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The Live Virtual Audition Checklist for Actors

The Live Virtual Audition Checklist for Actors

With many auditions happening remotely, it’s more important than ever for actors to get their at-home setups running smoothly. We’ve previously covered the ins and outs of self-tape auditions, but now it’s time to give you some important insights into live virtual auditions since many casting directors are opting to go that route via Zoom or Skype. There are advantages to this form of auditioning remotely, such as getting feedback from the casting director during the session. But the stakes are also higher when it comes to having your home setup in top working order. A live virtual audition doesn’t afford the same luxury as a self-tape audition when it comes to picking and choosing which takes the casting director sees. If an issue with your home studio pops up during the live virtual audition, it may negatively affect your take and your chances of moving forward in the casting process. So before your next live virtual audition, run through the checklist we’ve provided below to make sure you’re all set.  

 

  1. Check your tech.  

Before you do anything else, make sure your WiFi connection is strong and running smoothly. If you’ve been noticing a lag lately but haven’t gotten around to calling your service provider, now’s the time to do it. Breaks or freezes in the video call due to your poor WiFi will not help you give your best audition, and it will not ingratiate you with the casting director. The same goes for issues with the video conferencing tool that casting is using for the live virtual audition, usually Zoom or Skype. Make sure you have it properly installed on your device and updated to the latest version. Have a friend give you a practice call beforehand to double-check that everything is in working order. There are so many things that can threaten to distract you during an audition read  — don’t let an avoidable tech issue be one of them! 

 

  1. Check your surroundings.

This might at first appear to be an easy item on the checklist. You hopefully already have an area in your living space designated for capturing self-tape auditions so your home studio setup should be taken care of. The main adjustment would be to exchange the camera you use to record your self-tapes with the device you’ll be using for the video call during the live virtual audition.  However, don’t overlook the potential noise issues that come with auditioning from home. We’ve all been there, stopping a self-tape take to go ask a roommate to quiet down because the mic is picking up whatever noisy activity they’re currently engaging in. Now imagine that same scenario but in the middle of a live virtual audition. Either you interrupt and temporarily leave the session to go put a stop to the noise, or you keep going with the audition and feign ignorance to the not-so-subtle sounds of your roommate belting show tunes across the hall. Neither are great options, so give any and every person you’re currently quarantined with a heads up before your live virtual auditions so that they can keep noise levels to a minimum. 

 

  1. Check your wardrobe.

With all the video calls happening both personally and professionally, the wearing of pants has become superfluous. No one knows if they’re there or not, and it may be the biggest silver lining of the entire pandemic. But even if the audition instructions say that the framing will only be waist-up, make sure the bottom half of your wardrobe is just as complete and as well-thought-out as the top. Wear shoes. Casting may ask for a full-body view, and you want to appear as put-together as you would be if you were in their office. 

 

  1. Check your professional attitude. 

People tend to relax in the comfort of their own homes, which could work to your advantage for a live virtual audition. Nerves can prevent actors from giving their best reads, which means that the familiarity of your living space may help your performance. But don’t let the comfort of auditioning from home affect your professionalism. Just as you wouldn’t try and force extensive chitchat when auditioning in a casting director’s office, neither should you during a virtual live audition. Casting directors may be working remotely, but they still have a tight schedule to maintain so don’t mistake the live virtual audition for FaceTime with a friend. Keep your interactions with the casting person professional, even if it’s through a screen! 

 

At the end of the day, we’re all doing our best to continue moving forward through these uncertain times. There’s a learning curve to seemingly every aspect of our “new normal,” including live virtual auditions. So if you slip up in some aspect of a live virtual audition, it’s most likely that the casting person will extend some grace. But if you diligently go through this checklist before your next live audition from home, chances are you’ll put your best foot forward and stand out in all the right ways. 

 

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Acting Up – Episode #38:  Natalia Dyer

Acting Up – Episode #38: Natalia Dyer

Welcome to ACTING UP, the place where we celebrate standout performances in TV, streaming and film. Other than spotlighting exceptional work from recent projects, this feature also shines a light on how certain actors got where they are today. Have a peek and then check out these notable performances to help hone your craft.

 

The SnapshotNatalia Dyer plays a Catholic schoolgirl coming to grips with her own sexuality in the early 2000s in the coming-of-age dramedy Yes, God, Yes. (Premiered on VOD July 28th.)

The Performer: Natalia Dyer

The Film: Yes, God, Yes

 

The Performance: 

You’re watching Yes, God, Yes for maybe a minute before you realize what kind of movie you’ve stumbled onto. 

That’s when the answer to what it means to “toss someone’s salad” is splayed onscreen for the unknowing to digest. It’s maybe the biggest wake-up call for romaine lettuce since E. coli. 

Soon after, we meet Catholic teenager Alice (Natalia Dyer) as she stumbles into an AOL chat room where she encounters “HairyChest1956″ in the early days of dial-up. Prior to this brush up, her most hands-on sexual experience had been rewinding the steamy car scene from Titanic.

From this point on, we realize that Alice’s journey through her blossoming sexuality is going to be, well, a thing. Luckily we have Dyer’s dedicated performance — playing roughly 10 years younger — to take us through the journey. A journey where an uninformed teenager “struggles to suppress her new urges in the face of eternal damnation” as the film’s description so aptly puts it. 

No small feat.

The centerpiece of Alice’s awakening is a school retreat where she starts obsessing over hairy-armed hunk football star Chris (Wolfgang Novogratz) and things that buzz. At the same time, she’s also become the victim of a rumor that says she in fact did some salad tossing at the hands of a male classmate. Just to be clear, it’s not a reference to her work in the school cafeteria.

