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Reality Check: Why Actors Don't Book Jobs

Features
by R. NEYZAR
March 21, 2012 10:24 PM
14 Comments
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casting call

THE CAMERA DOESN’T LOVE YOUR FACE

While in the cold light of day your bone structure may be damn-near perfect, and just about everyone you meet tells you you’re gor-gus – or foooiine, when the camera’s on you, well, it’s a faded wallpaper moment. Your eyes look dead, and your zit-free skin photographs blah.

For those who manage to make it inside the magic circle, there’s still the hurdle of marketing that appeal. A loose lower mandible will do you in every time you smile. A slight overbite is always a plus. Crinkly eyes and manic eyebrows can also torpedo your chances, but the wide-eyed Botox-ed death stare won’t score you any points either. What works best? An open, relaxed visage comprised of a proportioned, yet interesting juxtaposition of your facial elements. But try not to add more wrinkles to your brow if you suffer from this dilemma. Try working on your inner beauty instead. At least you’ll feel better!

95% ATTITUDE – 5% TALENT

A positive attitude is your most formidable ally in this crazy biz. A cruddy, crusty mental disposition won’t get you much further than the entrance – if you’re lucky. Years of pounding the pavement, pounding on doors and being pounded (sometimes literally) by assorted show-bidness cretins can knock the brightness out of the hardiest souls.

So the wall goes up. And what we meet is a nasty mix of flared nostrils, an accusatory voice and a wagging neck. Not pretty – all the more so when the purveyor is a guy.

That brand of career sabotage is best left at home – in a closet, if necessary. Learn to honor your dignity and shine in public – even if you are running on bitter. Understand that the slightest edge will earn you a mental dismissal, despite the fact that the recipient is smiling in your face.

Even if you think your overpriced Juilliard or Tisch diploma, or twenty-plus years of rejection gives you the right to smirk and spit your way up the ladder, think again. All they see is an NWA!

YOU READ CRAZY

You know that bad childhood many of us went through? Well, it’s still on your face, and in your voice and especially in your actions – even the tiniest ones. The unnecessary harrumphing, the crazy eye, the tension in your cheeks, the frequent sighs and the excessive non-sequiturs are all nuclear-caliber warnings that scream – DO NOT HIRE.

Why?

In showbiz, time is money, especially in the world of indie films and TV. And, since you are not A List talent (even if your mind misguidedly tells you so), you are of little importance on the set. You are hired to hit your mark, say your lines (if you have any) and GTFOT, immediately after. Sometimes without a thank you and goodnight.

So, lock your crazy in a trunk. Strap it to the door as you enter the audition room. Lend it to a meek friend for the day.

Learn to smile and look people in the eye, and develop a firm handshake. Very basic, but quite effective.

Because you may deliver an amazing audition – you’ve nailed it (so you think) – but you’ll never get a callback or the job. Why? Because the minute you leave the room, everyone starts tearing apart your “not all there” vibe – and end up giving the role to that less than amazing but “very nice” performer. Which explains much of what we see on TV and elsewhere.

TALENT 10, PERSONALITY 4

In related news… you’ve spent the big bucks on taking classes, attending seminars, grappling with intensives and other variations of the ego-stroke and pay for play. It looks great on your resume and may even impress a few industry-ites when they see their friends names listed there.

You know your Stanislavsky from your Meisner, but ask you about subject matter outside the parameters of the acting world and you suffer an instant brain freeze.

The ability to walk into a room and have a presence and personality that commands a once-over twice, will pay off faster than any amount of training (and tricks!) you may have acquired.

Make it a priority to expand your horizon beyond what you consider critical to moving forward, career-wise. You are an entertainer, so put that in perspective and develop a life and interests outside that incestuous environment.

Learn a foreign language, take tango lessons, go on a trip to the wilds of Uganda, if that’s within your budget. Leaping off a cliff (not figuratively, of course) is good for character development, and it will make you a more interesting person, to boot. Which means, others will be more interested in you – and that could be just the ego boost you need to bring your personality up to speed. See how that works?

TOO MUCH BLACK-TING

Oh, my people! Can you deliver the words “good morning” without stretching it into six syllables? Great. Can you desist from mumbling, dropping vowels, mangling consonants, and rely less on a proclivity for colorful speech patterns? Excellent. Unless, of course, the casting person asks if you can make it “more urban”. Then you can decide whether to let ‘er rip, or retrieve your dignity and make a quick exit.

Your racial make-up should not overpower your ability to quickly and simply deliver a line or three in English, without embellishing it with an excess of flava. If you specialize in the eye rolling, lip-smacking and neck-pivots so endemic to cooning and the shuck-a-buck, those roles are available everywhere, even on Craigslist.

For the aca-tor with “serious” aspirations, please refrain from butchering the text, and show the know-nothings behind the desk that you are above all else, a human being – and a well-spoken one, at that!

YOU’RE TOO TALL – OR TOO CUTE

There is a running joke in showbiz that agents do not like clients they have to look up to – ergo the preponderance of vertically challenged thespians amongst the ranks of those who have made it.

If the leading lady is five four, no way in hell are they going to cast a male lead that is six one. Not unless said dude is a star himself, or he’s sleeping with the actress – or the director. That “discrepancy” will require someone to stand on a crate or in a hole – so there will be some crushed ego in every shot.

