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Interview with Dori Zuckerman

Now Casting: What makes you call in a lesser-known actor: is it the headshot, the training, the agent or manager, or a mailing?

Dori Zuckerman: All of it. When I'm going through hundreds of headshots a day on a role, it's whatever catches my eye. I like to see if they have training and if they're doing theatre. It doesn't matter if they have a lot of credits. But if they show me that they're at least studying and doing theatre that would help me bring them in.

NC: Is the difference noticeable between those actors that are actively in classes or theatre and those that are not?

DZ: I can tell. Theatre is the best way to learn self-discipline; you have to do the same thing every day and take on the responsibility to make it fresh and new. You don't have an editor to edit in the line you forgot or the director who can give you a second take. Theatre is the best training anyone could get to move in to TV or film.

I love postcards. Sometimes one will come across my desk at just the right time and I'll toss it to Lauren and say, "Set this person up."

Sometimes it's managers and agents. If they call and are passionate about a client and feel he or she would be perfect for the role and wouldn't be wasting anyone's time, I'll take their word for it. A lot of times they were wrong! (Laughs) But it's great when they're right.

NC: What is it you look for in a headshot?

DZ: It's about capturing your personality, not being too posey. I can pretty much tell what kind of person I'm looking at if the picture is well taken. It has to represent you. If it doesn't represent you, don't send it out. This just happened: I was looking for a hot twenty-year-old. This guy walks in and his picture is about five years old and forty pounds lighter. What good does that do either of us?

Have a realistic smile and personality. It's weird because a lot of actors bring in their proof sheets to me. And when Cathy Henderson and I were working together, we would both usually pick the same pictures. But the agents always picked different pictures. They always picked the ones that were posy and not who the person is that's standing in front of them. It's really a different eye that managers and agents have compared to casting directors.

Women should not do the glamour shot that makes you look like you could do the front of a magazine-which is airbrushed-because you're not going to come in airbrushed. You better look like your picture. Don't end up sitting in a room with people five years younger than you because you airbrushed your picture. And especially don't wonder why you didn't get the role. Because when you walk in the room, there's the truth. The picture might get you in the office, but if the picture doesn't look like you, it's not going to help. If it looks too good, give it to mom to put on the piano.

NC: Isn't that strange? For some of us, truth is the hardest thing to deal with, and yet it's the best thing to do.

DZ: It's shocking. It's also shocking when people lie about their age. A lot of times-and I know we're not supposed to ask because it's illegal or whatever-we ask how old someone because they might be appropriate for something else. We want to make sure they're either old enough or young enough for that. And a lot of people don't answer the question truthfully. I love people who answer me honestly. Whether it's the age question or any question I ask them, because then they must trust me enough to know I'm asking for a certain reason. It's only to help them. So why lie?

NC: What do you look for in a demo reel?

DZ: Demo reels are best for getting an agent or manager. The only time I need demo reels is when there are actors I really, really want to come in and they're not available, so I have to get a tape from the agent to show the director or producer.

NC: How do you find new actors?

DZ: Mostly it's watching TV and movies because I'm here until eight o'clock. I don't have time to go to showcases. On the weekends I catch up on Netflix and the TV programs I had to TiVo over the week, just so that I can see everything at least once. Time-wise, it's hard. And when you cast in the Indy world, it's really hard to go and see a play. Actors should realize that the people who go to plays are the studio and network execs. They go and discover new talent and then they call whoever is casting their shows or movies and say, "I just saw this person in a play, I think you should see them in this role." And I think that's fabulous.

NC: What are the most important things an actor should know or do before walking into the audition?

DZ: Do as much homework as possible. If you're auditioning for a part and you think if you read some of the script it would help you understand more, go to the office early and ask to read it. If you're not represented, that's a way to do it. But if it's for Waiter #2, I really don't think you need to study the script too much.

