Are you Camera-Ready for PILOT SEASON?
By Gwyn Gilliss
Four Tips to Look your Best and BOOK more On-Camera Work!
You control your audition- don't let your appearance get in the way of your performance...or lose you the job! If you’re cast in a Prime time series, film or even a major market commercial, there are usually professional teams of people to make you look good. But if you’re on the set of a low budget indie, a non-union industrial or a web series or AUDITIONING for a PILOT- there may not be anyone to give you a professional “camera ready” appearance. Getting cast isn’t always about your “work” or your talent- it’s about HOW YOU LOOK on camera. The difference between booking the role and being told- “You’re so good but we’re going with some one else”..is a few simple things you should learn how to do yourself. No matter what project you’re appearing in or auditioning for you need to look great.
Being camera ready for AUDITIONS, INTERVIEWS and WORKSHOPS is essential especially if there’s the least possibility that you’ll be meeting Top Industry Professionals.
We recently had a Marketing Intensive Workshop with a slew of A list Agents, Network Exec’s and TV Producers on a panel. When asked who in the room of 25 actors they would call in, represent, audition or hire for their Emmy Award series, they looked around the room, conferred with each other and said, “None”
The attendees were in shock. Why wouldn’t they be considered for a contract role? The high powered guests hadn’t even seen their work since this was a no-audition workshop. Obviously, it wasn’t just about the audition or talent.
The answer? No one was dressed appropriately, looked fabulous or gave the impression they were ready for a major role-no one appeared to be a star in the making. Since it was a weekend workshop most actors chose to come casual- even though they knew they would be meeting some pretty heavyweights in the Biz. Wearing jeans, sweats, t-shirts, no make-up for some of the girls, hair wacked back in a clip…the general impression was that they were students in a class not networking with A List movers and shakers. First impressions count! Most Pro’s decide in the first 4-7 seconds if they want to audition or hire you. Oops!
Here are some tips so you can always be camera ready.
1. MAKE-UP -Bring your own make-up- guys included. Either cream or liquid foundation to match your natural skin tone and powder! Everyone looks shiny, greasy or sweaty on camera! Unless you’re playing a long distance runner or are doing a re-make of Broadcast News (remember Albert Brooks who was so nervous he had “flop sweat” when reporting the evening news?). You don’t want to let them see you sweat.
Solution: Use pressed powder in a compact. It has a flat round soft cotton pad that smoothes the powder on your skin- especially on your nose, forehead and chin- where actors appear to be the “shiniest”. Or use natural mineral products with a large brush to get rid of the “shine”.
LIPS: Unless it’s a vampire movie, ladies, please avoid the red, wine, crimson, fuchsia, purple, or cabernet lipstick. (if your skin tone is very dark you are the exception and some of these shades might work). But most broadcast quality cameras are highly sensitive and will actually exaggerate the color-it will appear darker – you might look like you have bloody lips or just look strange. EYES: Less is more in a close-up. What looks lovely on the street- black liner, frosted shadow looks like a raccoon on camera.
Solution: Go for a more fashionable natural or warm color of lipstick with a small amount of gloss. Simple mascara and soft shadow- no glitz or frost.
3. HAIR DESIGN- Bring hairspray, gel or mousse. Unless you’re running into the wind in every take your hair will inevitably get into your face, your mouth, your eyes. Girls with WAMP hair usually suffer the most. What is WAMP? That long, straight, hanging hair that never stays in place when you start talking. Nothing wrong with long hair. You just don’t want to be pushing it constantly behind your ears or flopping it back-it’s annoying to your audience.You won’t book!
Solution: Just cut layers, curl it, wave it or straighten it with an electric straightening iron so it has body and is “disciplined” into staying in place, not hanging limply. For guys, if you have a buzz or military cut, no worries. You’re exempt. Everybody else, spray it. You don’t want hair to get in the way of your performance.
4. WARDROBE - Avoid red, white or black (depending on your character and the situation). If given a choice, choose more vibrant colors. On a lower budget set, the lighting may not be too refined so red may glare, turn orange, icky pink or appear to be a large blood stain-not attractive. Black just looks dull and absorbs all the energy unless you are portraying an FBI agent, or a high powered Attorney in a power suit. Even then you can always wear a shirt with a warm shade of blue, peach, yellow or green. White may “ghost” – that’s a thin green line that appears around you so you look ghostly. These things all depend on the experience level of the director or lighting designer. Dark wine, navy, dark green or gray-all these just make you appear to be a conservative, dull or depressed character.
