By MAP Admin, Sep 21 2015 11:48AM

My casting:

The two most important points an actor needs to know…

1) Know yourself

2) Be comfortable with yourself

…There’s no point going for auditions for jobs you’re never going to get!

What to take to a casting:

A slightly old fashioned list, but i'd always rather be safe than sorry!

1) Water - for when your mouth suddenly feels like an old sock!

2) Pencil - to mark your script up!

3) Map (we have phones but they don’t always work!) - Getting off the bus/train and hoping there's a sign-post won't always cut it - and without Google Maps, you're buggered!

4) Dictionary - you need to know the meaning of every word you say. Don't get caught out!

What to wear to a casting:

Different casting directors expect different things – if you’re going to a casting for a Viking, nobody expects you to dress like one, however, as an ‘office bod’, security guard, skateboarder, you might be able to suggest these in your choice of clothing. Don’t go over the top!

The ‘Casting Waiting Room’….:

Possibly the worst place you will ever sit in! A room full of people that look exactly like you, or nothing at all like you! Do not second-guess or talk yourself out of the job! Some people like to go over their lines, some people play games on their phones….some people do spine rolls! Please don’t be that person! Nor should you engage anyone in conversation unless it feels easy…you might just get talking to the guy who has landed a job at The National and knows the Casting director – this wont help your nerves!

ALWAYS REMEMBER: You arrived without the job and so if you leave and still haven’t got the job, you’ve lost nothing but gained some valuable experience!

Entering the room:

When you enter the room, the first 10 seconds can make all the difference! People want to work not only with good actors, but also with people who don’t irritate them – come across like a confident, easy-going and fun person then you’ve got past the first hurdle.

Shaking hands is a difficult thing and something you need to judge immediately – if there are 48 people on the pane, shaking hands will simply take too bloody long! If the person who shows you in introduces you to two people, a polite handshake can break the ice beautifully.

Never underestimate any person in the room – the guy operating the camera might be ‘just’ the camera operator, but you never know if he’s the producer’s husband standing in for a day. Play the game with everyone!

Similarly, on entry, you should be able to judge the mood of the room. It’s possible that you re the 300th person they have seen for the job and they’re bored, running late, feeling a bit hung-over and have no time for ‘banter’. They could however, be incredibly chatty, keen to discuss what you’ve been up to or a mutual friend – you need to be able to deduce this in the first 10 seconds.

Know you’re script! Read the play/script!! Sounds simple but it’s done too often – people pretend to have read the script and lie. It doesn’t always, but I’ve heard too many horror stories about when this has back- fired. If you don’t know the protagonist dies on the last page, you’re on a hiding to nowhere!

Learn the sides! If you’re sent the script more than 4 hours in advance of the casting then you MUST learn it. Learning it doesn’t mean that you suddenly gain more brownie points, but it does allow you more freedom to play, the chance to be more human and, most importantly, allows the camera/casting director to see your face and eyes more! Keeping looking at a piece of paper means that we have to hope you have a stunning ‘top of head’.

Research those involved; directors, producers etc. This doesn’t mean some severe stalking of their family and friends but a little knowledge about their back catalogue, their colleagues etc., can sometimes do you the world of good. Maybe you are from the same town as the writer…

Know when to shut up! You should begin to filter what you’re saying. A casting director doesn’t want to know whom you have worked with, what you’re about to deliver or your entire research package nor do they care if you have a cold or your dog has recently passed away – no excuses. We should assume that the work we have done would come out in the reading. Show your stuff in the actual casting.

Listen to the question and answer it! Again, this sounds simple, but actually, when we’re nervous, trying to impress and wanting to say the right thing it can be difficult. There’s nothing worse than starting to answer a question, drifting off the point, not really knowing where you’re going, losing the thread, talking about your holiday…and….how did this start?!

Don’t lie! If you can’t ride a horse tomorrow, don’t say you can horse ride. Yeah, you might get away with running out of the casting and booking a crash course, but sometimes, it’s not going to happen! Similarly, don’t fill your CV up with false credits – I know a wonderful story about a Telly Tubby that came unstuck!

Be careful! You will have been told in many instances about how small this world is – well here’s someone else telling you! The industry is small…really small! I don’t know why but it is! If you’ve worked with someone in the past and not got on with them, it’s probably not a good idea to start bitching about them; they might just be this casting directors golden girl, best mate…wife!