If you're coming in for a role you should know who and what you're coming in for. I cannot tell you how many times people have come in and said, "Is this a comedy or drama?' Wow. You really should know that answer before you step into the room where the writer/director is sitting right in front of you. It's just dumb. Imbd is a brilliant thing to have at your disposal. You can find out who you're auditioning for and what they've done. It really just depends on how much research you want to do before you go in and audition.

Here's my biggest pet peeve: when you walk into a room-I don't care who you are-bring in a picture and resume. A lot of times agents or managers call and plead their case last minute, and I'll say, "Okay" and set the actor up. Which means we don't have the picture handy. It's like a Bermuda Triangle in the room where pictures are. Bring a picture! One actor walked in the other day, someone who was added last minute, and I asked him, "Did you bring a picture?" And he went, "No. But you don't need one, here I am." And I went, "Allrighty then... " Just because I know you were on a cable series, doesn't mean anyone else in the room does. Why wouldn't you want to bring in your picture and resume so that the director and producer can look at it, turn it over, see who you're studying with, see if you've worked with people they know? It's so stupid and arrogant of some actors when I hear, "No, I don't carry them with me..." Do you actually believe that everyone in this room knows all of you? Yes, casting directors do. We know you. But that doesn't mean the rest of the room knows you. It's not helping you get the part. How badly do you want the part? Be prepared; be polite. There's an actor by the name of Jaimz Woolvett, who was the kid in The Unforgiven-a wonderful actor! Jaimz has never come in without a picture and his demo reel-which is totally unnecessary because people know his work. It's like saying, "Here is everything you need to know about me if my audition isn't enough for you. If you want to see more, I have this for you." It's just how much do you want the part and how much are you willing to do? But the arrogance of, "No, but here I am," is like, Oh my, God...

NC: What are the important things an actor should or should not do during an audition with you and/or the director and producers?

DZ: Do all your warm-up exercises outside the door. I can't tell you how many people say, "Can I have a sec?" They turn around, do their deep-breathing, jumping up and down, rolling up their head-all we're doing is rolling our eyes! Do it outside. Come in the room, say, "Hi! Nice to meet you," and be ready to work If someone hasn't introduced the director and producer to you, which usually the reader or the casting director does, say, "Oh, you're the director? Very nice to meet you." As far as handshaking-some people like to handshake, some don't. Actors shouldn't be insulted if people don't want to handshake because a hundred people a day-that's a lot of germs. And you don't know if someone is sick or they've got a sick kid at home. I can't get sick. I don't like to shake hands. I've got Purell all over my office. And it's no offence to the actor, I just need to stay healthy. Most of my directors and producers stick their hands out and shake hands because that's what they do. Don't be the lead on that. Let a director or producer stick out their hand. If they don't, just say, "Really nice to meet you."

Come in, be ready, be professional, do the scene and get rid of that line, "Is there anything else you'd like to see?" If there is anything else, the director will say, "That was good. I just want to try something else." After forty-five times of hearing, "Is there something else you want to see?" and replying, "No, really, that was fine," it gets a little exhausting. Besides, actors should be aware that there are little physical things people do that tells them whether they've got the room or not. If they can get anyone to shift in their seat, or lean forward, or to look more into the monitor, something like that-you're doing something right. If nobody moves, you've done nothing new and you've brought nothing new to the table; they've already seen it. So be prepared to bring something into the room that's going to make everyone perk up and the director to say, "Wow! That was really interesting. How about try this?" Let the director decide whether or not to tweak. Every director knows, for an audition, that if he wants to redirect, he can redirect. You don't need to say, "I could do it several ways." We know. You're an actor. And if the director wants to see you do it several ways, he's going to tell you. Otherwise, you might have come in and done it just the right way; you made the right decision.

Dori Zuckermans is on IMdB!

Interview printed with permission from iActingStudios.com and Rick La Fond. Copyright 2013. All rights reserved. - iActing Studios is a premiere provider of Online Acting Classes. They feature hundreds of hours of in-depth classes; hosted by professional instructors and coaches who've taugh some of Hollywood's most famous A-listers.