Saturday, August 3, 2013

Most frequent background actor rumors heard on the sets of TV & film.

Let’s squish the rumor mill!

Extras Holding can be a caldron for stirring up and brewing up some of the most absurd rumors ever. But in an odd way I guess it can make sense. When you think about it, numerous, sometimes even hundreds of BG actors are waiting hour upon hour (usually in an excluded area away from set) to be called in to work. They sit around and talk…and talk…and talk.

I’m sure sometimes actors have left that set thinking they received the most valuable information ever, and maybe they have. But when it comes to why they are not working as much as they would like, more times then none, it’s just a rumor.

So being the “let’s get it to you straight from the horses mouth” I thought it would be informative to squish the top 5 most ridiculous rumors I have heard from BG actors.
Oh by the way, I am pretty sure I am speaking on behalf of the few legitimate booking services out there and also for all the background casting directors that use our services.

Rumor #1: I’ve heard my booking service (or calling service) only books their favorite clients.
BONK! Wrong: How would it possibly make sense that if my casting director asked to see a submission of: 25-35 African American men that could work on Thursday and I said “Oh wait, can you book so & so even though he’s Hispanic, he’s one of my favorites?

Rumor #2: I’ve heard my booking service (or calling service) only books their new faces.
BONK! Wrong: The CD will dictate what criteria they are looking for; we do not. Some shows want only new faces every time. Ever think of the fact that each scene may be different and may need all new faces? It wouldn’t make sense that if a person were in a scene in a LA bar that they would also be in the scene in a restaurant in New York during the same episode, right?

**Many shows ask for availability with a certain amount of days since they last worked. EVERY SHOW IS DIFFERENT and every criteria is met for the CD. It has nothing to do with the background actor being a new face or a veteran. If they want your look, they will book you.

**If is doesn’t make logical sense, it’s a RUMOR**

Rumor #3: I’ve heard some booking services gives money or a ‘kick back’ to the casting director when they use their clients.
BONK! Wrong: A legitimate booking service should be licensed as a service, providing services that are paid for from the client/BG actor. I have NEVER heard or seen a background casting director take money to work a client.

Rumor #4: I think my booking service only books me when service fees are due to get me to pay another month.
BONK! WAY Wrong: Really? How would that work. Let’s start by looking at it like an equation.
CD: “Please book Joe Smith & Tammy Jones on this particular job that is asking for ‘like types’ to play a young couple.”
Ridiculous answer: “Hey wait, can you book Sam Jacobs (20 years old) & Ruby Roberts (49 years old) because they owe service fees right now and I want them to stay aboard another month.”

**The casting director has NO IDEA when service fees are due, nor do they care, so how in the world would that rumor makes sense. Yet I get it ALL the time.

Rumor #5: Only younger looks get all the work out there…
BONK! Wrong: Once again, it is all about what the production is looking for. I had a scene recently that wanted all African American churchgoers ages 30-65. So in this case, it didn’t matter how young you were, they didn’t want young looks.

**Now, on the other hand…if you flip on the TV most shows have an abundance of young people working. That’s what is popular right now. So there is a demand at times for young looks, but that demand has nothing to do with your booking service.

Remember: **If is doesn’t make logical sense, it’s a RUMOR**

I will add to this list as more ridiculous rumor are brought to my attention.

I really, really hope this has helped to set the record straight. With as hard as a booking service works, there is nothing more irritating than hearing these rumors.

Lisa is squishing the rumor mill!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Cut Above Casting Services launches it's first blog site! Take a peek...

Hello Cut Above Casting!

I am finally ready to launch my blog site that I have been working on since February 2013. The goal of my blogs are to inform background actors of what is going on in their industry. The industry that they have chosen to be in. I have found, after 8 years in the business of background casting, that so many actors come out here pursuing a dream. What surprises me is how much they do not do the research of how hard it is to pursue a dream in Hollywood. Although I truly believe in wanting to succeed in what you love to do, being an actor should be treated like any other career. A doctor, lawyer, waiter, secretary etc..all have to start at the bottom, learn, understand, and strive to move up. The same stands true for being an actor. Start somewhere, educated through courses, get on sets, make connections, be diligent, ethical, honest, stay grounded and always march to the beat of your own drum-

The level I have chosen to open my business is one of the first stepping stones. Allow these production sets to teach you, open doors and let it enable you to surround yourself with people just like you...pursuing your dreams of being a successful actor.

I hope my blogs inform and inspire you.

Much success to all, more blogs to come...


Great things are done by a series of small things brought together-   Vincent Van Gogh

Monday, May 20, 2013

What kind of picture or headshot is a casting director looking when submitting for background work?

The most important fact a background actor needs to know is they are NOT looking for a headshot. A big no no in our industry. Listen, we know that you spend money and time to look your best; angles are spot on, poses are perfect, hair & make up are better than ever, but unfortunately that’s not honestly what you look like every day. And in order to be submitted and chosen to be on a TV or movie set they want to know what you actually look like. You would be amazed what shows up on set…sometimes, nothing like what the submitted photo reflects. That is not the way to give yourself a good reputation. Be sure to read our previous post on becoming a background actor!

