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How to Do a Video Submission

joydewingcastingblog:

The subject of video submissions and what’s appropriate for them, particularly for theatre, has come up a lot lately. We thought it would be a good time to re-blog this post from awhile back. Read on for tips, tricks, dos and don’ts for putting together a great video submission!

Odds are, you have probably sent in a video submission for something, somewhere along your career. More and more casting personnel are requesting them these days. Whether you slapped it together in the green room of a cruise ship during a tsunami or had it professionally recorded, edited, and uploaded, it needs to be clean and professional.

The good news is, you don’t need a fancy recording studio or equipment to put together a decent video submission. You need good quality lighting, a decent camera (even an iPhone will do), some preparation, basic editing software, a good internet connection, and a little help from your friends. We understand that sometimes you don’t have much to work with, especially if you’re on the road; but here are some basic tips:

  • ALWAYS DO A SCREEN TEST OF LIGHTING, HAIR, MAKEUP, SOUND, ETC.!
  • Shine the lights on yourself! You’ll need a bit more than you think.
  • Check to be sure the sound is balanced: If you’re using accompaniment, make sure it’s at an even distance with you and the camera. Same with a reader.
  • Try to get someone with some basic acting skills and a natural quality to be your reader. It’s very distracting when the reader is someone’s mom, neighbor, house manager, superintendent, or barista and their reading is just awful or monotonous.
  • Keep your reader off-camera.
  • Place yourself in front of a solid white or light background; or at least a muted, solid color. Don’t have a lot of tchotchkes, furniture, decorations, etc. in your background.
  • Ideally, you’ll start with a full-body shot as you slate, then zoom the camera in to a ¾ length shot (waist up) for your scene/song.
  • Ladies, wear just a bit more or less makeup, depending on the quality of your camera and the lighting. Gentlemen, be clean-shaven or otherwise well-groomed.
  • Keep your performance natural, the same way you’d do it in a rehearsal room. Don’t overact – or the opposite – just because there’s a camera in your face. 
  • Make the camera your scene partner. Don’t awkwardly direct your entire performance to someone off-camera. We want to see a connection with your audience, which in this case is us!
  • Keep it very brief. Don’t tempt us to click the fast-forward scrubber. It’s not like a live audition where we can’t leave the room.
  • Do not email a video, unless specifically instructed to do so. Those files are huge and they can bring our computers & other devices to a screeching halt. Always upload to an online hosting site that will stream the video, and not require us to download a file.
  • You MUST SLATE (state your name & any other pertinent info into the camera before and after your performance) and you SHOULD add a caption or title to your video footage. If you have a Mac, iMovie is native and easy to use. Just don’t get too fancy with it. You are not Spielberg.
  • In my opinion, the best way to upload a video is to upload it to youtube, mark it “unlisted”, and send me the link(s). It’s fast, easy, private, and doesn’t take up any space on my computer or device. If you do use Vimeo or some other site requiring a password, make sure to provide the password!
  • CHECK YOUR WORK! Review the video on another computer or device to make sure it works, looks good, sounds good, etc.


Do you have some video that you’d like to share and get feedback? Email a LINK to info@joydewingcasting.com and we will let you know what we think!

Girl, put your records on. (Part 2)

And now, as promised, a word from our Special Guest Blogess, Sheri Sanders! I passed along a few of the most important questions we get from actors about pop/rock auditions. Take it away, Sheri!

Q: What are the differences between acting a pop song and acting an MT song?

A: First let me address the MAIN similarities. You MUST tell a story. You must identify the world that the song exists in and live in that world. You must research, explore, and practice.

The differences are many! But here are a few favorites!

In acting a musical theatre song, you wanna MOVE THAT PLOT. Move that sucker! Ask yourself,“ What is the scenario my character in the show is in? What do I want to give, get, or do?” You are an ingenue. You are a comedic sidekick. You are filling a track. You are an archetype.

