Shanoo Sharma’s 12 Tips On Making It

Casting director of Yash Raj Films (and discoverer of Ranveer Singh and many others), spells out the do’s and don’ts for aspiring actors. A good place to start – ‘spend less time on Instagram and more on your craft’

Shanoo Sharma
Shanoo Sharma

October 4, 2016

Shanoo Sharma’s 12 Tips On Making It
  • DO YOUR RESEARCH

For me, acting is a job. Just like you have hotel management, or how you go prepared for an MBA; you need to be prepared to be an actorBy that I don’t mean your skill and your craft alone. There are lots of people who come from small towns and say, “We don’t know which photographer to go to or which is the right acting school for me?”

My point is, with Google, YouTube and web portals around, why would you not know the above information.

Today, if you want to know which acting school Ranveer Singh went to, there are videos available all over the internet.

I finished 10 years of being a casting director in December. Through the years, I have seen actors change a lot. They have gotten less clueless about the ways of the industry. With more information around and more professionals giving you advice, it has become easier for most people to know which route to take.

Today, if you want to know which acting school Ranveer Singh went to, there are videos available all over the internet.

However, there is still a large percentage of people who come from small towns and then struggle to find their way. So here’s the deal: everyone is always out to give advice, so make sure you know who the right advisors are. Listen to everyone, but only do what your inner voice agrees with. You spend the maximum time in life with yourself so don’t go against your own grain. Sab ki suno, apni karo.

Everybody has a right to dream. If I wake up in the morning and I want to do something, I should be allowed to do it. If I’m really bad at it, I should at least give it a shot to train myself and try becoming better. Coming up to casting directors and asking them, “Do you think I have it in me to become an actor or a star?” does not make sense. Because if I knew what your future holds I would be the richest woman in the country because everyone would come to me for answers!”

Luckily, now many actors come with a lot of know-how. It is important to have knowledge of how to groom yourself before you face the camera. To be able to see, ‘Do I need to sleep with people to get to the camera today? Do I really need to flirt and kiss asses and buy presents and gifts? Do I really need to show flesh or wear tight clothes?’ Everything is available today.

Everybody has a right to dream. If I wake up in the morning and I want to do something, I should be allowed to do it. If I’m really bad at it, I should at least give it a shot to train myself and try becoming better.

You must gather as much knowledge, before you even step into the field, of what you’re getting into and how to go about it.

Always learn. Don’t say, ‘Ma’am, I have finished my 3 months acting course, so now the work will fly in.’ You need to keep perfecting your craft. For me, and I hope I don’t get into trouble for saying it, but instead of doing one long expensive acting course, I would suggest that you split that money into workshops with various acting and theatre mentors. When you learn from different acting workshops, I feel that your mind gets activated and actually makes its own choices. Some things will make sense and some won’t but what’s important is that you will get to choose from more than one experience.

Spend less time on Instagram and work on your craft. Dance every day — it opens you up. Don’t do private lessons. Go out and be a part of a group. Make a fool of yourself. Watch others. Some will make you feel bad about yourself and make you want to do better, and then one day you will see you just got better. You can’t live in your own world and be told by your dance coach as to how fast you have picked up. I am not too fond of private lessons when it comes to acting or dancing because when an actor is in the initial stages of learning, it is important to have people around you, learning with you. Observe.

  • WORK HARD ON IMPROVING YOURSELF

Improving yourself, learning something new and being open to change everyday is the key! You should never think you know it all and don’t need to learn more. If your stomach is full, there will be no hunger. So always give yourself the space to learn more.

There is no age for this. I have met people in their 40s doing acting workshops and I salute them for having that kind of courage. Sometimes people get so trained and so stuck up with the idea that they have been taught acting or have been groomed that it becomes impossible to break that mould.

 Don’t try be the next SRK or Salman Khan. Create your own tribe. Ranveer Singh has done it. Alia Bhatt has done it. Vicky Kaushal has done it. Nawazuddin Siddiqui has done it.

However, there are a few, who take what I have to say positively too. I remember many years ago, a model came to me and all his pictures were naked photos of him lying on the beach in his underwear. And I told him, ‘I’m sorry, these are not acting photographs. They’re meant for fashion.’ He politely took what I had to say and left. And I thought, ‘Oh god! I’ve offended another one.’

He came back to me in six months. He had shaved his head off. He got a crew cut. He was wearing a loose white linen shirt. He had done as many theatre workshops as possible. And he started to get work, here and there. To me, even that much in six months is a sign of growth.

  • DON’T FLATTER THE CASTING DIRECTOR

Gifts, compliments and sweet words lose their charm when they have a motive of work involved. A gift of gratitude is always wonderful, but to think that you have impressed the casting director through these gestures and you will get work is pointless. There are occasions when I have walked into the office and found expensive branded bags and wallets and other branded things. Our production house does not encourage this thankfully and I get to follow the same route. This point needs to be understood. It is not necessary. You want to be good to me? Be humble and don’t send me 100 texts a day and I promise it will work wonders.

  • DON’T FLIRT WITH HIM OR HER

You meet actors every day. A percentage of these make sure that they SMS you within a few hours after the meeting, asking you out for a cup of coffee or telling you how they felt a connection and we should hang out.

People hit on you. It happens all the time, and trust me it’s not nice because one is aware of the motive and it’s not flattering for anyone to know that. Any actor who tries to flirt with me, I screenshot, save messages and keep a folder on my phone. So, incase if I ever get questioned by people about that matter (although I never do), there’s a folder with name, time and number, it’s all saved. I don’t respond to it. Or pay attention to it.