The reading:

It would be nice to step into the room and get a great actor to work with. This rarely happens! Prepare yourself to be reading with a casting director or their assistant. There’s a high chance that not only will they have not had much/any acting experience, but also they might be reading this for the 50th time today. You’re trained to listen and respond, but in a casting, this might be the last thing that will work!

Make a choice:

You will have heard people tell you this time and time again and that’s because it’s important, however, don’t fall into the trap of thinking the bigger and more crazy the choice, the more chance you have of wowing the producers. You do need to make choices on the text, but keep them within the realms of possibility. A vet from Sheffield will probably not have a pet alien or a Californian accent. They’ve brought you in because your headshot fits with what they are looking for. The text/script will give you more clues about how to play it but ultimately, find some colour, commit to your choices, work out an OBJECTIVE and BE HUMAN! Sometimes the obvious choices aren’t always the greatest – try the opposite and you might be surprised. How many times have we laughed through tears or whispered our threats? A variety and colour is essential – avoid generalized emotion. Once you’ve made these choices, be prepared to hear that they are not what they’re looking for and throw them away…

Take the note:

If you’re given a note, take it with both hands. The note might not necessarily be about moving you to where they think the character should go – it might be about seeing how you respond to notes. If this is your one chance and you don’t respond then you might miss out!


The most important thing you can take to an audition today is the ability to sight-read! More and more are casting directors delivering your sides on the day when you arrive; I can’t remember the last time I wasn’t sent a script and then asked to do a monologue! Your sight-reading has to be beyond that of telling a story to your young family member. You MUST be reading at least half a line ahead of where your mouth is up to. This allows us to make those snap decisions on text and be at ease.

Always learn the first line, so you can deliver this cleanly and off the page.

Leave the room:

Once you’re done, leave. Don’t ask how it went or when you’ll find out…just thank people and be polite. Sometimes you’ll feel like you haven’t been given enough time – that’s just life!

The journey home:

You WILL sit on the bus and think about all the things you didn’t do. This is fine but make sure you use it constructively, not to ruin your confidence! Ten minutes constructive self-criticism, ensure you noted any mistakes, then put it to bed and go for a pint.

Didn’t get the job?

Don’t beat yourself up! All you can do is get to a level where you leave happy with what you have done.

ALWAYS REMEMBER: You arrived without the job and so if you leave and still haven’t got the job, you’ve lost nothing but gained some valuable experience!

By MAP Admin, Sep 21 2015 11:36AM

As a general rule, an actor will instinctively pick a headshot that they think looks good, as opposed to making a good headshot. A headshot should be about the the actor, not the lighting skills of the photographer or the designer label of the clothes they wear. In magazines, those glossy photos we see are about selling a product and so the lighting, the angle the mood are all set to highlight this product. In a headshot, the product is you; think of the headshot as your logo and so, everything about it should be about saying to a casting director ‘this is me’. The headshot is what gets you through the door!

Our aim is to be a malleable and flexible actor with a range to rival the finest of Olivier winners, but actors are unique. Your physical appearance is a huge part of what makes you sell and should be considered your ‘unique selling point’. Before starting out as an actor there are two things you must come to terms with;

1) Knowing what you are – the way you are perceived by an audience.

2) Being comfortable with who you are.

You wouldn’t spend a lifetime trying to fix cars if you’d trained as a vet – it’s counter productive. Your headshot (logo!) should be a clear indication of ‘you’.

Likewise, a shaven headed man with a scar does not need dress up as a biker and pull faces; their appearance will tell us all we need to know. If you were selling avocados, you wouldn’t send a picture of a tomato…

At drama school, university – wherever we have trained, we are pushed and stretched into various roles. As more and more actors are trained and arrive on ‘Spotlight’, the days of having to be so versatile are almost gone, certainly early on in one’s career. If they need a red-head, Geordie with a limp, you can pretty much guarantee there is one on Spotlight. However, this can be used to your advantage!

Agents and casting directors love actors who know their strengths and are clear about it; it makes their job easier. When your headshot is a clear representation of what you offer as an actor, you’re n the right track.

Which bloody photographer?!