At Cut Above Casting we know you want to look your best and we work hard to photograph the best shots of you. As an actor, we know you probably are going to think your eye looks to small, or your smile is crooked, but trust me, I spent a lot of time when I first opened this business researching what casting directors wanted. They all said the same thing; real shots, not headshots. Please keep in mind I am solely talking about when submissions are for TV, film, commercials & music videos for background actors, the game totally changes when you have a manager, agent or are going out on auditions. Then, you will need your ever-so beautiful headshot!

If you are with an extras booking service, like Cut Above Casting you will probably take a range of two or three photos. Some of the basic looks they are looking for are, based on your age range are: 18 to play younger, hip & trendy, business types, upscale party goers, soccer moms & hipster, to name a few. Bring plenty of wardrobe options so the photographer can style you in different looks. Casting directors in Los Angeles don’t need too many pictures of you, they have been doing this a long time and know what they are looking for. Rest assured, if they want to see you as a look that they don’t see they will ask you, or us, to send them a picture. We have done it hundreds of times!

Well, I hope that has helped background actors to understand that a really honest shot of you is going to get you booked much quicker than a Photoshop headshot!

Side note: When you do get headshots taken be sure to look as much like you headshot as you do in real life. There are a lot of really affordable headshot photographers out there. Here are three of my favorites:

ClickWest Photo: Click West Photo
Chris Sista Photography: Chris Sista Photography
Amber Caul Photography: Amber Caul Photography

Monday, May 6, 2013

OMG, it’s hiatus in Hollywood…how long will it last and what should I know?

 Well first off, I would say there is no way around it, so relax and do your best to ride it out. Remember, hiatus does not just affect the background actor it trickles into all aspects of Hollywood: casting directors, all the TV production union workers, booking services, caterers, dry cleaners, heck everything that makes up a TV show. We ALL have to grin and bear it.

Now looking at the brighter side, it only effects television. Yep, just TV!  Just this month we have still seen film, commercials, audience jobs and even a little TV. Realistically Hollywood never really shuts down, there is always something working.

Enter a booking service, especially a tenacious one like Cut Above Casting! This is exactly where one might think it's a good idea to invest in a small monthly fee. Some may disagree, but the goal of a booking service is to be the eyes and ears of what the background actor may not know, but because we directly communicate with the casting directors we may be privy to information you would of never known. Think of it like a temp agency for background actors. The temp agency (Cut Above) has a roster of people (BG actors) that can do the jobs, in this case the job is a movie extra. The outside companies (the casting directors) call the booking service for options to review, select & employ for the day. We are one of the avenues you should have to help find you work. A good booking service coupled with what ever your strategy is to hustle, rather it me submitting on LA Casting, Actors Access, weeding out a couple legit project off Craig’s List or involving yourself in student films, will all help to keep the momentum going until the beginning of July when our TV shows should begin to trickle back in.

When it slows down like this companies like Cut Above Casting start to search for what is filming. We are always available for the casting directors to call and may do a picture book campaign just to keep the CD’s aware that we are still out there. Most importantly, we don’t let them forget about, so as shows start to come back they naturally think to call on us. Our thoughts are never break stride!

Times have changed in the industry. I have done this work for over seven years and every hiatus has been different depending on what circumstances have happened that year in the industry. For example, in 2007-08 the writer’s strike made for a horrible hiatus for television, but luckily we still had quite a bit of film out here so it didn’t make the hit feel quite as bad. With feature films leaving California in search of greater tax credits and breaks, it feels slower this year, quicker. But like I said, there’s not much you can do about it, certainly complaining doesn’t help, it just blocks what is really needed; a positive energy and focus to keep your passion alive! 

Always the goal: understand the industry in which you chose, get on sets, get hands on experience, get connected, be professional, rinse & repeat!

Positive intentions everyone and we'll get through this together! I hope this has helped you to understand what to do during hiatus.

Continued success to all!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Where has all the feature films gone; have they moved to other cities, if so why?

If it seems like the industry or Hollywood has changed in recent years, that’s because it has.

Most new actors, especially young, come to Los Angeles wide–eyed and anxious. They believe the stories and movies they’ve seen on TV & the big screen and jump in, feet first, hoping for the big break. Many move out here with little in their pockets and the lack of a game plan.

A life as an actor requires research no different than any other career one chooses to pursue. First and foremost, research what is going on in the industry. With the all-knowing World Wide Web, searching just about any question you may have will deliver you answers. Find out what types of shows are filming or taping in Los Angeles.  Study the SAG & AFTRA merger of 2012; that alone changed the landscape of work (or lack of) for UNION actors everywhere. Here's a link that will offer you more info: 

If your question is “Why is there less feature films filming in Los Angeles?” then you may want to research and study the state tax credits for California and how they compare to other popular states where productions are now filming: Georgia, New Mexico, Massachusetts, Louisiana to name a few. Here is a link I found that offers a breakdown and comparison for many states: are going to go where the landscapes & weather work for their projects and where they can save the most money. Makes perfectly good sense.

And then there is the endless amount of reality TV, don’t even get me started, right?!

