Confessions of a Chicago Casting Director

One of our partners, David O’Connor, put together a great reminder for talent and agents to break in the New Year. He is one of our main Casting Directors in Chicago. He noted that “[He is] so happy that there is so much production shooting here and so many opportunities for talent to expand and develop their careers. I haven’t seen this city so busy across the board in 20 years[...] It’s all about ‘opportunities’ that we are all given and how to best succeed to obtain them and utilize the ones available to all of us.” Here are some tips from the pros on how to make sure your best foot is forward….

  • Headshots and sizes should to be current—meaning quarterly. The most current shot must be the first shot we see on Casting Networks. Too many actors miss out on auditions because we don’t know they’ve lost 30 lbs., or shaved their head, or grown a beard. Or they come in looking nothing like what we thought they looked like. Yes it’s great to have a pretty picture; but if it doesn’t reflect who you are it doesn’t help, and hinders you more often than not. None of us like to waste time, and having current info is SO important. Beards can be scary or they can be nice. Haircuts and length, color can actually lead to a booking so changing them weekly doesn’t help. We’ve had people that are literally 20-70 pounds different that their headshot and resume states. Why? And more importantly, some agents weren’t even aware of it. Yikes indeed.THIS ESPECIALLY APPLIES TO KIDS. If they don’t look like their headshot, they’re potentially missing out on auditions or they’re wasting our time coming in for roles they’re too old or too tall for. Kids change rapidly and it’s tough to judge and we certainly don’t want to overlook anyone. So if a talent knows that their information is way out of date by look, weight, or height, it would be good to tell your agent that they may NOT be right for the casting and they will update their information. It’s as simple as taking a recent photo and sticking it up on Casting Networks so we know what they currently look like – personally I don’t need the professional shot, just a current image of them. 
  • PASSPORTS, PASSPORTS, PASSPORTS. Still amazed at the amount of talent who have to pass on auditions because they don’t have one. We’ve done at least five projects this past year needing them. More often than not, our clients do not want to bother running the risk of having to expedite a passport. They just want the peace of mind knowing the passport is already in hand. Too many highly qualified actors miss opportunities of a lifetime over something so simple as not having a passport on hand. So maybe 2014 should be the year they obtain and check to see if their current one is actually current. I know mine expires March of 2015 just in case I ever have an emergency vacation to the Los Cabos. 
  • Any talent still not on Casting Networks or Breakdown Services? Why??? Sending galleries of NEWLY SIGNED talent who aren’t yet up on Casting Networks is fine, but someone who is on Breakdown Express should be on Casting Networks (and vice-versa). We look at galleries AFTER we select from Casting Network submissions, so those talent run a MAJOR risk of not being seen. In addition they should FILL OUT THE ENTIRE PROFILE. Doesn’t matter who they are, they are missing out on MANY opportunities. There are many projects that I utilize the search engine on those CONSTANTLY to find special skills, race, and certain height/weight needs and many people are overlooked. So while they are updating their file, they should review all things on there… AND THAT’S EVERYONE, why miss an opportunity? 
A general note to talent is that they are simply not responding to being called to audition. We’re not sure how they consider themselves actors when they don’t communicate with their agent. Some talent never confirm with you and they show up to the audition anyway, assuming they have a time slot. They need to confirm or they run the risk of us not seeing them and this makes for a fairly awkward situation. But mainly to just communicate with their agent on all things audition and booking related.
As a courtesy to you and as a service to our clients, we check that minors have current and valid work permits at time of first refusal. However, this is not the time we want to learn from you that work permits are not valid. If you rep minors, if you confirm them for an audition, and CERTAINLY if you confirm them for a callback or a first refusal, they must have current IL work permits, period. Even if a project shoots out of state, talent should have an IL work permit, as this could make getting the out of state permit easier. DO NOT let us find out at/around time of booking that a minor’s work permit has expired, as bookings often come with zero time to then acquire/renew a permit. 

PLEASE INSIST YOUR ACTORS STAY IN CONTACT WITH YOU! If one of your actors is considering taking on a role in a play, particularly one that does not accommodate for an understudy or MRE, they should be discussing this with you. We of course encourage actors to get theatrical experience, but there have been TOO MANY times that these actors have been called back and suddenly bring this up to your surprise. Developing their craft is VERY important, but so is their availability.

Courtesy of David O’Connor

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