As Alice’s failure to debunk the rumor leads her down more subservient roads of repentance, she simultaneously becomes witness to “sinful” behavior from older student chaperones as well as certain authority figures from the school who diverge from the Jesus and Mary chain. 

In bringing Alice’s journey to screen, Dyer does an incredible job at spotlighting this uncomfortable time of life: a teenager’s quest to balance sexual curiosity and discovery with comical bouts of boldness. It’s a portrayal of hormonal hubris that shines a light on bigger life lessons, the hypocrisies of the church, and one girl’s quest to figure it all out. 

It’s hard to imagine Dyer’s performance in this smart — yet somewhat short — film at 77 minutes will not resonate with others who’ve grown up in a similarly constrictive religious bubble.

 

The Career:

In a nod to entertainment that throws back to different time, it’s worth mentioning at the top that Dyer is best known for her portrayal of Nancy Wheeler in the wildly popular Netflix sci-fi/horror series Stranger Things. 

As the world awaits the announcement of when Stranger Things’ season four production will resume, it’s become largely apparent it may have already premiered and that we’re all living in it. 

Long before Dyer was getting perennially nominated in the “Ensemble Acting” category by the Screen Actors Guild (including a win in 2017) for her work in Stranger Things, the 25-year-old actress grew up in Nashville, Tennessee, playing Scout in a school production of To Kill a Mockingbird at age nine.

Dyer eventually moved to New York City, enrolling at NYU in 2013, where she studied at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study. At this point, she’d already dipped her toes into Hollywood waters with roles in Hannah Montana: The Movie (2009) and The Greening of Whitney Brown (2011). As she continued to shoot shorts and an occasional TV project, other juicier dramatic roles began to appear once Stranger Things dropped on the cultural landscape. 

These projects include dark dramas such as Mountain Rest (2018) and After Darkness (2019) co-starring Kyra Sedgwick and Tim Daly. Then there was also her role as Coco in the Netflix horror film Velvet Buzzsaw (2019), an L.A. art-scene satire co-starring Renee Russo and Jake Gyllenhaal.

Until Nancy Wheeler returns to fight the forces of the Upside Down, you’ll have to say Yes, God, Yes if you want to see Dyer act in anything new

Worth noting: Yes, God, Yes was shot as an 11-minute short starring Dyer by writer/director Karen Maine in 2017. Soon after, Maine made it into a full-length feature that landed the Special Jury Winner at 2019’s SXSW Festival.

 

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Gregg Rosenzweig has been a writer, creative director and managing editor for various entertainment clients, ad agencies and digital media companies over the past 20 years. He is also a partner in the talent management/production company, The Rosenzweig Group.

 

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Our Top Casting Picks for Paramount’s Upcoming ‘Grease’ Prequel

Our Top Casting Picks for Paramount’s Upcoming ‘Grease’ Prequel

If you’re a fan of Grease, of musicals in general, or of director Brett Haley, listen up. Deadline recently reported that Paramount’s upcoming Grease prequel film is moving forward, having just gained its director in the form of Haley. The feature is entitled Summer Lovin’ and will focus on the romance that takes place between lead characters Danny and Sandy before the events of Grease, as outlined in the song “Summer Nights.” There’s no word on the cast yet, but in the meantime, we’re giving you our top casting picks for the lead roles. It’s no small undertaking to step into the shoes of John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, but there are a few actors who we think would be up to the challenge. 

 

Rachel Zegler as Sandy

Zegler is no stranger to musical feature films, having beat out 30,000 other hopefuls to snag the lead role of Maria in Steven Spielberg’s upcoming remake of West Side Story. It will be the young actor’s feature film debut, and it’s also her only credit currently listed on IMDb. But any actor that Spielberg signs off on has got to be something special. And if you haven’t yet heard Zegler’s cover of “Shallow” from A Star is Born, it’s sure to convince you that the up-and-comer has a serious set of pipes. We think her vocal talents would do justice to any and every number Sandy sings in Summer Lovin’

 

Florence Pugh as Sandy

Pugh has been making waves recently, whether it be via her role in Fighting with My Family opposite Dwayne Johnson or in A24’s horror hit Midsommar. But it’s her portrayal of Amy March in Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of Little Women that has us thinking she’d make a great Sandy. Pugh’s performance in the film brings an essence of both naiveté and assertiveness to the character, two qualities needed to pull off the role of Sandy. That is, we think Pugh could expertly explore both the poodle skirt-wearing and leather pants-rocking sides of the Grease character as we get to know her more in Summer Lovin’. And while Pugh has yet to be cast in a film that shows off her singing abilities, that doesn’t mean they aren’t there. As Variety reports, Pugh used to perform covers of popular songs on her YouTube channel, and her take on Oasis’ “Wonderwall” has us thinking she’d bring a soulful depth to the upcoming prequel’s soundtrack.

 

Lana Condor as Sandy

Like Pugh, Condor comes first to mind for her character work, rather than for a well-known singing ability. Her breakthrough role as Lara Jean in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before was a grounded and heartwarming take on a shy student trying to navigate high school. The quiet strength she brings to that role suggests Condor’s take on Sandy would be nuanced, as well as enjoyable to watch. And the actor has experience delivering romantic duets — she recently performed with her boyfriend Anthony de la Torre in a cover of Lauv’s “I Like Me Better” during a virtual concert that promoted the soundtrack of To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You.

 

Anthony Ramos as Danny

The true triple threat sang, danced, and acted his way throughout Hamilton as the original Broadway cast member to portray both John Laurens and Philip Hamilton in the musical. Ramos played both the nine-year-old version and the young adult version of Philip, proving that the 28-year-old actor has no problem with younger roles. And when the on-screen adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights finally makes it to theaters, we’ll get to see him tackle the lead role of Usnavi. But for now, the soulful eyes and lithe movements that Ramos displays in the film’s trailer makes us more than curious to see how he’d bring those characteristics to the role of Danny. 