Solution: If the costume designer gives you clothing in dull or dark shades, counter the effect by bringing a bright scarf, or accessory- handbag, shawl, tie, vest, hat…think around the dreary outfit you may have to wear. Solid colors always make you look thinner and more refined. Unless your character is a dowdy person bring your own vibrancy and colors! You’ll stand out and might garnish more kudos for your performance!
Successful Auditioning – Happy PILOT SEASON!
""""One of the most mortifying moments I experienced in my theatrical career was when I was asked to bring the entirely African-American cast of a new musical we were workshopping, a new piece by an African-American librettist and composer, across the street to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and up into the plush boardroom so they could perform a song or two for the board of directors. I wanted to say something, but I didn't. For one thing, it would take an invaluable 45 minutes to an hour out of the creative team's limited time together. But... every year we had to do the same old song and dance for the board to remind them that yes, we did do new plays and musicals, so yes, it was sometimes a good idea to expose the board to new voices, to the vibrancy of an exciting work in progress.
You all know where this is going, don't you? I led the team in. The talent in that team! The writer/composer himself and the cast, lauded veterans of the stage and the most promising members of the next generation of acting giants. And there was our board. White, as white as can be, white white white white. And very comfortable. They'd just been served lunch, I believe. My theater spared no expense in pleasing our board and catering to their demands (oh my god, I'm feeling such rage right now! I'm pretty sure we had a staff member who was mostly dedicated to help our richest board members get house seats to shows on Broadway and the West End. But I digress...)
The only black face in the audience seated at the conference table? The only person of color? The head of our education department, of course. My heart went out to her.
The cast sang a song from the show. They did it. And they brought it. Because they were and are professionals. And the very pillars of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion reverberated down to the parking lot. It was breathtaking.
And I had just been complicit in the remaking of a scene for the millionth time: black bodies and voices entertaining white audiences, an institution raising money on the backs and voices of black bodies.
I was too mortified to apologize to our writer and to our cast, none of whom, I should add, expressed even an iota of discomfort. They were professionals, and they shone. And come to think of it, they'd probably all become accustomed to this scene. "It's just how theater works," they might have thought with a shrug of their shoulders. Or maybe they seethed inside, for the millionth time, when all they were trying to do is workshop a new musical.
Well, I apologize sincerely now to our writer and those actors. I wish I had had the courage to put my foot down. It is not how theater should work.
I quit the American theater on Valentine's Day 2016, so I've been out more than four years now. And honestly I don't plan to return, which is why I can write with such candor.
The heart of the problem, my friends, is with the non-profit structure, which is capitalism on steroids. Who are the bosses ultimately in an American institutional theater? The board of directors. Who are the board of directors? For the most part, those members of the community not with the strongest attachment to the art form but those with the deepest pockets. Often they're really not members of the community. They often just drop in. They are sometimes mere tourists.
It's no wonder that that board meeting was held in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The theater, like most American theaters, had built its board of directors on the old opera model: You get the richest folks together, offer them galas and house seats and receptions and private recitals and showings (for which artists often don't get paid extra, mind you), you pamper them and make them feel more special and entitled than they already do, and then they'll write you big checks to support the kind of art they like, the kind of art they can bring their kids and grandkids to. AND they--not the artists, not the community--get to hire the institution's leadership.
It is a rotten model. Rotten to the core. How can any artistic institution claim to be working for and in the community with that model?
It's got to be torn down. It's got to be reinvented. And I have no idea what the next model will be. I really don't. And no, honestly I don't think government is the solution frankly. Some of the most bloated, self-satisfied, decadent theater I've ever seen was in Germany, where it was almost fully government-funded. Lots of bells and whistles and provocations and completely soul-dead.
I see amazing and galvanizing lists of demands recently being made and posted by theater artists of color. These are vital demands. But they don't address the central issue. As long as the ultimate bosses of an artistic institution remain the community's deepest pockets, nothing will change. Nothing. You'll be putting band-aids on a gaping wound. Sorry, but it's true.
So please figure something else out. Maybe for a few years you just avoid the institutions. You've already started. In the pandemic, so many of you are making amazing art without an institution. Find those who truly adore your work and ask them to fund it. Screw non-profit. Form a corporation and value your art art-making as a resource that profits you, your viewers/audience and your community. I have no idea.
But please don't return to a new version of the old. After the virus, after he's out of office, after police reform and nationwide conversations about race, after, after, after, begin something new. I can't wait to see what it is!”
Words: Pier Carlo Talenti
Video: Griffin Matthews
April Yvette Thompson