I recently had the pleasure to sit down with Casting Director Jen Rudin, author of Confessions Of A Casting Director. Jen has over 30 years of experience in the entertainment industry and provides insight on how to help actors have better auditions and work their strengths. From the pros and cons of the acting scene in LA vs. NY, to the plight of YouTube success stories, Jen covers it all in her book that is designed to actors be successful.
Christian Roberts: What prompted you to write this book to help out actors, and what do you hope aspiring actors can gain from the information in your book?
Jen Rudin: I’ve seen everything during auditions. I’ve been in this business for over 30 years. I’ve learned that as a Casting Director, I rarely have time to give feedback in auditions. I wrote the book to help actors gain control and be confident in their auditions. I wanted actors to have a better understanding of the industry as a whole. There are multiple chapters in the book covering topics such as pilot season, to the difference between New York and L.A. It is sprinkled with different stories and perspectives of the business from agents and actors.
Roberts: What outlets do you find most helpful in discovering new talent for Theater, Film, and T.V?
Rudin: Online Content is growing, so I pay attention to that. We’ve seen a lot of talent come out of YouTube. I will see shows at UCB and the PIT, I see a lot of theater, and I watch a lot of T.V. I’m always looking for talent. The agent is the seller and we are the buyer. I constantly meet people. We also work with a lot of child actors, specifically voice talent. I worked at Disney in Feature Casting from 2002-2009, and spent two years at Disney theatrical productions from 2007-2009 overseeing the casting for all of Disney’s Broadway shows and tours. I’ve worked in corporate, and have had my own company for five years.
Roberts: You have had over 30 years of experience in this industry. You were a child actress, a studio exec, and casting director. What has been the most difficult obstacle you have had to overcome to get to where you are currently?
Rudin: That’s a really good question. I would have to say that it’s the competition. Even among Casting Directors it’s highly competitive. But in the end networking is the best tool. You have to maintain and cultivate relationships with actors, agents, etc. When I left Disney, I would call agents and they would know me from my previous experience. Relationships take time. They don’t happen over night.
Roberts: How has Social Media and YouTube changed how you cast projects?
Rudin: Technology is great, however, it doesn’t substitute for talent. When it comes to decisions, talent is always bigger. Anyone can post a video on YouTube and not have talent. There’s no longevity in that. There’s a chapter in my book titled “Don’t Tweet Us, We’ll Tweet You.” I pay attention to it if it has a good story with compelling characters. Compelling characters are what I’m looking for. I can usually tell within a couple of minutes whether it’s worth my time or not.
Roberts: When are actors ready to get agents and how do they go about getting one successfully?
Rudin: It’s the million-dollar question. I have a whole chapter about getting an agent. You get an agent once you start to have a little buzz. Actors can meet agents through networking at One On One, Actors Connection, etc. Sometimes you have to pay to network in this industry, but there are some success stories that come out of it. When you meet with an agent or manager, it’s important to be professional, and not come across as desperate. I suggest making a Google Doc and list all of the CD’s you’ve worked with and who know you. Don’t be a passive actor.
Roberts: What are the pros and cons of L.A. vs. N.Y.C.?
Rudin: I focus on this too in my book. They are two completely different cities. In L.A. you’re driving, everything is spread out. In New York you don’t need a car, and everything is much closer. Everything is right here. People don’t know the differences between LA and NY until you spend time there. You have to do your research.
Roberts: You give insight in your book about how actors can turn call backs into roles. Care to give a little insight on that?
Rudin: You have to be realistic. Actors think they should be auditioning for everything all the time. Focus, don’t stretch yourself too thin, and be realistic about the roles you are right for. Manage expectations, keep it real. You must know your strengths and what characters you can play.
Jen Rudin is an award-winning casting director and author of “Confessions of a Casting Director: Help Actors Land Any Role with Secrets from Inside the Audition Room.” (Harper Collins/It Books, 2013). Backstage recently named Jen one of the top 25 Casting Director to follow on Twitter. Visit www.jenrudin.com and follow @RudinJen and find the book here: http://www.harpercollins.com/books/9780062292094