Talent Searches

To begin, it would be virtually impossible to find a serious actor, singer, or dancer in New York or Hollywood who is unaware of the existence and name of most of the major, legitimate talent agencies and casting companies in town.

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As a result, these agencies and companies are besieged day and night by hundreds of the most skilled and talented, (and not-so-skilled or talented) performers in the world.

Their head shots arrive daily by email, snail mail, messenger, dogsled, and carrier pigeon. Further, there isn’t a receptionist at any of these agencies and companies who doesn’t have to spend at least part of their day, every day, politely shooing actors out of their lobbies, waiting rooms, and reception areas.

What does this mean to you?

It means simply this:

The LAST thing any legitimate agency or casting company or producer ever needs to do is to spend money advertising in newspapers, on television, or radio for talent!

Nor do they need to spend money flying around the country, renting large banquet rooms at hotels, paying staff, and all of the other expenses necessitated by supposedly “searching for talent”!

These events are ALWAYS ruses to sell something, such as modeling classes, portfolios, conventions, or other useless services.

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This is not to be confused with classes or workshops given by people who are working full-time in the industry, such as legitimate casting directors. This is always a GOOD idea. Not only does it familiarize these people with your talent and skills and provide you with valuable and practical feedback, it also pleases talent representatives, (agents and managers), who will want to know if there are casting people who have worked with you and are familiar with your work. That said, please keep in mind that NO major, legitimate New York or Hollywood casting director flies around the country at his or her own expense, “searching for talent.”

One Exception:

I CAN think of something that might seem to be an exception to the points I raised above about talent searches.

A Revealing Casting Story...

I observed an interesting phenomena many years ago when I was coaching some of the kids in the original Broadway cast of ANNIE.

Columbia Pictures was in the process of casting the movie version of the show, and I recall that there was a nation-wide search for the little girl to play the lead.

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It turns out that after spending what must have been many thousands of dollars, and several months of “searching”, that the child ultimately selected for the role, Aileen Quinn, (an extremely gifted and charming girl), had been the understudy, or “swing”, for all of the orphans appearing in the Broadway production.

Certainly, the production and casting people who originally placed Miss Quinn in the Broadway cast were aware of her considerable talents long before embarking on their lengthy and expensive nationwide “search.”

So, why did they do it?

The answer is publicity!

What better way to promote the opening of a major family-oriented motion picture than to have thousands of little girls appearing on television and in newspapers all over the country, lining up in droves for a chance to star in Annie!

We see this all the time even today: major, legitimate film and television studios announcing a “nation-wide search” for the lead in an upcoming production.

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Not that this doesn’t often result in the selection of a talented “unknown”. One of my students, Laura Osnes, (in my opinion a brilliant actress/singer/dancer), was chosen during one of these searches to play the starring role of “Sandy” in NBC TV’s “Grease- You’re the One that I Want.”

Laura then went on to star in that role in the Broadway production, and subsequently landed the lead in the Broadway revival of South Pacific.

The point in the above examples is that neither Columbia Pictures nor NBC TV are talent agencies or talent scouts or casting companies seeking to “discover” or “represent” talent.

They are both giant, legitimate production companies, who had a specific legitimate project in hand. They were not selling anything; they were simply seeking to publicize their casting process, and thereby promote one specific project.

Even so, given the tens of thousands of performers who auditioned for just one role, the odds of being chosen were ridiculously miniscule.

I will however leave it entirely up to you as to whether it is worth flying somewhere, paying for hotels, and waiting in line for many hours for the chance of being chosen under such circumstances.