Breaking down breakdowns without breaking down (or how to self submit yourself without self submitting into submission)

Casting notices pop up everywhere: actor’s access, backstage, playbill, mandy, craigslist, twitter, facebook, nycastings, casting networks, and many many more. If you’re an actor without representation it can be difficult to wade through everything. Some actors just get overwhelmed. Others take a scattershot approach and just submit for everything without really paying attention to the criteria for the role. A perfect example of this happened about a month ago, when I posted the following notice:

a male little person to play a Biblical wise man character. Must be comfortable with animals and foul language. SAG.

Now, many of the submissions came from agents who represent little people, and even though the role was SAG, some submitted non-SAG actors. That is totally acceptable, with such a specific type of role, it would not be difficult to secure a waiver for the right little person actor. However, I also received submissions from actors ranging in height from 5’5″ to 6’2″. Seriously, a 6’2″ actor to play a little person. Did the actor simply not read the description? Did he actually think he would be considered for this role? Did he think that I would keep him in mind for future roles if he submitted for this one? Well, I can’t speak for other casting directors, but when I receive a submission from an actor who is clearly not right for the role, it pisses me off. This person is wasting my time. This person has no idea who he is and what types of roles suit him. There is NO WAY, that a 6’2″ actor is going to be cast as a little person, so why submit for a role you have no chance of getting and piss off the CD? Just don’t do it.

As I previously stated, for this same posting, there were actors who submitted for the role who fit the description, but were not members of SAG. In this case, that’s okay because with such a small pool of little person actors, it’s likely that we might not be able to find the right person among the SAG talent pool. It’s important to think about your submissions and make each one count. If you fit all or most of the listed criteria for a role, by all means, submit yourself. If you only fit a few of the requirements (or none), it’s probably best not to waste your time and ours.

It’s also important to be honest. If a casting notice specifies physical characteristics, it’s likely that those traits are important for the role. Don’t lie about your height, weight, age, or vocal range just to get an audition. Once again, you’ll just be wasting people’s time if you can’t hit the notes or you’re too tall to work opposite the lead actor. If it’s just an inch or so, or 5 to 10 pounds, then go ahead, but if (like a recent posting I placed), we’re asking for someone who is 250 lbs or more, and you are 175 lbs, please don’t waste my time (and yours).

When you self submit, it’s important to understand your type. So many actors want to be versatile. That is a commendable aspiration, but when it comes to booking jobs it’s important to understand which roles suit you best. Submit based on your physical attributes, acting strengths, prior experience, interest in the project, and availability for the dates. Submitting yourself is part of your job, and if you submit in a reckless or haphazard way, it makes you seem desperate and unfocused.

So, here are some tips: Think about the kinds of roles you’ve played in the past as well as the roles you would like to play in the future, then analyze how your physical characteristics match up with those kinds of roles. Some roles are written for a very specific, gender, age, race, and body type (like Effie White in Dreamgirls, even though there’s nothing in the script that says she must be full-figured, she is traditionally cast that way. Her race, gender, and age are noted and/ or implied). Other roles are much more open or they have become open to interpretation over time. Roles in many classic plays and musicals have become open to actors of all races, ages, and genders.

It’s important for actors to understand that when they self submit, there are hundreds and maybe even thousands of other people who have done the same thing. Casting directors already have people in mind for the project before they post the notice, so in order to be considered, you really have to be the right fit. Understand your strengths and pursue the roles that suit you. If you come across a role that is against type, but you really feel drawn to it, go ahead but note that you realize that it’s against type and you’re not just submitting haphazardly. Be smart, and you will get better results from selective self submission.

One thought on “Breaking down breakdowns without breaking down (or how to self submit yourself without self submitting into submission)

  1. Ted says:

    The question I have, I can’t seem to find any answers anywhere! I live in Budapest, and in the past few years many films and shows have been coming here (Eregon, The Borgias, World War Z, Die Hard 5, etc.). I know that serious productions aren’t interested in looking at new actors, but I would think that an actor who lives here could save a production a lot of money on a minor role by not having to fly someone in and put them up in a hotel and such. Yet I can’t find information about even low-budget films coming here in the future, and the local casting companies tell me the films are already cast before these companies get involved for extra work. How could a new actor like me discover what films are going to come here so that I could track down their casting agent and send them my headshot and CV?

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