Whether you are looking for an acting position doing commercials, theatre, or movie work, there will come a point in your search where you find yourself about to enter an interview. The good news is that you don't have to rehearse your part. The bad? Many actors still do.
In this book excerpt, award-winning actor, writer, playwright, and screenwriter Glenn Alterman tells you what interviews are about and the different types, as well as how to get them, prepare for them, and get through them.
What is an Interview?
An interview is a meeting with a casting director, director, producer, or agent. It's an opportunity for that person to get to know you. It's very rare that an actor is cast just from an interview, but it does happen (more in England than in the US). Some casting directors schedule general interviews on a regular basis.
How to Get an Interview?
Usually the best way to get an interview is through personal recommendation. As you've heard, I'm sure, in show business, "who you know" quite often can get you in the door.
The second way to get an interview is to contact casting offices or agents by mail. Send your picture and resume with a good cover letter specifically requesting an interview. Unfortunately, more often than not, you won't hear back from them. But occasionally you do (especially if you're gorgeous or very interesting looking, or wrote a letter that intrigued them).
The third way to get an interview is to call them on the phone and request one. But before lifting that receiver:
- Make sure you're in a good mood and feeling positive.
- Be prepared to be businesslike, direct, and brief.
- Take a breath, dial . . . and go for it!
- Understand that if you don't get past the receptionist, it's nothing personal, and it shouldn't be taken as a rejection.
You Get the Interview. What are You Afraid of?
That casting director has agreed to meet with you for an interview. Hurrah! Many actors, however, become filled with fear and trepidation as the day of the interview draws near. Why? They worry because they don't know what will happen at the interview and fear the worst. Questions like, What will she be like? Will she like me? What should I talk about? What shouldn't I say? What should I wear? Should I dress upscale or be more casual? The uncertainty can terrorize you. The best way to combat this fear is to find out everything you can about the person you're going to meet and the office that you're going to. The solution to your fear is simple: Prepare.
Preparing for the General Interview: First the Facts
Find out as much as you can about the person you're going to meet. If it's an agent, try to find out who some of the agency's clients are, how long the agency has been in the business, what type of reputation it has, if it accepts videotapes, if it has offices on both coasts, what it's franchised in (theater, TV, film, commercials)-everything. Ask around, network, and ask your friends.
If it's a casting director, find out what she's cast in the past, what she's presently casting, and what she's slated to cast in the future. Find out how long the office has been in existence. Does it have offices on both coasts? What type of reputation does it have? Again, research, network, and call your friends. The more you can find out about the person who will be interviewing you, the more comfortable you'll feel. That knowledge will be helpful in alleviating your fears.
Improvising the Interview
Once you have all the information you can find, the next step is to imagine the situation. When you think about it, most interviews, no matter what they're about, have a certain commonality. They begin when you enter the door; you say hello, you sit down, you talk, you say good-bye, and then you leave. In addition, in some interviews, you're asked to perform a prepared monologue or read some cold copy or sing a prepared song. That's about all that's going to happen. There shouldn't be too many other surprises.
While at home, improvise what you'll say. I use the word "improvise" because the last thing you want is to sound like some kind of machine spewing out memorized facts and information about yourself. Don't rehearse a memorized script, improvise. Remain loose.
You can be assured that interviewers will ask certain basic questions such as, So what have you been up to? and Tell me about yourself. After looking at your résumé for a moment, they may start chatting with you about a theater that you've mentioned or a director they're familiar with. This is not a quiz! Don't get uptight. Prepare in advance by being very familiar with everything on your résumé. While improvising at home, create imaginary conversations about items on your résumé. Try to be positive in everything that you say. Even in the case of those horrible professional experiences that you may have had, give them a positive spin. Nobody wants to hear an actor whining or complaining at an interview.
One of the great residuals of doing all this preparation before the interview is the feeling of confidence you'll have when you actually go in for the interview. You know that you've prepared to the best of your ability. And even though you still may be a little nervous, you'll be a lot more confident.
Types of Interviews and How to Prepare for Them
There are several types of interviews for which you may be called in. I'll briefly explain what some of them are and how you can best prepare for them.
First there's a commercial interview. Sometimes, rather than having an audition for a TV commercial, casting directors will have a commercial interview instead. The best way to prepare for this is to find out as much information as you can about the product and the specific commercial you're up for. Ask your agent to fill you in on what he knows. If you feel that what he knows isn't sufficient, then politely, professionally call the production office. Ask questions such as, Will this be a comedic commercial? and Will it be scripted? Find out as much as you can. Whatever you learn will be helpful. Unfortunately, many times the agent won't be able to tell you too much. The best you can do is try.
Next there's the theatrical interview. This is when you're auditioning for a play to be performed in a theater. The more you know about the particular play (not just your role or the scenes you're in), the better. Again, ask your agent specific questions about the play and the character for which you'll be auditioning. If the play is published, get a copy. If it isn't, call the casting office, and politely ask if you could come by and get a copy to read in advance. If not, could you at least come in earlier the day of your interview to read it? Find out as much as you can about the director and producer for whom you'll be auditioning. What other plays have they done? What are their backgrounds? Knowing as much as you can about them can be fodder for a good conversation when you meet with them at the interview.
Once you have some information about the play and the character, it's always wise to dress accordingly. In some situations (period dramas, historical plays), actors have made the mistake of costuming themselves. That is, rather than dressing in a manner that suggests the appropriate wardrobe, they'll rent the actual costume for that period. Aside from perhaps looking somewhat foolish, you may come across as being too desperate. I wouldn't advise that. Suggesting the wardrobe is all you need to do.
In the case of soap opera or episodic TV interviews, find out as much as you can about the show. If you're familiar with the show, don't hesitate to tell the interviewer how much you've enjoyed watching the show (and specifically tell them why).
For a movie interview, see if you can read the script in advance (more likely than not you won't be able to). Once again, make sure that you get as much information from your agent as possible about the movie (and specifically your character).This text has been excerpted from Promoting Your Acting Career, by Glenn Alterman. Published with friendly permission by Allworth Press©, publishers of business and career advice for creative professionals. To learn more about the book or to order it, visit Allworth Press at www.allworth.com.