New York Casting Director, Scott Powers, shares his insider's view of the client's perspective after the audition.
An interesting and unavoidable pastime in this business is observing actors commit career suicide.
Rushing headlong into the buzz saw, with not a clue or a care of what they're doing, not heeding warnings. Happens everyday. It's a given that an actor's plight is to always be looking for a job. In doing so, you never know who can help you get a job or influence a "we'll pass." The hiring process can involve a number of people; if one has a slight negative comment about a select, that often is enough to stop the consideration in its tracks. This we have witnessed more times than we want to. It can be made by a network executive vice president in charge of Primetime Programming or the summer intern. To see an actor lose a big role because of an offhand casual remark is a chilling experience.
Moral of the story: Don't make enemies. And its close cousin: be nice. Don't badmouth anyone. Tough to do in this business. Zip the lip. We all wear many hats in this business. The assistant being trashed today by an actor could be the agent two years from now who decides to take a pass on representing that actor. Or one day the actor walks in an audition room and there is the casting director the actor treated badly as an intern. Memories are long in this business. More people know you than you know them . It's very incestuous how agents, managers, casting directors, directors, producers, etc. all mix and mingle with each other. What's a common topic of conversation? You guessed it. The unfortunate part of our business is that once bridges are burned, it's permanent. Time does not heal all wounds here. There is no kiss-and-make-up as in other industries. Somebody wronged ten years ago still lies in wait, waiting for that opportunity to settle the score. If something bad is said about someone it is almost guaranteed that that person will hear about it, including the source. This can be why phone calls can start to fall off or a career never proceeds past doing background work for paid work. One photographer we work with a lot made an astute observation: "We don't have to eliminate actors, they eliminate themselves." Sometimes newcomers just have to find out for themselves and by that time, it's too late. Time for that Plan B.
Sherry Lansing, former head of 20th Century Fox and earlier in her career, a model and actor, famously said about the people who gave her shabby treatment on her way up to becoming one of the most powerful people in our business: "I remember them. And they remember me." Way to turn a phrase.
As casting directors, we have to work with clients, some are nice and some not so much. We are equally professional to all. They are the beginning of the food chain. Agents may have to work with clients, managers and casting directors they may not be in love with, but professionally are civil to all. This does not always extend to actors. To quote a big commercial agent, "We're very fortunate, we only work with the actors we want to." It doesn't take much to give someone a reason not to hire or represent an individual actor. And there are quite a few actors to go around in a buyer's market.
Stories abound about the casualties. Two new ones are especially poignant:
One actor recently mouthed off to an important film director. In front of several other people. The director never flinched and no one else did. The director just never hired that actor, and never will. Nor will anyone else who witnessed the display of self-importance. It came as no surprise that actor is never considered for anything substantial . The only paying work he gets is background work. Principal work? Yes, in student films for free. But he can't progress beyond that. Has a glass ceiling and his resumé confirms it. He became his own worst enemy and his career paid the price for it. Is he willing to change? No. He's convinced himself he's right and everybody else is wrong. Whatever the case is, he will not get the work he thinks he entitled to. Next!
One young actor was doing background work on a TV show that hires a lot of background. She made a snarky comment about an agent. An actor behind her heard it and it was about her agent, and she tweeted the agent word for word. The targeted agent made a casual call to the background casting director about the offending actor. The offending actor was not invited back to the show the next day. Or ever. And calls from the background casting director dried up. In a twist of irony, two weeks later the offending actor attended a meet-and-greet and guess who was one of the agents? Yep. When it came time for the actor to meet the agent, she was reminded word for word what she said about that agent. Imagine the shock on the actor's face! By the end of the evening, all the other agents and casting directors at the meet-and-greet knew what happened. A very efficient career crash and burn. And the unfortunate actor probably never connected the dots as to what caused this calamity.
Actors who have managed to stay in this business for a number of years have learned a number of survival skills. A big one is the accumulation of connections and good will for the care and feeding of their career. And a big way of building that group is being nice to everybody. Never a negative word. They've been around long enough to know even Godzilla may come in handy some day. And for the nod for that big series regular role.
To end on a positive note, the industry wants you to succeed, to get the job, to make everybody glad they made the decision to hire you or represent you. Everyone is plugging for you. Just give them a reason to do so.