The Business of Show Biz: Don't You Know Who I Am?
Thursday, September 11, 2014
By Velina Brown
Q: Look, I've been around a long time. My résumé is four pages long. I'm tired of having to prove myself over and over again. I just auditioned for a casting director for a film, and she wasn't familiar with any of the theatre that's been done around here. She didn't know my work at all and treated me like I was a novice. She should be able to take one look at my résumé and see that I am experienced and talented. Considering my huge body of work, shouldn't she already know who I am? Her ignorance and incompetence pisses me off.
Actor and career consultant Velina Brown.
A: It sounds like you have a lot of stage experience but are new to auditioning for film. Since the casting director apparently doesn't work on theatre projects, she isn't well versed in the theatre scene. I personally think that casting directors in general would do well to see as much theatre as they can to stay knowledgeable about the local talent pool. However, they work long hours and will miss things. And unlike film and television, which are by their very nature captured for future viewing, theatre is by its nature ephemeral. If you can't get to the theatre during a show's run, you missed it and it's gone forever.
Therefore, as stage actors what we have is our résumé and reputation. And I understand how disheartening it can be when you've been working for a long time to meet new directors or casting folks who have no idea who you are. But it is what it is. You can't really expect all the casting people to be carefully following your career or to somehow divine how experienced and amazing you are. They won't divine it. You have to show them. So, while it's regrettable that the casting director hasn't seen your work, it doesn't make her a bad person or incompetent in her job. And to be fair, how familiar are you with the projects she's worked on?
The truth is, auditioning is part of the actor's work. Even the most well-known movie stars have to audition on occasion, if it's for a director they haven't worked with before or they want to break out of their usual genre or type.
Even in theatre there's often turnover within the staff, and suddenly a person you've know for years is out and there's a new casting director or artistic director with whom you have to start from scratch building a relationship. It can be frustrating, but it can also be also a great opportunity. If the last casting person didn't completely grasp your range and awesomeness, perhaps the new person will. But of course they won't be able to appreciate your talent and get to know you at your best if the main thing you display is how pissed off you are to be auditioning. Remember, an audition is an opportunity.
I definitely understand being dismayed when someone who knows you very well and has worked with you for many years asks you to audition for something that is not even a particular stretch for you. Between you and me, I think that's weird. But when you want to work with someone new, it's the nature of the biz and you need to, as my grandmother would say, "Get your mind right" before going to auditions or, seriously, don't bother.
I have been on the director side of the table when an actor with a long résumé and bitter attitude has come into the audition room. Man, what a miserable five minutes. One guy entered scowling, flushing red, shooting daggers at us with his eyes making it quite clear he was furious that he'd been asked to audition. Yikes! I had no interest in working with him.
Even though he had a long résumé, I didn't know him. Instead of helping me get a feel for his energy and how he might fit in with the other actors up for consideration, his primary accomplishment in the room was to create a terrible impression and a painful experience for everyone. Considering that, as I said earlier, the main thing we actors have is our reputation, you want to take care not to do that. So, I strongly recommend passing on the audition if you can't go in with positive energy. It's really okay to pass. Then when you do go into an audition, it's for something you're excited about and can show your best work.
Good luck with moving into film. Enjoy the challenge of meeting new people and working in a new medium. And please do what you can to "get your mind right," because a bad mindset can trump an awesome résumé.
Velina Brown is an actor and career consultant. Send her your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.