In my profession, I have the pleasure of meeting tons of actors. Some actors are always on their game, but others struggle to express themselves and make a good impression. Last week, I attended AFTRA Open Door in New York. It’s a wonderful program where AFTRA brings in talent agents and casting directors to meet one-on-one with AFTRA actors. It’s kind of like speed dating. The actors have 5 minutes to make an impression. When I meet a new actor, I tend to ask the same 5 questions and the answers to these questions can tell me a lot about the actor sitting across from me.
It’s some variation of: What have you been working on?
As an actor you should always be working on something. Maybe you’re in a play. Maybe you just finished a student film. At the very least, you should be auditioning and submitting yourself for projects (if you don’t have an agent submitting you.) I’m always skeptical of an actor who is doing nothing (not auditioning, not submitting, not acting, not taking class). Maybe it’s been a while since you’ve had a job, but you should always keep acting to keep your skills sharp and to stay connected to the community. It also helps to show that you’ve been working on your career. If you’ve just done a mailing, or you’ve updated your website, or just finished editing your reel it shows that you’re serious about your career. If you haven’t worked in a while, it’s a good idea to volunteer to be an audition reader or create a project for yourself: it shows initiative. That’s what I like to see.
What types of projects are you looking to work on?
For this question it’s important to be specific. Are you looking to work in TV, film, theatre, industrials, commercials, music videos, or web programming? Are you hoping to work in musicals, black comedies, soap operas, pharmaceutical videos, full budget features, or unpaid student films? It’s important to have a focus, and also realize with whom you’re speaking. If your primary interest is in musical theatre, that’s good to know; however, if you’re speaking with a film casting director, talk about your interest in film.
How would you describe your acting style?
Being able to express yourself in a nutshell is key. It’s also important to be aware of your style: many actors are not. For example, an answer like “comedic” or “dramatic” isn’t helpful. I’m looking to know if your style is influenced by any of the established teachers (ie Meisner, Stanislavsky). I’m also looking to see if you work organically or if you do heavy research for your character. Are you the kind of actor who needs a lot of direction and preparation or do you work better cold? Are you a very physical actor or is your work more subtle and internal? Think about the way you approach a role, and come up with a short sound bite about your style. It can help a director or casting director know if you would be a match for certain actors and directors.
Which actor (or actors) do you admire and why?
Many actors hesitate with this question, which is okay. It’s never a problem to think before you speak. I think some actors wonder if I will judge them based on this question, and the answer is “yes”. I will most definitely judge your taste, your knowledge of the business, and your ability to look at acting with a critical eye. If you can’t name an interesting actor, it makes me think you don’t really keep up with the business. If you can’t explain why you admire this actor, it makes me think you lack critical analysis skills. If you choose a terrible actor, I’m going to question your taste level. Don’t feel limited to choosing someone who is your same “type”. Choose an actor who consistently does good work, and choose someone who works in the field you are pursuing. Also, don’t pick someone too obvious. I adore Meryl Streep, but try to think outside the box a little bit more.
Do you have any questions for me?
I love questions, and all actors should want to learn more about the casting process, so please ask something. You can ask about my background and the kinds of projects I work on. You can ask me what projects I have in development (which I may not answer directly, but it’s okay to ask). You can ask me what I think of your headshot and promotional materials. You can ask if I have any advice on auditioning. So ask away, there are always new opportunities to learn.