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Saturday, June 2, 2012

Casting: "No." by casting director Mark Sikes

May 28, 2012



Mark Sikes

I say "no" a lot. 
If I read 300 actors for a film then I will end up saying "no"
to about 275 of them. I've cast 100 movies. You do the math. But I don't call actors in just to have the pleasure of rejecting them. I value their time and mine alot more than that. All 300 actors on each film had a shot at booking but for one reason or another they didn't.

I might read an actor on one film and then a month later call him in for another, even though he didn't book that first one. Many actors can attest to this. There are actors I call in all the time. Sometimes they book, sometimes they don't, but if they are solid and pleasant and keep bringing interesting work into my room why wouldn't I call them back in for future projects? I never hold it against an actor that they didn't book that last job.

When we say "no" to an actor regarding a part, it is not exactly a "no." If I bring in a guy for a role and we end up choosing a woman, is that really rejection? Did we literally say "no" to you? It's just that we weren't able to say "yes." Only one actor can book a part. It doesn't mean that there weren't ten actors that could have done a great job with the role.
And just because you didn't get the part it doesn't mean that everyone in the room agreed with that choice. There have been plenty of times over the years when I totally disagreed with the director's choice. So don't assume we all said "no" and maybe the only person that wanted that other actor was the one with the final say. So how do you turn a "no" into a "yes?" It's not impossible. First, you have to be realistic in your goals. 

You can't have as your ultimate goal booking a specific part for a specific project. If you had singled out a role in my film "Tentacle 8" last year there really would have been very little you could have done to guarantee a "yes." So, the goal needs to be to work for me, not on any particular project or role. Once you've actually worked for a bunch of us you will find success comes faster and faster.

Or let's say you want to get a "yes" from a specific talent agency. There's nothing wrong with having a dream agency but bear in mind that if you can't get a "yes" from them today it doesn't mean you won't get a "yes" from them in a year. The mistake is to take a "no" personally and then take that agency off your list. Sure, there's no need to follow up with them 90 days after they passed on you as a client but a year later send them a polite letter announcing the things that you've booked since you met with them. Staying positive with an agent that passed on you will show them that you understand that it isn't personal and you are still very passionate about them as an agency.

When somebody says "no" to you, you have to be able to still say "thank you for the opportunity" and mean it. This will make it a lot more likely that you are around for more opportunities. I have seen so many agents sign actors three years after first meeting them because the actor didn't take it personally and gave the agent more and more reason to sign them.

That's also true for casting. You will rarely book the first time you read for a specific casting office. If you feel good the first time I call you in, imagine your confidence the second and third times. I am obviously a fan and it is only a matter of time before you book with me. But if you got discouraged the first time I said "no" then you aren't going to be at your best on those next two visits. Nobody enjoys being told "no." I know I don't. 

But I have also found that I have been turned down for one job only to be hired later by the same director or producer because I didn't take it personally and I made the effort to stay on their radar.

Friday, June 1, 2012

*My interview with actor Gabriel Mann

Gabriel Mann with Sam Shepard, Wim Wenders and Fairuza Balk

(Gabe has appeared in The Bourne Identity, Mad Men, The Bourne Supremacy and is currently starring in Revenge on ABC.)

