Danielle Tarento is a freelance producer and casting director whose work includes musicals such as Dogfight, Titanic, Mack And Mabel, and Parade. Here, she shares with Spotlight her tips for creating a great Spotlight profile.
Every actor knows that if they aren’t on Spotlight then they might as well not be in the business. It is the best artist directory in the world… and I’m not just saying that because I’m writing this blog for them! Whist it’s career suicide not to have a Spotlight page, just having one isn’t enough either. You must make the most of all the information fields that your page allows so that casting directors have the best possible chance of finding you.
In this blog, I’m going to talk you through the page and let you know the most important things to do (or not do) to make your page stand out in a very crowded crowd.
- Spotlight gives you the option to have more than one picture but be selective about how many you choose – no need for the entire contact sheet. Remember, most of the time we have to print these so that’s a lot of wasted ink!
- This sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised. Make sure your headshot looks like you. The first cut we’ll make is whether you look right so if your headshot isn’t a true representation of you, you may well lose an audition.
- As a general rule, having lots of these types of pictures just shows that you’re not lying on your credit list and that you can wear a costume. It doesn’t tell us very much! So, unless there’s a really good reason to include them, I’d not go overboard here. Again, see the printing note above.
- It seems silly but this is really important. If you’re based in Aberdeen we need to know that, as it may affect our expenses budget so at least we can flag it up with your agent when calling you in rather than going through four recalls only to find that you can’t afford the travel and turn the job down!
Playing age vs. actual age
- It doesn’t matter how old you are – it’s how old we believe you are. Nowadays I see more and more people putting their actual age and, speaking for myself, as long as you’ve taken note of point one above, it’s never made me not call someone in that I would have. So I’d say that’s entirely your call.
- Be realistic about your age range. Unless you have some sort of magical powers to morph your face, you’re unlikely to be able to play 16-50. Don’t laugh, I’ve seen that before!
- Casting directors often search by appearance. List as many as you could believably be cast as. Please note the word ‘believably’!
- Tell the truth. You can’t be all things to all men, so just be proud of what you are.
- Only include these if they’re good. Of course they’re incredibly useful but you singing a cappella in your bedroom is of no value to anyone. I can only speak for myself when I say that, as someone who only works in theatre, I don’t ever look at/listen to reels as I want to see/hear you live in the room.
- For more tips on what makes a great showreel, take a look at this video.
- Break your credits down into categories. It makes it so much easier for us to be specific about what we’re looking for.
- There’s the facility to add a sentence or two (in the ‘About me’ section) about what you’re currently doing or have most recently done. If you do include dates please make sure you set yourself a reminder to go back and edit them. It’s no use saying you’re appearing in a show on a certain date if it’s 3 months old! Don’t use this to repeat anything that you’ve got in your credit list, although if you’re in a long running show it might be useful to say when you’re leaving so we know when you’ll next be available. If you’re going to put review quotes here, keep them brief! And keep them current. I’m sorry to say that nobody cares that the local paper thought you were a marvellous Annie when you were 8 years old!
- List in chronological order with the most recent first.
- Include the year. If you don’t it makes us suspicious that you’re trying to hide a long period of unemployment.
- Include relevant drama school credits if you’re newly graduated. Even though the role might not be your ideal casting, it may remind us of something about you. You can remove these credits as your CV builds…or when you’re 45!
- Include as much info as you can – the character, show name, theatre and director. We might want to know which version of something you were in or need to call someone for a reference so it’s all useful. But please spell everyone’s name right. It’s a little thing but it could lose you a job!
- Keep your page up to date. If there are no credits listed for three years, I’ll assume you haven’t worked for three years, not that you just haven’t bothered to add your recent fabulous credits. Unless you’re Judi Dench, then you don’t have to. I know you’re good…!
- Don’t lie. You’ll get found out! I once auditioned a girl who said on her profile that she had been in a show that had been produced by a friend of mine. I hadn’t seen the show and the actress was new to me so I called my friend to ask how she was. He was very confused, seeing as it was an all male cast. And that was the end of her!
- Be concise. Whilst you should give us as much information about yourself as you can, be sensible as to how long your profile is (see printing above). I don’t need to read about 17 commercials and 45 corporate jobs going back 12 years.
Accents, dialects and languages
- Only put down ones you can do, in case you are called on it. Pakistani and Welsh don’t actually sound the same in reality…
- Call out your native accent. Unless you were born in four places, and then you’ve got some explaining to do!
- Being able to order a beer in five languages does not constitute being multi-lingual so, again, only list languages you could genuinely read a script in and make some sense of.
Music, dance, performance, sports and other skills
- These sections are so important. You must list everything you can do. You never know, I may enter a search for a ‘trumpet playing mezzo soprano’ and if you haven’t listed them as your skills I’ll never find you.
- Also please, please call out all the things you are highly skilled at. Don’t be embarrassed! If you’re brilliant at something – tell us. Often I will search only for those who are highly skilled at whatever I’m looking for.
- Having said that, please tell the truth. Being a highly skilled soprano, mezzo, alto, and bass all at once is highly unlikely, right?
- Pretty much everything that has been invented in the world as a skill is listed in that section so if you can do it, tell us! You have no idea what sort of obscure nonsense we’ll be looking for. Being able to juggle fire whilst scuba diving will never go against you and you never know, it might be exactly what I need!
- Having said that (again), don’t say you can drive or are highly skilled at shark wrestling if you aren’t. It would be mighty embarrassing if you couldn’t, and possibly very expensive if the production only finds out once they’ve flown you to the Seychelles!
- Tell us where you trained and when you graduated. Most of us have been to your showcases and, whilst we may not immediately remember your name, this might help to jog our memory. Also the simple truth is that, as a huge generalisation, good training creates good graduates so it’s an important piece of information for us to be reminded of.