Six dos and don’ts every actor wishes you knew from breakdown to booking.

If you are an indie filmmaker then you know that casting is that wildcard that can make or break your chances at festivals, awards, and making all of your hard work worth it, and that mis-casting can make your shoot a living hell. The breakdown is the fateful first step in the casting process. As an actor I have personally read somewhere near 15,000 breakdowns in my career, and, when I was self represented - I read and applied to the worst of the worst - and paid the price for booking them in the end. Over the years, I’ve combined a list of dos and don’ts I wish every filmmaker knew in hopes that we can all be the change we wish to see in the breakdowns.

Do: Research actor’s work before calling them in.

It is really wonderful when you go into a room and the director or casting director tells you they have seen your reel, or the work you did in some other project and enjoyed it. Even the most experienced of us get nervous in a casting room and knowing we are not just another 5’4” redhead helps to bolster our confidence.  

 

Do: Post breakdowns on at least one free site (even if it is on your Facebook page or website) so actors who can’t afford to be on the paid sites can still audition.

Many of these online casting sites make their money off of actors, and even the ones that let you submit for free such as mandy.com will still try to get actors to pay to have their applications pushed to the top of the pile. it’s a grind - especially for actors without an agent - so do them a favor and make sure they can still find the information on your project through a google search when they find it on other sites. For a list of sites you can post on please visit www.mandymaycheetham.com/shop and download the full 10 pages of dos and don’ts.

 

Do: Look at other postings on the casting site you are using to get an idea of what goes where and what makes you want to click on a project. i.e. . . .

Put on your thinking cap, and do some Googling.

 

Don’t: Write ‘hot models and actresses needed for short film’ as the title of your project.

Please.

 

Don’t: Do open calls.

Open calls are terrible for everyone. When I am very busy and I get a mass email for an audition that tells me I need to be at a casting location anytime between 3-7PM I usually won’t go. This is a rookie mistake made by new filmmakers and it makes everyone’s lives miserable. Long wait times and degradation at being one of 37 5’4” redheads wearing a green blouse doesn’t give you your best reads from actors. Instead of spending 10 hours seeing everyone who submitted, and being so overwhelmed with faces that you can’t remember who’s who by the end of it and then having to re-watch ten hours of the auditions you taped - take 4 hours to review reels and resumes and then spend 3 hours auditioning your top 12.  The actors will appreciate that you respect their time and know their work and you will enjoy the process much more.

Don’t: Ask us to do scenes involving fighting or physical violence.

Proper fight choreography and rehearsal is required as a safety precaution and the audition room is not a fair place to begin this process. If you would like to have a fight audition for roles which require it, hire a fight co-ordinator and hold it in a proper facility with mats.

For 8 more pages of helpful casting tips from an actor’s perspective visit: www.mandymaycheetham.com/shop where I go through the entire process of casting actors from Breakdown to Booking (and even some on-set tips and definitions).

Mandy May Cheetham
is a Canadian actor trained in New York and Los Angeles who has completed over 60 projects in 5 years in film, theatre, and television. She is the creator and star of MUTHA a television show soon to air on a major U.S. network. She is also co-creator of a web series on the experience of casting director workshops from an actor’s point of view called The Infinite Need see all ten episodes at www.theinfiniteneed.com
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