Seattle Acting: Getting Cast (by Basil Harris)

A special contribution from Basil Harris! Well, what follows was left as a comment, but the content was so good, I decided to copy and past into a new blog entry. Enjoy!

“Good subject to tackle, David, and tricky.

Seattle is not like other places and other places are not like OTHER other places. In other words, only LA is LA. The community, the network, the system is different based on your zip code, that’s for sure. To get cast here, get to know how YOUR community works, not the one you wish was more like Hollywood. Work comes to Seattle in fits and starts, so the key is to prepare yourself for its arrival, not watch it disappear before you finish printing out your resume.

One great trick I learned recently on how to sniff out what work was coming down the pike is to go out and party with the crew, especially if you get the chance to hook onto a feature or high-profile job. mMke the time to go out with the local crew. The benefits are twofold: 1) crews like it when actors are cool and come out and party. It’s just good karma, and the local crew in Seattle is completely top-deck. And 2) casting is often the last element of production to fall into place. Only after securing locations, crews, budgets, etc do producers turn their attention to casting. Therefore, local crew often knows about the work long before auditions are even announced. Find out some project names then badger you agent about them or call your casting agent friends and see what they now. Put the word out that you want to read. Ask a crew friend for their advance copy of the script and role breakdown (this is probably not quite legal and you can’t prove that I ever did it, I’m just saying). Do whatever you can to get more info on these projects. Which brings me to…

Go get yours. This is often a toughie for Seattle folks. “I want to audition, but I don’t want to make [agent, producer, director, casting agent] mad at me for being pushy and then never call me in again.” Truth: anyone who gets mad at an actor for going after a role is a total dope. They’re not going to send you an engraved invitation even if you do have an agent. See the project, go after it. Yes, as David says, be nice. Always. Be professional and respectful. Say please and thank you, but say what you want. Too often, we see the example of the “squeaky wheel” as the douchebag who is nothing more than a total pest but somehow gets roles because somebody wants to shut him/her up or has been hypnotized to think that brash, naked ego somehow equals talent. Wouldn’t it be nice if more of us worked to kill that stereotype?

The other valuable thing to remember is something [Spokane acting teacher and casting director mentioned earlier on this blog] Nike Imoru told me during an audition once, which is that the actor’s job is to get the callback. The callback means you have done your job at the audition – you are cast-able – and the rest is up to the producers & director to decide how best to put you in the project. A callback is good. Find whatever ego boost you need in the fact that you were good enough to get a second look. Of course, getting the part is generally the best thing, but I found that with this thought in my head, I have an easier time rebounding from the ultimate rejection.

One last thought. David wisely mentions getting involved in your game & getting “out there” on social networks. This is not just to create more useless noise around your name. Ours is a social, personal business. If you have something to say, if you are a savvy local actor, if you always try to know where your next target is – audition, class, workshop, event, lecture, etc. – you will not only do yourself a service as a working professional, you will help create a rigor within the community that promotes work. I know this is somewhat pie-in-the-sky but I truly believe it. There’s a reason Seattle actors and film professionals get more attention than those in other markets (they do, I’ve checked) – it’s because we are smart, hungry and talented. Hard to see from ground level sometimes, but with the right attitude and discipline, we can make our little corner of the universe a real force to be reckoned with in Le Biz.”

9 thoughts on “Seattle Acting: Getting Cast (by Basil Harris)

  1. If you have to ‘party with the crew’ or any crew. You’re in the wrong place. Seattle’s problem is all the great teachers left.

    • I’m not sure I agree. I’m not suggesting that one HAS to party with the crew, I simply offered it as an interesting and unexpected networking device. Being “in the wrong place” is also confusing to me. It sounds like you’re saying Seattle actors are forced to mingle with “the help” in order to find work. Not sure if that’s what you meant but I know a few crew members, producers, directors and actors who’d be interested to hear you defend that point over beers (on your tab, of course). Actor training (formal) is different than getting work. Maybe you’re right about Seattle losing all it’s great teachers, I honestly don’t know. My point is that in the absence of a single guiding power, we have the opportunity to help guide each other. That’s community.