 

Kelvin Harrison Jr. as Danny

Harrison Jr. showed off his singing ability in the Tracee Ellis Ross-starring feature The High Note. His onscreen chemistry with Dakota Johnson’s character in the film has us imagining what he would do with a meet-cute scene between Danny and Sandy, as well as how he would carry his half of the romance in Summer Lovin’. Plus, the 26-year-old actor has no problem believably playing a high school character, as evidenced by his performance in last year’s Waves, an A24 feature from Trey Edward Shults. 

 

K.J. Apa as Danny

The 23-year-old New Zealand native has experience playing a teenager thanks to his lead role as Archie in The CW’s Riverdale. And Apa displays his musical talent in this year’s family-friendly feature from Lionsgate, I Still Believe. Plus, the believable sparks he builds with Maia Mitchell in Netflix’s recent coming-of-age flick The Last Summer speaks to his ability with portraying young love within the romantic dramedy genre.

 

Our top picks for the lead roles in Paramount’s upcoming prequel film include more diversity than was present in the overall cast of the original Grease. And regardless of which actors get tapped to play Danny and Sandy, here’s hoping that the full cast list of Summer Lovin’ reflects all of America and not just white America. In the words of a popular number from the 1978 film, “That’s the way it should be.”

 

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Get to Know the Casting Director: Lucinda Syson

Get to Know the Casting Director: Lucinda Syson

In this installment of Get to Know the Casting Director, we’re highlighting someone with titles such as Wonder Woman, Batman Begins, Children of Men, and Kick-Ass to her name. As for more recent features, Lucinda Syson cast The Gentlemen for Guy Ritchie and Wonder Woman 1984 for Warner Bros. She’s also started venturing into TV with shows like TNT’s The Alienist and the upcoming Apple TV+ series Foundation. Between meetings, Syson took the time to call in from her London home to share with Casting Networks about her journey into casting and some of the memorable moments along the way. Keep reading for a window into the casting director behind the credits. 

 

When was the moment you knew that casting was for you? 

I guess it happened in two stages. The first stage sounds silly, but when I saw Spartacus at the age of seven, it blew my mind. And that’s when I knew I wanted to go into film one way or the other. I thought it was never going to be achievable, though, until my life slowly started turning that way. I was doing a little bit of work on City of Joy, and its casting director, Priscilla John, was looking for an assistant. So she took a chance on me, a person with a degree in French and linguistics who was just sort of overly-enthusiastic about everything having to do with film. I realized how much casting intrigued me, and Priscilla took me onto Alien³, which was David Fincher’s first feature, as her assistant. It was a baptism-by-fire sort of moment, and that’s when I realized I had such a love for casting.

 

What a way to get into casting! Now, if someone were to make a film about your life, which actor would you cast to play the role of Lucinda Syson? 

If it were a drama, it’d probably be someone like Robin Wright. You know, if I had a choice of anyone in the world, it would be someone like her. And for a comedy, it would be Phoebe Waller-Bridge. I know there are some big dissimilarities between us, but she is just phenomenal. I have so much respect for her and for Robin Wright, and I know they’d probably turn down the offers. But they come first to mind when I think about it. 

 

Those are two great choices. And before we go any further, I want to acknowledge that you won an Artios for your work on Straight Outta Compton. How did it feel to be recognized for this honor by your peers?

Honestly, I think that being recognized by your peers is one of the greatest achievements you can have because they know how hard the job is. But I have to say that the accolade goes to Cindy Tolan without question of a doubt because she really was the main casting director on that film. And it’s thrilling to know that we as casting directors now have this energy of uniting and helping each other. When I started in the profession, it was very fragmented and we didn’t have a union. All the other main film departments had guilds and societies that gave them recognition, but casting did not. In my opinion, casting is such a vital part of any production because when a film is really good and works, a lot of it has to do with the cast. Obviously, the director and the script are huge elements, too. Without question, they are. But I think it is wonderful that there are now these structures like the Casting Society of America and the Casting Directors’ Guild in the UK that give casting directors recognition for their work.

 

Speaking of recognizing work, can you mention a few casting moments that you’ll never forget? 

I’m incredibly lucky to have so many of them, which makes it difficult to pick and choose. I won’t list all of them, but one was when I helped with the local casting for Seven Years in Tibet, for which Priscilla John and Francine Maisler were the main casting directors. The cast included real Tibetan monks, and I’ll never forget that moment at the airport in Mendoza, Argentina when they arrived from the other side of the world. Many of them had never been on an airplane before, and watching them deboard for the first time was a life experience I’ll never forget. I have to say that I cried my eyes out. And a lot of people were doubtful about Wonder Woman being a big hit because it threw the rule book out of the window with its female lead and female director. But it became such a huge mainstream success and really a fire-starter, an important torchbearer spreading hope and opening a previously-closed gate. Another special moment was when Aladdin hit over $1 billion at the worldwide box office because it was such a hard film to cast. I was also so proud of Children of Men and working with Alfonso Cuarón. And I have to mention the opportunity I got to work with Tony Scott on Spy Game. He put his trust in me and really got me on my way. You know, there are some people you hold in a dear light, and he’s definitely one of them. He was just an incredible human being.

 

That’s such a tribute to the director and to the person that he was. Thank you for sharing that, and I’ll leave you with one last question. What are you watching at the moment?

