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“We are all failures; at least, the best of us are.” – J.M. Barrie

October 10, 2012

I recently had the opportunity to sit and have a discussion with an active theatrical casting director from a well-known agency here in NY. I was able to ask her some questions and get her opinion on a few things. In the 11 years that I have acted professionally, I have seen many changes in the casting trends. When I first began, everyone had b/w, vertical headshots. Now, everyone has color headshots – and there are so many various styles! Also, it used to be that agents mailed headshots or sent them by messenger. Now? Everything is electronic, and most CDs don’t even accept hard copies anymore! I wanted to meet with this CD to discuss the ever-changing trends and techniques. Some have changed drastically, and some seem to stay the same. I found our discussion very helpful, and I thought I would share it with all of you, in the hope that you may also find it helpful. I would like to hear your opinion on the topics we discussed as well – after all, this was just one casting director’s opinion.


     Q: What is the current trend for headshots?

     A: The days of b/w headshots are definitely over, so there is no doubt that your headshot must be in color. Otherwise, pretty much anything goes. She said she prefers shots that show just a little more torso. She doesn’t like shots that are too close. Try to pick a photo that looks like you, and makes you pop! Remember, times are changing. Hardcopies aren’t in demand as much anymore. It’s all about speed and efficiency now. Casting directors are going to be skimming through a bunch of digital headshot submissions, and your headshot needs to stick out. As far as smiling or serious – you should do what is comfortable for you, but smiling seems to go over better. She said if casting directors see too many shots of you not showing teeth, they are going to start to think there is something wrong with your teeth. Plus, the whole, “I’m in theater, so I should be serious.” thing is kind of a cliché – as is, “I’m selling a product in a commercial, so I should be smiling.” in the commercial industry. Just be yourself! It’s probably best to go with solid colors and no patterns – however, texture is good! If you can throw on a jacket for your shot – that’s great. If possible, chose a photographer that works with a stylist – they can help you look your best wardrobe and (for the ladies) makeup-wise. You still want to appear natural, though. Don’t do anything too crazy. You want to look like you would when you walk into that audition. You should have a couple of photos ready for submissions, but you don’t need a lot. There was a trend going around a little while ago to have “character shots” taken. I am guilty of having them taken – luckily I didn’t spend a bundle on them, because I was able to work with a fair trade photographer. Have a couple good headshots that look like you – that’s sufficient.


     Q: What is the protocol for audition wardrobe?

     A: This answer relates more to the ladies, but gents, you can still relate to this in some ways. She said one thing she doesn’t care for is when women wear “cocktail-dresses-gone-wrong”. Also, the idea of dressing “as if it were a job interview” is out of date, however you don’t want to look frumpy. Dress like your character would if they were going on a first date. So, you are hinting towards your character in an attractive way. For instance, if you are going for a tom boy role, you could still wear capri pants or whatever you think your character may wear, but dress it up a bit. Also, if it’s for anything based before the 1960’s, wear a skirt or dress. You will feel and look more in character.


     Q: Has the audition process changed? Are the directors/writers/etc. expecting more from the actors? 

     A: Just make sure you are always very comfortable with the material you are given. Have an idea of how you are going to portray the scene when you go in the room, BUT be flexible enough to make corrections that may be given. If the CD asks you to alter how you are portraying the scene, alter it, but DON’T completely discard how you were portraying it. She said it’s much easier to alter how a scene is being portrayed when the actor already has an idea of how he/she will play it, rather than the actor coming in with nothing, and she has to start from scratch. However, she has often asked an actor to slightly alter a scene, and they have completely discarded the way they were originally portraying it – which is not what she wanted them to do. Always ask for the script when you are given sides. Unless it’s TV or film, and for some reason the script is unavailable – you should be able to get it, and it will help you immensely. Gain as much information as possible! CDs can tell when a person has done their research and when they haven’t. If it’s a well-known show – find the script online or at a bookstore. Also, I’m sure we have all heard this one before, but she reinforced this – go in there, do the best job you can, and LET IT GO. Don’t dwell on it.


     Q: (This has always been a topic I have been curious about) Do CDs expect actors to have sides memorized at open calls? 

     A. No, they don’t expect actors to have the sides memorized. Just be as comfortable with them as possible.


     Some extra tips she gave me:

     1.) Check out It’s a site where actors can recommend things, such as classes, photographers, etc.

     2.) Never use audition material (monologues, etc.) about “auditioning”. She said when an actor comes in and does a monologue like, “I had the worst audition the other day! The director was such a jerk”, it’s very awkward, and the casting personnel does not want to hear it.


I think most of these tips and techniques are pretty commonly known in the biz, but it’s always good to stay up-to-date. I would love to hear your opinion on these topics!

6 Comments leave one →
  1. October 11, 2012 2:04 am

    What helpful advice! I love this!

  2. October 11, 2012 9:16 am

    Thanks for sharing what you learned with us!

  3. California Triple-Threat permalink
    October 14, 2012 3:17 pm

    My favorite tip was dressing like your character was going on a first date– What a fun idea!

  4. October 15, 2012 6:57 pm

    I’ve only had one headshot done so far. It was officially a “comedy headshot” so I was supposed to smile, but I’ve used it for other auditions as well and it seems to work.

  5. The Growing Artist permalink
    October 15, 2012 7:14 pm

    Thanks everyone! 🙂 It’s so nice to be able to discuss ideas/techniques!


  1. Sunday Summary — October 14, 2012 « The Green Room

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