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The NBC and ABC Diversity Showcase video auditions…who stood out?

Every year the major networks hold auditions for a diversity showcase for minority actors. This year actors are being asked to put themselves on tape. All applicants were sent a choice of 6-8 scripts and instructed to cast themselves and put an audition on tape. If chosen by the casting directors, actors have the opportunity to be mentored by the network and appear in a showcase for the heads of all casting and the network executives. This is a wonderful opportunity to be seen by some very important decision makers.

So how does an actor stand out if everyone is putting themselves on tape–using the same scripts–how do you stand out among the hundreds of actors who are submitting videos?

1.) Pick a scene that showcases your personality and sense of humor. If your sense of humor is sarcastic, choose a sarcastic one. If you happen to be more upbeat, pick the upbeat scene. This is not the time to show off that you can play “outside” your type; this is an opportunity to do what you do best.

2.) Do the work. I was shocked at how many people who came in to videotape spent more time on their outward appearance than on their acting. Some actors needed 15-20 takes because they didn’t know their lines. Others knew their lines but didn’t do the acting work (who, what, why, etc.), so they showed up and tried to “wing it”. Vivid, exciting, truthful choices are what make you stand out when everyone is doing the same script. An actor living truthfully through something with a point of view is what brings new life to a script they’ve heard hundreds of times. The whole point is to showcase your talent. So why would you show up to videotape without working every moment out?

3.) Don’t shoot bad video and sound. So you picked the scene, you were smart enough to get coaching, you did the work, and you have a vivid, solid scene with original moments that is ready to be filmed. So why would you take all that work and use a cheap flip cam? Why would you record it on your iPhone? Below are samples of two actors and what they submitted. Without even watching or hearing the scene, who looks like they are ready for television? If you were a casting director, which picture would you be more inclined to show a studio executive?

As you can see, the video that is shot in the old 4:3 aspect ratio, with poor sound and downward lighting, screams amateur video or student film. The other, however, is in true 16:9 full HD, with studio lighting and professional quality microphones. You don’t need to pay a ton of money to put yourself on tape if you know what you’re doing. But if you don’t truly know how to do it, then find a professional who does know–or learn.

With all the latest advances in technology, people are less forgiving than they used to be about the quality of the videos used for submissions. Today the bar is set higher. What separates you from the rest of the actors is in your control. Are you willing to do what it takes to put your best foot forward?



Alberto Bonilla, Director of Film and Television for Maggie Flanigan Studio

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