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Tips for Emerging Actors from Casting Director Ben Cogan

Esteemed casting director Ben Cogan has worked in casting for over 25 years and began as a Casting Assistant for many TV shows (including EastEnders, Holby City and Waking the Dead), before becoming the Casting Director for Doctors in 2002. 380 episodes later, Ben moved to Casualty and, in his time there, six episodes that he worked on were recognised with BAFTA nominations. During this period he also worked on the Afternoon Play series, Kiss of Death and various short films – one of which was nominated for an Oscar. Ben is now a freelance Casting Director working on Feature Films and Drama in addition to hosting an incredibly popular audition workshop on our Masterclass in Screen Acting and now a brand new, two day Zoom workshop: How to Audition and Make Your Self Tape Shine

Here are some of Bens top tips for emerging actors:

  • It is important to build a rapport with your agent. This is a valuable aspect of being managed by someone when you are looking to break into the industry.
  • Your work & credits should be constantly updated and your CV can be used to apply for professional work.
  • Headshots should be simple, not too flashy, just simple headshots that show what you actually look like. This is the most professional way to come across to any agent or casting director. Remove dated or old images from your profile.
  • Whether your hopes are to go into acting, dancing, singing or musical theatre – you may want to learn all forms of the arts to help you to succeed. This way any opportunity that arises through your agent you can audition for.
  • Consider all work your agent offers you! Any audition is a great opportunity.
  • Don’t fret about your age, appearance, or your time away from ‘the game’, just be true to what you want to achieve and ensure you and your agent are on the same page.
  • For a professional self-tape, make sure it is bright and there isn’t lots of background noise. Read more about how to self-tape on here.
  • Always learn scripts for auditions if you have time and research the role.
  • Enjoy what you are doing, enjoy drama, enjoy the process and don’t let knockbacks affect you. It may be the case that you give the best audition but aren’t compatible with the mum or dad they have cast – this is out of your control, so just concentrate on what you can control.
  • Keep your love for drama, the scripts, the characters and never let your enthusiasm be diminished or get disheartened by what you see as rejection. It’s not rejection, it’s just that part didn’t go your way. 
  • Take control of what you can, be it preparation, passion, presentation – particularly with self tapes at this moment in time.
  • When preparing for a headshot shoot, grab a mate or loved-one the day before and improvise a little shoot together in order to feel more comfortable and confident.
  • Make yourself a glossary of all the TV shows, productions and films you like and research the casting directors who worked on these projects. This can help you pin-point who to contact in the future and can be a good starting point for a conversation.

Take advantage of our limited time offer available on Ben’s upcoming online workshop. A must for any actor looking to improve their chances in the audition room (or call!): How to Audition and Make Your Self Tape Shine

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Student Diary: My Experience with Acting – Eden Avital Alexander

Eden Avital AlexanderWhen did you start acting?

I started my performing life when I was 5 years old; I truly doubt if anyone who will read this is younger than 15, so not sure if my experience of getting into the business is even relevant. To add to the fact that it was in a different country in a different era; a time when you used to get your text for an audition on fax. So many times you got from the production your text smudged and it was sometimes awkward to call and ask, especially if you’re 12 years old and embarrassed, not realising that the smudge is not your fault. Also, you don’t want them to remember you as “the problematic one” – sounds familiar at any age, right? But since then I learned you SHOULD ask, in order to give your best and closest to what they (by “they” I mean casting directors and directors or anyone in the casting room. Well… When there was still an actual casting room) want. Many times I guessed or waited for the audition day to ask once I arrived – that’s how I roll – living on the edge.

Continue reading Student Diary: My Experience with Acting – Eden Avital Alexander

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My Experience at Actors Studio – Actors in Lockdown

As actors, we are always trying to advance, learn, build our ‘tool kits’. However, during the current times inspiration begins to dwindle, being in front of the camera suddenly terrifies me. Do I still have it in me?? To find out I jumped onto Tim Kent’s 5 Day Course, one of the few things available.

Pinewood Studios in Iver Heath.

Day 1

Here I was, back on set. Nervous. Actors wearing visors. Name tags on chairs, that were placed sparsely apart. Mr. Kent greeted us, and suddenly the mood changed, actors began to smile as he spoke of filming, acting, camera angles, the editing process and what’s expected of us as actors, suddenly we were back in that world we love. LIGHTS! ACTION! The magic words. Suddenly the posture was back, the breathing, the anticipation. We were handed out scripts, that were later filmed. He placed us in the hot seat, analysing each character, where we came from, what’s our story, and imaginations flowed again. Amazing transformations.

Day 2
Now this was a tough one. A day of entering your deeper emotions, those things at your core, the things we hide, the things that make us who we are, and how to safely access them and use it on screen. We each chose a story that has impacted us in some way, and gave it to camera, no scripts. A great bonding exercise (with some tears) as we all gave our story’s. Suddenly your soul is blasted open, and there you are, the real you, no shields, no barriers. Somehow all our raw emotions were there. At the end of the day we were handed scripts that were to be filmed at the end of the week as part of our Showreels.

Day 3 – Rehearsals
Rehearsal day. We worked with our partners, rehearsing the two scenes. Yet after the previous day there was suddenly a deep intimate connection between all of us. Mr. Kent separately rehearsed with each pair of actors, where we worked on blocking, and polishing our characters, building their stories, until it came to life.

Day 4 – Filming
Shooting day. Nervous. Each pair filmed their scene separately. The masked crew was lovely, as we all worked in such new circumstances. We were directed by a young talented director Nathan Caselton. More skills, more strength, more self-belief.  who had years of experience working with Tim Kent. He was incredibly patient, guided us through our scenes, helping us understand our characters better, working out the best angles for each individual actor. And there we were, acting, and happy.

