How to Get More Callbacks

December 16, 2012

Ok, we all agree callbacks are the name of the game, right? Right. If you don’t get called back, you can’t get the gig, right? Right. Well then, if I have a sure-fire way to procure more callbacks, would that be something you’d be interested in hearing? Right-right. Sessions Directors, better known as Camera Operators, have a unique perspective into the casting process: Every day, they witness actors making the same mistakes, and doing the same things properly. I recently spoke with a Session Director of twenty years who is still fascinated by the casting process and still loves his job. He asked to remain anonymous, as his profession requires neutrality and objectivity. I asked the mystery man–let’s call him Hugo–a very simple question to which he gave a very simple answer. I asked how an actor would get called back more frequently. “Simple,” he said, “It’s a simple matter of numbers.”

He continued, “If you just show up on time, memorize your lines, and listen to direction, you’re in the top twenty percent immediately.” I was incredulous; like a late-night infomercial it sounded too good to be true. He went on, “You’d be amazed at how many actors miss at least one of those steps.” This struck me instantly as a clarion call to actors everywhere: Keep It Simple & Remember the Basics. Hugo was soon on a roll, so I let him throttle his argument. “Let me give you an example of something that happens every day: I’ll bring twenty actors in for a group explanation; go over blocking, give direction, and generally let them know what the Director is looking for.” I was wondering how something so simple could get snafued. “And when they come in individually for the audition, how many do you think have a command of the dialogue, nail simple blocking, and listened to my direction? That’s right, twenty percent.” Right-right.

Hugo had a busy afternoon, so I let him get back to his session. But like a modern-day Columbo I had to ask just one more question. “So how does one get in the top ten percent, Hugo?” “You gotta be able to act,” he said.