When acting a pop/rock song, ask yourself , “Who am I? What does this music do to me?” As part of the creative team, I want to find out about your CHARACTER as a PERSON by how the song you are singing effects you. Then I get to decide what role I want to call you back for based on watching you be you. Do not tell me, show me, or explain to me the scenario you are in. I don’t want to know the scenario. I want to know what the scenario does to you… Because if you share that, you will feel like a real person who listens to popular music. That’s what popular music is about, baby dolls! Feelings!

Q: If a team asks for Pop-rock, but doesn’t specify period, what’s a good go-to style?

A: Boy is this a great topic! First, you have to be responsible for your career and look up the show you are auditioning for. The creative team often doesn’t have time to tell you EXACTLY what they need from you. You HAVE to take a moment and find out. If you JUST CANNOT find out what the aesthetic of the show is ANYWHERE, you should have a FEW different styles in your book of popular music. (You wouldn’t sing the same song for CHICAGO that you would for Piazza…RIGHT? Right.)  So then, you’d just come in the room and very calmly and efficiently offer a few choices and have them pick. Be cool, like “I’ve got a 70s rock/gospel tune, or Regina Spektor.”  If you are good at one of these tunes cause you’ve PRACTICED, they may even ask you for the other cause you are so good! You get me? The go-to style- is having great personal style- by being prepared with different  STYLES.  

Q: Why is it not appropriate to sing songs from Footloose or The Wedding Singer when asked for a pop/rock song?

A: Joy, I just love you.

1.  The Wedding Singer is a musical that was written in the style of 80s pop. Footloose the musical uses the soundtrack from Footloose the movie that came out in the 80s.

The arrangements in BOTH these musicals have been, and are,“musicaltheaterized.” They aren’t off the radio. They are a Musical Theatre interpretation of the radio.

2.  When someone ASKS for you to sing a pop/rock song, they mean a REAL song off the radio. If you sing something from either of these-or ANY pop/rock musical for that matter, it tells the creative team, “I don’t listen to popular music. I am also hiding in these songs because I am too afraid to do a REAL pop/rock song cause I don’t know what to do with it. I am unconscious, and you shouldn’t hire me.” Imagine how cool you’d be if you actually LISTENED to 80s Pop/Rock? And brought in great, cool 80s music? There are amazing artists that have GIGANTIC cannons of music that are great for auditioning, and will also make you sound like you listen to the radio. Musical Theatre singers who don’t listen to the radio will not get hired for Rock Musicals. Sorry, Charlie!

3. We think about how much we LOVE The Wedding Singer, and that Footloose is a great movie. Because you have completely lost our attention. Because you don’t listen to the radio. And you also don’t care about being current.

4. We are looking for you to interpret a song based upon your understanding of the world of the 80s. That world then translates INTO the musical. So you have to know the WORLD first.  "Someday" from the Wedding Singer is a great tune, but you cant put the true 80s effect on it, for example, without watching silly epic 80s videos on MTV.

Q: When I’m listening to pop music, what should I be listening for? Are there specific stylistic choices that I should incorporate to have a more “authentic” sound?

A: “Authentic” is one of my favorite words. You would prefer to be around someone who’s authentic, right? You don’t want to spend time with someone who doesn’t care or isn’t sincere, RIGHT? So YOU have to be authentic so the creative team wants to hang out with you. You have to be an authentic person, first and foremost… but to feel “authentic” to the time period the show you are auditioning for is in, rather than talk about specific stylistic choices, here’s some super fun advice:

Make a Spotify station of someone who made great hits of EVERY era of music.  Study the styles.  Listen to every style. Black, white, women, men. Everyone. That is the only way to sound authentic. Take the time to listen to this music. Dance around your apartment to it.  Get a box of wine and invite your friends over for a listening party.  Listen to how the singers are expressing themselves in each style. By doing this,  You will actually find great tunes to sing and learn how to sing and live that style at the same time! For free! And its a blast. And free! 