You’re going to laugh because I was one of the fools who did not watch Breaking Bad when it first came out. And it’s taken me this long to watch it, which is ridiculous. I think it’s because there are five seasons, which makes it a commitment. But I’m literally down to episode eight of season five, and it’s just beautiful. It has the extraordinary casting work of Sharon Bialy and Sherry Thomas, and it’s a lovely example of casting people who weren’t very famous at the time. I also recently finished Normal People, which was just absolutely phenomenal and cast by Louise Kiely. Another one I think everyone’s watching over here is Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You, which is making waves. It’s extraordinary. 

 

Last year, CSA recognized Syson and her incredible body of work with a special award for excellence in casting. And at such a height in her career, the casting director could have easily dropped a number of names during our interview of actors she’d “discovered” along the way. But Syson instead clarified that term within the context of casting. “We all have our eyes on a lot of wonderful actors, but it’s more about the synergy of the right role and the right actor,” Syson shared. “Then suddenly, they fly. Or when you watch a show and see the cast work beautifully — that’s the buzz.” Syson’s words can remind actors that casting directors are rooting for their success and for their breakthrough roles, too.

— 

This interview has been edited and condensed. 

Actress Mercedes Kilmer Discusses Her Acting Debut in Action-Crime Thriller ‘Paydirt’

Actress Mercedes Kilmer Discusses Her Acting Debut in Action-Crime Thriller ‘Paydirt’

It’s a last name that needs no introduction. Mercedes Kilmer,  daughter of actors Val Kilmer and Joanne Whalley, has entered the family business, making her big-screen acting debut in the action-crime thriller Paydirt

In the film, the newly-minted actor plays a newly-minted district attorney, entering the same business as her father, a retired veteran sheriff who is determined to right the wrongs of a case he was involved in years earlier.

And the person who plays the D.A.’s veteran sheriff father?  The actress’ veteran actor father, Val. Now, when the film hits theaters and On Demand August 7, the ingénue and the vet will be officially working in the same profession, just like their law-enforcing Paydirt characters.

The younger Kilmer, 28, spoke to Casting Networks about her first feature film experience, and what it was like sharing scenes alongside her father.

 

How did this father/daughter acting duo happen in Paydirt?

The filmmakers had an idea of what they wanted for the character, and we all thought it would add an interesting layer to the script — to have us actually be related and working in the same business. It provided a more deepening of the script. 

 

You’ve been in short films, but this is your first feature. Did you think strategically when you decided Paydirt would be your feature acting debut?

I didn’t necessarily think about it in those terms. One of the things I love about acting is that there are so many external elements you’re not in control of. I did think it would be a really fun challenge. I put a lot of thought into how to understand people outside of my own experience and to challenge my subjective value system as an actor. To play someone similar to myself was very interesting. That’s what makes acting so magical — on set, you actually do have real relationships with people. It’s more about revealing the truth of those relationships instead of pretending to have a different one.

 

Now that the film is about to be released , looking back at the experience, how was it? 

It was a fun challenge. Also, my dad’s disability provided such an eye-opening experience on set. I realized that working with disabled actors has been appallingly absent from my training, and my own acting experience. 

 

Your dad’s disability — a result of his well-known bout with throat cancer, and subsequent tracheostomy tube — has altered his speaking voice and impacted his professional life as an actor. What was it like working with him?

It was such an honor to be part of a film that has a disabled lead. Any acting challenge can provide a potential source of inspiration, if you allow it to. My dad’s speech difficulties have opened up so many new avenues of communication for him. Because he’s had such good training as an actor, he now uses that training to circumvent his difficulties speaking. 

 

You could not really tell there was a disability there!

Exactly. But he is disabled, and a lot of disabilities are not as apparent. Some people are in a wheelchair, some people have completely hidden disabilities, and some use tricks of the cinema to hide it, which is what we did. 

 

Setting aside that he is your father, what was the biggest takeaway for you working with a disabled actor?

I think this project is very historical, and is heralding a bigger shift in entertainment. Beyond how my dad works when the cameras are rolling, it was things like being aware of him needing certain accommodations because of his disability. Because my dad is such a well-known person, I think he will open doors for people with different disabilities to not only work in front of the camera but also get the accommodations they need. That’s exciting to me, and I’m proud to have been part of that. 

 

Was acting a conscious career choice for you, or more of an inevitable choice?

I’ve always thought of acting conceptually. I always knew I wanted to do something critical, and have always enjoyed English as a subject, including reading, comprehension, and writing. I’m also very sensitive physically. Acting is the only thing that unites both of those things for me. So it wasn’t so much, “I want to act.” It was more, “this is the only thing I’m capable of doing, without leaving out a huge part of myself.”

 

Is your last name helpful or a hindrance when you navigate this business?

It has a very mixed effect. It’s quite apparent how it can benefit me. But for me starting out, playing a supporting role in Paydirt was very special because we wanted to incorporate the truth of our real-life relationships into the characters. I understand that in some instances, being known outside the character can be a hindrance to the actual project. Sometimes people don’t want to be associated with that, or the name doesn’t add anything of value to the project. So it’s had many different effects. It hasn’t all been positive, and it hasn’t all been negative. Of course, I’ve been so privileged having grown up the way I did. My family, they are all very intelligent, and very talented. The older I get, the more cognizant I am of what a resource they are.

 

Do you find that you gravitate more toward one parent’s style of acting than the other?

My parents have been very careful to let both me and my brother Jack (Palo Alto, The Nice Guys) have separate acting experiences from them, which has been really good. But I do identify with the way they work.  My mom does a lot of research. My dad is more feeling-based. My mom will read tons of books about, say, Ann Boleyn, and then show up and play her. My dad, on the other hand, will wear the clothes of the character and have a much more experiential preparation. But to tell you the truth, the family member I learn from most is my brother. He is so talented. He’s the person I talk to if I need advice about an audition. 

