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8 Ways for Kids to Stand Out at a Commercial Audition

by Mary Wheeler | Posted Sept. 10, 2012, 4:47 p.m   

Lana Veenker, CSA, ICDN, founder and president of Cast Iron Studios, shares these eight tips on how kids can standout at commercial auditions. Veenker and Cast Iron Studios have been casting commercials for 14 years including everything from small regional spots and PSAs to international campaigns for clients like Nike, Intel, Nintendo, Apple, Colgate, BMW, Ford, and Chrysler.

1. Look like your headshot.

It doesn't make sense to spend a fortune on kids' headshots, since they'll need to be updated frequently. However, it's crucial that they reflect how the child currently looks. If your child is 9, but his/her photo shows them at 7, they'll get passed over when we're looking for nine-year-olds. They'll also get called in mistakenly when we're looking for seven-year-olds, which is a waste of everyone's time. (A headshot photographer once told me, "If you're getting called in for the wrong jobs, you're not getting called in for the right ones.")

If the headshot is outdated, include a recent snapshot along with the headshot, so that casting directors have a clear understanding of what the child looks like now. Also be sure to include his or her date of birth and current height/weight information on the resume.

2. Dress appropriately for your age and the role.

When we're casting kids, we want kids who look like kids. Girls should not show up caked in make-up, teetering in heels or wearing inappropriately provocative clothing. Little boys don't need to be squeezed into their Sunday best with itchy collars and their hair slicked down unnaturally. How would they normally look on a school day? Certainly take the role into consideration - tomboy or ballerina, bully or bookworm? - but when in doubt, school attire is usually fine.

3. Be prepared to take an adjustment.

We want to make sure child actors can change their delivery in the room. This reassures us that they can take direction, if the director wants to try something different. But child actors (and their too-eager-to-help parents) often make the mistake of drilling lines so many times in the exact same way while rehearsing, that they're incapable of changing when requested. No matter how many adjustments the casting director gives them during the audition, they repeat their lines identically, all the way down to their hand gestures.



3 Pillars of the Agent/Child Actor Relationship

By Pamela Goldman | Posted Oct. 11, 2012

                   So you've obtained that first meeting with an agent and have been offered representation. Although that sounds exciting, often clients forget that this is a business. Both the actor and agent have high hopes for a long, productive and lucrative affiliation.

From a business perspective, it's important for parents to remember it’s not just about how many good auditions we bring your child. Your child has responsibilities as our client to fulfill their end of the contract, and we expect you as the parent, to work together with us to make the most of our relationship. Here are some important things to keep in mind to keep things productive.

1. Show a passion for the work.
You need to show us your son/daughter really wants to do this. When it comes to deciding between joining a sports team which takes them out of commission for four months or going to sleep away camp from Memorial Day to Labor Day, I want to see that my client makes acting and auditioning their number one priority. There are many children who would want to take their place on a top agent's client list. If it isn't fun anymore or other activities are taking preference, it might be time to reconsider being a professional actor. The parent’s commitment level needs to be high, as well. Taking your child to auditions in the city on a weekly (or even daily) basis can be a full-time job. More...



  • Work Permit – if under 18 or not graduated/GED/Equivalency – must have this to work in CA or a Film/TV show that is Produced out of CA
  • Coogan Account – under 18 yr old – required
  • Computer in working order at all times. You will get sides for both theatrical auditions as well as commercials. You need to print them out and take them with you. Also, keep a copy of every audition.
  • Always have a notebook with pen close by so when I call or agent calls you can write down information without anyone having to wait.
  • Notebook to keep track of expenses – keep a notebook with receipts
  • Cell Phone Charged at all times and easy to reach – have emails sent to your phone
  • Printer – always print your sides, breakdowns, directions, Audition form and keep in a binder
  • Birth Certificate – need for I-9 forms – have copy
  • Thomas Brothers Guide and/or GPS- often a GPS doesn’t work. Mapquest location the night before NEVER use your cell phone. The chances will be you’ll get lost More...

Casting Director - Bernard Telsey Shares....

Casting Director Bernard Telsey on TV, Auditions, and his First Emmy Nod

One of the most distinguished and respected casting directors of film and stage, Bernard Telsey, recently added television casting to his repertoire. The result was three heralded shows in one season—“Smash,” “A Gifted Man,” and “The Big C”—and his first Emmy nomination, for the latter.

