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WORKING WITH BABIES! DID YOU KNOW?

Posted on: June 1st, 2016 by Ken Lazer

In addition to all the children and adult projects I cast, I do a lot of baby castings too.  After a callback session with a client recently, I was telling him all my secrets that I’ve learned about babies and production that he wasn’t aware of.  Below is only a couple of them. But they are important ones!

I won’t go into the Child Labor Law details, I’m sure every Producer knows about those.  Instead, this is a short post to share how to successfully work with a baby on set.  Here are some tips:

1. DETERGENT/FABRIC SOFTENER: If there is an adult actor working with the baby in the shot, for example, a “mom,” ask the real mom or dad of the baby what detergent and fabric softener they use. Why? Babies will feel comfortable in the arms of the actor mom or dad whose clothes smell like the real mom or dad clothes. The baby will “recognize” the scent and be more relaxed.

2. WHAT TIME IS YOUR BABY’S NAP TIME?: Whenever I’m doing a baby casting, I always ask the parent or nanny on camera, “What time is the baby’s nap time?” You will be surprised the range of times I’ve heard. “Oh, 12pm-3pm” or “11am-2pm.”  There are various time frames depending upon the age of the baby. Why do I ask this? As a producer or director, you need to know when that baby is going to start getting cranky. Knowing the times of naps and times of when a baby is most alert is crucial to your planning your shoot.

Ken Lazer Casting Company Website

(646) 781-9182

New SAG-AFTRA Commercial Deal!

Posted on: April 14th, 2016 by Ken Lazer

Finally! The new SAG-AFTRA Commercial Deal is done!

Check out the details in the article featured in The Hollywood Reporter.

DIY Casting Doesn’t Work, 8 Reasons You Need to Hire a Professional Casting Director

Posted on: February 15th, 2016 by Ken Lazer

I felt compelled to write this article because I just had a 3rd Producer hire me to do a casting that he attempted to do himself. I see this scenario several times each year when a Producer will try to find talent on their own only to fail at finding what they need. Then, the Producer will either call or email me and with limited time left before the shoot to cast, since they lost too many days trying to find talent themselves.

In today’s economy, now more than ever, we are always looking for ways to save money. Get the best deal. People will go online to find freelance artists such as Fiverr for $5 or a little more. And unfortunately as great as the deal sounds you just can’t get the best service or a good final product let alone get it on time. It can be frustrating.

It’s the same thing when looking to book the best talent for your project whether on-camera or voiceover. You can go to these DIY talent based websites that claim can give you best talent. They wave strong call to action phrases in front of your eyes that make them look very legit and attractive to use. Even convenient. And hey. It’s free too. Who wouldn’t want to use them?

But then you either start getting hundreds of submissions or sometimes not many because actors may not know your name and actors know there are lots of scams out there.

Who does an actor trust? Who does an agent trust?
They trust a seasoned veteran casting director with proven credentials in the industry.

Recognizing a trend of “DIY” styled casting options available I wanted to educate new producers and directors on why it makes better sense to hire an experienced Casting Director.

8 Reasons to hire a seasoned Casting Director rather than using a DIY method.
1. WE HELP YOU NAVIGATE THE SEA OF BUDGETS AND CONTRACTS
Budgets can be complex for a novice. Once the show has been cast, many times the casting director will negotiate money, schedules and billing with the agents or the actor directly. You can think of the casting director as the Human Resources person who is screening people for the job. People can get nasty about billings, photo approvals, etc. An experienced and seasoned Casting Director is experienced with dealing with all of these types of situations, and can help navigate more positive outcomes. Thus, taking one less task off of your “To Do” list.

2. BREAKDOWNS ARE KEY, WE MAKE SURE IT’S DONE RIGHT
A “breakdown” is a write-up of the project that includes a short description of the project in addition to an outline of characters/roles in the script for the project. It also commonly includes names of the people involved in the project such as the directors, casting directors, and producers as well as proposed project dates and locations. Breakdowns for union and nonunion commercials, voiceovers, television shows, movies, and plays are usually submitted by casting directors.

