From casting directors to big-time movie directors, all of them hold your fate in their hands, and all of them need impressing.
But how do you make an impact when there are already so many actors out there whose sister’s husband’s cousin is best friends with the guy in charge? Well, the good news is there are many right moves you can make to get in the director’s good books. However, there are also a number of disastrous ways you could get their attention too. From glitter-bombing to bad conversation: here are a few things you should NEVER do when meeting a director.
Ask for a part
So you’re at a party, things are going well, and suddenly you spot a huge movie director. Walking through the crowd up to him in disbelief you grab his arm, smile and say, “I’m such a huge fan, do you have any roles you think I’d be good for?” and flash another smile. He turns to you and politely asks you to leave him alone. Congratulations: you just wasted an incredible opportunity.
Approaching directors as if they are mere stepping stones is a fatal mistake. Treating them in this way and failing to recognise them as human beings with lives outside of the studio will only make them look at you like one of a thousand desperate actors, barely worth talking to.
Unsurprisingly, if you want to give yourself a better shot, you only need to strike up a genuine conversation. Ask them questions, find out about their interests and talk to them about any shared interests you learn about along the way. Just make sure it’s something unrelated to the industry, at least at first. If you get on well and strike up a rapport, then you never know where things might lead. When a role next comes up, you might be the one that springs to mind.
I recently talked about how this really happened for a lucky actress, who bumped into Quentin Tarantino and managed to strike up a conversation about politics with him. They got on so well he ended up casting her multiple times later down the line. Good and lasting relationships are what makes things happen in this industry, and it could all start with, “so, where do you stand on the election results?”.
Send annoying gifts
Trying to get the attention of casting directors can seem almost impossible at times. So much so, that is has led some actors to resorting to rather unconventional methods to try and win them round. One such story involved sending a casting director a card filled with glitter! However, there’s a thin line with this sort of thing. Doing something to get their attention like writing a funny note or sending in impressive references is fine, and may even be beneficial to you. Sending them something that will distress them or result in their office being covered in tiny little shiny stars, as in the example above, will only result in them never wanting to see your face again.
Casting directors actively seek new talent by attending numerous performances, so your best bet at getting cast in something bigger is to keep working wherever you can – even if it’s something you don’t want to do. If you get yourself out there you will be seen and your CV will go right to the top of the list- no confetti needed.
Let them sleep through your audition
OK, of course they won’t actually be asleep, but they might be on standby. With so many actors to get through, anyone could be forgiven for starting to get a little bored and disinterested. It’s up to you to switch them back on and ensure they pay attention to you – this is your only chance after all. Slam the door as you come in, apologising of course, and speak slightly louder than what you might deem appropriate under normal circumstances. A nice loud vocal warm up will sharpen their senses. Engage them in conversation and if you get it right, not only will you be the ‘wake up call’ they’ve been waiting for, but you’ll leave a lasting impression and as more as is likely – you’ll get the part.
Be afraid to use your words
Rudyard Kipling once said
“Words are the most powerful drug used by mankind.”
You should never underestimate the power of words and the importance of using them well. In an incredible clip featuring hypnotist Derren Brown and actor Simon Pegg, this is demonstrated with the use of hypnotism. In a ploy to get Simon to like a gift Derren has bought, Derren makes Simon want it desperately, through a series of suggestive words and reinforcement. Now while it would be ridiculous to state that you need to go out and become a hypnotist to get a director to want to cast you (although apparently, that might help), what you can do is use a few hypnotist tricks to improve your chances.
Smuggler phrases are words you can sneak into a conversation to subconsciously persuade a casting director to hire you. When you go into an audition and state your name, instead of saying “reading for the role of…” say “I am (the character)”. You can even try something a little more intense: if the director says, “could we ask you to try…” jump in and say “you can cast me anything”, substituting ask for cast, and so on. It may seem strange, or a little unconventional, but risks and tricks such as smuggler phrases do have a tendency to make you stand out, which is often a good thing.
Neglect to practice the art of conversation
Whether you’re meeting big players in the industry or trying to get an agent, you should never underestimate the importance of being a great conversationalist. No director will be interested in you if you rarely have anything interesting to say or contribute, even if you could be suitable for a role.
Practice speaking clearly in a pleasant voice people will like listening to. Keep up to date with the news and goings on in politics, as well as industry-specific events and news. To build up those relationships with directors you need to be able to get them interested in you and who you are as a person. Ultimately at the end of the day if you can be charming and craft your conversation carefully- it may very well get you a job.
Miss the chance to build contacts
Attending the right parties, having friends in the know or being a descendant of an acting dynasty are all legitimate ways you can build relationships with directors. But for those of us who haven’t yet made these connections or who need to make an impression, trying to meet directors after a showcase or a performance can work wonders. With my One Year Ultimate Acting Programme, students have the chance to meet and network with Hollywood casting directors as well as agents, previous students, and many more big names in the industry. You never get a second chance at a first impression, and with our programme, you can help yourself to make the right kind of impact.