And it goes without saying that no (male) star wants to be in a shot where his eye line is competing with a headless pair of boobs – nice as they might be. So, tall women are out, as well.

Stars can be quite insecure, and dislike being upstaged – they don’t want great faces and hot bodies hovering in the background that will pull focus.

So, if you’re a tall drink of water who looks like mannequin material, well, good for you. You might get an on-screen gig from time to time as arm candy, or gripping a pole, perhaps as a human mattress, or playing muted security.

But playing the lead and having to lift the five footer up off the ground for the hot smooch. Probably won’t happen. Not unless you write and produce your own film.

YOU’RE TOO SKINNY

Second verse, same as above. Kinda.

Take a survey: tabulate every Black actor (that includes actresses) you see on TV, and in the movies. Calorically challenged wins by a long shot. Been that way for decades. Nothing wrong with that, technically, but it should be clear as daylight by now: your skinny ass would have a better shot at getting work if you gained a double chin, a Michelin-style stomach, and an industrial-sized posterior.

It’s a sad insult to the hours you spend at the gym, or with your personal trainer, since it seems almost like a conspiracy of sorts. But from all appearances, massive is money when it comes to casting people of color.

So, all you slender lookers may want to consider embracing your inner-flab and letting it manifest itself outwardly. Then, you can catch a breath and croak “I’m blessed” as you waddle over to the bank to deposit that fat check!

YOU’RE BEING UPSTAGED BY YOUR HAIR

Here’s a real inside tip. When you walk into an audition and your hair displays more presence (and personality!) than you do, then you are in deep doo-doo (pun intended).

The ability to purchase copious amounts of dead protein and glue/stitch/staple it to your skull takes on a different dimension when you are involved in a business where image is everything.

They (the folks who hire/fire) are observing every little thing about you. Including whatever that is on your head. And the more you toss it from side to side, the more obvious it becomes that this is a new toy, and that can distract from your fine presentation.

When your hair is way shinier than your performance at the audition, then you have a major problem. When your bangs can’t cover up your death stare, or your ponytail is high on your head, and you’re not up for the remake of “I Dream of Jeannie” – that’s not a good look.

There’s something to be said for natural beauty – if you have it. If there’s a bald spot where lush growth should be, then by all means do yourself a favor. Just don’t go all Tina Turner – unless you’re up for the role of the maid/crack-ho/ghetto bitch. Again.

BAD ROMANCE – REDUX

You’re good, you are a damn good actor. But you instantly remind someone in the decision-making process of that disastrous one-night stand, or, the ex-wife who cleaned out their bank account. Your voice sounds like the dude that gave them the clap, or their dreaded mother-in-law. Or, horror of horrors, the girl in high school that reduced their heart to roadkill.

Like so many others, they’re still reliving their bad childhood/adolescence/​adulthood. So, you’re not going to book that job.

That’s showbiz!

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14 Comments

  • Laura | March 22, 2012 4:28 PMReply

    This not only apply in front of the camera, but behind that camera also. Particularly the 95% attitude and 5% talent formula. There some cullud folks with some f'ed up attitude working in film. In a art form that's a collaborative business. Come on people. Aint no law that says people gots to work with you

  • Laura | March 24, 2012 11:30 AM

    Oh, I do mean towards each other. Some are bright eyed and bushy tailed towards other folk. And some attitude are so bad they wont make it far enough to work with other folk.

  • Nadine | March 24, 2012 10:43 AM

    "There some cullud folks with some f'ed up attitude working in film." - you. Do you mean towards each other, cause I see the "meanness" towards each other, but BIG bright eyes and a sparkling smile for... well, you can guess.

  • Ash | March 22, 2012 12:07 PMReply

    This was good. You should post articles on the biz more regularly, Neyzar.

  • Akimbo | March 22, 2012 10:31 AMReply

    Everything after "too much blacting" sounds like 101 wack ass excuses actors use to convince themselves that THEY are not the problem. "Too skinny" is a joke.

  • BONDGIRL | March 22, 2012 9:53 AMReply

    I would agree with all of it, except the weight issues. There is an increase of slim black women on tv and in film (Yaya on House, Kerry on Scandal, Nicole on The Good Wife, Gugu on Touch, Aunjanue on Missing, etc, etc). You also could add being off-book (yes, even if you've been award nominated)

  • Nadine | March 24, 2012 11:39 AM

    Yes, 2012 has been noticeably better.

  • yagtap | March 22, 2012 9:33 AMReply

    Bravo. You hit it out of the ballpark. This was so "ON POINT"!!! Excellent advice too.

  • Tamara | March 22, 2012 9:11 AMReply

    Hilarity. Thank you for this morning laugh.

  • Geneva Girl | March 22, 2012 7:12 AMReply

    I'm curious if a couple of these, e.g., Black-ting and Attitude, are behind the increase of black British actors being cast as African-Americans.

    Some of these same suggestions are applicable to the business world as well.

  • Nadine | March 22, 2012 9:15 AM

    You are 10000000% correct.

  • julius hollingsworth | March 22, 2012 2:47 AMReply

    (lol)(lol) is there a share button somewhere for this.

  • Alish | March 21, 2012 11:06 PMReply

    Great advice for anyone trying to step up their game in job hunting in general (and quite amusing!)

  • Lala | March 21, 2012 10:56 PMReply

    ROTFL! *dead* @ aca-tor! Hahaha!

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