  • How long have you been an actor?  
  • Gabriel Mann:  20 years
  • How did you get your first agent as an actor? 
  • GM: i researched headshot photographers and sent out a mass mailing to as many agencies as i could find in NYC. A few did respond and i took meetings w them. The biggest mistake I made was not being patient enough to wait for the feedback from each place and signing w the first agent that said they wanted me only to find out later that the agency i really wanted to work w also wanted to sign me..but i had jumped the gun.What’s the best advice you’ve ever received from an older actor? GM: "Never never give up."
  • What is the most healthy way to approach an audition? 
  • GMmake a character choice and stick to it, but be open and willing enuff in the room that you can change ur approach if the CD or director asks you to do some thing different, and mostly importantly relax.
  • What is the least healthy way to approach an audition?   
  • GM: Having too many expectations or putting too much pressure on urself to get the role. suit up show up and leave the mtg behind once you leave the room.
  • What was it like on the set of I Shot Andy Warhol—was there anyone who stood out for you or impressed you as they worked? 
  • GM:the driving force of nature that was Lily Taylor's Valerie Solanas was a masterclass in transformative character work.
  • What is the difference between an actor on the set who is an amateur and an actor who shows up on the set and is a professional? How can you tell the difference? How would you advise an amateur actor to conduct him or herself when on set—specifically in their approach to the being on a set, to other actors and to their work? (There are amateur actors who want to be professional but don’t know how.)  
  • GM: the difference between a pro and an amateur on set is the respect that is given to all those working around them from the other cast members to the crew once you step outside ur trailer. that means having the patience for each actor to have their own process and giving them the space to do it while respecting how hard the crew is working to bring the story to life. 
  • What is the difference for you between acting theory-as written in the many books about acting-and actual practical knowledge that you use when you are acting on  set? What do you find are the meat and potatoes of acting—from getting the script to preparation, to getting ready in your trailer to being on the set ready to shoot? (What are the bullet points of real acting?) 
  • GM:acting theory and technique is the bricks and mortar of charactor work in terms of giving you ideas and inspiration to draw and build from. over the years having studied many techniques methods and w different teachers ive found that i have internalized the pieces that have been effective for me and my acting tends to be more instinctual and improvisational than when i began. im able to let go and trust my instincts and impulses more as opposed to dealing exclusively w nerve management and the character becoming secondary to covering anxiety
  • What was your experience working with Joaquin Pheonix like on Buffalo Soldiers? Did you learn anything from watching him work? 
  • GM:working w/ joaquin was intense and eye opening. he would tend to stay in some version of the character on and off set in subtle ways. he taught me how to modulate an emotional scene so i didnt waste my emotional reaction till we were in close-ups. he kept telling me to save it. simple but great advice.
  • What was your experience like working with both Wim Wenders and Sam Shepard on Don’t Come Knocking? 
  • GM:working w wim and sam was a study in contrasts. wim is an intellectual and very visually oriented while sam comes from a more emotional place and is driven by his gut. the combination of those two personalities balanced each other perfectly.
  • You appeared in the Bourne Identity and the Bourne Supremacy. These are huge mega million dollar productions—how do you approach that? Is there an intimidation factor for you? What does is really take to feel prepared to shoot on such a set?  What  is it like working with Matt Damon—is there anything you walk away with from that experience? 
  • GM:you must approach each project regardless of budget in the same way..the only difference being the scope of the world a huge budget will let a big film cover. but the intensity of my work is the same no matter the size of the studio/indie/tv project. matt damon has a golden work ethic..always professional intensely dedicated to his work focused good spirited and big hearted towards his cast and crew making his sets a pleasure to work on always.
  • Is there a difference for you in approaching comedy or drama?  
  • GM:some actors may approach comedy or drama differently but for me the character preparation is the same. how broad the director wants to go in terms of the acting style will always be different from gig to gig though.
  • What is the worst experience you ever had with a casting director? What should an actor be prepared for as he enters a room with a casting director? 
  • GM:the worst casting experiences tend to be when the person running the session is rude or dismissive in a cruel way which can be painful if you are nervous already. i find that a lot of the time though..casting is actually rooting for you to be perfect for the part because then they can find their actor and move on to casting another role.
  • Have you ever taped your own audition? What do you suggest are the best conditions for an actor taping him or herself? 
  • GM:im not a fan of putting myself on tape for auditions because i become too critical of watching my own work and never want to send it off. but thats just me, i know many actors who love the freedom it gives them to explore their characters w/o the pressure of being in a casting office.
  • What was your experience like on Drum? 
  • -GM:working on drum was very influenced by being in south africa and the rich feelings that come from that part of the world and being a fish out of water which also happened to be my choice for the basis for that character in the film. 
  • What has been your favorite role?
  • GM:the character of nolan ross on revenge has definitely been some of the most fun that ive experienced on an acting job though i take a piece of each film ive done and carry that on to the next one
  • What has been the most challenging role? 
  • -GM:all of them..for different reasons. lol.