  2. Having had the pleasure of having Basil make me look good on more occasions than I can count, I can easily tell you he’s never made himself a pain in the A or a “douchebag” showing interest in a role. However, in reading this article, I have only two points to contend. The first is one, I and other casting “DIRECTORS” have mentioned here before. That’s the misnomer “casting agent” persisting in the industry. There is no such thing. You’re either an agent (talent agent is the full name) or you’re a casting director. You can’t represent talent and be a casting director as it’s a conflict of interest. The second is quite a bit more subjective but it’s the subject of an entire chapter of a book on which I’m currently at work so it’s a subject on which I’ve done a lot of thinking over the course of close to a quarter of a million auditions by now. Hearing phrases like “an actor’s job is to get the callback” can lead actors out of the moment which is where everything happens. This is true not only in acting/auditioning but also in life. Eckhardt Tolle’s best-selling book, “The Power of Now” is an excellent read on the power of living fully in the present and the ramifications of not doing so if you haven’t yet read it. That phrase also implies there’s an actual way to accomplish getting the callback. No one has yet been able to prove this yet the notion of it persists. Many actors will tell you they thought they stunk it up and then unexplainably booked the job! Likewise, you may think you “nailed it” and come away empty-handed. So figuring out what worked and what didn’t is unexplainable when attempting to do it before hand as a formula. When actors audition and they have their sights set on “getting somewhere or something” many of them begin to operate out of fear. They’re trying to protect something they don’t currently have or more to the point, trying “not to lose something they don’t currently have.” Everything we do is divided into the motivations of love or fear. EVERYTHING without exception. It can be the fear of love or the love of fear (adrenaline junkies who base jump for instance) but it’s always one or the other. When you form an idea or vision for the character (and you absolutely should!) you develop a picture of how the audition should go and creative visualization is a great tool to help you in doing so. But just as in life, there’s a rub to it-the audition is basically an uncontrollable place-just like life!! When you find the same truths in different places, cultures, religions and philosophies, you can usually take the idea for fact rather than belief. The Christians say, “put it in God’s hands” the Jews call it “Yad Vashem” or the hand of God, the Buddhists call it the law of detachment. For those who don’t believe in God, letting go of control will work. But no matter what you call it, it’s basically giving up the result and surrender to the potential of serendipity or if you will-fate. When an actor sets themselves in a place where moments of inspiration they could not have planned take place, magic happens. This can only be accomplished in a place of trust and not of the “monitoring” that usually happens when an actor has rigidly planned out their audition to the letter. (Monitoring is where the little critic shows up on your shoulder and starts whispering in your ear that you’re messing up! It takes you out of present time and you begin to crash and burn instead of being available to the possible discoveries that take place with departures that are likely to occur in the plan!) And that kind of monitoring is far more likely to happen when you are trying to get or protect something you don’t currently have-like a callback or a job. When you have nothing to lose because you’ve already won by having a chance to act in the audition, you’re not available to fear! You’re far more likely to stay in present time too! When I first got into the business, there was an amazing character actress named Fran Ryan (you’ve seen her in many things) who used to come in and audition. She’d ask enough questions to adjust her vision of what she wanted to do and then she’d go for it. Afterwards, she’d ask if I was happy. If there were any notes, she was happy to accommodate them. Then she’d leave and never give it another thought. She knew that her job was to fully enjoy the audition as an opportunity to do what she loved-ACT! It was an end in itself and was perfectly fulfilling just the way it was. It wasn’t something that had to be endured to get a callback or a job which was (maybe or maybe not) in the future. She worked all the time! It’s paradoxical but the only way to really get what we want is to make it OK for us not to have it. Then fear stops. In the acting class I’ve taught, we did a profound experiment on the effect of fear on the physical body and how to overcome it with love-based energy. It’s not impossible to attain this using the “your job at the audition is to get a callback” type of thinking. It’s just that it’s far less likely to happen by thinking that way. I know it’s accepted to tell people that they’re more likely to book a job or a callback if they take a class or if they follow a particular method that’s being taught. It gives an air of control to a situation that contains precious little of it. But if you follow the direction I listed here, the one thing I can guarantee you is that you will absolutely enjoy your auditions more and you will be in present time. Whether that’s the best recipe for ultimately getting the job? You decide! Good Luck!

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