I know my experience of what it takes to be an actor, and how to get cast, may be somewhat limited. But as a producer I'm often left with a feeling of wanting to bang my head against the wall
Read the breakdown carefully
I know there's a lot of information for you to take on (sorry!) every time you apply for a job, but each project is unique and there is a lot of information we would like you to know. If you don't read the breakdown carefully, you're at an obvious disadvantage straight away. I can always tell when someone has simply clicked through to the apply page and ignored half the information I spent hours typing up - because they then start to ask questions! If it isn't in the breakdown or production info, fair enough, but if you ask me a question that has been stated somewhere, I'm probably not going to like you very much. Instantly I'm going to put you in the 'doesn't listen' pile. It happens a fair bit, and it's a huge pet-peeve. I try my best to be as clear and concise in my writing as I can be - often going over and over it just to make sure I've said everything I want to say. If someone then just ignores all that work, let's just say, I roll my eyes. Also, by reading the breakdown, you might actually see that the role/project isn't right for you. I've been told countless times by actors who have joined a co-op agency that once they've started applying for roles for other actors they've quickly realised that not everyone is going to be suitable for every role. I often set out a few instructions I want people to follow (the big one is, don't contact me direct), and so you have to make note of what you're being asked. Read the breakdown carefully, and you'll already be ahead of the pack.
This one is to not be understated. Most of the actors (if not all) I cast and then re-cast are very likeable. Unless a project is gunning for an Oscar, the producers don't want a difficult cast. They want to know someone is reliable, friendly and hard-working. For me, those three things are perhaps more important than talent. I'd much prefer to hire someone I like who is good, than someone who is great but will get on my nerves. Being likeable has a huge affect on your cast-ability, and I'm not sure it can be taught. But for me, someone who takes an interest but isn't overly keen or demanding, is going to be likeable. I often ask myself, would I go to the pub with them? Because when shit hits the fan (because it always does) I want to know I can rely on them. I don't want to see them on their phones, complaining or causing trouble off-set. I love, love, love working with my friends. Most people do.
Network, but don't job tout
If you can build a friendly, but professional, relationship with a producer, then you'll be on your way. You can do this easily enough by networking online - start by watching a few short films, and contacting the filmmakers directly. Tell them you like the film and admire their work. Better yet, ask some questions, take an interest! I started a facebook group called Short Film Sharer for this exact purpose. Networking doesn't include spamming us with your boring lives - sorry! But this will go a long way to putting me off you. I know producers are all different, and we each want/need different things, but this is part of the challenge for you to figure out (nobody said it was going to be easy). Perhaps my favourite actor I've worked with a bunch of times over the years, contacted me on facebook and told me how much he enjoyed a film I had made - I've hired him 6/7 times since. I'm not saying this is the only way to get hired, nor will it guarantee you anything, but it does go a long way! More importantly, he didn't job tout. "Hey, if there's a part going..." simply isn't going to cut it because any filmmaker taking themselves seriously isn't going to hire someone just because they asked to be remembered - we've got lives and my memory isn't that great. But if you set aside some time each day to network, your seeds will grow and blossom into something magical - I guarantee it (and assuming you can act). At worse, you would have made a new friend. Good networking is the key to building a successful career. If you can't do it, you probably won't be getting that many roles.
Stay off social media!
There's perhaps nothing more irritating than seeing someone complain or moan on social media. It's really, really off putting. I cannot stress this enough. If you want to be taken seriously, get off social media! It's of no use to anyone to know what you've had for breakfast, or how much you hate the trains. It offers me nothing but annoyance. When I cast, I may post on social media occasionally, but I don't cast people I've seen on my feed. There are just too many actors in the world to remember you all. So what's the point in using it? I understand a lot of people enjoy the social aspect (go figure) of social media, but remember that it is public, and a casting director can easily find you and will probably take a look at your accounts. People think that it's all about your numbers, but I guarantee that even if you have 1000s of followers, if you come across as unprofessional, you won't get the job. I can honestly say that I've been put off hiring someone countless times after seeing their social media feed. If you can't stay off it, have a private account for personal use. Use social media to promote your work, but don't gloat, moan or over share, it'll only make you less 'cast-able'. Also, don't stalk people. Liking everything, making comments, blah blah blah, won't do you any favours either. Trust me. It's again, very off putting.
Practise your craft
"What? I have to practice acting?!"... You wouldn't believe how many people I come across who don't! There is an attitude amongst many new graduates (not all, but many!) who feel that because they've now got a degree, they're ready for the big time. Wrong. Unfortunately we often hear these amazing stories of actors who got cast in a big hollywood-blockbuster straight from drama school, well, you've got a better chance winning the lottery. So for the rest of us, we've got to practice, practice, practice. It's the best way to get better, and thus, more 'cast-able'. You'll have to figure out what works for you, but you could take a script, learn it, work on it, record yourself with your phone and then watch it back is a pretty good way of doing it? I know a lot of actors don't like watching themselves, but how do you expect to get better? By feeling it? Nah, it doesn't work like that. Sorry! There is a lot of hard work and graft that comes with being good at anything. If you're a natural, good for you! But you probably won't be able to hit your mark or wait for my action. Practising your craft by any means you can will only further your chances of being cast. When you're asked to self-tape, see this as an opportunity to practice your craft, not to waste your time. Do several takes and watch it back, don't rush through. Try to think about what you're seeing from the directors point of view - are you believable? Are you demonstrating the character well? Are you making interesting choices? If there's something you notice, go back and change it. When I write a script, very rarely do I send out the first draft - I look back over it and make changes.
Lastly, get a great showreel
If you don't have a great showreel, or worse, not at all, you are going to be very un-cast-able. Sorry! When I receive an application from someone explaining to me why they don't have a showreel yet, very often I don't have time to follow-up with them and work out a way how we can get some clips together so then can apply - there's just not enough time in the day. More and more castings are taking place online, so you absolutely must get a GREAT showreel together. If you don't have a great showreel, this should be your number 1 priority if you're taking your career seriously. It's probably going to be the best way for you to become more cast-able and to get a job! A showreel should also be never finished - things can always be improved. If you have a showreel and you think it's pretty great, send it to people, ask for opinions. I'm 100% sure they'll spot something you didn't.
Thank you for reading 'How To Make Yourself Cast-able'
I've been making films for over ten years now, so my thoughts and opinions have formed from that practical experience. Therefore my biggest piece of advice is to go out there and try it for yourself - it's the best way to learn. If you agree or disagree with any of my points, I'd love to hear from you. Tweet @DHshowreels with your suggestions!