Thursday, August 29, 2013

Is this the one?

Each week I audition for and submit to a variety of projects, from film to TV to web series to VO jobs.  Some opportunities come from agents, some from referrals (including one this week from a client in the Dominican Republic!), a few from networking, and some I seek out. 

And occasionally, like last night, I participate in what’s called “generals,” where a group of people audition to be part of a database for future projects.  Talent buyers view/listen to the submissions, and either cast directly from those (which is very nice) or ask for an audition from a script specific to the project at hand.  I’ve noticed that more potential clients are creating their own databases, instead of only relying on casting or talent agencies or even Craigslist to provide talent. 

I never know which thing will come to fruition.  Will I get a callback and/or the job?  Will the potential client respond to my submission at all, much less ask me to audition in person or via self-recording?  If my audition is great, will anyone who saw it remember me for additional projects? 

I try to let such thoughts go, because once I’ve auditioned there’s nothing else I can do.  So I keep putting more irons in the fire.  But every once in awhile, the more I try to stop thinking, the more the thoughts stay.  Like a song stuck in my head.  Especially if it’s a role I really want, a huge project like a national TV commercial or if I’d be working with someone I’ve wanted to work with. 

Over the years, you'd think I'd have gotten used to not hearing, waiting to hear, etc.  That getting called in to one of the big three casting agencies would be old hat.  But every audition is new and full of possibilities. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013


Chicago has a vibrant storytelling community.  Some evenings there are three live lit events to attend and/or participate in.  Each has its own vibe and approach.

I've told a couple of times at Here's the Story.  HtS offers a potluck, several featured storytellers and several walkups.  Stories should be memorized.

Last night I told for a standing room only crowd at Story Lab.  Held in the back room of the Black Rock Pub, this show has six storytellers plus a story told by the host.  Storytellers gather a couple of weeks before to get feedback on their stories, with time to revise before the big night.  Stories must be true, between 7-10 minutes, and don't have to be memorized.

What does it take to be a storyteller?  First you have to think of a story you want to share, craft the arc of emotions to convey and decide which details stay and what go.  It's important, IMO, not just to read, but to perform and draw the audience in.

I enjoy doing the storytelling and deciding what to say.  But it can take a lot of time to revise and then to rehearse, so I'm not sure how many more I'll do.  However, I know the producers and the host of another popular show and may want to tell there....

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The eye of the beholder

When submitting an audition, manuscript, or any project, I want to put my best foot forward so I can get the job, sell the book, earn money and feel productive.  But everyone else in the pool wants the work also, and is doing his or her best.  Which leaves the client in the fortunate position to choose who he or she thinks suits the project at hand. 

Our product may be great.  But it may not catch the eye and ear of the beholder.  They may already hear a voice in their heads they want to match, or envision someone older, younger, taller, or with different hair.

Perhaps another  sample of our work would’ve done the trick,  or another picture. Nowadays more demos and clips are the norm for actors.  A general narration demo may not suffice when others have eLearning, medical, technical, audiobook and/or promo demos, too.   A single on-camera reel may be all you can put together with the clips you’ve been able to accumulate.  Many talent now have separate dramatic and comedy reels.  At some point, I’d also like to offer hosting and commercial reels.

Occasionally I’m asked to audition for an actual historical figure, celebrity, fictional character or to create the voice of a mascot.  Usually they include a link to a sound bite of the person or at least what they have in mind.  I listen carefully to every nuance. 
Can I match the timbre and inflection?  It may sound great when I’m recording, but not so great when I play it back in my headphones.  How can I match the sound?  Or if I’m creating a voice to go with a picture or drawing, will my imagination harmonize with the client’s? 
For today's casino game audition, I'm pretty sure I got the requested character's laugh down.  Pacing, too.  The nasal quality - check.  But there's a certain roundness to her tone I'm not as sure about. 
As with any audition, I can't dwell on the outcome, over which I have no control.  Onto the next....

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Planning my feelancing days has gotten more challenging over the years because I'm still not very spontaneous.  Others may be fine with ever-changing client and agent requests.  But writing auditions, jobs, social events, etc. in ink (yes, I use a paper calendar because it's easier IMO than trying to click around on my phone to find the day(s) in question and see what's already on them) gives me a sense of satisfaction.  I like having some sense of certainty and order.  In the acting business, that's rare.

A potential new client informed me on 8/7 that I was one of 6 selects--in this case, the top 3 male and 3 female voices for a Friday morning session.  The client would make the final decision.  I could reschedule or perhaps push back breakfast with a friend, but if I don't get the job I'd rather leave things as they are.  I have no way of knowing when I'll hear, or even if. 

More and more often audition specs list the shoot/recording date as TBA or week of.  So while I glance at my upcoming calendar each time I audition, I can't know if I'll book any of the gigs or when they might happen.  Some on-camera auditions want availability for a callback, wardrobe fitting, and however many days of the shoot. 

Fortunately my friends are flexible.  But doctors and other service providers often require 24 hours notice of cancellation or payment of a fee or the cost of the visit.  If I don't find out about an audition or callback until after 5PM, I either suck up the cancellation cost or pass on the opportunity. 

And as for travel, it's been awhile since I've taken a long vacation.  Last month I was out of town at a conference for a mere 2 business days, but missed out on a couple of things because one of those days was either when something I could've auditioned for was shooting, or the only time I could've auditioned. 

It's a matter of juggling priorities.  I do enjoy having many balls in the air, but sometimes I'd like to be sure how many I'll be keeping track of at once.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

To play or not to play?

A colleague called to ask if I'd be interested in auditioning for one of two lead roles in a play she's in that'll run for 16 performances.  Quite flattering to hear that she'd recommended me to the director.

For a variety of reasons, I haven't done a play for a long time, or even auditioned.  Several years ago I was asked to audition for the part of Golde in a non-Equity touring production of Fiddler on the Roof, but the weekly pay was much too low for me to consider being out of town for weeks at a time, so I declined.

Most non-Equity theatre in Chicago doesn't pay well either, so if I got the part I wouldn't be doing it for the money.  I'd do it for the experience, resume credit and exposure.  I've heard two major TV/film casting directors here talk about the value of doing theatre.  But would they or my talent agents come to see this production of a well-known play, or is it enough for them to know I did it?  Would it get good reviews, or perhaps even a Jeff (Chicago's version of the Tony Awards) nomination?

I have to consider the rehearsal and performance time commitments, which would be significant.  I probably wouldn't have an understudy.  Would needing to be at rehearsal or a performance prevent me from doing any on-camera work?   One of the major casting agencies requires auditionees to put theatre conflicts on each audition form. Many TV series are filming here this fall, but there's no way to know if or how often I'd have the opportunity to audition for them.  Or would the play conflict with other commitments?  Fortunately the theatre is nearby, so I wouldn't have to spend a lot of time commuting or money on gas.

I'm looking forward to talking with the director and gathering more information....