Day 5 – That’s a Wrap
We entered our second day of filming. The actors suddenly developed an aura of confidence, I think the previous day of intense exercises and filming helped us all access something, almost like progressing onto a new level. We were directed by Mr. Kent, and it was like watching the magic unfold in front of your eyes, like watching an artist with a paintbrush. He took those incredible energies of each actor and moulded it into scenes creating beautiful shots together with the Director of Photography. Stories unfolded, and the actors became real, shining, giving their all on camera.

Unforgettable experience. Almost like someone breathed life into you again, inspired. True movie magic.

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5 Ways to Take Control of Your Career. The Power of Marketing and Training.

For actors, it can sometimes feel like your career path is dictated for you by the industry. The uncertainty that 2020 has brought definitely hasn’t helped, but despite the rollercoaster this year has been, there are many reasons to be hopeful. Screen entertainment has provided so much comfort to people, and whilst areas of the industry have been shut down, there are new opportunities cropping up for performers. Acting can be a difficult career to navigate and one that often has no clear linear progression. Despite this, there are several ways you can take back control and get ahead in the industry.

 

1. Invest in your marketing.
Your headshots and showreel are the most valuable thing you have as an actor. If your agent is submitting you for work, or if you’re submitting yourself, then casting directors will come into contact with them daily. Remember that all they know about you is the marketing you have to offer them. So show off your edge (what makes you, you) and know your casting. Having a professional showreel which shows a range of emotions and characters is so important. It needs to be recent, show what you look like today and highlight your ability to perform with nuance and subtlety. Your headshots should make an immediate impact since they hold the key to you getting in the room. Make sure your headshots and showreel work hand in hand and give casting directors a really good sense of who will walk in the door.

 

 

2. Training, training, training.
Whether you’re a working actor, returning to the game, or you’re just starting out, 2021 is the perfect time to invest in training because it will pay off when normal life kicks back in. Actor’s Studio has a great range of face-to-face and online courses available so you can make it work for your budget. Training with industry leading tutors teaches you lifelong skills, it makes you ‘set-ready’ and it gets your name out there amongst top directors. Word of mouth is everything in this industry so perhaps it’s no surprise that I can trace back several paid jobs to my training at Actor’s Studio. Keeping your skills sharp in areas like script analysis and vocal technique will help you book the work instead of just auditioning for it. Preparation for the job IS the job, and training can help you build that confidence you need to make great choices and own your craft!

 

 

3. Get creative. Make the work you want to be in.
In an industry heavily focused on looks, creating your own work helps you take charge of the characters you want to play. Be proactive and start making projects that excites you. Gone are the days of actors waiting for their agent to call. Just look at the film industry, some of the most successful actors get involved in the production and writing of scripts they are passionate about. It’s a great way to develop contacts without always approaching people as an out-of-work actor looking for their next role. Now, you might just be the person casting an actor to work alongside you and develop a relationship with industry professionals in a more organic way.

 

4. Use your time to upskill.
In the down time between jobs, look at where the industry is moving and make smart choices. Ever considered getting into voiceover work but you don’t have a reel yet? Many theatre projects have been cancelled this year but the voiceover market seems to be growing. Having a professional voice reel has helped me book jobs and made lockdown more bearable because I can work from home.

 

5. Build your network.
Screen casting has gradually picked up pace again and every day actors I know are booking work. Industry leaders have had more time on their hands this year which has made contacting more accessible. Use this time to meet casting directors and directors via workshops or even via video call. Develop these relationships like you would in any other industry and you will see the pay off further down the line.

So be good to yourself, look after your physical and mental health and explore the things you can control right now. Luckily, training and filming can continue through lockdown and when the industry jumps back into full action…it’s going to need all of us to bring our A-Game!

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The Growing Demand for Multi-Cam and What Actors Need To Know

Any actor who wants to work in television needs to know and understand the differences between multi-cam and single-cam. With COVID-19, growing measures are being put in place by productions to make sure that you, the cast and crew, are safe. Productions are looking at filming more efficiently, and the use of multi-cam is quickly growing in popularity.
Continue reading The Growing Demand for Multi-Cam and What Actors Need To Know

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Coronavirus + The UK Film & TV Industry

For those of us behind the scenes or on-screen, film sets have been in lockdown just like everywhere else and the industry came to a holt. It was hard to imagine what a Film or TV set might look like operating with COVID-19 guidelines, but slowly, productions are reopening including Actors Studio and we have implemented new ways of working in accordance to government guidelines and advice from the British Film Institute.  Continue reading Coronavirus + The UK Film & TV Industry

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My Experience With Acting

Having been in the ‘business’ nearly 20 years (working in different areas), I thought I would write about some of my personal experiences and knowledge to offer support and advice to actors both professional and aspiring.

This first blog details my own personal views which some may not agree with, but I hope there is something that helps. The following is aimed at aspiring actors, but professionals may appreciate the content. Continue reading My Experience With Acting

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The Role Of A Casting Director & How They Can Support Actors

While most actors are aware of casting directors and appreciate they are the people who can offer actors work, many do not fully understand the role of a casting director. Understanding their role will give you an opportunity to build a successful relationship with them and as a result, give you a better chance of being seen for roles.

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A Guide to Self-Taping (While you Self-Isolate).

As the film industry reopens for business, self-taping is more important than ever with almost every CD choosing online tapes over physical auditions. This makes it a perfect time for you to dust off your tripod and microphone to practise your taping skills at home. In this post I am going to address some the technical elements of putting together a solid self-tape, and cover some of the misconceptions on what to wear and how to present yourself. Continue reading A Guide to Self-Taping (While you Self-Isolate).