We’ve been meaning to give some insight into our casting process for awhile now. I was a working actor before turning fully to directing and producing and I wanted to break this down for people looking to work with us. Maybe it’ll be useful to other people, and demystify the process a bit. Or maybe the way we do things is unique to this company. Either way, we wanted to get it out there... especially having just cast Henry V and having had to let people down with our casting release. (Side note - I normally email everyone individually to tell them if they didn't get it. We had so many submissions this time that I just couldn't manage that this time. I'm sorry about that everyone.)
What follows is all personal opinion. This doesn’t represent what every casting director thinks or every company works; I am just sharing some thoughts. Some of this doesn’t even necessarily reflect what everyone on our team thinks. In fact, I'm sure it doesn't. If our executive director or guest directors were writing this - I'm sure it would look drastically different.
I hope it’s useful, but only read on if you’re willing to take it with a pinch of salt…
HOW DO WE GET FROM THIS ---------------->
We get a LOT of applications when we put out a casting call. Seriously, the number we had for one particularly open call this year would make your eyes water. I imagine most other theatre companies get higher numbers, depending on the individual project, but we operate with such a small team that it can be overwhelming at times. So, one of the biggest hurdles is actually getting called in for an audition. Sometimes we can see everyone but for Henry V there were actually people who never made it into the room (or screen).
Some things that give you an advantage:
- Having seen our work. Of course this is helpful, because in the room you’ll have a clearer idea of our style, and we can be confident you know what we do. If you’re interested in working with us, definitely come and see something, and try and say hi afterwards. We don't bite and we will remember you.
- A good note, with a bit of personality. More about this later!
- A clear, high quality headshot. Because that tells us you’re a professional.
- Having written to us before. Or even better…
- Us having seen you in something. Even if you’ve invited us and we’ve not been able to get there. We make a lot of casting choices based on work we've seen and conversations we have with those directors.
- Having Shakespeare on your CV... Or having something similar in style to what we're casting. In principle we don’t mind if you don’t, but it’s a bit riskier for us. Even amateur, fringe or student stuff is better, or having done extracts or a class in it. Put it on your resume for us to see. Highlight that experience when you're talking to us or writing to submit.
- Applying early. More on that later.
- Supporting your application with a quick email. I hesitate to write this here, since it does get overwhelming. In fact, remind me to hide this sentence when we’re actually casting again. But it does help. If nothing else, it means we’re more likely to see your name twice and I can tell you when you send me an email/message I will almost always immediately go look at your application.
- Luck and/or Perseverance. It’s sad but it’s true. Those aren’t great odds and every time., I’m sure, we miss someone great. But the more times you try, the higher your chances. More on this in Part Three.
Some things that will give you a disadvantage:
As above, a lot of this stuff is personal to us. Ignore what you don’t agree with!
- Spelling our names wrong. Or getting the company name wrong.
- Only having screen work on the resume. We try to be open, but it’s risky.
- Out of date CVs, or CVs that contradict what you've told us.
- Unexplained gaps on your CV.
- Disingenuous cover letters. A stock cover note is okay. If it is, don’t try and pretend it’s not.
- Applying for the wrong part. We’re open minded and often consider all actors for all suitable parts but if we have asked for something specific, make sure you fit the breakdown. If we’re looking for a female, don’t apply if you’re male. (True fact: we’ve had four male actors ask for auditions this time around. Also, this statement does not apply to non-gender conforming, differently identifying or trans peoples.)
- Headshots that look cheap, or like they were taken in your bedroom on your cell. We don’t want to judge by appearances, but it’s the first thing we see. And when you’re trying to figure out who to call in from a sea of faces, a photo that looks unprofessional doesn’t fill us with confidence. Nor does a selfie from a bar bathroom...
