Alison Solomon is a freelance casting director and recently gave a talk at our regional Open House in Birmingham. We caught up with her after the session to ask a few of your questions from Twitter.
I create costumes, masks, and SFX make-up. How or where can I get into this and be recognised for my talent?
You can get into this in theatre, fashion, television, photographic and film. It sounds like you’re interested in both costume design and wigs, and make-up. Most people working in these fields are usually freelance, but they may have learned their skills in-house in a theatre or on an apprenticeship. Have a look at the website for the National Association of Screen Make-up Artists and Hairdressers, where you can find short courses, get advice, find a make-up artist and join the UK association. Also consider looking into apprenticeships with theatre, TV, film, photographic or fashion organisations. For costume design, you can look at the website for The British Society of British Theatre Designers and, also Creative Skillset. Finally, make a note of your favourite designers and make-up artists and strive to be as good as they are.
How does one become a casting director?
I became one by accident, so there is neither a correct route into the profession, nor a BA, MA or short course you can read. Most casting directors come from a background in acting, stage management, or as an agent. However, I came from a background in law, dance, teaching and radio!
There are now very few theatre organisations with dedicated casting departments, so it’s quite difficult to ‘get-in’ unless you can get a job assisting or an internship with an organisation.
Most casting directors are freelance, so it may be useful keeping an eye on the CDG website and an ear to the ground so you can respond if a casting director needs an assistant.
Remember that casting directors can work across many disciplines: theatre, film (shorts, art and feature films), television, commercials, musical theatre, voice and so on. Work out which discipline you would like to specialise in, and get the experience to work your way up to becoming a casting director.
I’m out of work and don’t know where to begin. Should I send you an email with my Spotlight profile?
Sit down. Take a deep breath in, and write a list of what you want the casting director to know about you, as well as your desired end result, before blanket bombing all casting directors with the same email. Once you’ve tailored your email and profile to suit and you’re happy with it – press send!
What makes a headshot stand out for you?
I like headshots where I can clearly see someone’s face, features and personality. I like to see just the head and shoulders, and to see the full face, face-on with as much symmetry between background and visage as possible. In my opinion symmetry makes for a pleasing composition. If there’s more foliage in the headshot than your face you need to rethink the whole composition.
Do you view showreels?
Yes I do view showreels but I prefer to see an actor in something, whether that is in a theatre, film or television role. I have been viewing a number of showreels recently as I am currently casting for a couple of films.
Do you ever invite actors without agents in for auditions?
Absolutely! I know a number of actors who presently do not have representation or are between agents. If an actor is right for the role, but they do not have representation, I would be a fool not to add them to my ideas list and push for the director to consider/see them. Hopefully, if they secure the role, they will ultimately get good representation.
Should actors add a comment when self-submitting via Spotlight?
I would ask actors not to comment when self-submitting via Spotlight. If they wish to comment they should send a separate email or letter.
Are there any major dos and don’ts you’d recommend to actors coming in to audition?
Do read the script thoroughly more than once.
Do get to the audition venue before your time slot.
Do call ahead if you are going to be late or can no longer make it.
Do ask questions or provide the casting director with relevant information before the audition regarding the sides, accents, dyslexia or access issues.
Do believe in yourself and your talent.
Don’t learn the sides unless you have been told to and you can deliver it word perfect.
Don’t leave your script and information at home and expect the team to provide you with the script and sides.
Don’t be too laidback or overwhelming.
Don’t be nervous.
Don’t forget to update your Spotlight profile.