Five Tips to Get Cast

In my job, I’ve found myself running more than a few auditions. I’ve come up with some tips that might help you land roles in small, independent media projects:

(1) Show up on time, show up prepared. It may seem obvious, but it makes a difference. It doesn’t matter if your last show was written up in the NY Times or if you’re on a first name basis with Marty Scorsese – the person you are meeting today has no idea who you are or why they should hire you. Showing up on time shows respect to your potential employer. If you can, ask your questions about the role before you get on site, so you can spend your audition time, you know, auditioning.

(2) Don’t worry about memorization. It is much more important that you have a good understanding of the character and the tone of the piece than whether you have memorized the side. Memorization is nice, but you look a lot dumber standing there going “uuuuuuh” or restarting the monologue than glancing down at a piece of paper for a split second.

Knightsbridge Headshots Image from dalydose’s photostream(3) Get a good headshot/resume. Even if you have little to no experience – especially if you have little to no experience – a good resume and pro headshot will impress how serious you are about being a professional actor. Don’t know what an acting resume looks like? Tisch does!

(4) Don’t question the director’s choices unless you think there’s a good reason to go there. If the director says “This character has an American accent” – don’t launch into your best cockney English, even if you think it sounds better. Again, obvious, but true. In industrial films and non-broadcast work, choices are not always made on their artistic merit, but because a client needs the product to come out a certain way. Try to be flexible.

(5) Don’t bring props or costumes. The director needs to map their own image of the character onto you. Wear neutral clothing to the audition – and by that I don’t necessarily mean color. If your character is a sharp 1920’s gangster, don’t go out and find a zoot suit and a fedora. You can wear a blazer you have in your own closet. The director will understand that you get the general sketch of the role, but it won’t look like you are second-guessing the director’s vision. I know you’ve all heard the stories of Hollywood celebrities blowing the director away by coming into the audition with a totally new look – but for every one of those there are probably a hundred people who showed up to play Harry Potter with a fake lightning scar on their foreheads. Don’t let that be you.

Finally, a bonus tip: Audition, audition, audition. Just cause you’re dead wrong for one role, it doesn’t mean you won’t get called back for something else.

Take note: Casting agencies work very differently than independent producers holding auditions in their offices, so check their policies before you show up!

Twitter Shapes Advertising

Forbes has an article, Twitter Moms Sink Motrin Ad, covering the recent events in which general outrage among mothers on Twitter caused Johnson & Johnson to pull its advertising campaign about using Motrin to treat pains from carrying babies.

Twitter Bird Image from Twitter.comWould the backlash have gained such momentum so quickly without Twitter? The speed with which news and opinions travel is astonishing to marketers who are unfamiliar with the micro-blogging space. What are people saying about your brand on twitter? Try out and subscribe to an RSS feed that updates whenever a new tweet matches your search query.

Keeping tabs on your brand on twitter and responding, especially when people have a complaint, is a great, inexpensive way to interact directly with your audience and manage their perception of you.

Xu Bing: The Future of Art and New Media

Last night I caught Xu Bing’s talk at Lesley University/The future site of the Art Institute of Boston.

Xu Bing is a Chinese artist, probably best known in the states for his unusual use of imagined calligraphy – either characters that have no meaning, or English letters morphed into psuedo-Chinese script.

Butterfly Dreams at Contemporary Museum Image from aur2899’s PhotostreamLast night, among other things, he showed a few images from his Book from the Ground project. The Book from the Ground is an attempt to use iconography to tell stories. You can read excerpts online. He talked a little about the goal of creating a book that everyone involved in modern life can read – inspired by the airport signage he saw around the world. His team is even creating software so that we can all talk to each other in icons.

This one project made me think a lot about film and the success of symbolism. If you see an old man and a young man on screen, looking at each other from afar, then running towards each other and embracing – you don’t need to know that they are a separated father and son. In fact, any other explanation would be downright subversive. Modern culture has flattened the symbolic landscape to the point where we all know the sign for “man” “alarm clock” and “airplane.” We don’t need a dictionary. Xu Bing talked about the decision that Coca-Cola made to stop printing its labels in other languages. “Coca-Cola” is now a symbol around the world, more than it is an actual word. He didn’t even mention IKEA, which uses a language of symbols and signs to give a universal set of instructions with every piece of furniture.

Much as I could type all day about symbolism, culture and iconography. . . I’d rather pose a real-world question: Are we genuinely moving toward a universal language of symbols, or are some sentiments too complicated, too culturally specific, to ever become universalized? If we are moving toward more universal forms of communication, is that always a good thing?

Will “Repo!” Steal Hearts?

Repo Promoting in Downtown Berkeley Image from shellEProductions’ PhotostreamDoes anyone else hate the phrase “Instant cult classic?” Instant classic is like instant chocolate brownies. It might temporarily fix your chocolate craving – but it’s nothing like a dessert you spent a couple hours baking from scratch.

Well, NPR is also a little skeptical of the idea that someone can deliberately create a cult film. Repo! the Genetic Opera is an upcoming movie starring Anthony Stewart Head, Paul Sorvino, Alex Vega and. . . uh. . . Paris Hilton. Combining organ repossession, rock musical numbers, a big bad corporation and a distinctly “Blade Runner” feel, the creators of “Repo!” seem confident that alternative kids will come running to a film made just for them.

Beth Accomando at the NPR pop culture blog points out that the movie is using a web-heavy marketing strategy out of necessity – they have no money for a big budget ad campaign. I am impressed that the film’s creators are interacting directly with fans – but I wonder if you can classify people who have yet to see a film as “fans.”

