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Insider Insight Into Running a Virtual Casting Session


Most commercial casting sessions are done virtually now as opposed to in-person. It is obviously safer, more talent can be auditioned, and fewer expenses are involved by eliminating a nurse requirement to set up and oversee the correctly sanitized environment. There is also an extra step for the casting director with virtual casting, which means extra hours of work. But, no one is complaining because it is most important to keep the work flowing. 
One scenario of how a casting session can flow goes like this: After the casting director puts out the breakdown, we look through all the submission photos and résumés, and then at the talent’s demo reel. For years, I have been urging commercial actors to have a reel on their profile, because it definitely gives you an edge over someone who does not. We get a much better idea of who you are by seeing a video. Now, more than ever, time for experimentation has narrowed.
Your first call.
When we feel you are right for a role, you will be invited to send in a self taped audition. This in essence is your first call. Depending on which breakdown service you are using, the method for us receiving your self tapes will vary. This can range from a casting director’s Dropbox link, to emails, to a built-in delivery method on the breakdown service site. Updates of the main breakdown services are being updated to keep up with casting needs. With the volume of talent and details involved, the goal for the most efficient flow is to keep all elements of a breakdown on the system being used.
Follow directions very carefully.
Talent, you are now part of the casting director’s organizational process. With so much excellent talent competing, anything you do that makes the process more difficult can easily knock you out of the running. To help talent follow directions, some casting directors, in addition to writing out the instructions, are sending a video acting out the detailed slate instructions and showing talent examples of the requested labeling. If you think this is picayune, remember, depending on how many characters are involved, a casting director can easily first have to possibly sift through 4,000 photos and resumés, and then have to view 400 to 800 invited self tapes.
After we view all the self tapes, selected talent will be invited to the virtual casting session with the director.
The virtual casting session.
The virtual casting session allows us to see as much talent as a normal pre-COVID in-person audition. Because of the amount of characters involved, I recently had a virtual director session with 215 talent scheduled.
Each virtual casting session can of course be different. At this session, when you arrived at your appointed time, you waited in a virtual waiting room until we let you into the session. Here, we went over the directions with you before you saw the director. We also took a look at your lighting and made sure your camera was in the correct direction, which is usually horizontal rather than vertical.  
The session director, who is now also our tech director, was simultaneously manning a breakout room. In this breakout room were the session director, the director, and other creatives. Through technology, I was able to see what was going on in the breakout room, as well as enter in and out and speak to my clients to introduce the next talent. I could then select the talent, or group, and send them into the breakout room to audition with the creative team.  
After they finished auditioning you, when you left, you had the choice to sign straight out or stop back into the main session to say “thank you and goodbye” to me. It was actually a nice touch to say goodbye to the talent who stopped back into the main room.
Here are some tips to help your audition run smoothly.
Be on time. It’s always been important to be on time, but now that there is less wiggle room, timing is more important than ever for the success of the virtual casting session. 
Know your phone. Your phone is your lifeline to your audition. Know how to position your phone in the correct direction, and enable it to stay in the right position.  
Maintain your professionalism.
Just because this is a virtual casting session doesn’t mean you should audition from your car, or hang out and lounge on your balcony or sit by your pool during the time we are prepping you.  Keep everything focused on being professional and on the audition task at hand.
All and all, running the virtual session and working with talent and agents only solidifies the great community we are all a part of. This time is a testament to our industry’s tenacity and creativity. 

Terry Berland is an award-winning casting director for commercials, voiceover, film, television and theatre. Her casting awards include Clio, The Houston International Film Festival, Art Director’s Club, Addy, and the International Film and TelevisionFestival. Her former Head Of Casting staff position for Madison Avenue giant BBDO/NY has contributed to her deep understanding and involvement in the advertising industry. She is known throughout the country for her talent development, and is the author of the how-to industry book, ”Breaking Into Commercials.”
For more information about Terry Berland Commercial Acting workshops click here.
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Reproduction or usage of this article on other websites must be credited to Terry Berland, Casting Director.

 
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