There are times I’m sitting at a restaurant with my friends and I will get a text saying, ‘looking pretty in white ma’am’. It can get a little weird but I’m used to handling it now. However, don’t be that guy. I promise you, it will have more of an impression.

For girls it’s the same. With the industry becoming professional, one does not need to compromise to get work. The kind of people who expect that from you ladies are not the people you should be working with in the first place.

Wearing revealing clothes is not going to help either. The way you present yourself is the impression you create. Make sure it’s a good one and the kind that makes you get the work you dream of.

  • DON’T BEG FOR WORK

Being harassed by people who constantly insist on being cast is not at all pleasant. At times it’s almost a put off. I mean we are all here to do a job. You the actor, and I the casting director.

You are most welcome to come to our office every Monday or Tuesday for live introductions. I see them all and that’s probably the only way you will be cast. Following pages filled with information and casting calls is going to be way more helpful to you than insisting that you be cast.

So come out of yourself and shift your camera outward. Watch people, watch their body language. Be curious about things. Question them and then answer them.

  • BE READY TO UNLEARN

When you audition, just give it your best. At first I always want to see what you come up with, how you see yourself in this scene. Once done, if I need a change to be made, I will direct you. When I’m directing an actor, sometimes he says ‘Yes, yes ma’am. I got it. I got it. I’ll do it exactly the way you want me to do it.’ And he does the same thing again. So I give him another chance.

There are hundreds of courses with different methods – some I’m unaware of. But you have to unlearn. Leave your method behind. Submit yourself. It’s the toughest job today to unlearn. It’s an art to listen. Magic happens in omissions. Magic happens when you don’t know what you’re doing, and a moment is created. And in that moment I suddenly have a smile on my face, and I instinctively know that I have cast my part.

  • AUDITION AND THEN FORGET ABOUT IT

Patience and positivity is another key. Give an audition and forget about it. Don’t call. Don’t ask. Don’t wait. Don’t figure out whether you’ve got it or not. If you’ve got it, we’re not going to sit and wait for you to call us. We’re going to call you. It’s a simple rule.

Remember, I am the kind of person when if I need an actor, I will find him. So constantly asking me and messaging me to find out is really not helpful. Don’t think about why you didn’t get it or why someone else got it. That’s the negativity that stops your growth as an actor.

  • KEEP GROOMING YOURSELF

Polish up, people! From the way you look, to the way you walk, to the way you talk, it matters. Learn Hindi and English. And speak both well. This is important. Even while people call you on the phone for a casting, it does make a difference.

Follow what’s in vogue, or become a trend setter, but whatever you do, make it simple. Don’t be too loud, because that comes across as trying too hard to be noticed.

  • RESPECT ALL ROLES

Initially they used to say, ‘Nahi yaar. TV karenge toh nahi hoga.’ TV actors like Ram Kapoor and Ronit Roy have become big. ‘No, if I play a heroine’s friend.’ Parineeti Chopra was Anushka Sharma’s friend in Ladies Vs Ricky Bahl. ‘Oh, if I do regional cinema, or if I do this, I won’t make it.’ There’s no format anymore. Just as I will spot a face on the street, I will spot it in a film, an ad, a billboard, a magazine, anywhere! The idea is to act, and to do good credible work in whichever form offered to you.

You want to be good to me? Be humble and don’t send me 100 texts a day and I promise it will work wonders.

My boss is open to anybody with talent. If I say, ‘Can I go into TV? Can I go into regional cinema?’ he says, go for it. Whatever strikes a chord with me, I will look into it. I will take a person who has done anything from 1 to 10 scenes in a film, for a lead film. But it’s got to be credible work.

  • TURN THE CAMERA AWAY FROM YOURSELF AND LOOK OUTSIDE

I see a lot of aspiring actors and models putting photos of themselves and their bodies on social media. Lots of pictures of gym workouts. Now I’m not saying there is a problem with that but that’s not the only thing one should upload.

When we look up someone online, we always look for an interesting profile, a well-travelled person who reflects his personality through what he uploads, and who he follows. It tells you a lot about a person. An interesting profile is way more important than the amount of followers you have.

So come out of yourself and shift your camera outward. Watch people, watch their body language. Be curious about things. Question them and then answer them.

Figure out why a couple sits in a restaurant at the age of 55 and doesn’t look at each other. Or why two people in their 20s are all about pleasing each other. Body language observation is a big part of acting. There is a world out there. With people. Things. Moments. Look at them. They will touch you, move you and change you.

  • HAVE AN INTERESTING PERSONA

When I’m looking for a lead girl or boy, I don’t only look at their craft and their visual, I also am looking at what their first interview, first TV appearance, and first award speech would be like. I am looking for a personality. A personality that is real, confident and attracts all who come across it.

Even if you are from a small town, I want to hear your story about how simple life is back home and how the contrast makes you feel. I like people who are passionate about things. I mean you should be passionate about life. Not just about yourself and acting. There is more to life. Conversations, knowledge and being street smart.

Spend less time on Instagram and work on your craft. Dance every day — it opens you up. Don’t do private lessons. Go out and be a part of a group. Make a fool of yourself.

Every director and producer likes to have an actor who has all of these qualities. Be humble, be good, be real and don’t apologise for who you are. Respect your grain.

  • MAKE YOUR OWN IDENTITY

Create your own groove. Become who you are and show this world something new. Don’t try be the next SRK or Salman Khan. Create your own tribe. Ranveer Singh has done it. Alia Bhatt has done it. Vicky Kaushal has done it. Nawazuddin Siddiqui has done it.