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Tips for Making a Good First Impression in Show Business

Aug 17, 2007
First impressions are lasting impressions.

In show business, the first impression can sometimes be the last impression. Producers, directors and casting directors are busy people. The deciding factor in giving an unknown (or even an experienced actor whose opportunities have been limited) a chance to read for a part is often based on first impressions.

It's up to you to know how to handle yourself during an interview: how to be at ease, and how to be well poised. How to sell yourself; how not to oversell yourself.

Diane Brewster, who rose from television commercials to Glenn Ford's leading lady in Torpedo Run, a picture with an otherwise all-male cast, worked for weeks to make the right impression when she got her first important interview.

At the appointed time, she stepped buoyantly into the office - tripped and fell flat on her beautiful face.

Diane's world went black, but months of training came to the rescue. She showed such poise and quick judgment in making neither too much nor too little of the incident that the director had her read immediately for the part when she left his office, the role was hers. The accidental fall itself turned out to be unimportant; what counted was the director's first impression of her professional poise.

To be as unshakably poised as this young actress is much more a matter of sound technique than of serene temperament.

Don't be fooled by the casual manner of a casting director. You may be sure he's studying you: looking you over, like a piece of merchandise. He's no window-shopper, either. When he looks, it's because he wants to buy.

Always have professional pictures of yourself, and be ready to show them without apologies or explanations. Your graduation picture won't do, nor will glamour-gimmicked photos of the type displayed in night-club lobbies. The pictures should show you: some headshots showing a fair range of moods; others in various types of wardrobe.

Have extra prints of each picture. Your interviewer may want to keep one. Make certain that your name, address, phone number and vital statistics are written legibly on the back of each photograph. Don't be misled into thinking that the pictures he rejects are "no good." Almost every interviewer is likely to make a different selection. Each has his own professional purpose and his own taste as valid reasons for his choice. For the sake of efficiency and economy, it's a good idea to have a few eight-by-ten composites made up with four poses on each one.

Have a neatly typed, short outline of your background, qualifications and (if you've ever appeared anywhere, in anything) your credits.

Be honest. Don't invent non-existent credits. You'll only identify yourself as an impostor, a charlatan, or to use show-business terminology, "a phony." "Any casting director can spot a phony every time" is a show-business axiom. If your only credit is a single appearance in the chorus line of a high-school operetta, say so. Everybody has to start somewhere and where you are is just where you need to be.
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