Outside of the New York Film Academy, Acting Instructor, Chris Devane is a giant in the casting industry. Devane detailed his experience with large casting calls, which can include seeing over 400 people in a single day, to an hour-long casting rehearsal with a single actress. With clients like Wal-Mart and major production studios, Devane knows everything there is to know about the casting process. Most importantly, he has been able to pass that information on to acting students. Here are the top 5 lessons we took from Devane’s Casting Class.
- There Are a Lot of Actors Actively Seeking Work
Devane began the class with a simple question, “How many union actors are working in the United States of America?” After letting students take a guess, Devane revealed the staggering number.
There are 160,000 actors in the union and untold scores of hopeful eyed youngsters trying to enter the industry every day. Perhaps more troubling is the fact that the average income for those 160,000 union actors is $7,000. This includes big stars like Chris Pine and Zoe Saldana who make millions of dollars per movie.
Devane brought up these numbers to make a point. Those that want to act had better be prepared to work for free or very little. They will need to love their craft beacuse acting is not always kind to actors.
“The only person who can help your career is you,” Devane told his students. “Getting success is easy. Keeping it is a challenge.” Many actors come to LA from smaller cities where they have had some success. It means nothing when they get to Hollywood. “There are no failed actors. Just people who quit.”
- You Have to Really, Really Love Acting
“There’s more competition in acting than any other field in the world,” Devane said. While working for free or very little upfront may be necessary, eventually, payment will be required. “Who’s paying your rent or putting gas in your car if you work for free? This is show business,” Devane warned. Deciding how much one’s work is worth can be challenging.
This is all part of the gig. Actors typically work twelve to eighteen hour days, six days a week. This is an exhausting and demanding schedule. All the while, actors are being judged. They’re judged for their looks, they are judged for their talent, and they are even judged for their behavior. This scrutiny tends to get the better of most people.
Self-promotion is of the utmost importance. There are more opportunities to be seen with YouTube and other social media platforms but there’s also a bigger opportunity to fail. A good casting director will not place an actor in a role for which they are not prepared. But the advent of casting based on followers has a lot of young talent scrambling to put out any work they have in hopes of gaining a following.
Devane suggests putting only polished work out for consumption. Start developing a style and a voice now. Don’t rely on followers. They do not denote talent. Do solid work, help others in developing their work, and promote the finished projects.
- Casting Has Nothing to Do with Talent
When Devane revealed this information there was tangible hitch within the audience. Talent, fairy tales would have you believe, is the most important aspect in getting started in the entertainment industry. How else can someone with little experience get his or her start?
Devane says the most important thing an actor should be able to do is be themselves on camera. It is the job of a casting agent to find the best person for the role and not the best actor in the world. So, if an actor is relaxed and natural on camera than they can be cast in something.
Most people who have difficulty getting cast believe it’s something they have done wrong. According to Devane most of these people are missing a personality. Many balked at this statement because it can be rather difficult information to process. Some take it as an insult. But nothing could be further from the truth.
The first step to fixing a problem is admitting there is a problem. Devane suggests actively listening to get more parts. Listen to the partner in the scene. Don’t just wait for the next line. Also, listen to the casting director. If one is asked to try the line a different way, you should really think about how that note changes the reading. Being able to take direction makes any actor more desirable.
- Reputation Travels Faster than any Human
Reputations cannot be bought or erased. They are earned through the most precious non-renewable source, time. With this in mind, Devane advised students to guard and protect their reputations with everything they have.
“The person who gets cast is the one who can work with the director.” Being a diva on set or overstepping boundaries will have an actor on the outs faster than they can sign a contract. Once a job is booked, it’s important to know on-set rules so as not to become a liability. “If you hear ‘points’ on set you need to know what that means and act accordingly,” Devane told students.
Don’t turn down work. “Look, sometimes being picky can be beneficial, but when someone brings you a job turning it down can look ungrateful at best and disrespectful at worst.” When auditioning for a role make sure the shoot days do not conflict with any other projects or personal appointments. If there’s a potential for conflict mention it at the start of the audition.
Be on time. Every minute of production can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. Crew call is often much earlier and much later than an actor’s call time. There is zero excuse for holding up a production and everyone will remember who caused that hold up.
- There is No Way to Tell Why You Did Not Get Cast
Devane let students in on a secret that most professional working actors do not know. He told them that not only does talent not matter but there are a million little reasons behind why an individual does get cast. “Get rid of the feeling of I could have done better.”
Sometimes one individual will pair better with an actor that has already been cast. Other times a director might have a working relationship with an actor. Sometimes a client will change their mind and want a different look than they originally set out to cast. It could be that there was just a better actor in the room that day.
It is important to remember that, “You’re going to be frustrated throughout your entire career. Be positive and confident in your ability, skills, and knowledge. It’s the only thing to separate you from the 180 other people auditioning for the role.”
It’s heartbreaking to get rejection after rejection but again, acting is not for the faint of heart. It requires great passion and equally as much patience and keep in mind that somewhere out there is the perfect role.
Devane left students with this thought, “The harder you work, the more fortune you’ll have.” Do not wait to be chosen. Be your own biggest advocate.