I once had a test in my high school English class that consisted of a list of approximately forty-five instructions, numbered accordingly. Each was a small task, such as ‘Turn to page 9, and draw a circle around the square.’
A short time after the test began, a few people stopped working and sat silently for the rest of the allotted time. In fact, some even purposely dropped their pencils loudly, in an effort to call attention to the fact that they were stopping.
The rest of the class just kept on working – heads down, pencils scribbling, pages turning back and forth.
About ten minutes later, I began to hear gasps of anti-serendipity from those who had kept working. Something terrible had happened. After following instructions one through forty-four, they read number forty-five, as follows: ‘Do not do instructions one through forty-four. Put your pencil down. You are done.’
After everybody reached this point, our teacher asked us who passed and who failed. He had just given us a lesson in how to follow instructions. Those who read the instructions fully before beginning ended up having to do no work at all, while those who didn’t read the instructions fully before beginning ended up doing a ton of work that they weren’t supposed to do.
‘Always read the instructions in full before doing any work,’ he told us.
As an indie filmmaker, I suffer no delusions of being Spielberg or Hitchcock. Putting out a casting call for a low or no-money part in a film production does not make you a big shot, and it does not command the respect of seasoned professionals. You should treat everybody with the same respect you’d like them to show you. If you’re basically a nobody (within the film industry that is; I’m sure we’re all just as special as our moms say!), making demands of others won’t get you very far.
However, here is a bit of advice that will help both the filmmakers and the actors. It doesn’t require arrogance, belittling, or a show of power.
Ready? Here it is:
Reading the instructions is always the first test.
In most situations, a casting call will have specific instructions on how to submit for a part. If you don’t read the notice in full before replying, you’re probably going to do it wrong. The person who receives it will notice this immediately. This tells them that you didn’t read the casting call fully (or at all), and that you don’t follow instructions.
A casting call will likely tell you where to send your submission. For example, it might give you a specific email address where you should send that info. Or, if the casting call is posted on facebook, it might ask you to send your submission as a private message to a specific FB page related to the casting. If a casting notice says to send your info to a specific email address, or to a specific facebook page, that is exactly where you should send it. If you ignore these instructions, and instead try to call the person, or seek out their personal facebook page to send your info, you will not get a reply. This shows them that you don’t follow instructions.
The casting call will also likely be very specific as to what you should send with your submission. It might ask for photos or video, along with a description of any experience you might have. It may also ask you to introduce yourself, and specify which casting call and which part you are submitting for.
Even if the casting notice doesn’t specify those things, you should always be courteous and introduce yourself when sending the requested materials, along with an explanation of what you’re submitting for. If you just blast out photos to someone with no message introducing yourself or saying why you’re contacting them, you won’t get a reply. If you just contact them with “I’m interested in (name of production),” without any of the requested materials, and no explanation as to why those things are missing, you’re probably not getting a reply. Even worse, if you just send a message saying “I’m interested” or “I’m interested in the casting call”, without even specifying what casting call, you probably won’t get a reply.
If you reply to a casting call on Facebook by writing “I’m interested” as a reply to the post, instead of submitting through whatever means the casting notice instructs, you will be telling the casting director that you’re bad at following instructions. A lot of people will reply to these with “I’m interested!” or “I just applied.” Do not do this. This not only does not help your submission, but it may hurt your chances. There are plenty of articles on casting company websites that tell you not to do this. But, people persist, because they do not read the instructions.
Do not use third party websites that give you online resumes and tell you to use their system to email your resume for casting submissions. There are plenty of these out there. A lot of them charge you for this bad service. Don’t do it. These companies scrape real casting notices from other sites, then post them without permission on their own site, and charge you to gain access to them or submit to them. I’ve caught websites doing this with my casting calls in the past, and I’ve been very stern when telling them that they do not have permission to post my casting calls and charge people to submit to them. Not to mention, casting directors in general do not want to see this. They want you to be thoughtful enough to send the information they’ve requested in their casting call. Casting directors will often just delete these third party site submissions without reading them. They’re not personal. They’re spam.
Some of the most egregious examples of not reading instructions include people not even knowing what they’re submitting to. They’re just shotgunning generic info to any and every email address they can find. This will not help you. In fact, it will piss off anybody that you send it to, burning bridges with those who you could’ve worked with if you’d just followed instructions.
If you reply to a casting call for Ghostbusters with “I’m interested in the twinkies audition” because you saw a twinkie in the photo with the casting call, you’re probably not going to get a reply.
Reading the instructions is always the first test.
“I’m here for the twinkies audition” – Egon Spengler