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Lost in Translation: An Actors Guide to Clear Casting Specs

Recently, I received an audition request for an on-camera gig and I have to say, I spent a good 45 minutes reading the breakdown from top to bottom, side to side and front to back trying to figure out what my roll was. After looking at the very vague direction provided, "direction *** please refer to scripts for both spots", all I took away was that my character had a name and that I needed to read through TWO scripts to understand my actions. Okay.

Turns out there was only one script.

So, I scoured through the one script trying to find the name of my character. It never appeared. The script was calling for multiple actors doing a wide variety things and the ages of each character ranged from teen to senior. I was confused and needed to call in my agent for help. She agreed that the directions were like trying to find a needle in a haystack but was able to get clear direction from casting after a weeeee bit of prodding.

I want to point out that I've had the pleasure of receiving a variety of casting specs over the years. Some crystal clear, some...well, let's just say they leave a lot to the imagination. So, I thought I'd take a moment to share some insights from my perspective on why it's important to send clear and concise casting specs.

First off, I want to make it clear that I don't mind a challenge. In fact, I love stretching my chops and trying new things. But when the specs are so vague that I have no idea what you're looking for, it makes it nearly impossible to deliver a great audition. For example, telling me that you're looking for a "unique voice" or to "refer to both scripts" doesn't really give me much to go on. What are my actions, my intentions, my vocal styles? Help me out here, folks!

On the other hand, I also don't want to receive specs that are so specific that it feels like you're trying to clone a previous actor. Sure, it's helpful to have a starting point, but I want to bring my own unique spin to the character or project. If you want a carbon copy of someone else, I'm not your guy. Hire the person you have in mind or find a impressionist.

So, what's the sweet spot? In my opinion, the best casting specs are clear and concise, with just enough detail to give me a general sense of what you're looking for. For example, telling me that you're looking for a "friendly, approachable voice with a hint of sarcasm" or "40ish years old. Give us a few takes looking at the camera pretending to be bored and few pretending to be happy" gives me a good starting point. From there, I can use my own creativity to bring the character to life in my own way.

In conclusion, my dear, sweet and hard working casting directors, please don't be afraid to give us some guidance! We want to deliver our best work for you, and clear and concise casting specs are the key to making that happen. Plus, it saves us all time and frustration in the long run. So, let's work together to make some magic happen!

Thank you for reading and if you are a casting director and want to chime in, please do not hesitate. I would love to have this conversation open for all to be a part of.

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