 

Some actors find the audition process very nerve-wracking. What’s your experience been?

I like acting, so if someone lets me perform for 30 minutes in a room, I love it, even if I don’t get to come back and do it again. I mean, it’s nice when you get hired. Unfortunately, with this pandemic and the way technology has been evolving, it’s all heading toward taped auditions, which, sadly, takes some human interaction and passion out of it. The exciting and creative part of the audition is allowing yourself to be affected by somebody. If you’re just reading from a piece of paper on your own, you don’t get the opportunity to be affected by the other person in the room.

 

With production not quite up and running in Hollywood, how are you keeping yourself busy?  

I have one film that will be coming out later this year, but everything else is on hold because of the pandemic. I’ve been doing a lot of plays on Zoom. I’m in a group with other actors, and we do it to perform and keep busy. I’m looking to do more speech and voice work, like audiobooks, which can be done from home. I want to use the limitations of this time to do something creative and unusual. 

 

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What to Consider and Include in Your Audiobook Demo

What to Consider and Include in Your Audiobook Demo

Audiobook narration can be a lucrative and exciting career choice for actors. Whether side hustle or primary focus, success in this arena requires dedication, training and a good deal of self-promotion. And in order to make the latter effective, you’re going to need some demos. 

What are demos?

Demos are short clips, often between a minute thirty and four minutes long, that showcase your audiobook narration skills. If you have narrated before, it is certainly possible to pull clips, but if you have the ability, consider re-recording (with the help of a skilled engineer and possibly a director) to make sure the sound quality and editing is consistent across demos. This also gives you the opportunity to cut the “fluff” from script segments, and showcase your best work.

How many demo clips do I need?

While there is no set answer for this, you want to be able to show a range of genres. Try not to overlap too much . If you don’t have work in your repertoire that showcases all the genres you would like, pull segments from novels you haven’t narrated. Just make sure they aren’t overly famous or already associated with an iconic narrator voice. (Stay away from the Harry Potter series, for example.)

What do I include?

Below are some examples of genres that might serve you well to feature.

  • The Money Maker. As in acting, you want to have a good handle on your “type.” If you’ve narrated before, look up your reviews online. See what genres are getting the best feedback. Even if you’re brand new to narration, you probably have some idea of your vocal type. If you’re feeling unsure, take a class to help you find your footing.
  • Young Adult. If your voice is suited to YA fiction, this is an excellent genre to feature. Fantasy, dystopian and sci-fi are popular subgenres. This would be a good chance to show off any character voices you might have in your repertoire.
  • True Crime. The market for true crime is skyrocketing. This would be a great genre to feature. Consider also related fiction categories:
    • Cozy Mystery. These “beach reads” are usually part of a series, possibly featuring quirky characters and a neat ending. The comfort food of the mystery genre.
    • Thriller. Find something suspenseful to show off. If you can pull a section that requires some heightened breathwork, a fast-paced action sequence, and a rapid build of tension, that is a great skill to showcase. 
  • Romance. There is a huge market for romance novels. If this is a good genre for you, make sure you record a section that includes both male and female characters in dialogue, as that crops up often.
  • Non-Fiction. Don’t forget about non-fiction! It pulls on a different skillset, but a good self-help book is a great thing to feature.
  • Languages Other than English. If you speak multiple languages, absolutely show that off, especially if you are fluent. If you could narrate an entire book in that language, definitely include a demo clip demonstrating that.

These are certainly not the only options, or all the “right” options. Range will vary from narrator to narrator. If you are feeling uncertain, many studios offer demo recording options, especially if you are taking their classes. If that is out of your price range and you’re flying solo, try to connect with a good engineer and director or coach to get some fresh ears on it and make sure the sound quality is up to par. Beyond that, as long as you’re ready to research, listen and learn, there is no reason to feel overwhelmed.

Happy narrating!

Roundup of Recent Recasts in Animated Series

Roundup of Recent Recasts in Animated Series

As our industry continues striving towards better representation, there have been a number of recasting announcements made surrounding animated series. Projects within this genre have a long history of casting white actors to voice characters who are not white, and changes are finally being made. There’s still a long way to go in regard to needed changes being made, but we’re including below a roundup of the recent wins for accurate representation in animated series. 



1. Kristen Bell being recast in the role of Molly for Central Park.

The Apple TV+ animated musical series centers on Owen Tillerman (Leslie Odom Jr.), who manages New York’s Central Park. The comedy series follows Owen and his family as they face a wealthy hotel heiress who’s determined to transform the historic park into condos. In Central Park, Owen’s daughter Molly, who is biracial, was previously voiced by white actor Kristen Bell. The actor addressed the misstep in a post on Instagram with, “Casting a mixed race character with a white actress undermines the specificity of the mixed race and Black American experience.” The show’s creative team announced in late June that the role would be recast, stating a desire to “give Molly a voice that resonates with all of the nuance and experiences of the character as we’ve drawn her.” That voice will belong to The Umbrella Academy star Emmy Raver-Lampman moving forward, according to a recent announcement that she will replace Bell as Molly in future Central Park episodes.

 

2. Jenny Slate stepping away from her role as Missy in Big Mouth.

The same day that word came Bell would no longer voice a biracial character, Jenny Slate gave notice that she was stepping away from her role in Netflix’s Big Mouth. The comedy series follows a group of teenage friends as they make their way through the exciting life stage of puberty. Slate had been voicing the biracial character of Missy Foreman-Greenwald in the series and shared in an Instagram post the thought behind her decision. “At the start of the show, I reasoned with myself that it was permissible for me to play Missy because her mom is Jewish and White — as am I,” Slate wrote. “But Missy is also Black, and Black characters on an animated show should be played by Black people.” The creators of Big Mouth announced they will cast a Black actor to voice the character of Missy for future episodes of the show, but they have not yet disclosed who will replace Slate in the role.