Girl, put your records on. (Part 1)

Welcome to Part 1 of our series on popular music! This week’s blog is an overview of what works from our perspective as Casting Directors. Next week we’ll have a li'l chat with the DIVA of pop/rock in musical theatre, Ms. Sheri Sanders. If you’ve ever met Sheri, you know that the time to get excited about this interview is RIGHT NOW.

But first, a primer. In the music world, pop refers to a specific style of mainstream popular music and does not generally, include R&B, soul, folk, rock, metal, alternative, country, or bluegrass. But for the purposes of this article, we are going to use the word “pop” as a catch-all term for popular music of any of the above-mentioned styles which was not written for a musical and can be heard on a radio station.

On any given weekend in my house growing up, we had a regular rotation of The Beatles, My Fair Lady, The Eagles, Maria Muldar, South Pacific, The Sound of Music, Jackson Browne, Judy Collins, The Wiz, The Moody Blues, Annie (the movie soundtrack), Stevie Wonder, John Denver, and Oscar the Grouch. (To this day, “I Love Trash” is one of my favorite songs of all time.) Music was woven into the fabric of my life as early as I can remember. Then I really got into performing and immersed myself in musical theatre. For a good five or six years I could mayyyybe name one or two Top 40 songs, and at least four of those were from The Bodyguard. I was a stone-cold MT kid and didn’t have time for the Spice Girls, but I knew every word of “Getting Married Today” and could have done a one-woman show of Once on this Island (and may or may not have actually performed said one-woman show in my living room from time to time). As the musical theatre canon started veering more and more toward rock, I picked up the thread of my early musical life and gradually wove it back in. And as I started to care about popular music again, I started noticing how deeply connected I felt when I listened to it, how the pop songs that I loved were often just pure raw emotional microcosms of the same stories I was telling in the theatre.

Now, on the other side of the table, I am the audience.

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As the most captive and analytical audience member you will EVER perform for, the thing I want most in the world from you is to have an experience, to connect, to feel something from you and share something with you. And what is the most essential conduit to that shared experience? Authenticity.

Let’s explore that idea and peel back the layers of authenticity. First: your song choice. What is the purest, most natural sound that you make with your voice? When you open your mouth and your soul flies out of it, what does that sound like? Does it sound like bells ringing or like two packs a day? No matter what your voice’s natural state, there is a popular music style out there for you. In this day and age, you don’t get to say “Oh, I’m a soprano. I don’t sing pop.”

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You know who else is a soprano? Judy Collins. Joni Mitchell. Ingrid Michaelson. Regina Spektor. Kate Bush. Bjork. Alison Krauss.

Second: your personal connection to the song. Make it specific, make it real, and open your heart. The worst thing you can do is protect yourself. You’re gonna protect yourself right out of a job. You must be strong enough to let your audience in and show us the parts of yourself you may not be entirely comfortable with. We are going to judge you and evaluate you and analyze you, because it’s our job. And you have to be okay with that.

Third: what’s authentic to the material you’re auditioning for? Is the show set in the Motown era? Don’t sing Usher; sing Smokey Robinson. Is it set in a free love commune in the 60s? Don’t sing “Alone” by Heart; sing Cat Stevens. (Actually, don’t ever sing “Alone” by Heart. Sheri Sanders will explain why.) But stylistic & period authenticity goes way deeper than time & place. Every song has a context to be explored. Figure out who YOU would have been in that time and place and have fun with it!

If you read our casting notices frequently, you’ve probably noticed that our wording about pop songs is pretty specific. We usually request a song in the era/style of the show that was “not written for a musical”. Why that exact wording? Well, we found that if we simply asked for a pop/rock song, we got a lot of songs from Wedding Singer, Footloose, and High Fidelity. Those songs are simply not at all helpful when evaluating someone’s pop chops. “But Joy, Let’s Hear it for the Boy was a pop song before it was in Footloose!” Actually, it was in the movie… but yes, it’s a pop song and not a theatre song. Unfortunately, it seems to be the only “pop” song that a lot of theatre people know, so we hear it more often that we’d care to count, usually by someone who doesn’t understand pop music at all and has not the first clue how to sing a pop song unless it’s from a musical. BUT. If we qualify it by stating that it must not be “written for a musical”, that makes you think a little harder and dig a little deeper. And the deeper you dig, the more you discover.

