Amber Riley in your role," I'd be like GO AHEAD.

In fact, that was actually something I talked to my cast about: the chance of me actually selling this show is 2%. And of that just 2%, the likelihood of my original actors getting to keep their roles is .3%. That's the damn truth.

No matter how good of an actor you are, no matter how much I would want to keep you, Kylie Jenner could want to star on a TV show, and you'll get pushed out because you don't have millions of followers on IG.

Hollywood can suck.

I wish I could message the ones who really impressed me.

I was sort of struck by how I wanted to reach out to a few of these actors and say, "You know what? I get it: sending self tapes out into the ether is fucking awful because you don't ever get a response and it'd be nice to hear someone say, "that was really good," like they do in a first call audition. That little bit of validation can go a long way.

I wish everyone held callbacks like I do.

Because mine were the best. I called back only the people I wanted to cast. I sent them emails saying they were 1 of 3 actors called back, and then, after spending time with them in the room, offered the role to them right there. Told them they were my top, number one choice this whole time.

That was fun. :)