 

3. Mike Henry leaving his role as Cleveland in Family Guy.

Following quickly in the footsteps of Bell and Slate, actor Mike Henry, who is white, revealed he would no longer be voicing the Black character of Cleveland Brown in Family Guy. Fox’s animated series surrounding the eccentric Griffin family has been around since 1999 and has featured Henry as Cleveland since its beginning. The actor addressed the casting misstep in a Tweet announcing his departure from the show. “It’s been an honor to play Cleveland on Family Guy for 20 years,” Henry wrote. “I love this character, but persons of color should play characters of color. Therefore, I will be stepping down from the role.” It remains to be seen which actor will replace Henry as Cleveland in the recasting move, but in the meantime, we’re celebrating the win for accurate representation. 

 

4. Hank Azaria’s decision to no longer voice Apu in The Simpsons.

The Simpsons has been around since 1989, but the animated series about the family and friends of Homer and Marge Simpson also has a long history of white actors voicing characters who are not white. One such character is Kwik-E-Mart proprietor Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, whom Hank Azaria had been portraying up until earlier this year. The role had received backlash for the stereotypes it perpetuated, which were further detailed by comedian Hari Kondabolu in the 2017 documentary The Problem With Apu. Critics pointed to the offensive nature of the character’s accent and catchphrase, as portrayed and delivered by a white actor. Azaria said in an interview with The New York Times that it didn’t feel right to continue voicing Apu after he realized how the character was perceived. “What happened with this character is a window into an important issue,” Azaria asserted. “It’s a good way to start the conversation. I can be accountable and try to make up for it as best I can.”

 

These examples demonstrate that some shows are taking action by making needed changes to their casts. And while they may point to a more equitable future for our industry, there are still big steps that need to be taken moving forward. For example, The Simpsons producers said in a statement that they respected Azaria’s choice to stop voicing the character of Apu. But they failed to take the concrete action of removing a character who is seen by many as a stereotyped and offensive role, instead stating, “Apu is beloved worldwide. We love him too. Stay tuned.” So as we work toward more accurate representation in casting animated series, may there also be a higher standard for developing authentic, diverse characters. 

 

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Six Lessons Steve Jobs Can Teach Actors

Six Lessons Steve Jobs Can Teach Actors

I love my MacBook.

I can do almost anything on it — binge-watch Breaking Bad, stare at too many cat videos on YouTube, run up my credit card bill on Amazon, write this article…

Believe it or not though, back in the 70s, NO ONE had or wanted a computer because they were the most boring things ever.

Huge mainframes and complex systems designed to help big companies do things more efficiently.

Who would want something like that?

No one would ever have imagined anything like what we have today.

Well… except maybe one person.

Steve Jobs.

Steve Jobs (and Steve Wozniak) built the first ever personal computer, called the Macintosh.

They took something that seemed insanely complex and simplified it down into something that just about everybody could understand and use.

Steve Jobs thought about technology differently and made computers FUN!

And that “outside the industry” thinking is what made him so successful. It’s what helped him build Apple, one of the most successful companies in the world.

So why does this matter?

Well, you can use the Apple slogan of “Think Different” to create new opportunities in your acting career!

So without further ado, here are the six ways Steve Jobs can help you start booking more work:

 

1. Think Big

Steve Jobs always thought about the bigger picture. What would he leave behind after he was gone?

If you change your thinking from just focusing on the next audition to what you want to create long term (what I call your Acting Purpose), not only will you be much more focused, but you’ll also start building a following.

Your Acting Purpose must be something beyond yourself — a purpose that other people can get behind.

How can you use your acting to help others and make your community (and even the world) a better place?

Really think hard about it and come up with something that inspires you — it will be the basis for everything you do throughout the rest of your acting career.

 

2. Follow Your Instincts

Steve Jobs was never afraid to trust what he believed was right, even if it flew in the face of what everyone else said he should be doing.

In fact, trusting one’s instincts (while still being willing to listen to other’s perspectives) is one of the most important parts of great leadership.

Don’t let the industry tell you how to be or what to do. Actors who break the rules and follow their instincts — taking on a leadership role in their careers — are the ones who get (and stay) ahead.

 

3. Adopt Unconventional and Impractical Perspectives to Problems

What’s your biggest challenge right now? What’s a completely different way you can solve it that no one else is trying?

For example, if you struggle with auditioning, taking another “audition technique” class could help, but if everyone else is doing the same thing and they’re all stuck, why should you expect a different result?

What if you thought differently and tried taking a public speaking class that focused on overcoming nervousness? Or what if you tried becoming close friends with directors so you could just bypass the audition process altogether?

Remember, some say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Unconventional solutions will get you unconventional results.

 

4. Don’t Fear Failure

Did you know that Steve Jobs was FIRED from Apple in the ’80’s? Most people would look at that as a failure, but Jobs actually used it as an opportunity to create another company called Next, which eventually SAVED Apple during one of their biggest crises.

You should look at every failure you have as a success.

Why? Because failing at something PROVES that you truly succeeded in stepping out of your comfort zone, and that’s the biggest and most important success of all — especially in the long run.

Would you rather have a short term quick win and stay within your comfort zone? Or a long term successful career built on solid experience (both good and bad)? Failure is the best way to expand your comfort zone and gain new experience.

