Award-winning Actor, Producer and Casting Executive GERALD WEBB isn’t one to beat around the bush. “I don’t subscribe to the idea that you have an unlimited time to have a career in Hollywood. You don’t have an unlimited amount of resources. You guys don’t have unlimited time and I don’t want to BS you because too many industry people already do.”
Gerald’s made good use of his time and resources. He’s been one of the country’s most innovative DJ’s, having created the first method for DJ’s to scratch a CD like a record. By the late 90’s he “fully embraced his love of performance and began seriously acting.” In other words, he did a zillion auditions. Fast forward ten years, and Webb had garnered 100+ TV and film credits. In ’09, he cast his first movie, so impressing the studio that they hired him as their in-house casting director and later casting executive. In 2011, he became a successful producer, now the owner of two award-winning production companies.
Since the 2014 conference, Gerald has just finished producing Minutes to Midnight starring William Baldwin.
Gerald’s walked the talk about taking charge and working hard. And he once again brought a lot of hot food to the table at the Burbank International Film Festival’s day of free industry seminars. Here are some highlights of Gerald Webb casting pearls of hard-won wisdom along with some oldies-but-goodies from last year.
Webb’s Word on Acting Before the Audition
- Know your stereotype. “The secret to success in Hollywood is this: What stereotype will they let me play?” And once you master that stereotype, then they realize you can act. Only then do you get to play other roles. So ask yourself what people see you as. Have friends and actors tell you. Then make the head shot conform to it.
- The two essential shots. Actors need to have at least two shots: a great commercial shot and a great theatrical shot. Get these two right and you’ll be fine.
- Attitude Adjustment. The #1 reason to win the audition: “It’s all about the work.” Oh, and “It doesn’t matter if me or my assistant likes you. It matters that you’re professional and that you do the work at the level I expect. When you’re done, say ‘thank you’ and leave.”
- On juggling schedules. Gerald realizes that juggling work, personal obligations and unexpected audition opportunities can be challenge. But, “You need to figure it out. It’s not our burden. I have no problem if you try in advance to reschedule. But don’t make your problem casting’s or production’s problem. ”
- (OBG) Be professional. Show up on time. Have your head shot. Bring the sides. Fix your hair. Don’t look at the floor. Listen. A lot of would-be actors neglect these basics, and they don’t have the excuse of being rank beginners. Don’t be in that crowd.
- (OBG) Learn the lost art of script analysis. Strong choices aren’t just making up stuff. They are justified by the So read the script. (And don’t answer yes to the director if you haven’t. You’ll be found out.) Then analyze the whole script, not just your character’s lines.
- (OBG) Know thyself. You have to be really honest with yourself and where you are as an actor and as a person. Acting is not faking. It’s embodying the truth of your character and their situation. You can’t embody the truth if you don’t acknowledge where you are in your journey.
- (OBG) Don’t play it safe. If you’re an actor and you haven’t blown an audition, you’re doing something wrong. Maybe you aren’t taking the kind of chances that would bring out the full range of your talent. Take them! Be willing to lose the audition battle to win the career war.
Webb’s Word on Acting During the Audition
- Heads up. At least for your first line of dialogue, don’t look down at the page. Look at the person you’re addressing.
- Ask smart questions or don’t ask at all. If you have a question, don’t ask, “What are you looking for?” Make sure the question is specific and informs your performance.
- This actually happens. Don’t pronounce names wrong.
- A common mistake. For auditions on tape, don’t play to the corners of a room. If you do, you’ll be in profile to camera. Shrink your performance to accommodate the camera not the room.
- Another common mistake. Make sure any gesture is a choice, not just nervous energy or indicating due to lack of good preparation. This is part of knowing yourself and your instrument.
Webb’s Word on After the Audition
- Avoid this fate. If you blow it with less-than-professional conduct or deliver, it can really cost you. “Once that happens we’re not calling you in for a long while; in some cases, maybe years. So when you send in your postcard saying ‘remember me,’ you’re reminding us that when we gave you an opportunity YOU WEREN’T READY”
- Whether or not you get the role, get respect. “There are a million reasons why you don’t get a call-back and the majority have nothing to do with you.” Parts get rewritten, directors and producers often change their minds or hire friends, etc. But whether or not you get the role, being a prepared professional will get you respect and future auditions.
- (OBG) Not all feedback is verbal. Not getting callbacks is part of your feedback. Notice that “feedback” is not spelled “f-l-a-t-t-e-r-y.”
Webb’s Word on Producing
- Don’t forget who brought you to the dance. “My first duty as a producer is the fiduciary responsibility I have to get my investors their money back.”
- (OBG) Embrace the Low-Budget University. You can learn a lot on low-budget films if you’re willing to do the work, wearing multiple hats.
- (OBG) Get the money up front from distributors. Get as much of it as you can, and then be prepared to be content with it. Because chances are, you’ll never see any of the other money.