3. YOU CAN’T MATCH OR BEAT OUR EXPERIENCE AND KNOWLEDGE
You simply can’t replace the experience or knowledge of a Casting Director with over 23 years experience. By hiring them, you are instantly gaining access to their vast knowledge of the talent pool in any given city they specialize in. You need a professional seasoned veteran (i know i wrote that but is it redundant? or ok?) casting director who already knows the best talent options to present, knows that the actors I bring in are professional and to do a professional casting session that shows exactly what the actor or model looks like currently and how they would do the copy (if there is any) and do the actions required for the project—according to the concept your Creative Director created to sell your client’s product.

4. THEY GUIDE AND STREAMLINE THE AUDITION PROCESS “THE RIGHT WAY”
Working with an experienced Casting Director, allows for the audition process to be better streamlined and organized. How I do it: “First, the actors come in, they do their audition, I give some direction to improve performance, and then the actor leaves. At the end of the day, I send the session of the best choices to my clients to review. After the clients—producers and director—have reviewed the session, they tell me who their selects are. If there is a callback session, I schedule their selects to come in again to audition and maybe get some additional direction from the director. Then when the callback is over, the actors leave. The producers and director narrow down their selects from the call-back and choose a first and second choice to present to their client. And then, they all make the decision who finally books the job.” (I had to add some in the above so not sure about including link below?) Ref more info on auditioning process: http://www.backstage.com/advice-for-actors/backstage-experts/how-does-casting-process-work/

5. WE HAVE THE CONNECTIONS WITH TOP ACTORS AND AGENTS YOU DON’T HAVECasting Directors, especially seasoned ones in the business over 23 years have built an invaluable database of connections with actors, agents, and other industry professionals as a novice or new director/producer you just don’t have.

6. YOU SIMPLY CAN’T GET THE SAME “WOW FACTOR” WITH DIY CASTING
When I do a session I give my clients a clean, impressive, organized casting session. I make sure the talent is dressed according to what my client’s specs of the characters are; as an example, if I’m casting the role of a doctor, I will put a white lab coat and stethoscope on each actor that is auditioning to give my clients a better idea of what it would look like if they wanted to book a particular actor for the role of doctor. It also gives THEIR client the ability to see a better idea of what the final project would look like. I also provide props and basic set for the talent to use, making their performances much more believable. You can’t get that same experience when an actor is self submitting from their home with bad lighting.

7. WE CAN HELP PREVENT YOU FROM HIRING A DIFFICULT PERSONALITY ON SET
Producers and Directors doing their own castings at risk of hiring an actor or model that may have personality issues on set. They risk not being professional, thus jeopardizing the shoot and risk losing your client for future business.

8. OVERALL, WORKING WITH A CASTING DIRECTOR YOUR ODD’S OF SUCCESS ARE GREATER THAN WITH A “DIY” CASTING SCENARIO…HERE’S WHY. If you hire a non professional in any industry, the odds strongly favor a less than desirable outcome. Taking this kind of gamble is risky and not worth jeopardizing your entire project for the perceived sake of saving a bit of money. Many professionals like myself have reasonable and competitive rates and are going to get the job done right, creating the most successful outcome by lending their expertise.

Ken Lazer Casting Company
For 23 years, Ken Lazer Casting Company has successfully casted a wide variety of projects, including casting for regional, international and national commercials, television, radio, film, webisodes, industrials, voice-overs, reality TV and print media that features adults, teens, children, babies, models, comedians, improv troupes, dancers and singers. Ken Lazer Casting works with union and non-union actors alike, amassing a pool of talent culled from top talent agents and managers, as well as direct-to-talent resources.

