‘Have we met?’ and ‘I'm useless when it comes to names!’ are phrases I hear from actors and performers time and time again. While everyone knows it is important for those who show their talents publicly to be memorable and remembered, it's also very useful to remember those who may be able to help you as far as work is concerned (the same is true in every profession, not just the performing arts). As a casting director, it is a large part of my job to have a sound memory of performers and their capabilities – something on which I have always prided myself – and I don't necessarily expect to be remembered by the actors I meet and have called in for castings. That said, it is always nice when they do recall my name and face, sometimes after long periods of time, after all, everyone likes to feel valued and having someone remember you makes one perhaps see them in a better and more favourable light.
So, how do you remember people? The human memory works in many ways, it remembers what it wants to remember and what interests it, as well as people and things on which it has something to hang (a memory aide). My memory likes remembering actors, perhaps those I have seen in plays several decades ago – I often don't know how I am able to dredge something up from the back of my mind from years ago, yet I can walk past a shop several times without remembering that I have to go in there to buy something (this is why I always write myself a list at the beginning of every day, which I carry around with me). Your memory may work a different way: you might find it easier to recognise faces rather than names, or vice versa. You might think you are dreadful at doing both. Whichever is the case, there are techniques which you can use to help strengthen your memory.
If you know you are going to meet someone, or a panel of people at an audition, interview or event, for example, do as much research on them as you can prior to your meeting. If you Google them on the Internet, you may be able to find information, biographies and even photographs, which will help you know as much about them as possible. But what do you do if you are introduced to somebody that you are not expecting to meet? The first thing I always do when being introduced, or reintroduced to someone, is to look them in the eyes, shaking their hand if appropriate and repeat their name, saying something like ‘Hello (name), good to meet you!’ This simple, everyday act is not only perceived as a kind gesture, but also serves as a way of getting their name into my memory. As I mentioned earlier, the human mind needs something to hang information onto, so as well as repeating their name in the conversation, to further memorise it, I will think of their name while talking to them and associate it with a famous person or someone I know who shares the same name. If, for instance, I was talking to someone named Kate, I might think of the actress Kate Winslet, or one of several friends I have who are named Kate. This will give me more of a memory for them and something to remind me should I forget their name at any point.
At the same time as doing this, I would also be looking at them, thinking if they reminded me of anyone, which I could also use to help me identify them the next time we met. If there was no obvious lookalike that immediately sprang to my mind, I would see if there was anything else distinguishing and memorable about them, that I would remember and recognise in the future. I would keep reminding my brain of these things at regular intervals and when there was an opportunity to be alone, I would write the information in my notebook or on a piece of paper while it was still fresh in my mind. I would then transfer it to my diary or a file as soon as I could. You should include information like this in your audition log and keep it on file. If you were to meet that person again and see their face, it is far easier to identify them using the memory aides that you have made from their name and physical appearance, than if you have nothing about them to refer to.
By the same token, it is important that they remember you too. ‘Remember My Name – Fame’ may seem like a cheesy adage, but never a truer word was spoken. Often a creative team will see between 20 and 100+ performers in any day of auditions, so it is important to stand out from the crowd. Always ensure you say your name clearly, putting in a slight pause between your two or three names. Some people will do the things I have mentioned in order to remember you, but help them if you can, by giving them some information on which to hang your name. I paint a picture with mine; I will say ‘My name is Richard Evans – that’s Richard as in Burton and Evans like the shop for larger sizes!’ If they comment on this, I will follow it up by saying ‘Whenever you walk past an Evans store now, you will always think of me!’ This is far from the flippant joke that it seems, as it is a positive affirmation – people whom I've met over the years regularly come up to me and tell me that they always think of me every time they pass a branch of the store – I love being remembered, especially by those who might do my career some good! Think of pictures to paint with your own name, the less conventional it is the more pictures you can paint and memorable you can make it.
Two final thoughts: if you can’t remember somebody’s name in a social situation, either don’t use it at all, if you can get away with it, or be honest and say something to the effect of ‘ I’m really sorry, but I can’t remember your name’ – a far better policy than trying to bluff your way out of a situation. Conversely, if someone can’t remember your name, or where they know you from, please don’t keep them guessing, or assume that they’ll remember during the conversation by asking you questions, just tell them. I always introduce myself to everyone unless they’ve used my name first, by saying ‘Hello (name), Richard Evans, Casting Director’. That way, it won’t keep them guessing and they’ll know exactly where they know me from… even if they do already.
The more you can remember those you meet, the more memorable you’ll be to them, so do yourself a favour and remember my name!
My book, AUDITIONS: A PRACTICAL GUIDE, contains in depth advice on interview techniques, standing out from the crowd and painting pictures with your name. Click here to buy your copy.
© Richard Evans CDG 2009