The man who turned a bunch of unknowns into Broadway stars with “Rent” and cast such ensemble films as “Margin Call” and “Rachel Getting Married” had dabbled in TV before, but it was when star Laura Linney and showrunner Jenny Bicks asked if he would be interested in casting the second season of Showtime's “The Big C” that started the ball rolling. “I’d definitely wanted to do television,” Telsey says. “I’m a big fan of watching television and I loved the idea of a New York series because I know this community of actors and loved the idea of getting them more television work. I loved the material of ‘The Big C’ and it opened a new window for us. Because we started doing television, we became available for more television. I don’t know if that was coincidence, or if it was that people saw we were open to the medium. Either way, I’m thrilled.


What does an actor auditioning for television need to know?Bernard Telsey: For television auditions, you really need to know the material so that you can act with the reader and interact with the camera. So much of television work is listening. It’s different from a theater audition, where you can look down at your sides. On camera, if you look down, you’ve dropped out of the scene. The camera captures everything and people watching want to see you reacting and listening, and you can only do that if you know the lines so you’re not having to look at your sides. You really want to have it memorized and have it in your body so you can really be free to act to the camera. Also, you should make colorful choices, so that people watching the tape really get to see the ups and downs and colors. So make a lot of choices, even if it’s a short scene.

With TV, actors should have an advantage because they can familiarize themselves with the show thanks to Hulu and YouTube.
Telsey: Exactly. And you really need to because some of these small scenes are misleading; they look easy and they’re not. They really do refer to things that have to do with the main series regulars. And the more you can know about the show, the more informed you are to make a choice about a reaction or a line.

What was the most difficult role to cast last season?Telsey: The part that Hugh Dancy played was, I think, really tricky and complicated. It was probably the biggest recurring arc on that season and it was all with Laura. When the character was first described it was so many things: “sexy, best friend, maybe sexual chemistry, gay but straight, is going to go through a death.” So there was a big bio. Basically, it was a leading man with star presence who would be available for five episodes. It was a big challenge, and Hugh was someone I know really well. He had just done a play, “The Pride,” that I’d produced at my theater company, MCC. I had a feeling and instinct he’d be great, but there are a lot of things you have to do after that instinct. He ended up coming in and meeting with Jenny and getting cast, and was utterly brilliant. 

Was there anyone who was new to you that ended up being cast?Telsey: Boyd Holbrook, who played the young Russian lover to Gabourey Sidibe’s character. I didn’t know Boyd. He was submitted, and like any young kid we didn’t know in L.A., we asked him to self-tape. My associate, Abbie Brady-Dalton, saw it and said, “You have to see this guy.” This is another thing I say to an actor: If you’re given the opportunity to make a tape, make it. The actor often thinks no one sees it, but it’s not true.

Is there a particular actor you like to bring in a lot that might not be a household name?Telsey: Annaleigh Ashford is a young actress who’s like my favorite actress of all time. We’ve cast her in lead roles in New York in “Rent” and “Kinky Boots,” which is rehearsing now. She was in “Wicked” and “Legally Blonde” as well. I’m crazy about her. The minute we started doing all this television I was like, “We have to bring Annaleigh in.” And we’ve booked her in all four of our TV shows and all seven of our movies. She played a dominatrix in “The Big C,” then went on play the bad actress in the pilot of “Smash.” And she’ll be coming back for another episode. We just did a Showtime pilot, “Masters of Sex,” and she has a real part opposite Michael Sheen. We’ve watched her grow from bigger part to bigger part. She’s someone we can’t wait to bring in.

Casting Director Carol Goldwasser shares...

3 Things to Know About Casting for Disney Channel

By Daniel Lehman | Posted Sept. 21, 2012, 3:05 p.m.

Carol Goldwasser, Casting Director,

Carol Goldwasser casts comedies for kids, starring kids. Her recent credits include the Disney Channel original series “Austin & Ally,” “Hannah Montana,” and the upcoming “Dog With a Blog.” “It’s fun to be able to create new programming for this young generation,” she says.

1. At Disney, you don’t deal with a typical pilot season, correct?

Disney tends to do pilots in summer—not necessarily just January through April. They’re always developing new programming. Their series tend to mature quickly, because their series regulars mature quickly, so you have to replace it with another hit show.

2. Is casting a show aimed at kids different from casting for adults?

You’re locked into a certain age range that the network believes is its sweet spot. So I can’t cast someone who’s 16, because in three years when the show is maturing, they’re going to be playing college age. Disney is very specific about wanting their audience to be able to relate to the age of the characters onscreen.