 

5. Be Optimistic About the Future

Pessimists and realists rarely take risks (and are often the first to quit) because they don’t think they’ll succeed.

Ten years from now you could have an entirely different life and be performing in amazing projects… or you could be in exactly the same place as you are now.

The difference is in whether you’re optimistic enough to put forth the effort.

 

6. Keep It Personal

Jobs was passionate about his work because he kept it personal. He felt personally responsible for his success, and took responsibility when things went his way AND when they didn’t.

You MUST be passionate about what you do and take personal responsibility for where your career goes. You must LOVE your work — not just the acting in general, but also the specific characters you play.

Some actors find this hard because the industry boxes them into characters they don’t like. But when you find a brand you’re proud of — one that resonates with your deepest and best personality traits — everything changes. You’ll start booking bigger roles than you ever thought possible, and they’ll be roles you LOVE.

That’s why I encourage every actor to find their three Pride Words — three simple words that resonate with you and make you feel proud.

Being clear on your Pride Words can help you audition better, capture better headshots, and generally feel much more passionate about your work (no matter what character you’re playing), which will make a HUGE difference in the long run.

Take some time right now to think about who you are. What are you most proud of about yourself? I promise that if you come up with three solid words you LOVE (and you keep them at the forefront of your mind), you’ll feel much more grounded and confident in every aspect of your career —– and that’s what true success is built on.

 

________________________________________

 

Martin Bentsen has helped over 6,000 actors with their careers and headshots since 2009. His photography studio City Headshots is ranked #1 on Yelp, and he’s taught marketing to actors at NYU, The New England Theater Conference, and numerous other major venues. Want to start booking more work by thinking strategically? Check out his completely free mini-course called The Practical Performer.

 

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Nondumiso Tembe on Her Experience as a Black Actor in Hollywood

Nondumiso Tembe on Her Experience as a Black Actor in Hollywood

Welcome to our newest series at Casting Networks, one that will feature people in different areas of the industry and explore their firsthand experiences of being Black in Hollywood. We believe that in order to evoke change, there needs to be understanding, which comes from sharing and listening. With that in mind, we’re starting the series with award-winning actress, singer-songwriter, and dancer Nondumiso Tembe. Known for her work in projects like HBO’s True Blood and the History Channel’s Six, Tembe agreed to sit down with us and share about her experience as a Black actor in Hollywood. Keep reading for her firsthand examples of why our industry needs to do better moving forward.

 

Thank you for being willing to talk about this topic and to have this conversation with me. To start, can you speak to what your experience has been like in the industry so far?

As a Black actor, I have to do my job just like everybody else in the room, but half of the energy that should be spent focusing on excelling in my craft has to go elsewhere. I have the added burden of constantly having to fight with writers, directors, or producers to fix a racist script or to keep my character from being portrayed in a way that perpetuates age-old, racist stereotypes. I have to explain why certain terms are racially offensive. And then there are the humiliating fights over why I deserve to have a hairstylist who understands my hair texture because White stylists are damaging my hair or don’t know how to work with it. The same goes for makeup artists. They may be obviously painting my face the wrong color, but then they’ll get irritated and defensive when I point this out, telling me to bring my own foundation and powder because they did not care to invest in a broader range of makeup that would cater to actors of all shades. Or how about when they hire a White stunt double to do your stunts, whom they put in blackface? And then when you report these things to the higher-ups, you’re often met with arrogance and dismissal. There’s this attitude that you’re hypersensitive or just causing trouble and being an inconvenience. You’ll be told that no one else has a problem with the hair and makeup stylists. Well, of course, because the other actors are all White. Then you’ll hear whispers like, “She’s so difficult.” Or you’ll hear, “Why does she always have to make it about race?”

 

I really appreciate your openness in sharing that. As someone who’s never had to experience that, it helps me understand.

You are constantly having to defend why you are standing up for yourself when you are the victim. And then there is all the internal work you have to do on yourself to heal your self-esteem, which has been damaged by years of racist, offensive comments casually made to you. Casting directors, producers, and even one of my own previous agents have said things to me like, “You’re pretty, but you’re not ‘Halle Berry pretty’ so you won’t appeal to a White male audience and are therefore not viable as a leading lady.” Oh! And I heard this one a lot early on in my career: “We love your look, but it’s a bit too ‘ethnic.’” That was often followed by “helpful,” coded suggestions on how to skew more White, like I should straighten my hair, use my “White lady voice,” change my name, etc.

It’s so important for industry members who are not members of the Black community to hear what you’ve had to experience. And where do you think the industry is going now?

Black artists are tired of having to beg for crumbs from the industry’s table when we are just as talented, qualified, and worthy of opportunities as our White counterparts. We don’t need anybody’s crumbs; we have already earned our seats at the table. And what you’re seeing now is a collective, courageous emboldening. We are no longer asking for things to change, to be more just and equitable. It is now a righteous demand because it’s the right thing to do and it’s long overdue.

 

What would you tell industry members who want to be allies in helping this change come about?

As artists and storytellers, our work is to reflect humanity back to itself and to steer people’s aspirations. We are the doctors of the human soul. We are healers and educators. The work we create reverberates in people’s hearts and minds long after they have consumed it. Therefore, we control a lot of the socio-cultural narrative and norms, and we must be responsible with our power. So I challenge White people in the arts industry who want to be allies to begin with one central question every time they’re part of greenlighting a new project. Ask yourself if the project will present images that reinforce racist, narrow-minded stereotypes that continue to normalize White supremacy. Or will it present images that reflect the true reality of our rich, diverse, complicated, and dynamic world? And yes, confronting these questions can be hard, but White people can stand to be uncomfortable for a moment. Because that is nothing compared to the discomfort we’ve had to deal with our whole lives. Starting the moment we walk out of our doors, we are assaulted by daily macro- and micro-aggressions on our dignity and humanity by an industry and a world built on our oppression, exploitation, and exclusion. So White people in Hollywood and the performing arts industry have two options. They can roll up their sleeves, pick up hammers, and help us knock down the walls of systemic racism and inequity. Or, they can get out of our way as we proceed to do so. But either way, those walls are coming down.