And now, a final word from the authority on popular music in the theatre world, the incomparable Sheri Sanders. You’ll hear a lot more from Sheri next week, but for now, I leave you with this thought:

“Come in as somebody who CARES. I listen to rock music. I CARE about rock music. Rock music MATTERS to me.”

Resources & tips:

Start with any of these ideas and just follow em down the rabbit hole!

Pandora (create radio stations based on a particular song or artist and Pandora will play other songs & artists based on the “seed” you plant)

Spotify (create playlists, listen to other people’s playlists, play radio stations based on an artist, play songs on demand, subscribe to playlists)

Youtube (plug in an artist, watch a few videos, and youtube will suggest other videos you might like)

At the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, OH, they have an awesome exhibit where you can type in the name of an artist and it will tell you their influences as well as artists that they influenced. Now, you may not be able to get to Cleveland, but discovering an artist’s influences and contemporaries is just a Google search away. For example: I like Pat Benatar but I’m sick and tired of hearing Hit Me With Your Best Shot and it’s a terrible audition song anyway. So I go to Google and type in Pat Benatar and within seconds I’m looking at Grace Slick, Tina Turner, Chrissie Hynde, Patti Smith, and of course – a-ha! the lovely *Wilson Sisters.

Coffee House and Acoustic stations, like on Spotify and Sirius/XM Radio, are great resources for hearing how a song sounds with a more stripped-down arrangement, since you won’t have access to a full rock band during your audition. You’ll need to make sure that your arrangement sounds good with a piano.

*Bonus points if you can tell me what it is that Ann Wilson is NOT doing in this song. SPOILER ALERT: She is NOT screlting. And it sounds amazing. And… AUTHENTIC.

Homework

We love auditions, and we love actors, especially when they are smart, prepared, and educated. When asked about the one thing actors can do to increase their chances of getting a callback, one of our top responses is this: Take responsibility and research the show for which you’re auditioning and be educated about your material. Know the difference between traditional and contemporary musical theatre; know the difference between styles of repertoire - legit musical theatre, pop, country, rock, contemporary musical theatre, etc. (and pop and contemporary musical theatre are not one and the same). If we ask for a traditional MT song, don’t come up with “Somewhere That’s Green,” and if we want a pop song, please don’t sing “Right In Front of Your Eyes” from The Wedding Singer. (More on that in a future post about pop songs!)

Choosing the correct vocal selection is just the tip of the iceberg when preparing for an audition. As performers, the most exciting work you do is character development and being able to inhabit different characters throughout a myriad of time periods in history. We are all so caught up in today’s bustling and contemporary lifestyle that it becomes very easy to forget the details of character work while running from audition to audition and trying to be seen. Treat each audition like your own personal chance to become someone else (when necessary and expected). Mrs. Darling in Peter Pan will behave differently than Lily St. Regis in Annie and certainly Maureen in Rent, and not just because they are different people; they are all products of deeply contrasting cultural moments in history. Vocal and dance styles, speaking patterns, and body language vastly differ based on class, culture, and trends of a particular year or decade.

For Annie and Forever Dusty, we posted some research on our blog to help out, but the web is literally at your fingertips. Surfing the internet for character clues and ideas is so much fun. And if you walk into the room prepared with appropriate material, ready to make strong choices well-suited to the show’s style and time period, it’s guaranteed that the team will take notice. Doing research makes everyone’s lives a whole lot easier, and gives you a better shot at booking the job! See you in the room :)

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