Yes, a lot has changed, but there are still projects happening all the time in the greater Los Angeles area. The new social media has birthed new types of productions such as: webisodes, viral videos, on line commercials and more. 
We at Cut Above Casting Services work on many types of productions: TV, we still see some feature films, commercials, music videos, print campaigns, re-enactments, audience jobs, PSA, Indie Films and even paying student and college films. Personally, that is why I would recommend every non-union actor to research and join a calling or booking service. It serves as a valuable avenue to have another set of eyes and ears looking for work for you. To receive more info on what a booking service provides click here: Explanation of a calling or booking service

In closing, realistically if you want to be an actor you must understand that half of you is the talent, looks & passion, and the other half is a business that requires aggressive and constant work to find jobs, auditions, acting classes, connections, head shots and more. 

Although there are no guarantees, we at Cut Above Casting, has seen many GREAT breaks come out of our booking service. We have had many SAG vouchers handed out over the years, we have seen many of our back ground actors receive residual checks in upwards of $6,000.00 and recently we are proud to have a veteran, non-union gone union, actor receive an upgrade to a speaking role on the 2013 Academy Award Winning “Argo”!

We hope this has helped you with some general information on work in Hollywood, California. Stay focus, work hard, take a risk and continue your passion!


Monday, April 15, 2013

"Why haven't I been booked on a TV show, commercial or movie set lately?"

"I have decided to write a very clear cut and factual posting with the hopes of answering a frequently asked question received almost daily as a booking or calling service"  

The equation is simple. If you have not been booked, whether it has been in the last few days, weeks or the last month, simply put: you just were not chosen for anything you were submitted for. It is NOTHING personal.

If the casting director chooses, after they receive their breakdown, they have the option to call a booking service to review submissions and book what they may need for their specific media. A booking or calling service is not the casting director, therefore they cannot override what casting does or does not want to do. Booking or calling service’s do not work or report to the productions, nor do they receive the break down of ethnic counts, age ranges, specialty look’s, height requirements, additional specifics etc., all of what a casting director does receive to cast and book a production.

"Cut Above" Casting is the middleman, a respected position within the background-casting world.  

If you like to find out more about what a booking or call in service is click here:

Unfortunately, there is no rhyme or reason in this industry. Some people work more than others, some people work a lot, and then for no reason at all stop getting booked while others don't work for a while, and then start to see an influx of work. I've seen it all, really I have... more success stories then not thank goodness!

I can speak for most booking services when I say we hope everyone gets booked. Since we are a free service to casting directors, they is no additional gain for how many bookings we may produce- once again that is the job of the casting director. But as far as having another set of eyes and ears out there helping you, well heck yeah it’s worth it!

Much success to all and we hope this helps answer that nagging question.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

What casting directors are looking for in a good, or better, GREAT background actor...

After being in this industry for over seven years, and as a business owner always being conscious of how to better what is out there, I have decided to blog about what a casting director is looking for in a background actor.

You will be amazed how simple it is. But first you must come from the mind of a CD and not an actor.

A casting director’s work is non-stop. Productions, 1st & 2nd AD’s wardrobe people etc. all have their demands. When the casting director gets an extras breakdown, like an audition, they start to look to many resources to see their options. Once they have plenty of potential actors to review, they start to book their spots. Even in the background industry, they cast ‘the look’ of what the production has asked for. There are different criteria: gender, ethnicity, look, age range, special skills, necessary props…and again, the list can go on. Most actors think it is just what they look like and yet that may only be one of the many factors.

The equation I tend to use goes like this:
Casting call is for Caucasian guys, ages 25-35 with business suit.
Casting director receives let’s say, 40 different submissions for guys that fit the category. They only need three to fill the booking. So they review all the pictures and cast the three that they like. Thirty-seven guys are not chosen. Nothing personal, nothing they did wrong. Simply put there were 40 submissions and the CD only needed 3 guys. It’s that simple.

So in closing I would say, and in speaking and having relationships with MANY casting directors over the years, keep it simple and not personal. Here is a basic checklist for all background actors:

  • Submit for as many roles that you look the part and never submit for a role that you don’t.
  • Look like your photos, they booked you based on that look.
  • Always be on time to set; camera, hair & make up ready.
  •  Have many avenues to search for work. Having a calling service is one, in addition to, on line submissions and joining all casting directors here in LA with client rosters.
  •  Be organized. Being an actor is like running your own business; many jobs, auditions, acting classes etc. can overlap. Make sure there are never any conflicts.
  • If you are not booked DO NOT TAKE IT PERSONALLY. Because it is not personal. You just weren’t chosen.
  • Don’t bug the casting director- they know what they are looking for. Trust them. They too are doing their best to keep good relations with their productions. The industry is tough right now and everyone wants to keep his or her job.
  • Hustle. A positive word in Hollywood!
I hope this helps the many actors that don’t always understand why they weren’t booked. Research the industry; it is ever changing. Be aggressive, but don’t overstep your boundaries. Be grateful for every booking that you receive and be happy for others. 

I have seen many big breaks come out of being an extra; the next may very well just be yours!