If you are a new director or producer, seeking further casting advice and want to work with me, please email me at ken@kenlazercasting.com

Media Inquiries? Contact Racheal @ media@kenlazercasting.com 

What you need to know before casting your next film

Posted on: January 14th, 2016 by Ken Lazer 2 Comments

Astoundingly, many budding new directors don’t place an appropriate emphasis on the importance of casting and merely see it as a pre-production task. So for you new directors out there, you can follow this post as it will assist you and explain how casting the right talent will impact your next film project.

The Casting Call.
The casting process can be frustrating. There are many talented actors on the industry landscape eager to land roles, it can still a challenge to find the perfect fit for an originally written character. Sometimes, when a producer or director attempts to do their own casting, many talented actors (and some not talented actors) can walk in and out and still none of them are a right fit for the role, no matter their caliber of talent. Often the right look, and not just talent are factors in choosing the right actor matching the directors outline for the role. This type of struggle is very common in all casting calls when a producer or director attempts to do their own casting. From my experience over the past 23 years, I have learned that if you are extremely selective early on you will increase drastically to find the right fit for any role. You can’t cut corners in the casting process, you must find a candidate so perfectly suited you couldn’t imagine the film without their presence.

My process
First, we get the specs required from our client. Let’s take a female and male, age 20s-30s, all ethnicities, attractive, sweet, wholesome girl/boy next-door as an example. We take these specs and put them out on a breakdown.

After the breakdown goes out, there are many submissions from the agents and from the actors—Then, it’s decision time. Who gets an audition time?

Important to remember in the casting process…
When casting a film that has a small amount of roles needed, make sure not to bring 200 people in a cattle call style without reviewing their heads shots and resumes. You’re going to be dissapointed when you discover both yours and their time has been just wasted. Instead, make sure to take ample time early on to hand-pick a dozen or so candidates for each key role. Make sure to fully research who they are, watch all their demo reels, discover their full background and who they’ve worked for. This will give you a leg up on finding the most suitable talent for any role desired.

For example, when casting for a commercial you may hold auditions every 5 – 7 minutes depending upon how much copy/action is involved in the audition, in my experience, film casting is a different process where you have the advantage of slotting in your actor auditions every 10-15 minutes or so, to allow for ample review, give appropriate direction, in order to fully evaluate how your talent performs best. Hopefully, by the first week of the casting process you will have selected some great candidates, but don’t rush the process, take the right amount of time to be sure you have made all the right decisions. It’s not worth settling for actors that are not quite the right fit, so your film production has the best chance for better success.

Here is exactly what I do.
First, I schedule the actors I already know are great with copy. I always like to give new talent or talent I don’t know an opportunity. However, I need to see some kind of video reel of the person’s work. Resumes don’t mean a thing since anyone can make up credits on a resume. I want to see video footage. However, there are rare occasions that I will schedule someone I don’t know based on their headshot and resume—it does happen.

Then, there is the audition. You come in, do your best, and you leave. At the end of the day, I send the session link to my clients to review. Actors have always asked me, “Do you take actors off your session?” The answer is: Yes, sometimes. I have to. If someone comes in that I’m giving a chance to and gives a poor performance and just cannot take the direction I give them, I have to take them off. My clients are hiring me for my knowledge and eye for the best talent for their project. But for the most part, it is rare that I have to take someone off from my session. Since I only bring in the best talent, there are those rare occasions one of those actors was having a bad day and couldn’t give a great audition.

Final Note.
If you plan do to your own casting, hopefully, you will get some great talent on day one or two of your casting process. But if need be, take another day or another month to cast your film if that’s what it takes. It’s better to spend as much time as you need to up front to ensure that you find the right actors to tell your story, otherwise your film will suffer later on. Or save yourself the time, energy and frustration and hire a casting director that already knows the exact actors to present in the first day. You need to find the best matching talent for your film/project, you have to be 100% sure so much so you couldn’t imagine the project without them. When this feeling transpires, you’ll know you’re ready to begin your film and take the next steps.

If you are a new director or producer, seeking further casting advice and want to work with me, please email me at ken@kenlazercasting.com

If you want results KLCC is your

best choice for casting.

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