Tech and Casting, by George Maddocks
Seven years ago I got a Blackberry 8700 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BlackBerry_Electron). Whilst my friends and colleagues competed over whose camera had the most megapixels and failed to send each other files over bluetooth I was giving myself arthritis firing out e-mails and obsessively following Google Reader through the EDGE network. I was, for a short but wonderful time, top geek at my work. I was on the cutting edge.
Now the nineteen year old apprentice at my theatre has a BB Bold, and the only person I know who doesn’t have a smartphone is my mother (and she wants a IPhone.)
Last year I was working at a drama school. On my lunch break I noticed a well-established (read: old) theatre director with five huge copies of the spotlight catalogue. He was going through each page taking down the reference numbers of performers he liked the look of. Another director, himself very ‘well-established’ hobbled in, ‘why you doing that?’ he asked incredulously ‘you can do it online, its much easier’.
What I’m driving at isn’t complicated, we carry devices that are as powerful as desk/laptop computers in our pockets and even the bed-blockers (I am a director) are starting to realize that the way forward in casting is online. Sometime in the last ten years years a actors online presence went from being a optional extra to the primary and most important representation of you for directors.
The burning question is exactly how to cope with this? The basics are simple, update your page often, sign up for multiple sites (CCP, Spotlight, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook) be diligent in replies and, most importantly, have a separate Facebook profile for work.
Sadly for those of you who already do this, I watched eighty plus drama students get trained to do exactly the above last year at one drama school, and there are 20 NCDT accredited drama schools in the UK alone, simply put, the basics are now just that.
The good news is that the smart phones that elderly directors peer at through reading glasses at do more than text and pictures, video and music playback is now standard and unlike a few years ago it doesn’t require codecs or mulitple app downloads. The octogenarian director you want to work for just has to bash his shaking digit below your headshot and your media is played.
What media though? Phones now handle video with ease but thats a gift and a curse, industry standard ‘low budget’ film and television (think Eastenders) still costs hundred of thousands of pounds and our eyes are attuned to that level of expense and post production, advances in tech (Cannon 7D’s etc) keep bringing the cost down but, ultimately, unless your making a showreel from TV appearances you’ve done, a video showreel is almost always going to look cheap and cost the earth.
As a result audio is the best and most economical way in which you can represent yourself online, a studio recorded voicereel by a reputable company is not trying to be industry standard, it is industry standard. Its not without risk – there’s a lot of companies that will burn you for voicereels (don’t pay over £300 – no matter what) – but go with a good company and you’ll find yourself performing in the same environment as the very best in the industry, in these circumstances, the recording method becomes transparent, all that remains for a director to judge is your talent.
IPhones, Android Smartphones and Blackberries are the new battleground for online content producers and the new casting tool for directors. Voicereels allow a director to immediately hear you to a professional standard on the very devices they will very often be targeting and without their first impression of you being tarnished by cheap production values.
Theres a wealth of places online that you can get a voicereel done personally I would recommend the people with whom I have worked closely for years – http://www.wirelesstheatrecompany.co.uk/index.php/wireless-theatre-voicereels – but I would say that.
Shop around, if you find a cheaper deal from a company with a better track record in radio drama please take it, but whatever you do, do make sure you get a professional voicereel recorded because it without it, it won’t be long before the shaky handed octogenarian bed-blocker squinting through his glasses at your profile will mutter ‘no media’ and double tap onto the next candidate.
Follow George on Twitter – @georgemaddocks