the day to day of a professional actor in the San Francisco Bay Area

mostly the day to day of a professional actor in the San Francisco Bay Area, but also the home of the Counting Actors Project

Sunday, August 7, 2011

How to write a casting notice

I've been reading some notices lately that are really awful!  Leaving out important information (like character gender and age), or weirdly rambling or full of errors.  So here's a quick crib sheet that I hope will get into the hands of the people who need it.

What to include:
1) the dates of the project - when you're shooting or when you're rehearsing and when the performances are.  You might not know all of this yet.  That's okay.  Be as specific as you can.  If there are dates/times that the actors absolutely must be available or you can't hire them, this should be in there.
2) where the project will take place - this can be a city if you're shooting multiple locations, and should include both rehearsal location and performance location for a play.  Again, if you don't have all the details hammered out, as specific as you can be would be great!  If your location has quirks (outdoors, somewhat off the beaten path) or perks (close to public transportation) that would be great to mention too.
3) what you're looking for - for each character, the gender, age or age range, ethnicity.  If these are open, it's fine to put 'any ethnicity' 'any age' etc. It's great to also let us know the size of the role for a film or unpublished play - lead, supporting, featured, extra.  If there's a special skill required of this role - dialect or foreign language, singing, dancing, stunts, playing a musical instrument, list that too.  If the character takes their clothes off, smokes, or uses excessively vulgar or offensive language, it'd be nice to know that too.  And a short description of the character beyond this would be great too - their relationship to the other characters, their occupation, a short descriptive phrase.  If the role or character is similar to a celebrity or famous character, that might be a helpful way to describe them too.
4) details about the audition - when and where will it be, what you want the actors to prepare for the audition.  If you want to just collect headshots/resumes/links to reels now, and then screen that and choose who to invite to auditions later, that's fine too, but let us know that's what you're doing.
5) who you are and why you're doing this - a URL with more info about you, your production company or your IMDB credits or your theater company will provide some legitimacy for what you're doing, and it would be great to have this in your audition notice.  Where do you want to take this project once it's completed?  Are you submitting to festivals?  Do you have the backing of a cool grant to fund the project?  Let us know these things too.
6) what you're offering to those who are cast - is this project credit/copy/meals, or is there financial compensation as well?  If so, how much is it?  The word 'stipend' doesn't convey much info - I've booked jobs that paid stipends of $50 and of $1000, and everything in between.  If you're still working out how much you'll be able to pay people, give us a range. 

What not to include:
1) grammatical and spelling errors - if you don't take the time to proofread your audition notice, what does your script look like?  How much of an eye for detail will you have when on set?  Some personal peeves: the phrase 'female actress' and the word 'casted' (as in 'this role is already casted').
2) crew/backstage/designer/tech/project volunteer positions - put these in a separate notice.  If the actor is also a lighting designer or wants to do DP work or volunteer to usher for you, they'll look for those notices too.
3) rambles/diatribes/manifestos about your art - save this for your website.  And on your website, make sure it's clear, concise and professional rather than something that makes you seem unhinged and dictatorial. I'd love to know a little about your influences and passions, but not when I'm trying to determine if you're looking for someone of my type.

Did I leave anything out?  What else is essential (or inessential) in an audition notice?

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