In a previous article I wrote about the first three steps to a beginning acting career: 1. get headshots, 2. take acting classes and 3. submit for roles. Let’s talk about finding out about castings and submitting for roles.
For mainstream Hollywood movies and television, an actor without representation can’t submit for a role. Submissions must from a bona fide talent agency. Only working actors have representation. Catch-22: You can’t get work without an agent. You can’t get an agent without having worked. Talent agencies subscribed to Breakdown Services which sends out breakdowns of all the movies and television shows planned for production. Breakdown means that someone went through the script and listed all the characters. I am going to assume that you are just starting out and don’t have an agent. So you will be submitting for low-budget and no-budget independents and student films.
The old school way was pre-internet. Since I am old school (very old school) I am more familiar with this method. Everything was done using pony express and the telegraph, er…, I mean U.S. Mail and by telephone.
The first step was to pick up a copy of Backstage West in Los Angeles or Dramalogue in New York from a newstand. Backstage. West came out every Thursday. (Sometime in the 1990s Backstage West and Dramalogue merged.) Having a subscription sometimes helped, but often your copy arrived with Friday’s mail, depending on your local Post Office.
Scan the casting notices. Each listing showed the name of the Production and all the parts that they were casting for with a type description: Britney: female, 14 to 18, blonde, athletic, &c.
If you thought you fit a role, use a highlighter to circle it. Then you would prepare a package to send to the production company. The package included your 8×10 headshot stapled back-to-back to your acting resume, plus a cover letter all packed into a 11×14 manila envelope. You sent your submittal package to the address of the production office, which for no-budget independents was usually someone’s house or apartment in the LA area like Hollywood or Pasadena. Sometimes actors would try to hand-deliver their submittal to the address which often annoyed producers who might be eating breakfast.
Submitting for roles could get very expensive. The envelope, headshot and postage could easily cost maybe two or three bucks. You might have to send out 10, 20 or 50 or even 100 submittals to get one audition call. Many actors would submit 25 or more headshots each week.
Like everything, the internet changed all the rules. The new school method is to submit everything over the internet. This probably started slow around 2002 and is probably the dominant method today. I am not the best guy to describe this because I have been out of the loop for a while.
Nowadays, instead of sending out printed headshots, you submit a color jpeg headshot. The most important thing is size. Not too big. Producers don’t like getting dozens or hundreds of multi-megabyte files filling up their inbox. So reduce the size. Still it should be big enough for the production office to be able to print out. Maybe 800×1000 and filesize less than 200K.
Where to Submit Online
There are dozens of online casting sites–some are free and some cost money. You have to register at each website. Exactly how to submit to each is a little different. Go there and read the instructions. Here are a few online casting websites for Los Angeles:
Backstage West Jobseekers
Online version of Backstage West
Free version of Breakdown Services, Ltd.
CastingNetworks, Los Angeles
Nationwide casting for actors and agents