Casting Thoughts: Part Two (of Three)

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Welcome to the second part of our series about casting at Smooth Faced Gentlemen. This is designed to give some insight into our process, in the interest of transparency. Much of this will be the same for other companies. But it’s written it from the point of view of applying to SFG, and other casting directors may operate very differently!

If you missed it, start by heading over to read PART ONE (especially the disclaimer), and check back next week for PART THREE.

Contents

Part Two: TIMING, AGENTS, AND COVER LETTERS

It’s strangely exhausting, seeing all these applications, and knowing behind every one is a real person, eager and talented, who’s put time and energy into applying… but knowing too that we can’t choose everyone. We work hard to give everyone the best chance – but we’re fallible, and it’s sometimes hard.

So here’s a few more things you can do to help yourself…

Timing

Applying early does help. It shouldn’t, but I think it’s unavoidable.

In our case, we get hundreds of applications, minimum. And, being human, the more we go through, the harder it is to be discerning.

But at the start (being human), we’re still fresh, and excited that someone has got in touch, so we’re inevitably more open. And, unavoidably, being on the first page of applicants, we’ll probably see your name in passing more often.

But it’s never too late. In April, we cast an actress who emailed after midnight on the night before our final day of auditions. She was just lucky. (Or, more to the point, we were lucky – she’s fabulous).

And that is a classic example of the fact that all these guidelines are not rules, and that luck plays a massive part. More on that next week.

So don’t worry if you’re reading this and the casting has been open for a while, it’s only a small difference. And it might not be the same for other casting directors. And if you’re applying to us, sign up to our mailing list to make sure you hear early next time!

Cover Letters

There’s no rule about what makes a good cover letter. Just be you. Don’t spend ages crafting it, there’s no point. Just be you. Do some research if it’s a company you care passionately about. Even just figuring out the names of who you’re writing to does impress. But don’t pretend to be passionate about the company if you’re not – that’s normally quite transparent. It’s totally cool to say “I’ve not heard of your work before but this job sounds fun”. Remember the people at the other end, whether they’re working for a tiny fringe company or the RSC, are just people. And mostly – did I mention? – just be you.

Once we had someone write “Noone reads these things so I’m not going to bother”. She didn’t get called in.

All it has to do, really, is show some respect for the company you’re applying for – by showing that you’ve taken the time to do more than just click ‘Apply now’. A sentence can be enough.

Some things can really help in a cover letter when you’re applying to us:

  • Telling us what you think of our work (make sure you’ve actually seen some though)
  • Reminding us if we’ve met you or seen some of your work
  • Reminding us if you’ve written to us before
  • Mentioning something recent you’ve done that may be relevant
  • Explaining why you’re interested in the job
  • Briefly explaining why you’re suitable for the job if it’s not clear from your CV
  • Explaining any gaps on your CV if they’re recent, or anything else that might need clarification
  • Keeping it brief

Don’t feel obliged to try do all these things though, or you’ll end up writing an essay. These are just some ideas.

Emails

Emailing us separately definitely helps. I hesitate to say this, because we get a lot of emails. And perhaps it’s better you do it without being prompted.

But, being honest, if you’ve taken the time to contact us, we can’t help but look at you twice. In every one of our castings, almost half the people we cast emailed us separately. That might not be because they emailed us, but it can’t hurt.

What can hurt, however, is a pushy email asking when we’re going to reply to your first email. And chasing via social media, at least for us, isn’t going to make any difference.

When we’re not casting, we try and reply to every email we get in. During casting times this unfortunately isn’t possible, due to the sheer volume of them.

Please don’t attach a CV and headshot though, just include a spotlight link.

Other than that, everything I’ve said about cover letters above applies to emails, so go read that again.

One last thing – keep an eye on your spam folder! Every time we get message from people who missed the audition invite because it went to spam. Gutting, and avoidable.

Agents

A really quick word about agents.

Firstly, you don’t need one to work with us. It can help you – especially a supportive agency, one we recognise, or if we’ve worked with another of their cleints – but don’t despair if you’re between agents. Being a small organisation, we’re used to dealing directly with actors, and because we tend to cast people for the long term, that personal relationship is important. And we know how hard it can be to get one.

In this respect, I think we’re different from a lot of other organisations though, so take that with a pinch of salt.

If your agents submits you for a casting, supporting it with a quick email goes down well, so we know you’re interested personally. And if you ask your agent to submit you, make sure they tell us that you did so.

That’s it

We always try and take a few gambles when calling actors in, and some have paid off. But we get a huge number of applicants. The number one thing we’ve discover running this company is the sheer number of talented actors there are out there, applying for every job. So remember, if you don’t get called in, try again next time, and you’ll start to get recognised.

Othello---now-bookingNext time we’ll talk a bit about auditions, what to do when we’re not casting (i.e. now), and some final thoughts.

Lastly (forgive the plug), but don’t forget that tickets are on sale for Othello, so grab yours now!

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