3. What’s your audition advice for kids?

Have the flexibility to take a note and not be so locked in to your preparation that you can’t move off that mark. With kids and teens there’s a sensitivity, because when you give a note, sometimes all a young person can hear is ‘Oh, she didn’t like what I did. She doesn’t like me.’


7 Reasons to Stop Blaming Your Agent and Book Work Now


7 Reasons to Stop Blaming Your Agent and Book Work Now
Constance Tillotson | Posted Oct. 4, 2012,      Sterling Studio
Last week, I wrote about how to have more confidence at auditions. However, let's get back to actually booking those auditions in the first place. There is rarely a gathering of two or more actors when the sentence is heard “I’m not getting out on anything. My Agent/Manager is horrible.”
When you sign with an agent, it is imperative you understand YOUR responsibility in the relationship. Even the top representation cannot get you seen if you are not providing the proper marketing materials. This falls solely on your shoulders. If you are not getting seen, a great team should be asking you for changes. That is how you know they are doing THEIR job. Listen to them!  How often have they told you your headshots aren’t working? This means your headshots are NOT working and they are submitting you. They get frustrated if they keep having to tell you to get better headshots and begin to feel you aren’t really in to this career so why should they put the effort in to it.
1. GREAT headshots. It is vital for the actor to understand the trends in casting. The type of pictures they were responding to last year may be obsolete today. Yes, pictures can get expensive, but this investment has to be your priority. And you need a variety of them on your casting sights. Right now, REAL is in. Shots that really show the emotion of the actor as if it is a still out of a movie are the ones that will get you in the door to casting. You must have a nice selection of shots that show your versatility as an actor. It is no longer in vogue for the actor to just be “dressed” as a doctor. We must see and feel the command of a doctor. If your current headshots are not getting hits, it’s not that your agent is not working; your shots are not working! Change them, or you are losing out on opportunities.
2. Clips of your work. The good news is that we are getting away from expensive reels. Casting does not have the time to look at them. They want to see short clips of your work that corresponds to the character in their project. Get up as many great clips as you can so your representation has a variety to choose from.
3. Keep your multi-media current. The SECOND you book a job, update your profile and other marketing sites. Keep a close watch on your IMDb that production posts credit. If project is up on IMDb then post the credit yourself!  You don’t need IMDB until you have something to put up there.
4. Your IMDB must be current! Upload new headshots, shots you take from set, red carpet events, and film festivals. Have a great bio up and make sure your agent/manager contact info posted.
Once your marketing materials begin to pop, then you must put your focus on the artistic part of the process.
1. If you are not getting callbacks, you MUST look at how to take different actions when preparing for auditions. You must accept that your current way is not working. If you keep making the same choices, it will lead to the same end result and keep you at the same level. Begin to make different choices that will take you out of your artistic comfort zone. That’s when the fun really begins!!!
2. Begin preparing immediately. Your audition begins the moment you receive your sides. Do your research on the production team. This is a very small town; you may know the producer, director, writer etc. There maybe someone you can also reach out on your own before or after the audition. It will also give you insight at the type of actors they have worked with and gravitate to.
3. When you are at an audition, or on set, remember you are there REPRESENTING YOUR TEAM. For this reason alone, you should always have the intention to bring your very best. Careers are built on referrals. Regardless of the level of success of an actor, if you are always bringing forth more that will raise your level, people WILL notice and remember you for other projects.
I inspire all my actors to work with the intention to make everyone else’s job easier: agents, managers, casting directors, producers, directors, writers to everyone else down the line.  When the integrity of your work is based on respect for those around you this energy blasts through any personal fears you have that may be holding you back you no longer are placing focus on them.
We remain at our same level because of OUR OWN CHOICES. It has nothing to do  with external. Once we garner the courage to stop assigning blame on anyone, we take ownership of our own process and begin on a Higher Road that welcomes and encourages different, exciting and life-evolving actions.
Constance Tillotson is CEO of Sterling Studio. Her studio had over 200 bookings last year.  Actors in her studio are renown for their extraordinary work in major feature films and television. Her booking actors range from 5-years-old on up. She is also a top pick for private theatrical coaching and preproduction preparation. She is an actor, writer, director, and producer. She also works globally with children building self-esteem through filmmaking. She is a talent manager at LA Management where she helms the careers of a select group of successful clientele.