Firstly, pick a photographer who takes pictures that you like! Don’t just shoot with your friend (or your friend’s photographer) just because the price is low, or because your friend likes the photographer. Similarly, don’t shoot with the photographer charging £500; a big price doesn’t always mean a ‘big’ photo!

Your headshots can make or break your career–you want to make sure you are picking a photographer for the right reasons, and price (expensive or cheap) is not necessarily one of them. Also, as with clothing, headshots tend to go through phases of ‘fashion’. Don’t feel that you have to pay the extra money to fit that trend. Fashions, even with photographers, come and go yearly. Your headshot could last 3 years.

Be careful of opinions and who to ask for them! It doesn’t matter if your family and friends like them–what matters is if they will get you in the door.

Next, especially for your first time, your photo shoot should last a few hours; you are going to be nervous and a long and relaxed shoot helps build a rapport. This leads to better photos! Try and shoot with a photographer that you can take your time with and relax around.

Just like with screen acting, it’s all about your eyes, and what’s happening behind them. Your eyes don’t lie – especially on a close up! They need to be perfectly in focus, alive, and energized, and not dead and glazed over. There should be a strong inner-monologue, giving something, anything behind the eyes. Some photographers will ask you to squint slightly (I’m not sure about this!) whereas others will just be able to make it work!

How many “looks” do I need?

Many agents and Casting directors will tell you that one, good headshot is enough – which is true! This is especially the case when graduating from a drama school. For actors further down their career path, one good headshot is enough, but it is the bare minimum.

A savvy actor will have different shots for different submissions. On Spotlight you should aim for 4-6 photos. A casual, comfortable, smiling headshot might be appropriate for a sitcom, but it’s not going to work for that feature film role of a serial killer. If you are capable of playing multiple types of roles, you need a headshot for each type, and therefore multiple looks; perhaps even one with/without facial hair. This said, do not push outside of your casting – there is no point! I’ve seen too many people who think they are or the stero-typical leading women or hunky leading blokes and try and use those shots – as soon as they walk through the casting room door, we can see the truth!

If you can only play a scary serial killer type, then you only need one “look”! Similarly, those famous actors that you really admire ALREADY EXIST! Don’t try and emulate them – be yourself! Every actor is different…

1)Understand who you are!

2) Be comfortable with who you are!

Retouching my headshot...

Retouching is a bit of a touchy subject (boom boom!). A headshot that is r-touched badly can be a disaster and can make the photo look fake or, in the worst case, make it look like someone else entirely!

With the rise of digital photography, retouching is more readily available and therefore more tempting. Some re-touching can be useful, but with the standard of cameras out there, the photo taken should be enough! Photoshop can be used to fix a stray hair, lighten a shadow or remove that irritating spot!

But remember; because it can be done, doesn’t mean it should be done! Make sure that the photographer only removes temporary imperfections. In general, if it will be there in three weeks, it should probably remain in the photo.

Scarring is one thing that can take a little re-touching. A scar on the face might be almost unnoticeable, but under the close scrutiny of a lens with professional lighting, it might in fact highlight the scar. In these instances, it’s fine to tweak your photo so that it matches your appearance in person.

Shooting with full frontal light is best – it shows us your face in all its glory. If shooting outdoors, this will require a canopy or bridge over you. A photographer may ask you to hold a reflector under your chin – this is great, but feel free to ask if you still have a chin in the photos! It has happened that chins have disappeared into necks!

Survivng the shoot!

Shooting your headshots should be fun and something you should enjoy doing, and look forward to (although I know very few actors who do!). Prepare for your shoot by treating yourself well, getting plenty of sleep, caring for your body, and allowing plenty of time to prepare. If you’re nervous, bring a friend, and bring music that you like. If you’re shooting outside, sometimes holding a cigarette or a can of drink (probably not Fosters!) can help you feel a little more natural.

During the shoot, don’t let fear paralyse you and remember that this photo is different from the obligatory ‘night-out-in-the-toilet-selfie’. Standing still for two hours with a pout is not helpful! Different thoughts will make for a range of photos.

Don’t worry about taking “good” pictures or the “right” pictures. The photographer knows their trade and despite what you think (within reason!) you should trust their judgement; your job is to show up prepared and to then relax.

Enjoy the shoot–you’re the centre of attention!

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