Toronto Casting Director Jules Fitzsimmonswas in Ottawa for the successful second annual Eve Film Festival and I asked her if she could meet some actors from The Meus’sroster and share her insights on how the casting process works.
I really wanted to meet Jennifer Cooper, who casts 5 TV series in L.A. and is probably one of the busiest casting directors down there. The way I met her was pretty funny, I disguised myself as an actress and did her workshop in Toronto. She knew I was coming as an agent but I had to pretend to be an actress to keep it a safe zone for all the actors. I wasn’t there to recruit but to get insight on what she looks for in the actors she chooses. I was so embarrassed when she asked for everyone’s head shots and I didn’t have one (something I always tell my actors to have on them. Not just one copy but a few.) She kept making jokes throughout the workshop how agents were the worst, knowing that I was in disguise. It was hard not to laugh or cry.
Before Jennifer was a casting director, she wanted to be actress, which is something that I can relate to. I won’t even tell you the number of plays and musicals I was involved in. I loved showbiz but what really drew me to it was the business side of things. Being an actor is the hardest job in the world. You have to really want it. You have to wake up in the morning and be dying to do it, otherwise you just won’t last. Being an actor is a struggling business. You really need to ask yourself. Do you love this? I remember my last audition that I did in maybe first year University, the director asked me, “You don’t want to be here. Do you?” The truth is I never wanted to be an actor, I wanted to be the person behind the table. This moment was the beginning of me becoming a talent agent. I wanted to help people get those parts, get those opportunities that they never thought they could get.
I remember Jennifer talking about how casting directors are rooting for you to get the job and to never think that they are against you in some way. If they bring you in, they want you to get the job because if you don’t, they have to keep working to find someone else and that could be an all nighter. Remember they want you to get the job. If you remember that going into an audition it will help you calm your nerves. Just remember to not do anything ridiculous. She talked about how one actor decided to do a back flip randomly in the room. Don’t do that. If you act crazy you will also not get the job as it is their reputation on the line.
When it comes to submissions she talked about the one liners. For a one liner auditions she would get up to 2000 head shots for one role. When it comes down to actors roles it’s not necessary about acting but what you look like so you better have good head-shots. The one liners is a good starting point. If you do amazing on that they will keep bringing you in as you build your reputation. Remember that it isn’t a fast process. You have to prove yourself. You have to build your reputation. You have to build your relationships.
Questions as an actor that you should keep in mind:
What would a marketing person say about you?
Who will watch you?
Who is that person watching you?
“There is nothing that will get you the job but talent.” – Jennifer Cooper
Build your relationships. Build your Brand. Build. Build. Build.
Ambition. Drive. Think of acting as a being a single mom. Think about how much it takes to raise a child and work a full time job. The strongest prevail and the others start to hide away their art. Acting is a world of rejection. Sometimes actors begin to feel worthless, but there is something inside of everyone that is worth a great deal. Watch Dead Poets Society (1989) for inspiration. Express your art. It’s not meant to be hidden away. It does take hard work though.
I really hope every actor has an Instagram account and a blog. I bet producers google actors now. Having an audience in showbiz is important. The more fans that will watch you, the more reasons they have to book you for a production. It means they will sell more and the production will be more valuable. Creating content is key, but make sure it’s quality content. Bad content can harm your career. I’ll say it again. Create content. Create content. Create content.
Sometimes breakdowns get slow. It doesn’t meant that your agent isn’t submitting you. It just mean literally there are no auditions for your character. Sometimes that happens. During summer actors feel like there is going to be a big rush on things but usually it tends to slow down and picks up more in the fall. It has its ups and downs yearly. Here are 15 tips from people in the industry for encouragement.