Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Day 116: Mind your Manners

I have so little going on these days (hah!) that I have decided to produce another of my short plays (cause I'm INSANE!).  More details to come, but save June 19/20 on your calendars! As such I am back on the "other side of the table", as we performer-types like to say, meaning I am sitting behind the audition table doing the casting rather than being in front of the audition table doing the auditioning.  I really love this process, and know that if I ever do return to the auditioning side of the table again, I will approach it very differently now.  My auditions aren't for a couple of weeks yet, but I have been in the process of gathering resumes and headshots and scheduling audition slots.  (It's actually a fair amount of work to get people to come audition for you, it turns out.)  In this process, I ended up doing something I've never had to do before: I canceled someone's audition.  If you ever thought that your cover letter/email doesn't matter, let me assure you: it does.

It turns out I form an almost instant, subconscious opinion of each actor or director who contacts me based upon my email (or, rarely, phone) correspondence with them.  The professionalism, clarity, and promptness of a person's messages all get filed in my brain.  For good or bad, I have the 12 actresses coming to read for me organized into a loose hierarchy in my head, largely based upon how they have interacted with me over email (the only thing that can trump this is a personal recommendation).  A person who has impressed me with their professionalism has to disappoint me with their acting to not be cast.  A person who has not interacted well with me has to really impress me with their acting in order to be cast.  Which column would you rather be in?

So why did I cancel that actor's audition?  Her emails to me had always been a bit flaky and unprofessional: too conversational, not well-written, no signature file or link to a website, nothing to tell me she was a potential collaborator rather than just a friend dropping me an email (even though I had only met her briefly at a networking event).  I was going to give her a chance to impress me with her acting anyway, until she emailed me on two separate occasions to ask me questions she had already asked and that I had already answered (and that she had confirmed receiving the answer).  At that point, I knew I would never cast her, so rather than wasting everyone's time I simply told her that I needed any actor I worked with to be more on the ball than that.  If you can't remember your audition appointment, how can I trust that you will remember the rehearsal schedule?  There are too many incredibly talented people out there for me to waste my time with such nonsense.

I now feel like I haven't been crazy all these years for spending so much time making sure my professional emails are just that: professional.   Remember that old expression, you never get a second chance at a first impression?  Well, nowadays, many of our first impressions are electronic.  Whatever your field, it is worth the time to make sure that impression is a positive one.  And that's my unsolicited advice for the day.
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