Booking The Job – Steps Beyond Foundation’s Artists Talk Series

June 16, 2016

“…God, I hope I get it! I hope I get it. I’ve come this far, but even so it could be yes, it could be no. How many people does he…? I really need this job….” (A Chorus Line)

The lyrics of “I Hope I Get It” from A Chorus Line are symbolic of what goes through the minds of many performers as they pound the pavement going to auditions day in and day out. The on-going worries about missing a step in the choreography, forgetting a line, or hitting the wrong note are a common occurrence. Performers learn how to be tough-skinned in order to thrive in a business that puts them face to face with rejection many times as they go about their day in pursuit of their dream career.

But when that contract is offered, it’s the gold key opening the door to living the dream as an artist. Suddenly the pieces fit and one realizes just how much the blood, sweat, and tears are worth the grind. Performers are stars as they smile through the emotional and physical pain to get there. Sometimes it’s more than the talent one demonstrates in the audition that will land the coveted job. Not knowing why you were cut can be frustrating, but you learn to pick yourself up and move on to the next one.

The Steps Beyond Foundation recently offered performers a chance to hear about some of what goes into the casting process of a show at the Artists Talk¬¬– Booking The Job discussion. The panel was made up of Lucille DiCampli (LDC Artist Representation); Larry Keigwin (Keigwin & Company, choreographer If/Then on Broadway); Josh Prince (choreographer of Shrek, founder/artistic director of Broadway Dance Lab to name a few credits); and Jason Styres (casting director on such shows as A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, Dames At Sea, The Lion King, and Irving Berlin’s White Christmas). The panel was moderated by Patricia R. Klausner, Special Events Producer.

A lot of insights were shared by the panelists, and it was helpful to have a peek behind the process of selection to get the big picture of what it takes to put together the cast of a show. The panel shared tidbits of what a performer can do to help themselves out and some of what shouldn’t be done to help get a foot in the door.

One of the most important topics discussed was how performers represent themselves. How you treat the other people you’re working with can make or break getting that contract. An audition is a job interview, and respect for all involved on a show will speak volumes in providing future opportunities in the business. No one wants to work with someone who is disrespectful and who brings an over-inflated ego into the room. Being a team player is essential. Word will get around our small community, and everyone knows someone who could be the person to have that next job waiting.

The respect of others extends outside of the studio. How you utilize social media has become critically important. Josh and Larry noted that negative feedback and posts about individuals and shows will be noticed, and everyone has a different circle of friends who might be privy to what is posted. Another common use of social media is to post pictures of current performances one is involved with. All of the panelists were in agreement that unless permission is granted by creative teams and those who sign your check, never post a picture of something that hasn’t opened. One should be careful about any pictures posted involving costumes, sets, images of the music, and anything else that isn’t available to the public yet. Reading through a contract fully is important for knowing what is allowed throughout the production and what is expected of you. Asking for clarification is recommended if there are any discrepancies or portions that don’t make sense.

The fight continues in the business to provide performers with contracts ensuring their safety and reasonable pay. In the past, dancers were known to work on a film/tv project with a stunt double contract, or where they were listed as an extra when they were doing principal dance work. Those contracts didn’t provide the level of safety or pay that the artist should have received, and it’s an on-going issue that is being worked on to offer improvements in the industry today.

Lucille and Jason spoke about your current headshot. When you show up to an audition, does your headshot look like you? Could you recreate the look of your photo easily, or is it so different that one won’t be able to recognize the person who walks in the door? A dancer should have two shots of themselves. One theatrical, and one commercial. Thoughtful and pensive. In person auditions are recommended, but if using a video, make sure it’s good quality and that it’s easy to find you. (No arrows pointing to you as you dance across the room). Clean and professional looking. If relevant, provide links to performances. It’s important to show one’s versatility. Dancers are trained in multiple styles more today than ever before, and any videos should show the full picture of what one can do. Choreographers applying for jobs do need links to their work, and it’s necessary for them to showcase how what they do is different. Make the work stand out. Recommendations by people in the industry are a powerful tool in getting a job.

Talent is important, but aside from that, a lot of what happens is out of your control. It’s so hard to know what someone is looking for at an audition, unless they say something specific. (Which doesn’t always happen). A description of ten things that require zero talent was shared, and it had made the rounds on Facebook and garnered a lot of attention for the insights it provided. It offers an overall look at what one can do that is within one’s control. Some great thoughts to ponder and strive to apply not only as artists, but also in how we go about our daily lives.

They are:
1. Being On Time
2. Work Ethic
3. Effort
4. Body Language
5. Energy
6. Attitude
7. Passion
8. Being Coach-able
9. Doing Extra
10. Being Prepared

Some things can be taught, and this list of ten things is something that can be worked on every single day. Being able to apply these to one’s routine could help in being able to identify how one works, and how one represents themselves when trying to book that job that will shine the stage lights upon them.

A lot goes into the process of booking a job, and applying the information one receives from those in the industry is another step in the right direction to living the dream. Hope to see you all in the audition room and studio, being yourself, and living it fully as only you can.

– Anne-Allegra Bennett
Assistant to the Director of Group Programs

Booking The Job – Steps Beyond Foundation’s Artists Talk Series