Thursday, May 1, 2008

Acting Class and Casting Directors

[The following was actually composed late Tuesday night.]

One of the most redundant and important things you hear as an actor in LA is “get into classes.” Supposedly it makes you look more committed and desirable and it’s most defiantly a networking opportunity.

Last Tuesday I went with my roommate to her class to sit in and watch for free, although I ended up participating, which given the nature of the theatre world is not at all surprising. This class focuses on cold-reads and prides itself on having a great deal of casting directors come in.

Casting offices are hired by producers and studios to be the “middle man” and find and audition actors. As with a talent agent or real estate company, there are several casting directors working under a notable big-wig. From what I can tell, these people make great side money holding “workshops,” such as being a guest in an acting class. Like any business, it’s all about the money, but it also serves other purposes. Workshops are a great way for casting directors to find new talent and a direct opportunity for actors to give casting directors your resume and headshot and show them what you can do!

Last Tuesday I was in front of a gentleman who is currently working on Life but thinks his career already peaked while casting the last few seasons of The West Wing. Monday night a woman who just finished the newest Star Trek movie and also works on the show Lost was in class and this past Tuesday the guest was a casting director who has worked on The Bourne movies and is currently busy with a couple other features.

When I say I was in front of these people, I mean we have a Q & A session and then the casting director hands out sides (or scripts) based on either looking at us or our headshots. Sometimes you’re paired with a classmate, sometimes the casting director serves as the reader and there have also been a few monologues. It’s called a cold-read because you only have about fifteen minutes to work on it; they’re usually two to three page scenes and you are not expected to memorize it.

I’ll share more about what I’ve learned from the casting directors later.

As for the new class, the teacher is a former, well trained actor turned casting director and teacher; his wife is a manager. He’s cast several music videos, included some award winning Trace Adkins’ songs.

I’m sure you’d love for me to share all these people’s names, but I’m not going to for two reasons. First, there’s no way you’d know who they are, let alone be able to name any casting director, could you? No, you couldn’t and prior to last Tuesday neither could I, so it doesn’t matter. Second, I don’t need this blog appearing when someone googles their names. I’m usually a publicity whore, but that’s not the point of this blog.

Anyway, in addition to being able to carpool with my roommate, what attracted me to the class is the teacher’s commitment to his students. He’s already tweaked my resume, given his opinions of my headshots, met with me one on one to go over my goals and do a cold read to assess my current level, offered his advice about an audition I didn’t know if I should go on and has genuine, caring relationships with all his students!

He allowed me to attend Monday’s class for free and my four weeks started Tuesday. How much are acting classes? The manager I had lunch with two weeks ago said they usually run between $50 to $100 per session; this class is $175 for four sessions if you pay early or $225 if you pay on time or late, that price includes unlimited coaching and counsel outside of class; each session runs three to four hours and is limited to fifteen to twenty actors. You are encouraged to stick with either four Mondays in a row or four Tuesdays, but he offers flexibility and you can pick up extra classes on the other day for a quarter of whatever you paid that month.

That my sound expensive, but it really isn’t compared to a hobby like golfing, or for example, it’s only double what my boyfriend pays for piano lessons and this is my career!

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