Index, Headshots, a Rent Audition

Index, Headshots, a Rent Audition Once again, hello and thank you to all creative advice-seekers. This week's column lists a small index of previous Ask Blairs that feature topics aspiring actors may find useful; explores how to make choices about headshots; and offers a few tips to an actor who's up for the part of Mark in Rent. I invite actors of all ages to continue write me with any problems encountered at auditions, in class, or anything you feel could be standing between you and your talent. Browse through the previous columns to see if your question, or one .ike it, has been answered already!

Once again, hello and thank you to all creative advice-seekers. This week's column lists a small index of previous Ask Blairs that feature topics aspiring actors may find useful; explores how to make choices about headshots; and offers a few tips to an actor who's up for the part of Mark in Rent. I invite actors of all ages to continue write me with any problems encountered at auditions, in class, or anything you feel could be standing between you and your talent. Browse through the previous columns to see if your question, or one .ike it, has been answered already!

Question
My name is Ed Michaud. I'm 42 but look younger. For over 15 years, I've performed in local theater. I'd now like the opportunity to audition for commercials, soap operas, and TV comedy. Also, what's the procedure for joining the unions, costs, getting an agent, photos, etc. Please respond ASAP. Thank you.
Edward Michaud

Dear Edward,
Good for you for taking your talent to the next level.

Although you asked one of those write-me-a-book questions, its a good question, because it allows me to include for all actors, dates of Ask Blair columns that have answers to your questions. Previous columns are accessible to website users, by clicking on the button at the bottom of the this page.

Actors Equity:
The Sept. 20-26 column answers the big questions about AEA
AEA also mentioned: Oct. 11-17
Mar. 7-13
Headshots
Nov. 15-27 also: see this column, question below

Agents
Nov. 15-27 Mar. 14-25

Moving to NY
Oct. 25-31

I hope this helps. Good luck, Edward.

Question
Hi !! I hope this message gets to you. Well, I am interested in starting a career in musical theater. I currently am enrolled at Tufts University in Boston. I am in the process of getting involved with a talent agency. When getting a head shot, should I get the package with 1 roll, 1 contact sheet for $140 (1-2 outfits) or the package for $250 that includes four contact sheets (4-5 outfits), or one with 2 contact sheets (4 outfits) for $200.
Thanks

Dear Tufts Guy,
Got your message. Congrats on getting your headshots!

TG, I really can't answer this question for you. But I can help you answer it by suggesting that you start thinking like a business person. You need to decide what you think is the best marketing strategy for your "product" -- which is you and your talent.

Keep in mind you really only need two headshots--one for commercials and one for legit theatre and film, although some actors choose to get more than that.

When you get an agent, if you need new headshots, it is great to discuss looks, styles, etc. with the agent. In the meantime, here are some questions you can ask yourself regarding headshots:

How many "looks" do you want to see yourself in?
What do you want to reveal about yourself through your picture? -- e.g. I want people to see that I am warm, charming, simple, elegant, intelligent, tough, quirky, cheerful, seductive, etc.
Do you feel natural and comfortable in front of a camera? Is it better for you to opt to take more film so you have more opportunity to sink into the photo session?
How much money can you really afford to spend? (Remember, post-session costs for touch-ups and reproduction are expensive, too).

Keep asking advice from other actors, teachers, etc., using their input as an opportunity to listen and make choices about what you think is best for you and your career.

Have a great photo shoot!

Question
Dear Blair,
I was telling myself that I wasn't about to audition for a Broadway musical just yet--then I heard about Rent auditions coming to Boston. I figured that the only way I would audition for Rent, even as intrigued by it as I was, was if all the information about the audition somehow came to me, without my doing. And then, the night before the auditions, my boss had tore the ad for the auditions out of the paper, and put it in my mailbox, thinking I might be interested. Keep in mind that we never once discussed Rent. So I read the ad, and took a deep breath. Was this fate? I was really wondering that. And still do.
The next morning I went to the audition. A month later got a call. The casting agency told me they wanted me to audition for the character of Mark. I did just that. Then, a few weeks later (in December) I was to go to New York City and audition for the director Michael Greif, the entire casting agency, and also for Tim Wiel, the music supervisor. Once again, I had a great audition. I knew they were impressed. They called me the very next day. They told me I did a great job, were very interested in me, but that nothing would happen until March. From that day on I immersed myself in Rent. I read all the articles I could, saw the show numerous times, searched the internet for info, and just listened to show over and over. I was expecting something to happen come March.
Being new to the whole thing, I just accepted what I was told, without asking many questions. This may or may not sound naive, but I thought it to mean that I was either going to be in the show, or that they would want to see me one more time. Well, the month of March sure happened, but nothing else did. I've called the agency many times, but the person I was in contact with is always "on the phone" or "in a meeting". My calls never get returned. Is this normal? The last time I left a message, the voice mail said that they could only call us back if there was further interest. I still haven't received a phone call -- so I assume they are no longer interested in me. Should I assume it's all over? Do you suggest visiting the agency in person? Writing a letter to ask to be seen again? If I think I would be great in RENT, is their any way to appeal to the casting agency? What are the odds of receiving a call down the road, out of the blue, from the agency, wanting to see me again? When you get as far as auditioning for the director, who makes the final call? The director, the agency, or is it a collective decision? Sorry if this was so long winded. But I wanted you to have all the facts. . . Thank you in advance for your honest answers.
Sincerely,
Jason.

Dear Jason,
Thanks for your story. The first thing I want to say is how great it is that you got so far in the audition process--on a mere whim!!!

I do suggest you stop calling the agency. It's time to let go of the goal and accept the experience for what it is. My feeling is that Rent will be running for a long time--so you never know what will happen. They have your number if they need you. In the meanwhile, move on. If you still don't have headshots, get them. Send the casting agency a headshot with a letter reminding them of who you are and that you are available.

Learn from the experience what you can--and let it go. You thought you weren't ready for a Broadway show. That may or may not be true. But what the experience shows is that you are ready to audition--and that is great! Along with feeling the frustration, loss and defeat, let the power of the experience feed your confidence and trust in your talent. You can say that you got called back for a Broadway musical. That is a big accomplishment.

You also now have first hand experience of the harsh, painful side of the Biz. All the waiting, then the injustice. Feeling you have been lied to and then being ignored. It is a challenge not to take whatever is happening personally. Assume that the casting agents really are very busy, and unfortunately, one of the first things that gets dropped off of their to-do lists is considering unknown actors' feelings. Even if they are very nice people--that's just the way they prioritize.

If this part of the process hadn't happened--you may have been fooled into thinking it will always be smooth and easy to get to Broadway. Sometimes parts, like your audition notice, will land in your mailbox. But much of the time it takes a lot of perseverance, courage and patience. On the other hand, from my experience with auditioning, I can tell you that if you work TOO hard: doing, doing, doing, and wanting it too much, your efforts can create a block that prevents the fruits of all your efforts from landing in your life. It was very powerful it to hear how at the beginning of your story--all you did was put your intention about wanting to audition out there-- and the opportunity did present itself.

To answer your question, casting directors usually make the decisions with the director, but mostly its the director who has final say. There are no hard and fast rules. The rules vary with each production.

Keep going, Jason. I wish you the best of luck. And if you're ever Mark in Rent, I want a pair of tickets.

Question
Does AEA have a homepage? If so, where is it?
Ingrid Kottke

Dear Ingrid,
AEA has no homepage as of yet. I called the offices and they told me they are working on one. They had no idea when it would be live. Keep an eye out. When they launch their page, Playbill On-Line's Theatre Central will link to it.