Tips for Actors and Young Performers from Ben Cogan

Esteemed casting director Ben Cogan recently led a series of one-on-one sessions with several actors and young performers on Mandy, helping them in their careers. Ben has worked in casting for over 20 years and began as a Casting Assistant for many TV shows (including EastEnders, Holby City and Waking the Dead), before becoming the Casting Director for Doctors in 2002. 380 episodes later, Ben moved to Casualty and, in his time there, six episodes that he worked on were recognised with BAFTA nominations. During this period he also worked on the Afternoon Play series, Kiss of Death and various short films - one of which (Wish 143) was nominated for an Oscar. Ben is now a freelance Casting Director having cast feature film Just Charlie (Winner of the Edinburgh Film Festival Audience Award), Trendy (nominated for Raindance) and Amaryllis as well as award winning short films, Apple Tree House for CBeebies, additional child roles with Tom Hooper on Jack Thorne's BBC adaptation of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials. He is currently casting the feature film: Witch West and working on two new short films.

These sessions were a chance for actors and young performers to fine-tune their Mandy Profile, get advice and feedback on headshots, showreel, cover letters and ultimately increase their chances of securing auditions and roles!

Here are a few tips Ben gave to our members:

  • It is important to build a rapport with your agent. This is a valuable aspect of being managed by someone when you are looking to break into the industry.
  • The Mandy Network is a valuable platform, your work & credits should be updated and your CV can be used to apply for professional work.
  • Headshots should be simple, not too flashy, just simple headshots. This is the most professional way to come across to any agent or casting director. Remove dated or old images from your profile.
  • Whether your hopes are to go into acting, dancing, singing or musical theatre – you may want to learn all forms of the arts to help you to succeed. This way any opportunity that arises through your agent you can audition for.
  • Consider all work your agent offers you! Any audition is a great opportunity.
  • Don't fret about your age, appearance, or your time away from 'the game', just be true to what you want to achieve and ensure you and your agent are on the same page.
  • For a professional self-tape, make sure it is bright and there isn’t lots of background noise.
  • Always learn scripts for auditions if you have time and research the role.
  • Enjoy what you are doing, enjoy drama, enjoy the process and don’t let knockbacks affect you. It may be the case that you give the best audition but aren't compatible with the mum or dad they have cast - this is out of your control, so just concentrate on what you can control.
  • Keep your love for drama, the scripts, the characters and never let your enthusiasm be diminished or get disheartened by what you see as rejection. It’s not rejection, it’s just that part didn’t go your way. Take control of what you can, be it preparation, passion, presentation - particularly with self tapes at this moment in time.
  • When preparing for a headshot shoot, grab a mate or loved-one the day before and improvise a little shoot together in order to feel more comfortable and confident.
  • Make yourself a glossary of all the TV shows, productions and films you like and research the casting directors who worked on these projects. This can help you pin-point who to contact in the future and can be a good starting point for a conversation.

Our members loved the opportunity to chat with Ben. Here are a few testimonials from them:

  • “I thoroughly enjoyed the session; it was very relaxed and the conversation flowed. Ben Cogan had lots of valuable information & knowledge he passed over.” - Rico Pass
  • “The session was great, Ben was really easy going and it felt like I was chatting with a mate which was super helpful. Ben was impressed with my work and gave me constructive criticism about my CV and Mandy Profile which was great. He also encouraged me to start contacting casting directors and the right way to go about that.” - Ben Keenan
  • “My session was very inspirational and interesting. I didn’t know what to expect but it was really fun and went too quickly.” - Taye Junaid-Evans
  • “I found my session really insightful. Ben was really nice and talked me through some questions I had about the industry.” - Ruby Thompson
  • “I had an amazing time talking to Ben. Very useful information, very lovely person, we got straight into it and I wanted it to last forever!” - Lily Sinko

Do you want to attend the next Mandy Surgery?

Mandy Surgery sessions provide an opportunity for professionals to get free one-on-one career advice from top industry professionals in the industry. These events are run exclusively for Premium Members. Keep an eye out for the next Mandy Surgery here.