Of course, while on stage/ screen , and backstage, we require fully professional behavior from all cast and crew, we also like to try and help those new to the industry to also present a professional aspect in their wider performance lives; this not only helps the performer, but also in turn reflects on us as a production company.
A lot of the issues we encounter are born of desperation, or enthusiasm, or simply not knowing. So, while not all things can be covered in this article, we are attempting to cover common issues that we have seen. These are linked to what is considered "standard" in the theatre and film industry. On a wider scale, casting directors and production companies, will expect you to adhere to excellent practice, and will not make allowances for "not knowing".
All actors will ultimately need a "toolkit", as we call it. It is a good idea to get compiling this as soon as possible, and having the links and documents easily accessible to send to any job applications.
This of toolkit consists of
A showreel video (best clips of performance)
A formatted resume
A professional Facebook page and/or Twitter account
Preparing your professional profile.
To begin with, you will need to get professional headshots. Usually actors need to pay for these, and you can be looking at anything from £70 through to around £500, depending on the photographer. They must be to industry standard, and show you clearly. We would suggest getting several headshots showing different expressions and styles. Spotlight gives you an insight as to what to expect.
A showreel video, may take a little longer. Traditionally this a video lasting no more than 2 minutes, showing two to three clips of your best performances. The camera shot should focus primarily on you, and ideally should be from actual productions you have been in. If you do not have these yet, then it is acceptable to film some short scenes to make into a temporary showreel. You can host this on your Youtube account, though always keep a file to send direct as well. People can pay a lot of money to have thier showreels professionally edited, though if you have the skills, you can do your own (look at software like NCH VideoPad )
Next, you need to look at your resume. This should be ready to send out in PDF format, though also keep a Word-format copy which you can easily update. (Tutorial on how to format your resume ). The most common pitfalls people fall into are when they lie on resumes. While many casting directors and agents will want to see your resume, and your agent will require it, we have come across so many resume's with incorrect claims, that we actually now barely look at them, and instead judge on the audition in front of us. However, if we see something that is blatantly untrue, that is a big turn-off from casting. Remember that casting directors and companies talk, and lies or exaggerations are found out sooner or later. That is only going to harm your career - who wants an employee who lies?
It is also not considered acceptable in the industry to include extra / non-speaking/ crowd roles.
The complete beginner should not (with us at least) fear being a beginner - we are far more impressed with someone who arrives saying "I have never done this before, but I really want to learn, please give me a chance", than someone who falsifies or "bigs" their experience to try to impress.
Now, you are ready to get your online presence underway.
You are going to want a Facebook page (probably not the "person profile" you use for friends and family), and a Twitter. These are great for networking. Set them up with your professional name, and what you do (example Fred Smith; Actor).
As well as networking and learning, you can use these as your newsfeed. Update them with all your news, regular photos and videos. Make sure that you have permission to share everything; don't breach any non-disclosure agreements you have made with production companies, or share things that you are breaching the copyright of. It is also a bad idea to share things like "on-set selfies"! If in doubt always check with the production company.
Then you can build your website: To get started look at using a free editor like Weebly (this site is built using Weebly, though we then bought a .com domain name) , and again apply the same rules as for your social media - you can also upload your resume and showreel. Embed your Facebook and Twitter as your easy -access newsfeeds so that people can read your latest news.
Now, you have the bare bones of what you need to start applying seriously for work.
Auditioning, means arriving on time. We have a section on our site, about our audition expectations, which we need not repeat here. But when applying for any casting; read the casting call advert as your first point of information (it can really annoy a casting director to wade through dozens of applications from people who have never read the casting call; on the other hand it makes a good impression if your application shows that you have genuinely read the casting call. This is one of the most common complaints on casting directors social media groups!)
If you get an invitation for a video audition (self-tape) film it as clearly as you can (even if only with a smartphone), and get it in on time.
When you arrive for your audition, you need to be on time, well presented and pleasant. The casting director will often be looking for more than your audition (we certainly do). When you arrive, we are also looking for professional courteous behaviour towards the other people in the room, positivity, the asking of knowledgeable questions. Our quickest turn-offs are lateness, egotistical behaviour, sexual impropriety, disruption, and rudeness (as extreme cases, the lady who once walked into our auditions three hours late, marched up to the table, and jiggled her breasts in the face of the rather horrified casting director, may be memorable, but instantly removed her from any chance of being considered by the casting director for that or any future production, as did the actor who came on time with a badly behaved small dog which ran around the room dragging a chair it was tied to, and jumping on people, while the actor demanded the lead role, due to having once been in a chorus dance line in the West End).
We have cast Hollywood name actors in small one-scene roles, and beginners in lead roles in the same shows, and vice versa - the true professional knows that they are the part of a team, and that there is no "small" role.
When you get that role
It is a good idea to confirm acceptance as soon as you are offered a role, and get the production details through. Make sure you are available for the rehearsals, or at least the vast majority, and communicate any clashes at once with your contact in the production team.
As with auditions, arrive on time for rehearsals, in a pleasant, clean, manner. Wear comfortable clothes that you can move in (just a hint on clothing to avoid: men - super tight skinny jeans, or ladies - short skirts may be fashionable, but severely restrict your ability to move comfortably and retain your dignity). Be a pleasant member of the team, (interact, help each other, focus on the show, don't distract others, and leave your phone in your bag!)
Sexual humour or that which is at the expense of someones race/ age/ health/ size/ religion/ nationality/ gender identity, is not acceptable. Being helpful and building each other up is the way to go.
A common problem that occurs in productions, especially, unfortunately, when female-led. is where members of the cast try to direct other cast, instead of referring to the director. This is a major sign of unprofessionalism, and will result in warnings, and could result in being re-cast. While it shows total disrespect for the production team, it also results in complete confusion, especially for new performers..
Instead, work with your own directions, ensure that you are learning your lines and cues to deadline, and setting that excellent example.
It is the responsibility of everyone to leave venues clean and neat, to respect the privacy of people changing (another common problem is when people unthinkingly burst into the changing rooms of others! Always knock!).
Let the publicity team do their work. If you have an amazing suggestion, let them know, but dont go off on your own trying to arrange things like interviews and articles without the approval of the production company. You could end up in breach of non-disclosure agreements, sharing incorrect information, or causing other problems for the production company.
Many productions will not permit the use of phones on set in rehearsals or in performances, many large productions have had so many problems with this, that they take all phones off cast and crew until the day is over. We dont confiscate phones, but we do require that you make sure your phone is turned off and in your bag.
If you are working with a celebrity, treat them as another normal person - dont demand selfies/ signed stuff.
Be nice to your audiences. People coming to see your performance are the people ultimately paying your wages! Being rude or egotistical towards them, is only going to alienate. At the same time, if something has happened that you are being seen as "famous" (it can happen) you will need to have certain boundaries (we will touch on that in a future blog article), but always be pleasant!