Three Things We Learned From The Latinx Casting & The Power of Decision Makers Panel

Photo courtesy of Belatina, latinx
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If the pandemic left us with anything positive, it is the normalization of virtual events. Today, it is easier than ever to connect virtually with professionals in any industry from any corner of the world.

From artists to producers to skincare and beauty specialists, we are now fortunate to speak with highly skilled entrepreneurs who take time out of their busy schedules to share their advice from first-hand experience to help the next generation of Latinx creators.

In doing our research to facilitate career advice to everyone, BELatina News attended the “Latinx Casting & The Power of Decision Makers” virtual panel this month to dig into advice for upcoming actors and those interested in the casting process side of the television and film industry. 

In this virtual panel, organized by Colour Entertainment, we had the pleasure to share screens with Executive Vice President of Talent and Casting at CBS Entertainment Claudia Lyon, Casting Director Carla Hool (“Man On Fire,” “Coco,” “Narcos: Mexico”), and with actor Laz Alonso (“Wrath of Man,” “Fast & Furious,” “LA’s Finest”). Natalie Moran, a Motion Picture Talent Agent at leading entertainment and sports agency Creative Artists Agency (CAA), moderated the insightful conversation.

For those who were not able to attend, here are three knowledgeable tips for actors and those interested in the casting process of the film industry that we thought informative to share! 

Understand the casting process in its entirety

Claudia Lyon: What typically happens is — and I’m even going to back it up — before you can even audition for a role as an actor, you need an agent or a manager. And to get an agent or a manager, you need a reel. To get a reel, you need to have done some acting work. And fortunately for us, you can now create your own work. So that is something that I think maybe ten years ago wasn’t as accessible. Let’s say you do have an agent or a manager. They are going to submit you for a role. And the submission goes to a casting director and sometimes to a network show. 

Once all of those auditions come in, the casting director will watch all of those auditions. Knowing what the producer, writer, and director are looking for, they’re going to sort of whittle it down to a smaller group and then present that group to the producer, writer, and director, which is called a “producer session.” 

So once the producers, the group of producers, see this smaller group of actors, and when I say smaller, that could be days of auditions as opposed to months of auditions. So the producer, director, writers will see these auditions, and then they have to narrow that down to, let’s say, their top four to six choices once they narrow it down to those four to six choices. You do something called the “test for the studio.”

And what that means is that as an actor, you have your agent who will negotiate a deal for you. You’re going to renegotiate all the terms. You cannot go and audition for any studio executive unless that deal is in place and you’re in your plan with those terms.

Once that happens, we used to do it live, and now everything is on a link or screen-tested. But let’s say your audition is filmed, and then it’s shown to the studio’s president, the head of casting at the studio, and the development executives. And they’re going to watch these four to six auditions, and they’re going to again narrow down those auditions to, let’s say, the top three that they want to present to the network.

Learn to speak up

Carla Hool: Back then, they would only hire me to cast Latin roles, so I wouldn’t cast the whole show. I would just cast those roles until I spoke and started speaking up and saying, why? No, that’s not right. And now I speak up. When they don’t consider me for American roles or others — that’s wrong. That’s racism. So I speak up. I’ve learned to speak up. I think everyone should speak up and speak their truth. Actresses should speak up for what they say. We need to bring these conversations — start these conversations, and that’s how we’re going to get things to change.

Research the role before you go. Don’t just wing it

Laz Alonso: Another thing I was going to say to actors is to show up prepared. If you are not prepared for an audition, don’t wing it. Don’t just show up and figure it out. This is your profession. This is your job. This is your business. This is Claudia and Carla’s business — if they’re bringing you in to meet with the director, and you show up unprepared, you’re not just making yourself look bad, you’re making them look bad, too. Because out of the thousands of people that could have been brought in, they picked you, and you’re not prepared. So we have to show up prepared — this is our jobs, our business.