 

Tembe shared during her interview that she’s been encouraged by other Black artists speaking about their experiences. One recent example is how former Glee star Amber Riley opened up to Variety about the on-set racism she’s experienced. Like Riley, Tembe’s willingness to share some of what she’s seen and dealt with as a Black actor in Hollywood can help bring about understanding and change. And the actor pointed to a casting director who’s a positive example of allyship in that common goal. Jason Kennedy has been using his @kennedycasting Instagram page to highlight Black talent, an initiative Tembe discovered when she was featured in one of his #PromoteBlackActors posts. Tembe also recognized the people who paved the way for her in the fight for equality and representation. “I stand on great shoulders,” the actor shared. “We have made it this far because of the courageous disruption and leadership of the extraordinary, fearless Black artists who came before us.”

This interview has been edited and condensed.

 

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Our Dream Cast for Jennifer Grey’s Rumored ‘Dirty Dancing’ Movie  

Our Dream Cast for Jennifer Grey’s Rumored ‘Dirty Dancing’ Movie  

Deadline recently reported that there may be a new Dirty Dancing in our future, one that will star and be executively produced by Jennifer Grey. Sure, there have been other iterations of the 1987 classic, such as 2004’s Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights, which starred Diego Luna and Romola Garai. But a new Dirty Dancing that would include on its cast list the actor who originated the role of Baby Houseman — could it be? In the words of Deadline, “While details are being kept quiet, there’s some rumblings that a new Dirty Dancing movie could be in the works. Sources aren’t confirming, but they aren’t putting the idea in a corner either.” There’s a lot going on in the world right now thanks to the ongoing effects of COVID-19, but taking a timeout with our dream cast list of actors for the rumored Dirty Dancing movie may be just the reprieve you need.

 

Zendaya as Frances “Baby” Houseman

The young actor may be able to relate to the character arc that Baby embodies during Dirty Dancing, which ends with her being called by her given name, Frances, in the final scene. By that point, the character has grown into the type of strong character that we love to see portrayed on the screen. Zendaya got her start on the Disney Channel, eventually landing bigger projects such as The Greatest Showman. The actor who grew up in front of the camera has now graduated to more mature work, with her current starring role in HBO’s Euphoria as an example. With any potential personal connections to the character coupled with her body of work, we think Zendaya would be a perfect fit to reprise the role that Jennifer Grey originated as Frances “Baby” Houseman. And if any question remained about Zendaya playing the lead in a new Dirty Dancing movie, we would bring up her exceptional execution of complicated choreography, displayed in both The Greatest Showman and in season 16 of Dancing with the Stars, when she took second place.

 

Noah Centineo as Johnny Castle

While Centineo may not have as strong of a dance background as the late Patrick Swayze, who originally portrayed Johnny, he does have the “bad boy with a heart of gold” character type down pat. Centineo’s breakout role as Peter Kavinsky in Netflix’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the perfect example, and we’d love to see him bring that essence to Johnny Castle. Plus, the actor nicknamed “the internet’s boyfriend” displayed some impressive dance moves on a “Dance Battle” segment of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, with one of his numbers carrying the title of “Dirty Dancing When the Chaperone Ain’t Looking.” If that’s not a sign that Centineo is meant to be a part of the rumored upcoming Dirty Dancing movie, we don’t know what is.

 

Jennifer Grey as Marjorie Houseman

It’s been 33 years since Grey played the college-aged Baby; she’s known for bringing that character to life. So in the most metaphorical sense, it would be incredibly interesting to see Grey take on the role of the woman who actually gave birth to the character, according to the plot’s premise. That is, we would love to see Grey’s interpretation of Marjorie Houseman, Baby’s mother. In the original storyline, Baby mostly went to her father for support, but a new Dirty Dancing movie could provide the opportunity for Marjorie to take on a more active role in helping mentor their daughter. Imagine how Grey could draw from her experience playing Baby and from the wisdom she’s gleaned since to play Baby’s parent in a new Dirty Dancing movie. For example, while watching Baby come alive during the final dance number, Marjorie asserts to her husband, “I think she gets this from me.” Imagine Grey delivering that line, all things considered. Can you say “meta”? 

 

Sterling K. Brown as Dr. Jake Houseman

Brown is no stranger to playing a husband and father who balances complicated family dynamics, as evidenced by his role as Randall Pearson in This is Us. He also starred in the A24 feature Waves, portraying a strict dad who, by the end of the film, had gained a broader perspective. Both roles speak to his capability of taking on the character of Baby’s father. We can already hear him delivering that powerful line at the film’s conclusion, “When I’m wrong, I say I’m wrong.” The seasoned actor has an impressive, varied body of work that we think would lend itself to a layered and complex portrayal of Dr. Jake Houseman.

 

It remains to be seen if the Jennifer Grey-starring dancing movie in the works at Lionsgate will turn into a new Dirty Dancing movie. We do know that it’s set in the 1990s, which could make for an original take on the 1987 classic film, which was set in 1963. And should we be blessed with a new version of Dirty Dancing, there are still more roles to cast, such as Baby’s sister Lisa and Johnny’s fellow staff member Penny. But as it pertains to the main characters listed above, Zendaya, Centineo, Grey, and Brown have our votes.

 

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