Increasingly, savvy directors and producers have deputized fan communities in the fight to keep a movie franchise making money. This creates a sense of “ownership” that is actually quite different than the fans of a cult classic like Rocky Horror. Rocky fans go to midnight showings because they aren’t supposed to: The film wasn’t intended to be made fun of and shouted at and have toilet paper strewn all over it. It’s not just an alternative film, it’s an alternative film-going experience. Whether or not “Repo!” can capture that sense of forbidden fun is yet to be seen.

Obama Considers Options for FCC Chairman

Ethernet Switches Image from twenty_questionsBusinessWeek reports that President-Elect Obama’s transition team is hard at work considering options for FCC Chairman.

“The new Administration is expected to give greater prominence to emerging providers of communications products and services, such as Google (GOOG)—a departure from the Bush Administration, which has tended to favor traditional providers such as AT&T (T).”

This is not unexpected, as Barack Obama has gone on record before supporting net neutrality, but it is certainly good news for internet companies and the new media producers who rely on them.

Governing in a Web Savvy World

HELLO, MR. PRESIDENT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Image from On Bradstreet’s PhotostreamAs if in answer to my last post, it seems that the office of the President Elect has just rolled out, a site not dissimilar from the original Obama campaign website, but dedicated to the lead-up to the January 20th inauguration.

Thus far, the blog only has one post, but there is a wealth of information on Obama and Biden’s plans for their administration. You can even send in “Your Vision” and “Your Story” about the campaign. The word that leaps to mind is “transparency.” While our government is required to release information to us about its activities (according to the Freedom of Information Act), this is an entirely new approach to creating a flow of information. We’ll have to see how far this extends into the actual term in office – but it will be very interesting to watch.

Post-Election Roundup

Barack Obama: A mosaic of people Image from tsevis’s Photostream

Tuesday night, as I skyped into Teague’s election night party taking place a few hundred miles from my own living room. . . two things hit me: (1) I’m a dork for using skype to attend someone’s party and (2) That won’t be true in 2012.

Right now, across the country, pundits are figuring out exactly what “lessons” we should learn from this election. The biggest lesson of all? Smart media is here to stay. The NY Times places a heavy emphasis on the role of the internet in this race. I feel the best way to sum up the “sea change” is that whereas in 2004, there was a campaign, and a campaign on the internet, today, the campaign lives through the internet. Technology is moving faster than the election cycle. It’s foolish to think that in four years, kids will still think that YouTube is cool. The internet isn’t just a nifty gadget, it’s a country unto itself – and if you don’t know the right customs and etiquette – you’ll get laughed out of the game.

The big question now is whether President Barack Obama (wow, I will never get tired of typing that), will continue to use social media to govern. Tweets from senior staff? A presidential YouTube channel? The possibilities are pretty endless – it’s all a question of how the Obama administration (again, never gets old!) will choose to engage with constituents.

What kinds of information do you want from the federal government? How do you want them delivered? Now that this election is over, what do you want to say to the people about to take power?

Stop Prop 8 Ads from being served in Adsense

Vote No on Prop 8 Image from HBC4511Several websites have reported unwanted advertising from Google Adsense from the “Yes On 8” campaign supporting the banning of gay marriage in CA.

Here is the quick fix to make sure this doesn’t happen on your site:

  1. Log into Adsense
  2. Click “AdSense Setup”, then “Competitive Ad Filter”
  3. In the appropriate text box, add “” to the list of disallowed domains.

That’s it. Your account should not serve any more ads from the “Yes On 8” campaign. There are however, other campaigns that could still place advertising on Prop 8. You can add more domains to the competitive ad filter in the same way. If you know of more pro Prop 8 domains using AdSense, lets us know in the comments.

Now go vote!

Radio for a new generation

Ken George, blogging for my local NPR station, WBUR, has some interesting thoughts on “New Millennials” and radio in his ConverStation blog.

The post jumped out at me because one of the blogs he quotes sounded like I could have written it myself:

In college, I listen to less news radio, mostly because I don’t drive anymore. But I faithfully listen to the This American Life podcast every week, and am a recent convert to WNYC’s RadioLab, which I also listen to via podcast.

I had never thought before that I might be exhibiting “New Millennial” behavior. Of course, my need to have content fed into my ears at all times is quite different than my parents (also avid NPR listeners) who generally don’t want to consume media and do something else the same time.

Radio is one of the only media formats that people above the age of 30 do consume while doing other things. We can keep our eyes on the road and listen to the stock market numbers (unless it’s this week, then we should all pull over). We can cook dinner during “A Prairie Home Companion.” We can listen to a new song and make out on a first date. Hurray for radio!

The thing that New Millennials like me probably enjoy less about radio is that it’s so gosh darn local. I can’t reliably get my favorite college radio station, WERS, outside of Boston. A station’s ability to stream live on the web does change that, but might not necessarily benefit the radio station. I worked in a dark, gloomy basement computer lab one summer, and became obsessed with Southeastern Louisiana State’s radio station, KSLU. Unfortunately, their news, events and advertisers had almost no effect on me. Since I won’t go to a live concert, or a furniture sale, in Hammond, LA, people like me (listeners outside the local area), don’t make a compelling case to sponsors to donate at a higher level.

It is possible that I’ll start to have more of an interest in local politics as I become more rooted in a single community. Right now, news about property taxes in Massachusetts on WBUR doesn’t really do it for me, since I don’t own property and don’t know if I will settle here for good. It’s also possible that the radio landscape will shift to meet my generation’s specific type of media consumption – namely nonlinear, constant access, and loaded with content-rich goodness.