Casting Networks® caught up with Ross Grant of Act On This. Ross explains how he was inspired to create Act On This, how he became involved in the world of casting and what excites him about the future of casting.
1. When did you get the inspiration to start Act On This and why?
I left drama school in 2005 and quickly realised it hadn’t prepared me for the business of the business. Yep, I knew how to act, but I had no idea how casting REALLY worked. I didn’t know who the decent agents were, which casting directors were responsible for the TV shows I wanted to work on, and for four years I felt utterly lost.
I decided the only way I could learn this stuff was to get experience in casting, so I ended up working as a casting assistant for Michael Jackson and Beverley Keogh at Beverley Keogh Casting. I’ll always be indebted to Beverley and Michael, as they gave me that “business of the business” education that I felt I was lacking.
Two years later, I left the office and started implementing what I’d learned as a casting assistant into my own career. It made me way more effective and I quickly started booking TV work myself. It genuinely transformed my career!
It was at that point, around 2011, that I had the idea for Act On This. I thought if I could give other actors access to what I had learned, I could save them that initial four years out of drama school that I’d wasted.
So, I guess I was scratching my own itch. I needed to know how the industry really worked, but there was nothing online giving me that info. It was going to be down to me to create that. And thus, actonthis.tv was born.
Ten years later and I’m now sitting down every week to host mastermind sessions with the biggest casting directors, agents, actors, directors, writers and producers in the industry and providing that “business of the business” coaching to hundreds of actors. It’s been an incredible journey.
2. How did you get involved in the industry, particularly with casting directors?
Once Act On This launched in 2011, I was determined to learn more and more about the industry from every perspective possible. I began reaching out weekly to casting directors, both in my own career, but also to see if they would be happy to take part in an Act On This feature with me.
The response was incredible and over the years these guys and girls have just kept coming back, offering the membership more and more value.
I always like to give value back, so over the last decade I’ve built many websites for casting directors, will often read-in at auditions and readthroughs for them, and as the Act On This community has grown, we’ve been able to help find some awesome talent for them too.
So many actors are intimidated by casting directors, but honestly, our industry is full of the most wonderful people. Actors need casting directors and in my experience, casting directors love actors. Collaboration is key!
3. What is one of the most memorable tips, advice or mention a casting director has made on your show, that you think would be useful for other industry professionals?
Ooh, there have been so many it’s impossible to choose just one, really. One piece of advice that really made me think differently about my marketing as an actor came from “Bridgerton” casting director Kelly Valentine Hendry. She once said to me, “We’re looking for a reason not to bring you in.”
You see, I think so many actors want to cram their showreels and emails with so much information, that they often leave something in that puts a casting director off.
An actor may have two amazing scenes on their showreel, but insecurity about only having two scenes on that reel leads to them to add a third scene that was shot years ago, perhaps has lower production values and doesn’t do them justice.
They include it, just to show that they’ve worked on more stuff. But, ironically, it’s that piece that might put doubt in a casting director’s head. Less is almost certainly more in 99% of cases.
4. What are the most common questions your listeners want to hear answered by your guests?
That’s an easy one. “How do I land more auditions?” And one thing actors need to know is that there are literally dozens of ways. The critical thing is exploring all options.
If there are 100 ways to land an audition, but you only try 10, you’ve only got a 10% chance of getting the result you want. The actors who take massive action always rise to the top.
Those I see making huge strides right now are the actors who are creating their own work to showcase their talent. Social media (Twitter, Instagram, etc.) is an incredible tool for getting your work in front of the right people, so get creating!
5. Tell us about an Act On This highlight since launch.
These questions are so tough! Haha! One highlight of the past 12 months, which always makes me smile, was from a mastermind session I held for members, with Matt Lucas. I love Matt. He’s had an amazing career and his energy is fantastic.
At the end of the Zoom session, he jumped on his piano – and we all sang his charity song, “Thank You Baked Potato.” It was such a good laugh and provided much-needed comic relief at the height of the first lockdown.
6. What are some of your favourite hobbies outside of work?
I’ve just bought myself a Peloton bike, which is pretty cool. You get to do LIVE, online spinning classes from home on it. It’s really challenging me to raise my fitness game, after being out of the gym for so long now.
I’m also an absolute geek and have recently re-discovered my old Pokemon card collection, from 20 YEARS AGO. These old cards have become super-valuable so I’ve been studying the market and getting back into collecting shiny pieces of cardboard again! Gotta catch em’ all!
7. Is there something specific you are looking forward to in 2021 (industry-wise or coming up for Act On This?)
I’m so optimistic for 2021. I’m at my first in-person readthrough of the year for a great TV show, next week. It’s going to be so cool to be back out there, amongst other people, doing what we love again (safely of course).
One thing that’s very apparent from the most recent Act On This features with casting directors is just how much work is now on the horizon.
It’s going to be a very busy second half of the year for the TV industry and the slate for 2022 is going to be jam-packed.
With regards to Act On This, I’ve just launched a dedicated iPhone and Android app to help members take in all of the site’s content. I can’t wait to get that into as many people’s hands as possible. It’s going to be a game-changer.
8. Do you have a quote or mantra that you live by?
I certainly do. Many years ago, a great mentor of mine said to me, “Life will pay any price you ask of it, so what are you asking for?” It made me realise that for so long, I really hadn’t been asking life for what I really wanted. We all need to get out there and start asking for more!
9. If you could have lunch with anyone, past or present, who would you pick?
Definitely the King of Pop, Michael Jackson. He was my biggest entertainment influence growing up and was the guy who made me want to get up on a stage. I’d love to have a real, honest chat with him.
10. What excites you about the future of the casting profession?
I’ve always been excited by technology and the casting profession has certainly embraced it this last 12 months. I think we’ve realised that self-tapes and Zoom can genuinely offer a great casting experience. Yes, there’s nothing quite like being in the room, but, self tapes have certainly allowed casting directors to see more actors for each role recently, and Zoom auditions aren’t as traumatic as you think they’d be. They also save you so much money in transportation fare!
I’m excited to see how we combine this technology with in-person auditions, to give actors even more opportunity moving forward!