- Being highly fake in your application or audtion, This was, to be fair, a tiny minority. But it is exhausting just to read and if we feel completely wiped out after 20 minutes with you because we've had to perform just to have a conversation - it doesn't bode well for a rigorous and intense process. We're pretty genuine people over here at the The Edge and we tend to hire that way as well. Come as you are and don't kiss our asses. It's not necessary.
There have been exceptions to absolutely all of those points.
And an honest, personal cover letter will often help a lot. Even actors who we know there isn’t a place for, it’s harder to discount them when they’ve done that. It’s especially helpful if you’ve not worked recently, or to explain how certain things on your CV might be relevant.
Part Two: TIMING, AGENTS, AND COVER LETTERS
It’s strangely exhausting, seeing all these applications, and knowing behind every one is a real person, eager and talented, who’s put time and energy into applying… but knowing too that we can’t choose everyone. We work hard to give everyone the best chance – but we’re human, and it’s sometimes hard.
So here’s a few more things you can do to help yourself…
Applying early does help. It shouldn’t, but I think it’s unavoidable.
In our case, we get many applications and, being human, the more we go through, the harder it is to be discerning.
But early on, we’re still fresh, and excited that someone has applied, so we’re inevitably more open. And, unavoidably, being on the first page of applicants, we’ll probably see your name in passing more often.
But it’s never too late. In March, we cast an actor who emailed after midnight on the night before our final day of auditions. She was just lucky. (Or, more to the point, we were lucky – she’s fabulous).
And that is a classic example of the fact that all these guidelines are not rules, and that luck plays a massive part.
There’s no rule about what makes a good cover letter or email. Please, just be you. Don’t spend ages crafting it, there’s no point. Just be you. Do some research if it’s a company you care passionately about. Even just figuring out the names of who you’re writing to does impress us. But don’t pretend to be passionate about the company if you’re not – that’s normally transparent. It’s totally cool to say “I haven't heard of your work before but this job sounds cool”. Remember the people at the other end are just people. And mostly – did I mention? – just be yourself.
I had someone write in the additional information section “No one reads this so I’m not going to bother”. She didn’t get an audition.
All it has to do, really, is show some respect for the company you’re applying for – by showing that you’ve taken the time to do more than just click ‘Apply now’. A sentence can be enough.
Emailing us separately from your application definitely helps. I hesitate to say this, because we get a lot of emails. And perhaps it’s better you do it without my telling you to. But, in the name of transparency, if you’ve taken the time to contact us, we can’t help but look at you twice.
What can hurt, however, is a pushy email asking when we’re going to reply to your first email. And chasing via social media, at least for us, isn’t going to make any difference.
When we’re not casting, we try and reply to every email we get in. During casting times this unfortunately isn’t possible, due to the sheer volume of them and how busy we usually are.
One last thing – keep an eye on your spam/junkmail folder! It sucks if you've missed your audition invite because it went to spam but it's so avoidable. Just keep an eye on it if you've applied to anything that isn't someone who you've had communication with before.
A really quick word about agents.
Firstly, you don’t need one to work with us. Being a small organization, we’re used to dealing directly with actors, and because we tend to cast people (in our heads) for the long term, that personal relationship is important. And we know how hard it can be to get one. I very much prefer to deal with actors and artists directly.
In this respect, I think we’re different from a lot of other organizations though, so take that with a pinch of salt.
If your agents submits you for a casting, supporting it with a quick email goes down well, so we know you’re interested personally. And if you ask your agent to submit you, make sure they tell us that you did so. Otherwise, please submit yourself and reach out on your own.
That’s it! We always try and take a few gambles when calling actors in, and even in our casting...some have paid off and some haven't. The number one thing I’ve discovered running this company is the sheer number of talented artists there are out there.
So remember, if you don’t get called in or didn't get cast, try again next time. It's not personal, it's just based on what we need in the room. Talent is the first option but a lot comes down to the personalities in a room balancing and working well together.
Please, try again.
Thanks for reading and I hope this answered some of the questions you might have had!
Come to the shows, talk to us!